Wisconsin: That Was Then, This Is Now

Remember how it was necessary to rein in Wisconsin public-sector unions because of the budget crisis?  Well, it turns out that it didn’t have anything to do with the budget at all.  Nope.  Not in the least. 

Oh, also — we were always at war with Eastasia.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

25 thoughts on “Wisconsin: That Was Then, This Is Now”

  1. Shouldn’t your link actually back up your post? Yes, they passed the parts they could, given that the Democrats decided to spend the legislative session in another state. At such time as the Democrats decide to show up for work, they can pass the rest of it.

  2. Too bad the Dems have no sack. If they did, they could sack up and oppose these low-quality buffoons. Sadly, standing up to low-quality, Neandertal-browed buffoons requires a sack. People should elect Dems with a sack.

    Sigh.

  3. Well, they say that showing up is half the battle. Apparently you can’t win if you start the fight half a battle down.

  4. Just like a successful attack on the public employee unions in California and the resultant weakening of the California Democratic Party would have nothing to do with the California budget deficit.

  5. Spare us, Brett. If the Democrats were doing this, you’d scream “TYRANNY!”

    And we’d have to refer you to the thread about words that have lost their meaning.

  6. Crying about Republican misdirection is getting old…

    Yeah they are for local control when it serves their purpose and against it when not…
    Yeah they are for small government when it serves their purpose and against it when not…
    I could go on… I won’t.

    You get the picture: republicans have quantum brains.
    They CAN be in two places at once.
    And pointing out that they are both here and there is like blaming Houdini for escaping again.

    So I say: Congratulations to the WI republicans. Well done.

  7. Brett, please explain how the parts of the bill that were passed help solve the short term budget crisis in any way. The only parts of the bill that would have done so were negotiating actual cuts in pay and benefits. You know, the stuff that the unions already agreed to. The Republicans had a choice: drop the union busting attempt and get the Democrats will come back and the budget problem can be dealt with, OR drop any attempt to fix the budget and pass the union busting parts instead. They made their choice, and that choice was to ignore the budget. Ergo, it’s hard to believe that they were ever concerned about the budget as anything more than a pretext for busting the unions.

  8. Put another way, Brett, they passed the things they care about. Union busting.

    Which has nothing to do with the budget, which, you’ll recall, they broke, intentionally.

    I have a strong suspicion that Wisconsin is going to be throwing the lying bums out and voting D for a while to come now.

    Good job!

    So, the question is, what does it take to reverse this stupidity once the process has purged Wisconsin of the teahadists?

  9. The idea that this has nothing to do with the budget, just because it lacks numbers with dollar signs in front of them, is a pathetic rationalization. Surely you must have realized this, even as you were reading the talking points distributed on whatever replaced Journolist.

    Face it, your guys just lost this fight. They lost it by virtue of not showing up for it, in a manner which was predictable from the start. The Republicans could have done this at any time after the 14 ran away, they just held off until now out of the belief that this silly stunt would have to come to an end eventually.

    What comes next? To some extent this depends on what the 14 do. If any of them finally show up for work, the Senate has it’s quorum back, the original, full bill passes, and the state has a budget, with this partial bill becoming moot. If they don’t show up, I suppose there will be some move to declare the seats abandoned.

    In the mean while, the capitol building is occupied again, this time with the clear aid of the police union, and apparently the purpose of physically preventing the assembly from meeting to vote on the Senate bill. I suppose the next move on that front involves the National Guard.

  10. And Brett, no comment about the substance of the bill? Doesn’t it restrict Freedom by limiting the areas of contract negotiations? As well as actual pay rates too, which I believe were capped at no more than inflation.

    But no, it’s all about the tribalism – hence the ‘Journolist’ jab.

  11. “Well, it turns out that it didn’t have anything to do with the budget at all. Nope. Not in the least. ”

    Will you publish a retraction, once the rest of the budget bill is also passed?

  12. “Doesn’t it restrict Freedom by limiting the areas of contract negotiations? “

    Nope. It represents the government of Wisconsin, a party to those contract negotiations, announcing which subjects it will not negotiate on. Negotiations are bilateral, one side alone does not have a right that the other side negotiate squat.

  13. The idea that this has nothing to do with the budget, just because it lacks numbers with dollar signs in front of them, is a pathetic rationalization.

    Really? Then why can’t you explain it?

  14. Brett, they are not announcing which subjects they won’t negotiate on. They are encoding it into law, the Leviathan, the Man.

    This is not negotiation, it’s dictating terms. AKA take it or leave it.

  15. Nope. It represents the government of Wisconsin, a party to those contract negotiations, announcing which subjects it will not negotiate on.

    Nope. It represents the government of Wisconsin, not a party to the negotiations, making it illegal for local governments to decide which subjects they will negotiate on.

  16. “This is not negotiation, it’s dictating terms. AKA take it or leave it.”

    Yeah, you got it, exactly: Negotiation requires two willing parties. Nobody has a right to negotiate with somebody who has no interest in negotiating with them. Telling somebody, “These are my terms, take them or leave them.” violates nobody’s rights.

    “Nope. It represents the government of Wisconsin, not a party to the negotiations, making it illegal for local governments to decide which subjects they will negotiate on.”

    The local governments of Wisconsin are about as accurately described as not the government of Wisconsin, as my left and right hands are accurately described as not me. They are not sovereigns, entitled to act contrary to the will of the state government. If they were, to the extent this law applies to them it would be void.

    You lost, because people who agreed with you were a minority in the legislature. Suck it up, and try to win by electing people who agree with you, instead of by using angry mobs to obstruct the functioning of the legislature.

  17. When you exaggerate like that, you sound pretty defensive for a guy claiming victory.

  18. You have to remember, Brett has a very narrow vision of freedom. Restricting the ammo capacity of a gun from 31 bullets to 10 is an unconstitutional restriction of his freedom, but limiting by law what a union is allowed to negotiate over is the just deserts of an election.

    It’s sad.

  19. Limiting what a private sector union can negotiate about would be a restriction of freedom, because the government isn’t a party to the negotiation. The government limiting what a public sector union can negotiate about is just one of the parties in the negotiation announcing in advance what it’s going to refuse to negotiate about. It’s no different than the union taking a vote, and announcing that a pay freeze is off the table.

    Heck, even if the union loses it’s annual re-certification election, it still exists as a voluntary organization. This law is just the state of Wisconsin’s announcement as to under what circumstances it will stop talking to the union, and go back to negotiating with individual employees.

    That’s the key part of this you keep eliding: The Wisconsin government is the other party to any negotiations with the public unions. And there is no unilateral right to negotiation. Either party can refuse to negotiate, and it’s not a rights violation.

    The union can still make demands, of course, even if the state government has committed to ignoring them. And it can still strike, if those demands aren’t met, since they’re free employees, not slaves. And then they can find out just how irreplaceable they really are.

    Because, really, that’s the only right involved here: The right not to work if your employer won’t give you compensation you’re willing to accept. And, of course, freedom of association, but freedom of association doesn’t imply anybody ELSE will acknowledge your group.

    The union being sole bargaining representative? An artificial privilege.

    The union getting the employers’ help in collecting dues? An artificial privilege.

    The employer refusing to hire anyone who won’t join the union? An artificial privilege.

    Going out on strike, to prove to the employer that they need you? An absolute right.

  20. Do all bills with financial implications qualify as “finance” bills? That’s the question. In abstract, most arguments for unions have some economic impact on the relative distribution of revenues to various factors of production within firms. Policies which mandate that employers must deal with representatives of employee collectives and which, for example, ban firing for organizing activity, for striking, or which exempt employee organizations from antitrust and extortion statutes will have some impact on costs. So also will litter laws (which imply enforcement costs) impose costs on a polity, but these do not normally go through a finance committee.

    (Zasloff): “…it didn’t have anything to do with the budget at all. Nope. Not in the least. Oh, also —we were always at war with Eastasia.

    Does Professor Zasloff imagine that Republican politicians do this for fun? Who enjoys receiving death threats? If you add public-sector pension and health benefit commitments to retirees and current employees to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, government promises at all levels exceed any reasonable projected total tax revenue. That condition defines “bankrupt”.

    Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic – Land Use, the Environment and Local Government.

    “Public Policy” is indifferent to costs? Who knew?

  21. (Zasloff): “Oh, also —we were always at war with Eastasia.
    Turnabout’s fair play,
    The new civility. You’all were Johnny-on-the-spot with complaints about incivility and calls for moderation when some kook shot Representative Giffords. Now’ you’re stoking the fire.

  22. Brett, no matter how you slice it, it is a restriction of freedom. You may think it’s an appropriate restriction, but it’s still a restriction.

  23. (Moebius): “it is a restriction of freedom. You may think it’s an appropriate restriction, but it’s still a restriction.
    What is “it”? Is “it” the modification of a law that previously obligated citizens’ agents to negotiate with agents of public-sector employees? This expansion of employees’ agents’ freedom (is Wisconsin a right to work State? No; it is not) to include the “freedom” to compelpublic sector employees to pay unions and to compel taxpayers’ agents to bargain with employees’ agents comes at the cost of a reduction of employees’ freedom and taxpayers’ freedom.

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