“Taking a deep breath in Wisconsin”



Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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42 Responses

  1. Avatar Bill Sherlock says:

    Sponsored by the the Manhattan Institute.

    Also available to read at TMI:
    Trial Lawyers’ Manipulative Means of Taking Your Money
    It’s Time To Abolish State Corporate Income Taxes

    Perhaps the article contains some good points but who the hell knows given the source.Report

  2. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Inevitably, I always side with the working man. While government has any authority and the working man does not, I cannot see the Right to Work euphemism as anything but a new tyranny.Report

  3. Avatar Vertov says:

    I have to agree with the other commentors. Moreover, his main point seems to be “well, other states don’t have collective bargaining for public sector employees, what’s the big deal?”

    Its kind of a “let them eat bread” comment. He doesn’t seem to notice that other people might object to those states’ public workers lack of rights. He thinks the facts speak for themselves, when they clearly don’t.Report

  4. Avatar Will H. says:

    Just a couple of things I want to say about this.
    After the GM plant in Janesville closed down, Harley-Davidson started talking about moving production out of the state. Everybody seemed to be ok with the idea of tax cuts for businesses at that time.
    And I remember a report I heard on the radio there that was talking about the difficulty that smaller school districts have in attracting teachers. There’s a glut of teachers in Milwaukee and Madison, and a shortage just about every place else.
    It’s just a side of it you don’t hear about. It’s usually some form of malignance attributed to the governor, but the guy’s got real issues to worry about.Report

    • Avatar Bill Sherlock says:

      And just how are the smaller districts going to attract talented teachers if the teachers they want to hire know going in that management (the school district) is able to make a take or leave it salary offer? Or that wages can never increase, only keep pace with inflation?Report

      • Avatar Scott says:


        According to the article linked below, the U.S. Department of Education believes that two-thirds of the eighth graders in Wisconsin public schools cannot read proficiently. It would appear that the teachers that Wisc has right now are lacking in teaching skills but do just fine when it comes to skipping school in order to protest.


        • Avatar Bill Sherlock says:

          Just how does this add to the argument? Are you saying that rural school districts need to eliminate collective bargaining rights for its teachers in order to hire more incompetent teachers? I really don’t see how limiting pay and workplace rights is going to make a job more attractive to a talented worker.Report

      • Avatar Will H. says:

        I don’t see how you could say that having a collective bargaining agreement is anything other than a take-it-or-leave-it offer.
        I worked out of the Milwaukee local. I was actually working under a PLA. My wages were set by the agreement. When the raise came due, and due to economic conditions, a special meeting held to defer half of the raise for 6 months to promote work at other sites with the local’s jurisdiction, it was all-out take-it-or-leave-it.
        I’m waiting now to find out if I go to Omaha or Illinois. But as for how much is going into my pension, I have the option of accepting the contract or attempting to negotiate a higher offer (or to say to hell with it completely). Actually, the contract only establishes acceptable minimums.

        The larger districts can afford to pay a lot more.
        I’ve seen it in St. Louis, where 1st-year teachers start at $50k. I’d say that’s a bit spendy.
        The smaller districts are still struggling with demands for resources. For some of these smaller districts, it’s not about having talented teachers, but about having teachers, period.Report

        • Avatar E.C. Gach says:

          $50 k for an unproven is a lot indeed. Do they have special certification requirements?Report

          • Avatar Will H. says:

            It’s a State cert.
            Thing is, look right across the river.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            What is proof? And what would your payscale then look like? If they want applications from a minimum number of proven teachers, don’t they have to offer a salary that will attract them to teach in St. Louis schools, which i can only imagine is no picnic? So, what, $27,000 for someone straight out of Ed school, jumping to ~$50,000 for someone with two years? Or just an overall lower scale? I suppose in this economy, they’ll get the applications one way or the other.Report

            • Avatar Will H. says:

              My own payscale goes up by 80¢/hr when I cross that bridge.
              But the benefits pyramid in St. Louis; ie, the benefits are allowed to be paid out in time-and-a-half or double-time, according to the wages, instead of straight time only.
              The amounts going to each specific benefit category is wholly different from one place to another.Report

        • Avatar Bill Sherlock says:

          Whoever bargained your contract for you arrived at a jointly agreeable (mgmt. and labor) salary and when you voted on the contract you had your say. In the end, all salaries are take it or leave it.Report

          • Avatar Will H. says:

            But I didn’t vote on the contract. That’s what I’m saying.
            I’m only allowed to vote on the contract that covers three counties in Florida. That’s the one that I vote on.
            For all the rest, I work on a travel card, and I accept whatever contract is in place at the time.Report

    • Avatar Trumwill says:

      There’s a glut of teachers in Milwaukee and Madison, and a shortage just about every place else.

      It seems to be highly regional. It used to be that there were shortages just about everywhere, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. I know that a couple of places we’ve lived, they could demand full certification for substitutes due to the number of unemployed subs.

      I was interested in going back to school and becoming a teacher, but the job market for it isn’t what it used to be.Report

    • Avatar E.C. Gach says:

      Frankly we have way too many teachers. There is in fact a glut, not just in those places, but across the country. It’s already been demonstrated that class size isn’t a big factor in learning. 1 teacher per 50 is more than enough.Report

      • Avatar Trumwill says:

        I had high schoolers today. I could have had a class of 50 and the result would have been about the same. On the other hand, first graders? You’re really pushing it at twenty.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Are you being snarky or just factually incorrect? Class size is a significant factor.Report

        • Avatar E.C. Gach says:

          Snarky. I just don’t know what else to say.

          Is education important?

          Does its success have a relation to the number and quality of those involved in the process?

          Somewhere between answering yes to both of those, and Wisconsin, you get people feeling that teachers are overcompensated and under performing.

          What is the missing premise that leads to that analysis. I really am confused.

          It’s like saying that we want safe streets, less crime, tougher penalties for criminals, and then slashing police pay and the number of workers in the court system.

          Why is this whole thing not absurd? What step am I overlooking?

          Because I am fairly confident that whatever someone responds with, if valid, has a more direct way of being dealt with. Please. Tom, or Robert, Will…somebody, please explain this to me.Report

          • Avatar Will H. says:

            I think Jason did a pretty good job of that a few days ago.
            A Basic Conflict
            Disbursements are an unreliable indicator of efficacy.Report

            • Avatar E.C. Gach says:

              “Disbursements are an unreliable indicator of efficacy.”

              I’m a bit dense tonight, could you expand on that?Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Throwing money at it doesn’t always solve the problem.
                In fact, if we took the same view with teachers as we did with musicians or actors, we would expect them to go ahead and teach with little or no pay at all for a number of years just to prove that they really want to do it. After that, they might be able to work three jobs and maintain a standard of living.
                This would weed out all of those weak ones.
                But if we really really wanted the best in teachers, maybe we should think about doing something like that.
                Otherwise, we might as well just say that we’re not really after the best of teachers in all this.
                Which is ok by me. I believe I caught an episode or two of Little House on the Prairie back in the day.
                Wonderful schools they have in those small towns.
                Reminds me of Appalachia, and people named “Zeke,” in a way.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I grow increasingly weary of this “throwing money” trope. Any law becomes irrelevant without a paid bureaucracy to enforce it.

                Evidently you have never been to that Babylon-upon-Pacific Los Angeles, where they pay union rates.

                If those musicians flog their instruments and eat cheap burritos, there’s a payday for their services and the mansions of Topanga Canyon stand in mute witness to what such a payday resembles.Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach says:


                So we have to ask ourselves, is the current state of affairs in Wisconsin “throwing money” at the government employees? What amount constitutes “throwing” vs. “giving” vs. “adequately compensating?”

                And then, would you be fore taking away benefits from those in the military, police, firemen?Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Yes, definitely.
                The benefits that servicemen receive (and the enlistment bonuses) are far beyond what was available when I was active duty.

                I would say that they’re trying to sort out how much is too much right now.
                The people of Wisconsin have been fairly generous in the past. And they can’t afford to keep going at that rate.
                There were cuts to the BadgerCare system with the previous governor, and they still cover a family of three making up to $30k/yr.
                And they’re still talking about reducing eligibility rather than reducing benefits.

                It looks to me an awful lot like the teachers’ union is being re-modeled according to the postal workers’ union.
                I don’t see how it’s much different.

                It is the nature of fundamental shifts to break through levels of resistance.Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach says:

                But we’re all on the same page that Wisconsin public employee wages have been stagnating when you take into account inflation?

                That is to say, that nothing has changed within the last decade except that revenues have dropped?

                And if revenues have dropped, and that is the reason, why aren’t all i of Wisconsin’s unions being asked to make these concessions?Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              “Disbursements are an unreliable indicator of efficacy.”

              I actually tend to agree with this (but then, it seems like a truism to me), but I don’t see where Jason addressed with any kind of direct argumentation in his excellent post. Rather, it seemed, at most, an unstated, but also a somewhat tangential, supporting premise of his account of the “right” of taxpayers to see their involuntary contributions appropriated, er, appropriately. Clearly, no one wants to spend money with no efficacy to any purpose, but one could easily see a given purpose to which funds could be applied efficaciously as nonetheless an inappropriate pursuit of government in the first place, which would be equally relevant to Jason’s concerns in that essay. I have greatest confidence that you are far underselling Jason to say that he gave anything like a good treatment to the question of expenditures as indicators of efficacy, at least compared to what he would produce if actually engaging the topic.

              As to class size, I think it is a simplification to say that merely because ensuring a certain teacher-student ratio requires a given pattern and level of of disbursements, that judging that as a desirable outcome then amounts only to an assessment of efficacy by reference only to disbursements. One could disperse an equal number of funds per student but apply them differently. E.C. Gach may be (here) asserting only an intuition as opposed to evidence that the teaching modality of limited class size is an efficacious independent variable to control in pursuing optimum learning outcomes, and that question is certainly open to evidence in my mind, but that does not mean he is making that judgment on the basis of the fact that that modality requires that certain pattern of disbursements. It seems to me he is likely making it based on a conviction (warranted or not) relating to the act of teaching-and-learning itself about what is either an important or the most important factor in achieving learning outcomes.Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach says:

                Yes, I like that intuition bit. I know of no hard and fast correlation, but my intuition is that the quality of a teacher, and the amount of time they can spend getting to know a student, is a factor in education.

                What “quality” is and whether this is a bigger or smaller factor remains to be seen. But I’m presumming many people have this same inuition, and that as a result, if they wanted to cut teacher comp, they would be presenting the hard and fast evidence that shows doing so won’t lead to any worse quality of teachers entering the field in that state, or that if it did, the detriment to that state’s education would be miniscule as compared to the pay off in free-ed up state revenue.

                Has anyone been presenting that data?Report

  5. Avatar Vertov says:

    …and Andrew Sullivan makes a great point:


    Plus, if those non-collective bargaining states happen to be south of the Mason-Dixon line, which I suspect, that also show why its causing consternation in Wisconsin.

    When 40,000 people show up somewhere, I’m rather suspicious of someone telling me is “no big deal.”Report

  6. Avatar stillwater says:

    The linked article discounts the validity of the issue based on an appeal to precedent, without any consideration of the merits of the precedent being appealed to. In the Wisconsin case, the divide is based narrowly on the right to CB with government employers, and simply asserting that other states have decided to not extend that right to public sector unions completely misses the point. There are principled as well as consequentialist reasons to permit/oppose CB rights or PS workers. But this silly argument does neither.Report

  7. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    How important might we (“you”? me? you? …Who?) have thought it was?Report

  8. Avatar Freddie says:

    That post is such a pathetic non-sequitur I’m surprised you didn’t write it. Saying “things are bad elsewhere!” is not an argument against working for the good here.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Next week, we get to watch Freddie write an essay about Martin Buber and then complain about how others treat him.

      (Note: I am just kidding about writing the Martin Buber essay.)Report

  9. Avatar E.C. Gach says:

    “So that means that the model from which Walker proposes to break, much to the horror and outrage of public worker unions and their backers, is a model only actually followed by 25 other states. And indeed, by retaining limited bargaining rights for most workers (and fuller rights for a few classes, including police and firefighters) Walker is going less far in restricting public-sector collective bargaining than a substantial number of states already do.”

    There is also corporal punishment in many states. Many states are poorer than other states. Citing that x is the case elsewhere is not an argument for x.

    “Walker’s reforms will have a significant, positive impact on the ability of Wisconsin and its localities to manage employee compensation costs, and a victory in Wisconsin may inspire reforms in a number of other states. But the big picture is that America already has a patchwork of public sector bargaining laws that vary widely from state to state, and that will still be true in two years, regardless of what happens in Wisconsin.”

    Between stating the conclusion (that ending bargaining rights will lead to slashed compensation) as a defense for…the conclusion, and then acknowledging that the “big picture,” and I paraphrase, is that things are different in different places, is quite enlightening.Report

  10. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    I dunno, kinda looks like the taxpayers have had enough of your ‘demands from gummint employees’ and they’re fighting back.
    Greed boys, does you in. What did you think the people who pay your salaries were going to do? Kill the golden goose and you end up with fish bowls and rice…if you’re lucky.
    Everytime the citizen-taxpayer sees pictures of your people demonstrating at the capital dome, they get madder and madder. Keep it up.Report