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Sunday, February 20, 2011




Sunday, 9:00 AM.  22 degrees, wind brisk, mostly from the N. The sky is overcast, and the barometer predicts partly cloudy conditions
    The ice road was closed late yesterday afternoon due to generally hazardous conditions, and some open water at the Bayfield shore.  It is anybody's  guess as to whether it will open again.  I spotted an abandoned snowmobile that looked as if it were sinking, and when I returned ten minutes later with the camera there was only a hole in the ice.  I don’t know if someone got it pulled out or if it went down.
    For better or worse I am going to comment on the current confrontation between the Governor and Administration and the state’s employee unions. Considering the state’s budget crisis and debt, the economic demands on the employees are more than reasonable. But that does not seem to be the basic issue, which is a threatened reduction in public employee union bargaining power.  It isn’t just salaries and wages that create an economic drag on the state, it is work rules that have been extracted from the state over the years, many of which are highly destructive to management and to the efficiency of the state’s public work force (of over 300,000 employees).  Last fall’s elections resulted in a complete turnover of power from a very liberal government to very conservative.  There is a mandate to take drastic action to save the state from bankruptcy, and foster a return to prosperity.  We nave now experienced a week of disruptions of the public business, with teachers calling in sick so they can protest, often taking students with them, and other public employees joining them, clogging the capital and impeding business. To top it off Democrat senators have fled the state, to preclude a quorum for a vote. These actions deserve discipline, but ultra liberal judges will not permit that to happen.
    Wisconsin was one of the first states to enact comprehensive civil service law, in 1905, and these laws cover almost every aspect of employment for public employees.  Currently there are 45,000 state employees covered by comprehensive civil service laws which guarantee hiring by merit, equal employment opportunity, equal pay with private employment, fair working conditions, discipline, firing and layoff, etc.  The employees of over 1000  Wisconsin municipal governments are also covered by these laws. 
    In 1959 Wisconsin legislated the right of civil service employees to join unions, and granted union shop rights as well.  This created a double layer of protection for public employees; civil service laws and union representation. Currently thirty states allow public employees to unionize, leaving twenty that do not.
    I worked in public service all my career and witnessed first hand, in four different states, the absurdity of this double layer of benefits and protection for public employees, which makes it virtually impossible for management to control the workplace and enforce even minimal levels of discipline and efficiency.  My position is, therefore, either civil service laws or union representation for public employees.  Let the marketplace, with its strikes, layoffs and lockouts rule the public workplace, or codified law that protects workers rights and guarantees wages.  Not both.

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