Tag Archives: collective bargaining

A Constitutional Question

I’ve done a pretty bad job of posting lately. My interest in politics has been tested throughly. I’m just tired of the same arguments coming from either side over government spending and taxation. The Tea Party has thoroughly destroyed my faith in Congress, and the American public. I will talk more about that in a later post. Today, I want to pose a question. It’s a question I thought of a long time ago, but never got around to asking. First, a little reminder of our recent history.

Back in March, all the talk was about Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker was trying to push a bill that stripped the collective bargaining rights of public employees. State Senate Democrats fled in an effort to obstruct him. In the end the bill was passed, but not without gaining significant national attention and a repeated FOXNews claim that was completely wrong. In the last six months, I’ve been mulling this issue over in my head. Education is very important to me. I’ve been a public school system employee. I have strong views about the issue. Personally, I don’t believe that public school teachers have the awesome, easy job that conservative talking heads say they do. I also believe that we should be encouraging people to become teachers not discouraging it. Having the smartest people want to be teachers is good. Education in the cornerstone of everything we do.

All that aside, I thought of an argument that makes the repeal of public employee’s collective bargaining rights is unconstitutional. This argument maybe crazy. It may have been addressed already. I would genuinely like to know what you think. So please leave comments below. As long as their civil and honest of course.

The 1st Amendment to the Constitution says:

     “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

We’re going to focus on the last part of that amendment. The government cannot abridge our “right to peacefully assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”  The way I read that is that collective bargaining is a right of public employees. Collective bargaining is people assembling (as a union) and petitioning the government over grievances (such as pay, working conditions and so on.)

I know that a strict constructionist view of the Constitution would not allow this, because it doesn’t talk specifically about collective bargaining, but collective bargaining didn’t exist. I believe we have to view the Constitution in the era it was written in, and decide for ourselves what is right and wrong. Let me know what you think.

Wisconsin Battle is Over. Who Really Won?

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker finally got his way. His budget bill that strips collective bargaining rights from public employees is headed for his desk. Ohio Governor John Kasich will sign a similar bill. Other states are sure to follow. It’s unfortunate that the Tea party fervor and Democratic apathy in 2010 has led to this. In the back of my mind I can’t help but think, Gov. Walker may have won today, but will he win in the end?

I don’t think this move played well for Scott Walker. I think it was bad politics. As the protests continued, the Governor was losing public support. At one point polls showed the 2010 election would have had the opposite result were it held now. Walker could have been the good guy. He put up a bill and people protested. The unions agreed to concessions as long as they were allowed to keep bargaining rights. He refused to compromise. Democrats fled the state and prevented a vote. He still refused. He could have accepted a compromise and looked like a statesman and a leader to the people of Wisconsin. He didn’t. In refusing he forced himself into a corner and looked like the bad guy. Sure to the right he’s a hero. To the left he’s a villan, but what is he to the middle? That’s where he loses.

Political battles are won and lost in the middle. It’s the independents who matter. Walker could have looked like a great guy to the middle. A governor who is really ready to tackle a budget. A governor who is willing to set ideology aside to solve the problem. Now pictures of teachers standing up for their rights are all over the media, and Scott Walker is the guy who refuses to budge. John Kasich knew this was a thin line. He made a point that he wanted the signing of his bill to be low-key. The Ohio bill doesn’t reach as far as the Wisconsin bill, and Kasich still didn’t want to cause any stir.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next couple of years. The Supreme Court ruled last year that corporations could spend as much as they wanted on political activities. That ruling also applied to unions. 2012 and 2014 could be years in which places like Wisconsin and Ohio are hotspots for union spending. The NEA, AFT, and AFSCME are all likely to be very interested in defeating politicians like Scott Walker.

Russ Feingold could be the big winner in all of this. Wisconsin took a swing to the right in the last election. I think it’s going to be swinging back and former Senator is a liberal icon in the state. If he has his eyes set on Madison, this might just be the time.