tisdag 1 mars 2011

Konflikten i Wisconsin

I Wisconsin har en mycket stor och laddad konflikt mellan vänster och höger, fack och "pro-business"-grupper, demokrater och republikaner, blossat upp den senaste månaden. Det handlar om att den republikanske guvernören Scott Walker, i en traditionellt sett progressiv stat, i sitt program för att avskaffa delstatens budgetunderskott har gått på offensiven inte bara för att skära ner på de offentliganställdas löner och förmåner, utan också avskaffa deras rätt att i framtiden kollektivförhandla om dessa löner och förmåner.

Som jag förstår det så accepterade facken - det är framför allt lärarfacken som diskuteras - Walkers nedskärningar i löner och förmåner, om Walker kunde göra en kompromiss och inte avskaffa rätten att kollektivt förhandla. Walker förkastade dock denna kompromiss, vilket enligt många kommentatorer pekar på att hans mål till syvende och sist inte "bara" eller huvudsakligen är att bli av med budgetunderskottet - han har också sänkt skatter - utan att mosa facket. Inte bara för sakens egen skull, utan också för att facken är viktiga donatorer till det demokratiska partiet; att nationellt försvaga facken vore därför att stärka republikanerna i framtida val.

Man borde kanske inte bli förvånad över att en konflikt av denna typ blossar upp i USA under denna recession. I höstas så körde Economist ett helt temanummer om vilka skurkar offentliga sektorns fack är, och över huvud taget tröttnar de aldrig på att peka på hur bortskämda offentliganställda är. Från en svensk horisont ser denna diskussion lite konstig ut för här är det knappast så att offentliganställda har markant förmånligare lön-förmåner-sammansättning än privatanställda, och inte heller så, som det är till exempel i USA, att den fackliga anslutningsgraden är mycket högre i den offentliga sektorn än i den privata.

Ojämnheten i facklig anslutning i USA - sex procent av de anställda i privat sektor är med i facket, men siffran är över 35 procent i den offentliga sektorn - reser en klassisk fråga om fackliga rörelser: kan de hålla ihop? Finns det en solidaritet mellan anställda i privat och offentlig sektor, en opinion om att man har gemensamma intressen, eller inte?

NYT beskriver konflikten som den största mellan politiker och fack sedan Reagans emblematiska konflikt med flygledare 1981, så det verkar onekligen som att mycket står på spel.

"[The bill] would require most public workers to pay half their pension costs — typically 5.8% of pay for state workers — and at least 12% of their health care costs. It applies to most state and local employees but does not apply to police, firefighters and state troopers, who would continue to bargain for their benefits.
Except for police, firefighters and troopers, raises would be limited to inflation unless a bigger increase was approved in a referendum. The non-law enforcement unions would lose their rights to bargain over anything but wages, would have to hold annual elections to keep their organizations intact and would lose the ability to have union dues deducted from state paychecks.
Now why would this be? /.../
is it because teachers tend to vote pretty reliably for Democrats and public safety employees don't? Bingo."
Kevin Drum, "Defunding the Democratic Party", Mother Jones 17 februari
"Why bust the unions? As I said, it has nothing to do with helping Wisconsin deal with its current fiscal crisis. Nor is it likely to help the state’s budget prospects even in the long run: contrary to what you may have heard, public-sector workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere are paid somewhat less than private-sector workers with comparable qualifications, so there’s not much room for further pay squeezes.
So it’s not about the budget; it’s about the power.
In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr. Walker). On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.
Given this reality, it’s important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions."
Paul Krugman, "Wisconsin Power Play", NYT 20 februari

"Public sector workers are not, on average, grossly overpaid compared with the private sector — period. You can fiddle at the edges of this conclusion, but it’s just not possible to conclude, based on any honest assessment of the data, that schoolteachers are the new welfare queens."
Paul Krugman, "A Clarification on Public Sector Workers", 26 februari
"As Wisconsin’s governor and public employees square off in the biggest public sector labor showdown since Ronald Reagan fired striking air traffic controllers in 1981, government employees’ unions in a range of states are weighing whether to give ground on wages, benefits and work rules to preserve basic bargaining rights.
It is not yet clear whether Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin will succeed in his quest to strip public employee unions of most of their bargaining rights. But by simply pressing the issue, he has already won major concessions that would have been unthinkable just a month ago.
Some of Wisconsin’s major public sector unions, faced with what they see as a threat to their existence, have decided to accept concessions that they had been vigorously fighting: they said they would agree to have more money deducted from workers’ paychecks to go toward their pensions and health benefits, translating into a pay cut of around 7 percent.
But Mr. Walker is not settling for that. He said that those concessions were 'an interesting development, because a week ago they said that’s not acceptable.'"
Michael Cooper & Steven Greenhouse, "Unions Debate What to Give to Save Bargaining", NYT 27 februari

"I don't doubt that Scott Walker genuinely wants to close Wisconsin's short-term deficit, and he also thinks that busting the public union will make it easier to curtail spending over the long run. On the other hand, you have to be pretty naive to ignore his political motivations."
Jonathan Chait, "Scott Walker's Real Motive", The New Republic 27 februari
"As labor battles erupt in state capitals around the nation, a majority of Americans say they oppose efforts to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions and are also against cutting the pay or benefits of public workers to reduce state budget deficits, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
Labor unions are not exactly popular, though: A third of those surveyed viewed them favorably, a quarter viewed them unfavorably, and the rest said they were either undecided or had not heard enough about them."
Michael Cooper & Megan Thee-Brenan, "Majority in Poll Back Employees in Public Sector Unions", NYT 28 februari

"As Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker tries to strip away the collective bargaining rights of public-sector unions, many liberals have latched onto the idea that his real goal is to dismantle the labor movement and the infrastructure of the Democratic Party. That is almost certainly one of his aims, but it’s not the whole story.
Walker also has an economic vision for his state—one which is common currency in the Republican Party today, but hitherto alien in a historically progressive, unionist Midwestern state like Wisconsin. It is based on a theory of economic growth that is not only anti-statist but aggressively pro-corporate: relentlessly focused on breaking the backs of unions; slashing worker compensation and benefits; and subsidizing businesses in order to attract capital from elsewhere and avoid its flight to even more benighted locales. Students of economic development will recognize it as the 'smokestack-chasing' model of growth adopted by desperate developing countries around the world, which have attempted to use their low costs and poor living conditions as leverage in the global economy. And students of American economic history will recognize it as the 'Moonlight and Magnolias' model of development, which is native to the Deep South."
Ed Kilgore, "Dixie Madison", The New Republic 28 februari

Statsvetaren Katherine Cramer Walsh förklarar på bloggen The Monkey Cage utifrån en intervjustudie från Wisconsin något av de attityder gentemot delstatsbyråkratin och den offentliga sektorns anställda som förklarar varför det trots allt i Wisconsin finns en grogrund för Scott Walkers offensiva hållning.

UPPD 11 mars
Ekonomen Thomas Cochan skriver på MIT Sloans blogg om "the Wisconsin virus".

Uppdatering 25 maj 2012
I juni kan guvernör Walker bli avsatt i ett extraordinärt val, och konflikterna fortsätter. Wisconsin har också blivit en tummelplats för hela USA:s antifackliga intressen, som bröderna Koch som pumpar in pengar i Walkers återvalskampanj. NYT skriver bra:
"“There is tremendous frustration with the influence of out-of-state organizations and out-of-state money,” Lisa Graves, the executive director of the Madison-based Center for Media and Democracy, told me when I spoke with her this spring. “Wisconsin has an identity, the Wisconsin Idea, that is based on the notion that legislation should help as many people as possible.” In February, David Koch gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which is spending heavily to fight Walker’s recall campaign, and that same month he praised Walker’s anti-union legislation in The Palm Beach Post. “We’re helping him, as we should,” Koch said. “We’ve spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We’re going to spend more.” Walker has raised more than $25 million for his campaign, 60 percent of it from outside the state, while his Democratic opponent, Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee (whom Walker defeated in a regular election less than two years ago), has raised less than $1 million. “Wisconsin used to be the beacon of clean and open and honest government,” Mike McCabe, the head of the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which tracks money in politics, told me. “We are now just a pawn on a national chessboard.”"
Dan Kaufman, "How Did Wisconsin Become the Most Politically Divisive Place in America?", New York Times 24 maj

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