Friday, May 13, 2011

Democracy Demands Fairness

Governor Walker:

I doubt you’ll ever see this. I doubt I’ll ever hear back from you. But I believe in communication, and hope you do, too.

We the people of Wisconsin need you to explain why collective bargaining rights need to be curtailed. So far, you have repeatedly said the state is ‘flat broke’ and insisted that the affected union workers are all just trying to keep their cushy benefits intact. Or you’ve vaguely stated these bargaining rights simply need to go. But where is the explanation why? If it’s a truly necessary measure, and truly the right thing to do, you should explain it clearly and trust the public to be able to understand your reasons. Not doing so has created doubt and mistrust in the minds of your opponents, and led them to conclude that this is a blatant, crippling political attack on them. Unions have agreed to pay more for their benefits as required by this bill, and are more willing to make meaningful concessions than they’ve EVER been in the past. This could have been a great moment for people to work together to solve a problem. Instead it has been a power play, disguised as fiscal responsibility, hasn’t it?

Collective bargaining’s purpose is to make the negotiating parties essentially equal. It's messy, and neither side ever 'wins' completely. There is compromise, and fairness. But that practice is effectively being destroyed with this bill, without respectful interaction and little explanation from you. And what is most discriminatory about the bill itself is that collective bargaining for public safety workers’ unions (police, firefighters, and state patrol) will continue unaffected. If collective bargaining is such a problem, why make that distinction? Negotiating working conditions or benefits as a group is not related in any way to the nature of public safety jobs above all others. Would taking away those workers’ bargaining rights could cause public safety to be compromised? Yes, if they chose to walk out because of it. I know you’ve said you exempted them for that very reason. But that thinking doesn’t justify the exception. That’s not 'equality under the law,’ is it? It's evidence to the contrary.

Your approach from the beginning—hurrying the bill through and not allowing the people affected negatively by it to have any say in the matter—is the cause of all this conflict. You say you advocate for transparency, responsibility and accountability. You currently have the legislative authority to do just about anything you want. But democracy demands fairness. Your refusal to negotiate in good faith has bitterly divided the state and furthered the enmity between its citizens. Is completely disenfranchising a large portion of the population a sign of your good leadership? Is being inconsiderate a sign of your integrity? Do the ends justify the means, and that is all that matters?

We are all Wisconsinites. We demand more respectful behavior, cooperation and real answers from all our elected officials. I’m pretty sure those AWOL democratic senators would never have left if they got that from you in the first place. Please drop the collective bargaining restrictions from your current budget bill, and stop making threats about the consequences. We can face them, and overcome them, if we work together.

Brad Burrill
Weston, WI

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