Now that the protests over union rights in Wisconsin have gone on for a couple of days, we’re saturated with national media attention. Some of it from news outlets trying to present the facts and others from organizations that want to push people either to or away from our cause.  Here’s an example of some anti-union propaganda from the Heritage Institute (The music seems especially designed to make all union supporters look like incompetent bumpkins.) As someone who lives two blocks from the Capitol, keeps up with the news, and goes to the rallies every day I feel obligated to present some facts about what is actually going on to combat some of the misinformation circulating about these events.

Myth: Governor Walker’s proposals are modest concessions that will leave unions in tact.  (Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Governor Walker’s Twitter feed)

Fact: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article above does a good job of explaining why Governor Walker’s proposals regarding collective bargaining are not “modest” (didn’t this dude ever read Swift?) and will seriously cripple organized labor in Wisconsin.  In short, Governor Walker wants to end the unions’ ability to negotiate on anything but pay.  Being able to still negotiate pay might seem like an okay compromise, but it essentially removes all chips from the table. Say if a union negotiated a 3% pay increase–the employer could simply lower the amount they pay into employees’ healthcare to offset the costs of the wage increase.  The proposal leaves the unions with nothing to negotiate and seriously limits middle-class workers’ rights in the workplace.

Further, the measure that forces unions to certify every year will come at a huge cost (in time and money) to unions–leaving them with few resources to actually fight for the working conditions of their members.

Myth: Wisconsin unions are  unwilling to share sacrifices. (Source: People quoted in this Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article)

Fact: What seems to get confused in some of the news stories I’ve seen is that there are numerous proposals in the budget “repair” bill aimed at public employees.  The ones that are everyone is upset about are the ones that end collective bargaining and unions in Wisconsin (see above).

Other proposals ask employees to pay more for their health insurance and pension.  Often, these increased contributions are mentioned to show how reasonable Governor Walker is being without mentioning that he is also trying to end unions in Wisconsin. Here’s an example of what I mean. Here’s an example from Governor Walker. This makes it seem like people are protesting because they don’t want to pay more for their benefits and in turn demonizes protesters by making them look greedy.

In fact, key union leaders in Wisconsin agreed on Friday to the Governor’s request for benefit concessions so long as Governor Walker takes away his collective bargaining measures. Governor Walker refused.  In other words, unions are more than willing to share the sacrifice and negotiate, but Governor Walker is so committed to ending unions that he won’t even come to the table.

Myth: Wisconsin public employees make more than their private sector counterparts (Source: This video, among many, many others)

Fact: When you factor in pay, benefits and education, Wisconsin public employees make 4.8% less than their private counterparts.

Myth: Wisconsin is broke (Source: Governor Walker)

Fact: This one is a little harder because state budgeting is complicated.  First, what’s important to know is the current state budget (that ends June 30th of this year) is balanced.  For the next budget,  Wisconsin is estimated to have ~$3 billion deficit. Wisconsin’s state budget process starts by putting together all state agency requests for the next two years and comparing them to estimated revenue.  This comparison leads to estimated deficit number.  So that $3 billion–that’s a deficit that will likely happen if state agencies get all of their requests fully funded.  It’s not a number that is at all written in stone–it’s easily changeable by not funding all agency requests or delaying for a couple of years certain infrastructure projects (such as adding a lane to 40 miles of the interstate between Beloit and Madison).

Remember, the current budget had a $6.6 billion deficit and we are ending the year balanced.

Myth: Only affected union members and students are protesting (Source: Every reporter who refers to the protesters as state employees, teachers, union members, etc.)

Fact: This is an easy one. I’m not in a union. I’ve never been in a union. Also not a student. I support this. So do the Green Bay Packers and the Archbishop of Milwaukee. ‘Nuff said. But seriously, this is a community effort.

Myth: The rallies in Madison are riots

Fact: Seven days. Nine arrests total. Yesterday saw 60,000 people and zero arrests.  This is all happening in my neighborhood and I feel perfectly safe.

Myth: The silent majority of Wisconsin supports these measures (Numerous Republicans, but here’s an example.)

Fact: There have  been two polls conducted since Governor Walker’s anti-union measures were proposed–both showing that the majority of Wisconsin residents are against Governor Walker’s measures.  One, done by a liberal group, shows people in Wisconsin are against Governor Walker’s measures by a 2-to-1 ratio.  Another poll, done by a more conservative group shows that 52% disapprove of the collective bargaining measures and only 43% are in favor.

Myth: The Wisconsin Democratic state senators that fled the state to avoid voting on this measure are shirking their responsibilities

Fact: This is more of a “depends on who you ask” type answer.  My senator is one the 14 camped out in  Illinois and I think he did absolutely the right thing. This bill will dramatically change working conditions for hundreds of thousands of hard-working middle-class Wisconsinites in a matter of days.  These people are the fuel of our state economy. This isn’t some emergency increases to park licenses or a new zoning law or even .5% tax increase–this is about people’s’ entire livelihoods and maintaining our labor tradition.

Every day we learn of another huge item tucked into the Governor’s measures. Only today was there any decent press on proposals in Governor Walker’s budget bill that would dramatically impact some of most vulnerable residents on Medicaid. The only reason why we are hearing about these things before they’ve been passed into law is because the Senate Dems stalled the bill.  Otherwise, per the governor’s request, this would have all been law on Friday.

Forward--Vote No

Myth: Governor Walker is defending the Wisconsin taxpayers (Source: Governor Walker)

Fact: Governor Walker is only defending the taxpayers in Wisconsin who agree with his measures.  Union members and their supporters are also taxpayers .  Also state employees pay taxes, too.  I know, it’s a shock!

Myth: Unions aren’t  necessary anyway

Fact: Umm…you and 80,000 of your best friends fighting together to retain your rights to negotiate with your employer as opposed to you fighting all by yourself…I think Wisconsin has shown now more than ever why unions are still incredibly necessary.

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