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Wisconsin Labor Fight to Go to State Supreme Court

March 25, 2011


Let’s look at two pieces of this puzzle:

CEPR, Center for Policy and Economic Research reports today;

Wisconsin’s pension system is on excellent financial footing and among the healthiest in the nation, according to multiple independent reports and an analysis by COWS and CEPR. These reports show that the WRS has consistently contributed 100 percent of the amount of money that actuaries calculate is needed each year. As a result, while the fund’s holdings dipped during 2008 due to stock market losses, it remains one of the most solid in the country and has enough funds to cover the promises made not only to current retirees but to those in the future.

Encouraging anti-tax sentiment has long been a staple of business propaganda. People must be indoctrinated to hate and fear the government, for good reasons: Of the existing power systems, the government is the one that in principle, and sometimes in fact, answers to the public and can constrain the depredations of private power.

– Noam Chomsky

What we are witnessing is class warfare of a new type: everyday Americans being pitted against everyday Americans: private workers versus public workers. The anti-tax corporations have infected our government at all levels. They are beating the drum of those “overpaid public workers are exploiting the rest of us”. Except corporations and the very highly paid executives that run them are not “us”. They are manipulators who want to pay as little as possible for anything. They want no taxes, no regulations, no interference from the EPA, and no interference from government. So, they have bought politicians who are implementing their agenda.

The hanky-panky going on in Wisconsin goes like this: The Governor states there is a fiscal crisis. He then passes a bill to strip the power of public employees their rights. Why do that? To get his hands on the pension funds to use to fund tax breaks and other favors to the companies that help get him elected. Plus make cuts over here to pay that guy over there. It is classic influence peddling. I hope Walker goes to jail at some point in time as well as the Koch brothers who have their filthy hands in this mess.

The courts are the place of last resort in a case like this where collective bargaining rights were stripped of public workers in an illegal procedural vote in violation of the open meeting laws of Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker is a bought and paid for politician by very wealthy interests, namely the Koch brothers and their ilk.

NPR reported today:

A state appeals court on Thursday declined to rule on a case alleging that legislators broke Wisconsin’s open meetings law when they used a tricky maneuver to pass the bill that stripped nearly all collective bargaining rights from the state’s public workers.

The challenge puts a sharper focus on what had until recently been a sleepy campaign for the state Supreme Court. Some in Wisconsin now see that campaign as a referendum on Gov. Scott Walker.

Here is where I stand. I am pro-labor, pro-union, and pro-making money for everybody across the board whether you choose to be a member of a union or not. What I am very much opposed to is changing the rules of the game at the point in time when people need their benefits. That’s a low down dirty trick. It is unethical and in this case, probably illegal.

All Pensions Require Protection
I learned this lesson a very long time ago when my mom told me a story about my great Uncle Paul who had worked for Carnation Milk for decades (non-union), and was laid off the year before he was to retire and become fully vested in his pension. He was cheated. My uncle was a good man, an honest man, a hard working man who had kept his part of the bargain only to be cheated by the company he worked for. This was in my home state of Wisconsin in Waukesha County. That story has stayed with me my entire life.

This is a very good example of why unions came into being and why — in my humble opinion — ALL workers need collective bargaining so as to receive protection against exploitation. I know the bad rap unions get, but let’s put this into perspective. Corporations exploit their workers way too often. And some, when they are wholesale white-collar crooks like the guys at Enron, can cost ALL their workers their pensions.

Enron is a teaching moment: the embezzlement of billions costing the ruination of the company and all its employees whose pensions went down the drain PLUS the ruination of another large company who engaged in the fraud, accounting firm Arthur Andersen one of five of the largest audit and accountancy partnerships in the world. BTW: Arthur Andersen had 22,000 employees.

In January 2003, the U.S. Labor Department estimated many Enron employees lost 70 to 90 percent of their retirement assets.

Heres a little reminder of the criminals who ran Enron: The Enron Fallout from 2006 New York Times which shows many executives involved with aiding and abetting securities fraud, insider trading, perjury, money laundering, and more.

Ok, so there is a good example of why we regulate companies and why employees need protection because quite frankly the majority of employees do not have the slightest idea what the financial health of the company they work for is. Who knows if they are cooking the books?!

Pension Raiding is a common practice. Corporations have raided 1000s of private pension funds over the years. I read a WSJ article many years ago about loopholes that allow most companies who offer pensions to cash them out, borrow against them and otherwise raid them. In March of 2009 six months after the global collapse GM, General Motors raided its pension fund to the tune of $11.6 billion.

Stop Outrageous Assault on Pensions
Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II

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