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Waiting For Walker

Tom Foley, who according to some polls will be Governor Dannel Malloy’s likely opponent in the upcoming gubernatorial race, ran into a string of barbed wire when he made an appearance at a recent AFL-CIO gathering, a watering hole for progressives seeking political office.

Mr. Foley appeared unarmed with empty hands – largely because there is as yet no “there” in his campaign – and he was, as expected, rudely rebuffed.

To approval and titters from the floor, Lee Saunders,  president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, warned, just before Mr. Foley stepped to the lectern, “He will tell you anything and then he will try to kill you ... We are smarter than that, aren’t we Connecticut?”

In GOP backrooms, puzzled Republicans were scratching their nobs after Mr. Foley’s appearance and asking themselves, “Why did Mr. Foley feel compelled to meet union leaders on the same common ground as, say, Mr. Malloy or Malloy gadfly Jon Pelto, who pointedly was not invited to make an appearance before the AFL-CIO crowd?” Mr. Pelto – like Mr. Malloy, a progressive, only more so -- has opened an independent campaign for governor.

The lover’s quarrel between Mr. Malloy and Mr. Pelto revolves around the question: Which of the two is a more faithful champion of union interests? Mr. Pelto thinks he is a more faithful Samuel Gompers than Mr. Malloy; Mr. Malloy, naturally, demurs. Did Mr. Foley expect to convince hard-boiled union leaders to abandon the Pelto-Malloy steamer in favor of his bark?  

Suppose, just to suppose, Mr. Foley’s view of the union incubus in Connecticut paralleled that of  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, the most recent bête noir of union progressives. It is not Mr. Walker’s failures that trouble union leaders but his successes: Wisconsin's Act 10, requires public employees to contribute 6 percent of their pay toward their pensions and at least 12 percent of their health plan costs; the law also repealed a so-called “fair-share requirement” that compels all public employees represented by a union to pay union fees. In the absence of the compulsory requirement, many employees have opted out of unions; in the city of Oshkosh alone, union membership has fallen from 450 to 225.

Not long ago, Mr. Walker accepted from Republicans in Connecticut its coveted Prescott Bush award, after which many Republicans in the state began to long for a “Wisconsin moment” – meaning a moment of effective resistance to public employee unions that, here in Connecticut, have been for decades the campaign love-children of progressives such as Mr. Malloy and Mr. Pelto but not, it is often forgotten, President Franklin Roosevelt, who sought to outlaw employee unions. “It is impossible,” Mr. Roosevelt insisted, “to bargain collectively with the government,” because government workers do not generate profits; they negotiate for more tax money. A union strike against taxpayers, Mr. Roosevelt said, would be “unthinkable and intolerable.”

In what sense did Mr. Foley’s implicit promises to AFL-CIO leaders clarify a winning GOP campaign message?

A winning message, some political strategists think, would be one that held together Mr. Foley’s voter base of 2010, adding to it additional votes from Republicans, independents and even some  moderate Democrats put off by the recent swing to the left of Connecticut’s new progressive hegemon. Economically, Connecticut’s new Democratic Party has turned the clock back to the rude beginnings of the Progressive Party nearly a century ago; morally, the new progressives have whizzed past both liberalism and libertarianism towards libertinism; and socially their nostrums have led to urban anarchy and illiteracy in urban public schools.

Mr. Foley need not be anti-union during his campaign, but any attempt to outbid Mr. Malloy and Mr. Pelto on issues dear to the hearts of the unions’ upper crust is doomed to fail. Republicans, Independent and even some antique Democratic moderates – most certainly over regulated businesses and much plucked Connecticut taxpayers – will respond positively to a message that cuts governmental costs by requiring unions to bear a real “shared sacrifice,” which might include increased payments to pensions, salary freezes and, somewhere down the road, an end to compulsory union fees.

Mr. Foley might easily cite Thomas Jefferson on the point. A portion of the fees collected by unions are spent agitating for policies and politicians who represent union interests, most often Democrats such as Mr. Malloy and Mr. Pelto. Those fees ought to be voluntary. Just as Mr. Roosevelt argued against public employee unions, so Mr. Jefferson argued strenuously against the tyranny of small minds: “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.”

Somehow one cannot imagine Mr. Foley unfurling that banner at a union gathering. Or this one: “If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretense of taking care of them, they must become happy." One might easily imagine the progressive head-honchoes of the Democratic Party citing that last sentiment as a justification for disinviting Mr. Jefferson to their annual Jefferson, Jackson Bailey Dinner. Perhaps they might consider extending an invitation to Mr. Foley in his stead.


peter brush said…
We can hope...
Supreme Court’s Harris v. Quinn Ruling Expected in June

You could say former National Education Association (NEA) Union General Counsel and Lobbyist Robert Chanin’s words are at the heart of the National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation’s case Harris v. Quinn. Foundation clients in the Harris v. Quinn case charge, among other things, that the state of Illinois is forcing them to pay for Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) politics. Their argument is essentially that all monies that they are forced to give to SEIU is inherently political because SEIU must lobby a political entity to change the conditions of ‘employment.’

In fact, it was SEIU’s lobbying and millions of dollars in financial contributions to one governor, now serving time in jail, the current governor of Illinois and multiple state senate and house members including state Sen. Barrack Obama that forced these plaintiffs into their unjust circumstances.
peter brush said…
Let us hope for a Walker Moment with or without a Governor Foley/McKinney.
Next Monday’s Ruling in Harris v. Quinn
By Ed Whelan
June 27, 2014 3:32 PM

Public-sector union bosses will have difficulty sleeping this weekend, as they await the Supreme Court’s disposition on Monday of what may be the surprise blockbuster of the term, Harris v. Quinn. The Court may well overrule a dubiously reasoned precedent from 1977—Abood v. Detroit Board of Education—that held that the First Amendment allows the government to condition a person’s employment in the public sector on that person’s paying fees to a union.

Public-sector unions, of course, have benefited massively from the coerced funding that Abood allows.

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