Friday, February 10, 2012

Union "pledge" the wrong route to take

Restoration of union rights shouldn't be based on "if-then" functions

Some unions in the state are insisting that, whoever the eventual nominee against Gov. Scott Walker may be for his impending recall, they should pledge to veto any budget passed by the legislature that fails to restore collective bargaining rights for state workers.

Both of the Democratic candidates who have announced their intentions to run against Walker have weighed-in on the issue. Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk has made the pledge, while State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout has declined.

Pledges have become a recent fad within the world of electoral politics, mostly a fixture of the right but not unheard of to be part of progressive politics either. Signing onto a pledge gives a candidate a double incentive: they assure funds and a mobilized group of people will be willing to support them during their election run; and they lessen the chances of a primary challenge from within that group down the line.

The problem with pledges, however, is that they leave politicians restrained to act a certain way once in office. Indeed, it's the fear of retaliatory pressures from Grover Norquist's "no-tax" pledge that has prevented negotiation at the federal level among Republicans and Democrats over how to stave off a growing debt crisis.

The route taken by Vinehout, to disregard commitment to such a pledge (though not necessarily ruling it out as a possibility either), is the proper and nobler approach to take. We shouldn't restrain our candidates to behave a certain way through the use of this or any other pledge. Doing so not only restricts our lawmakers but also may alienate a large base of moderates, who don't want any recall candidate to appear as a pawn of the unions (a misconception, to be sure, but one that isn't easily dissuaded by the use of such pledges).

Furthermore, the pledge itself is unnecessary for Vinehout to make -- her commitment to restoring collective bargaining should be evident by the fact that she was one of the 14 state senators that went to Illinois to avoid filling quorum, thus stalling the bill that eventually removed those rights nearly a year ago.

Citizens should make electoral judgments based upon how candidates have acted in the past and what they say they'll work for in the future. We shouldn't limit any recall candidate to performing their job as governor in a strict "if-then" function. Doing so will hurt Wisconsin when that time comes, and is damaging politically to our own cause now.


  1. Sighning one of these pledges takes away one ability to lead. You are no longer the ventriloquist but are the dummy.

  2. As a progressive and an elected official in a Wisconsin municipality, there are some deeply disturbing aspects to what unions are attempting to do here. They forget that Walker's predecessor set many of these events into motion with his pandering to special interest groups, of which public employee unions were the largest. For many moderates, Doyle's corruption (e.g., casino and gaming interests) and lack of fiscal discipline drove them into Walker's camp. Our AFSCME units have decertified, leaving only the police and firefighters as unionized employees in this city. This pledge will only drive more moderates and independents away.

  3. When will you guys get it? The union bosses don't care about the people. They want to have control over the state and the governor and have the political power that goes with it. This explains the arrogance of the union endorsement of Falk.