Political Correction

Gov. Walker's New Talking Points On Local Contracts Are Seriously Misleading

February 28, 2011 3:18 pm ET - by Alan Pyke

Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) really needed to change the story line this weekend. One Republican state senator is reportedly weighing a "no" vote on Gov. Scott Walker's (R-WI) "budget repair bill," the local press is hammering the governor for taking phone calls from out-of-state campaign donors while refusing to negotiate with Wisconsin Democrats, and Saturday's protests against Walker drew 100,000 people. So the would-be union buster threw out a new line of talking points on Meet the Press.

Walker claimed that he's right to reject union concessions on pensions and benefits — the parts of his proposal that actually save the state money, unlike the assault on collective bargaining — because the unions can't be trusted.

WALKER: Over the past two weeks, even after they made those promises, we've seen local union after local union rush to their school boards, their city councils, their technical school boards and rush through contracts in the past two weeks that had no contributions to the pension and no contribution to health care. And, in fact, in one case in Janesville, they actually were pushing through a pay increase. Actions do speak louder than words.

Walker's office foreshadowed this new narrative in a press release last week that listed half a dozen examples to support the governor's claims. But a closer look at the contract activities mentioned in that statement — in Racine, La Crosse County, Janesville, Sheboygan, Madison, and at the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) — shows that Walker's new talking points are just as dishonest as the old ones.

Nurses and county supervisors in Sheboygan ratified their contract in January, weeks before Walker announced his scheme. In Racine, city officials approved the agreement in question a week before Walker's announcement. Madison's mayor — not the unions — called a special City Council meeting to extend contracts that had also already been approved. La Crosse County has been bargaining for five months, MATC workers spent four full months negotiating, and in Janesville workers have been without a contract for a year and a half

These contracts and agreements are the product of long hours at the negotiating table. This is not some dead-of-night sneak attack by public workers, nor is it evidence that the union leaders who want to negotiate with Walker are misleading him. The governor is warping the truth about the people who are working together to avoid bargaining for the compensation concessions he wants. Walker is grasping at straws and hoping no one will check his facts.

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