There is something up with the governor and the boot-licking Fitzgerald brothers. They seem to be in a hurry about all this “budget repair” business. The panic on their faces at their press conference on Monday betrayed the desperation of hack politicians who can feel the ground slipping from under their feet. They have bit off more than they can chew with their radical agenda of union-busting, poor-bashing and rich-giving, and now they are faced with either swallowing a loss of control of the Senate through recalls this summer or spitting out their Koch-brained ideas and starting over.
For now, they are plowing forward into their self-imposed abyss, flailing their arms against the strong wind of an enlightened electorate. On Monday, Gov. Scott Walker went after the mild-mannered leader of the Brave Wisconsin 14, Mark Miller, like he was some kind of raving communist, accusing him of being insufficiently grateful and for having the temerity to request a face-to-face meeting with His Wonderful Self. How dare he ask for a meeting, he said, when I have conceded so much to others I have been trying to pick off in his caucus! Just look at the e-mail exchange my staff has had with them. How generous am I!
Yes, well, about those e-mails…It is the height of hubris and arrogance for the governor to release the e-mail exchange between his staff and several Senate Democrats and claim his efforts have been anything but superfluous and pathetic. Throughout the exchange, Sens. Cullen and Jauch make it completely clear that the retention of non-economic bargaining rights for public employee unions was a necessary component of any deal. Throughout the exchange, Walker’s staff rejects any concession on this one essential item; the one that caused the Brave Wisconsin 14 to bust the Senate quorum in the first place and the one item that, if resolved, would bring them home.
Instead of seriously addressing this core issue, Walker’s staff relays offers on token bargaining subjects like overtime and hazardous duty pay, but only as “permissive” subjects of bargaining, meaning that management could (and, in the case of the State, certainly would) refuse to discuss it. In the last “offer” Walker was bragging about during the press conference, his staff refused to include bargaining over anything but base pay; expressly rejecting bargaining over step (experience) and lane (education) progression raises that have been standard for educators (and which Journal Sentinel wing-nut Patrick McIlheran claimed would still be in place). The only other subject of mandatory bargaining in the staff’s last e-mail would be workplace safety, which is so tightly defined in the “offer” that it would restrict bargaining to only making sure the employer didn’t pour grease on the steps of the office building.
In other words, although the Democrats they were talking to conceded way too much in the exchange (recertification elections still required every three years; expired contracts could not be extended), they never backed off of retaining bargaining on non-economic items, such as discipline, layoffs, transfers, contracting-out resulting in layoffs, and the like. They were talking, but were never close to a deal. The governor’s position remained rigid and inflexible – he would not back off on his obvious union-busting agenda. Neither Cullen, Jauch or anyone else in the Brave Wisconsin 14 had any reason to come back to take the measly crumbs His Royal Highness claimed he would let fall from the table.
Walker’s intemperate grandstanding about his supposedly Great Concessions was too much Sen. Bob Jauch. He lit into the Boy Governor in a press release, accusing him of being “not seriously interested in achieving a meaningful solution”, which cannot really be news to Jauch or anyone else. “Any serious leader does not negotiate contentious issues by press conference. His public announcement of what were supposed to be confidential discussions is a serious breach of faith.” Yeah, well, get used to it with this gang. Anyone that thinks Walker will deal in good faith to achieve the radical goals of his handlers is kidding themselves.
Meanwhile, Walker and his increasingly partisan Senate henchman, Scott Fitzgerald, continue to show their desperation by striking out in all directions. Both Walker and Fitzgerald now claim that the only reason the Brave Wisconsin 14 haven’t caved in to their generous offer is because their strings are being pulled by labor unions and the Obama White House. This is pretty funny coming from a couple of corporate tools who can’t let anything fly over their heads, lest their puppet strings get severed and they collapse in a heap. Perhaps, having no principles themselves, they can’t understand anyone who consistently stand on theirs. More likely, the baseless accusation is just another smear from people who, as usual, cannot win an argument on the merits.
Speaking of smears, on Monday Walker also sent out a list of anecdotal horror stories about the supposed effects of collective bargaining, which were dutifully reprinted verbatim and chewed-over by the right-wing echo chamber. Porn-watching teacher gets reinstated! Outstanding First Year teacher laid off! Bus drivers and correctional officers earning overtime! The Horror…the Horror. Anyone who is vulnerable to this kind of union “success” story cherry-picking has already heard or imagined all this kind of stuff before. It says nothing about the daily positive impact of a contract in a workplace, where both workers and management benefit from an enforceable, consistent method of operating and resolving differences.
Stand-up comedians know best what Walker and the lock-step Republicans are feeling now – it’s called flop sweat. “Flop Sweat” is defined as “nervous sweat (as of a performer) caused especially by the fear of failing”. Standing on a bigger stage than he ever imagined or deserved, Scott Walker is like a bad comedian in the middle of bad routine in front of a deservedly hostile crowd. He can’t get off – he’s stuck with where he is because he put himself there. Watching him squirm is entertaining, and the longer he stands out there, tilting at the windmills of an enraged citizenry, the more likely it is that the Senate flips later this year and he gets flipped out of office next year.
Rachel Maddow pronounced on her show last night, only partially tongue-in-cheek, that Wisconsin had already won in its battle with the radical Republican agenda. Well, not yet. But we’re getting there. You only need to see Walker’s flop sweat and obvious desperation to know that it’s just a matter of time.