NIU professor reacts to union situation in Wisc.

By Danny Ciamprone

DeKALB | He has been described as the “Mubarak of the Midwest” by guitarist Tom Morello, and his new budget bill had over 50,000 Wisconsin residents lining streets.

According to a Feb. 21 CNN article, Republican Gov. Scott Walker proposed a new bill that would eliminate collective bargaining among unions, a step he said will drastically eliminate the state’s budget deficit. Sen. Dick Durbin(D-Ill.) disagreed and said the bill is not just about money, but is set on destroying unions.

Collective bargaining is a process in which employers and unions voluntarily negotiate with hopes of reaching agreements which regulate working conditions.

Lee Shumow, NIU presidential teaching professor, has taught in three different school districts in Wisconsin. She still pays taxes to the state today because of businesses she and her husband own. She said she highly opposes the new bill.

“I think the bill is extremely misguided, and that the arguments by the governor are disingenuous,” Shumow said. “It’s a bill aimed at political purposes, not at any realistic need to decrease debt.”

Over the past days, unions have willingly offered to reduce certain benefits to contribute to helping the debt, but these offers have been rejected, Shumow said.

Political science professor Curtis Wood said the end result has to satisfy both sides, not just the government or the unions.

“When solving this matter, it depends on the goal,” Wood said. “If the goal is to balance the budget, I think there’s room for negotiations without eliminating collective bargaining, but if it’s to reduce unions, that’s when they’ll go after collective bargaining rights.”

Because of the current recession, Wood says the environment has now changed, so the rules are changing for ways to reduce deficits.

“I’m in favor of collective bargaining and employee rights,” he said. “I don’t think it’s healthy to have an imbalance of power.”

Much of the funding for Walker comes from the Koch Brothers out of Texas, who have used millions of dollars to help fund elimination of economic stimulus packages, climate control bills and health care reforms, Shumow said.

“They are extremely right-wing and are totally driven by their own political and financial agendas,” Shumow said. “These agitators in Wisconsin are trying to get rid of unions because they are very supportive of democratic candidates.”

Walker defends the bill, saying that passing this bill will serve as a far better alternative than laying off workers.

Shumow disagrees, citing that in all his interviews, Walker cannot answer what effect getting rid of collective bargaining would have on the budget when unions have all ready offered to give up certain benefits.

“There is no relationship between public workers and a state’s budget,” Shumow said. “It is also shown that in states where teachers have collective bargaining, the achievement scores are higher.”