A few hours before polls close in some of the recall elections of Wisconsin state senators, Fox News' Andrea Tantaros and Greg Gutfeld claimed that Wisconsin union leaders had been "greed[y]" and had put "their survival before the survival of the state" during the debate over the state's union-busting legislation earlier this year. In fact, unions and their members were willing to accept a cut in their pension and health care benefits but fought against the legislation because it stripped them of their collective bargaining rights.
Fox's The Five: Unions Are "Greed[y]" And Put "Their Survival Before The Survival Of The State"
Gutfeld: Union Leaders Are "Putting Their Survival Before The Survival Of The State." During a segment discussing the current recalls for six Republican state senators in Wisconsin, The Five's Andrea Tantaros stated that union leaders send a "message of greediness." Her co-host, Greg Gutfeld agreed and then added: "It's the union leaders putting their survival before the survival of the state." From the August 9 edition of Fox News' The Five:
TANTAROS: I would say this. What's happening in Wisconsin is a theme that's going to be bigger in the 2012 elections and I do think that the message that the union leaders, not the union workers -- most of them are good, decent human beings. It's the leaders. That message of greediness, it is not going to play well in these fiscal times.
GUTFELD: Yes. It's the union leaders putting their survival before the survival of the state.
TANTAROS: Exactly. Bingo.
BOB BECKEL (co-host): And you put your survival in front of --
DANA PERINO (co-host): They spent $20 million.
BECKEL: And let's keep in mind the governor, the good governor of Wisconsin is going to be recalled in January. They have enough petitions to do it and go Wisconsin. Go Badgers. Get rid of that boy. [Fox News, The Five, 8/9/11]
But The Protests And Legal Challenges Centered Around The Bill's Collective Bargaining Aspects
AP: WI Unions Challenged "The Governor's Plan To Strip Most Public Workers Of Their Collective Bargaining Rights." A June 15 Associated Press article reported:
A coalition of Wisconsin worker rights groups is going to court to block Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill.
The groups are filing a federal lawsuit against the governor's plan to strip most public workers of their collective bargaining rights.
The groups are challenging the bill's constitutionality. The lawsuit contends the bill violates the First and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution by stripping away workers' rights to organize and bargain. [AP, 6/15/11]
AP: Coalition "Argu[ed] That The Law Violated The U.S. Constitution By Taking Away Union Rights To Bargain." A separate June 15 AP article reported:
The Supreme Court's ruling was a major victory for Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who said the law was needed to help address the state's $3.6 billion budget shortfall.
But the legal battle was not yet over. A coalition of unions filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday arguing that the law violated the U.S. Constitution by taking away union rights to bargain, organize and associate and illegally discriminates among classes of public employees. The lawsuit seeks to block portions of the law taking away collective bargaining rights, but allows the higher pension and health care contributions that the unions agreed to take to move forward. [AP, 6/15/11]
Wisconsin AFL-CIO: "The Unions Do Not Seek To Enjoin The Pension And Health Insurance Contribution Requirements." In a June 15 statement, the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, one of the coalition members, clarified that the only portion of the bill the coalition sought to enjoin was the collective bargaining measure, pointing out that "the unions do not seek to enjoin the pension and health insurance contribution requirements." From the Wisconsin AFL-CIO:
The lawsuit seeks to enjoin some, but not all, of the provisions of the Budget Repair Bill. Significantly, the unions do not seek to enjoin the pension and health insurance contribution requirements imposed by the Budget Repair Bill. Public sector unions have made it clear from day one that Wisconsin workers would do their part to share in the sacrifice and keep our state moving forward. The lawsuit only seeks to preserve the basic right to bargain and freely associate. [Wisconsin AFL-CIO, 6/15/11]
And Union Leaders Had Already Agreed To Pension And Health Care Concessions
AP: Unions Were Already "Willing To Accept" Cuts In Public Employee Compensation That Were In The Legislation. During the debate over Walker's controversial bill, Wisconsin public employee union leaders indicated that they were willing to contribute more of their salaries to health insurance and retirement benefits, which would result in a pay cut of approximately 8 percent. From the AP:
Walker's plan would allow unions representing most public employees to negotiate only for wage increases, not benefits or working conditions. Any wage increase above the Consumer Price Index would have to be approved in a referendum. Unions would face a vote of membership every year to stay formed, and workers could opt out of paying dues.
The plan would also require many public employees to cut their take home pay by about 8 percent by contributing more of their salaries toward their health insurance and retirement benefits. Union leaders said their members are willing to accept those concessions, but they will not give up their right to collectively bargain. [AP, 2/21/11]
Wisconsin Education Association Council President: "Public Employees Have Agreed To Governor Walker's Pension And Health Care Concessions." The New York Times reported:
Mr. Walker's plan would require government workers to put 5.8 percent of their pay into their pensions (most pay less than 1 percent now), and would require them to pay at least 12.6 percent of health care premiums (most pay about 6 percent now). Union leaders said they would go along with those plans, but they wanted to remove provisions that would prohibit collective bargaining for issues beyond wages, limit pay raises to a certain level without special approval by public referendum and require unions to hold annual votes on whether they should remain in existence.
''We have been clear -- and I will restate this again today -- money issues are off the table,'' Mary Bell, the president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, said on Sunday. "Public employees have agreed to Governor Walker's pension and health care concessions, which he says will solve the budget challenge.'' [The New York Times, 2/20/11]