Friday, July 24, 2009

Taking a Time Out -- Politically Speaking

Last Saturday, the WFSE Executive Board voted to adopt a resolution that suspends our endorsement process for 2009, withholds certain contributions, and creates a member-driven process to reconsider how our political program will work. I was expecting a vigorous discussion but the resolution was adopted overwhelmingly.

State workers suffered a terrible beat-down during the 2009 Legislative Session. In truth, we expected that to a large degree. We're in the middle of a global economic crisis, and sacrifices from state workers needed to be part of the solution. Faced with a $9 billion deficit, the Legislature and the Governor decided to balance the budget with $4 billion in one-time federal stimulus dollars and $4.5 billion in budget cuts. Included was $1.2 billion taken directly out of the pockets of state workers.

Taking $1.2 billion from state workers might be understandable, but the manner in which they chose to make those cuts was highly objectionable. The cuts to our health care benefits and to pension funding threaten the long-term economic security of every state worker. We offered a number of proposals to mitigate those cuts (cuts in WMS, closure of tax loopholes, forwarding a revenue proposal to voters, etc.) to no avail.

Making matters worse were actions taken by the Legislature and the Governor that had nothing to do with saving money: undermining our collective bargaining rights, privatizing child welfare services, adopting a budget proviso intended to close institutions in DD, JRA and DOC, and rejecting the worker privacy bill. None of these issues were about money. Instead, they were about values.

The truth is, legislators from both parties caused us great harm. It was a bipartisan beat-down. And we came away feeling like there were a lot of politicians who have been telling us over the years that they share our values, but who proved otherwise by their actions this year.

Our union and our members have been challenged like never before, and we need to decide how we are going to respond. The resolution adopted by the board is intended to provide a rational, member-driven process for considering what our endorsement process and our political program should look like in the future. I'm getting a lot of good feedback, and ideas are being put on the table, so WFSE members should keep sending us their thoughts and suggestions.

I really don't know how this will all evolve or what our next political model will look like. But one thing I do know that we're not backing down! -- Dennis

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