The union-led school closures and demonstrations in Madison have left most ordinary Americans shaking their heads in disbelief. Months ago, I penned a message to my fellow union brothers and sisters when I found myself on the receiving end of union boss Richard Trumka’s wrath. Yesterday’s demonstrations reminded me of the full-page ads taken out against me when I put my foot down in dealing with union demands while I served as governor. My message then and now to good union brothers and sisters is that you have another option. You don’t have to kowtow to the union bosses who are not looking out for you, but instead are using you. You can join millions of other union members in a commonsense movement to help fight for the right causes in our great country – for budgets that share the burden in a truly fair way and for commonsense reforms that take power away from vested interests like union bosses and big business lobby groups, and put it back where it belongs – with “We the People.
Here we are still struggling to get out of a deep recession and coping with high unemployment, record deficits, rapidly rising food prices, and a host of other economic problems; and Wisconsin union bosses want union members out in the streets demanding that taxpayers foot the bill for unsustainable benefits packages. I am a friend to hard working union members and to teachers. I come from a family of teachers; my grandparents, parents, brother, sister, aunt, and other relatives worked, or still work, in education. My own children attend public schools. I greatly admire good teachers and will always speak up in defense of the teaching profession. But Wisconsin teacher unions do themselves no favor by closing down classrooms and abandoning children’s needs in protest against the sort of belt-tightening that people everywhere are going through. Union brothers and sisters: this is the wrong fight at the wrong time. Solidarity doesn’t mean making Wisconsin taxpayers pay for benefits that are not sustainable and affordable at a time when many of these taxpayers struggle to hold on to their own jobs and homes. Real solidarity means everyone being willing to sacrifice and carry our share of the burden. It does no one any favors to dismiss the sacrifices others have already had to make—in wage cuts, unpaid vacations, and even job losses—to weather our economic storm.
Hard working, patriotic, and selfless union brothers and sisters: please don’t be taken in by the union bosses. At the end of the day, they’re not fighting for your pension or health care plan or even for the sustainability of Wisconsin’s education budget. They’re fighting to protect their own powerful privileges and their own political clout. The agenda for too many union bosses is a big government agenda that only serves the union bosses themselves – not union members, not union families, and certainly not the larger community. Everybody else is just there to foot the bill; and if that bill eventually takes the form of thousands of teachers and other public sector workers losing their jobs because the state of Wisconsin can no longer afford to keep them on the payroll, that’s a risk the union bosses are willing to take as long as their positions are secure. Union brothers and sisters: you are better than this and you deserve better. Don’t be led astray.
One final word of warning to my fellow Americans: back in 2009, I warned about what would happen if states accepted short-term unsustainable debt-ridden “Stimulus Package” funds. Accepting those funds allowed states to grow government, increase already unsustainable levels of spending, kick the can down the road on reforming entitlements, and create public expectations that they would continue financing these new mandates once the federal funds ran out. States were not in a position to grow government and take on new financial commitments then, and now the chickens have come home to roost. As goes Wisconsin today, so goes the country tomorrow.
– Sarah Palin