I had concerns about her even when she first announced. I did not sense that she was very labor friendly.
I was, and still am, concerned that she spent $120,000 on a school board seat. She spent more than ten times what her opponent - a good labor man - to buy that seat. And while in that office, her claims to fame has been to invest millions into a charter school and to vote against giving teachers a raise.
My concerns were slightly eases when she finally came out in an interview with Judith Davidoff of the Isthmus saying she opposed Act 10 and wanted to restore collective bargaining. Sadly, that was extremely short-lived when she betrayed the fact that she either doesn't get or doesn't care about the damage Act 10 has caused:
You've said you're opposed to Act 10. What specifically would you do to try to roll that back?This is a very unfortunate position for her to take for a couple, three of reasons.
I'd want to restore collective bargaining rights, and I'd have to work with the Legislature to make that happen.
So you'd look to repeal Act 10?
I think there is a difference, and what I'd look at is restoring collective bargaining.
Are there any parts of ACT 10 that you agree with?
Yes, I do believe [state employees] paying a fair share of health care and pension costs is something we needed in order to be able to balance the budget.
First of all, Burke fails to acknowledge that if the budget at that time was even truly out of balance, it's not because the workers were receiving luxurious benefits. If there was a hole in the budget, it was caused when Walker and his fellow corporate stooges spent hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks and other giveaways to their campaign donors.
Secondly, as was discussed in Forbes by Rick Ungar at the time when Walker was dropping the bomb of Act 10 on the state, taxpayers actually contribute nothing to the cost of the pensions public employees receive. The reason for this is because public sector employees traditionally were paid less than private sector employees, deferring that money to their pensions.
In other words, private and public sector workers were being paid about the same. The difference came in the fact that public sector workers looked further ahead and put some of their pay at the back end of their careers.
This was backed up by a report from the Economic Policy Institute which clearly showed (on page 7) that public sector workers did receive better benefits in exchange for lower wages:
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Thirdly, Burke ignores the fact that when Walker dropped his economic bomb, it caused hundreds of millions of dollars to leave the state's economy, which in turned caused a great downturn in the state's economy as well as months and months of straight job losses:
To put it as succinctly as I can, what Walker did was take the money from the public sector workers to give to his campaign donors and other benefactors. That cut in pay, not to mention the thousands of jobs lost when he cut fund shares with local governments, meant that public sector workers had to make cut backs of their own. That causes a ripple effect as private sector businesses - especially for non-essential things like restaurants and the such - to cut back on their own staff if not close altogether.
When Burke says that she is not willing and/or interested in finding a way to reverse this, it makes me question how serious she is about fixing the economy or bringing good paying jobs back to the state.
Last week, despite her less than thrilling attitude towards workers, she went to the Labor Temple in Madison to ask for the unions' help. Ruth Conniff of The Progressive reported on this, adding a new twist to this saga:
At the Labor Temple, Burke's got a polite reception. The first question was about how she could square her assertion that she supports collective bargaining with her support for Walker's move to make union members help pay for their benefits.That is one of the most convoluted things I've ever read, but if I am understanding Burke correctly, she is acknowledging that public sector workers are not being overcompensated, but to show the public that they are not being overcompensated they need to be be undercompensated.
Burke told an anecdote about a friend who worked for the state in information technology. After Act 10, she said, he felt so disrespected that he quit his job —and is now making 50% more in the private sector. This proves, Burke said, that public employees are not overpaid, despite the Republican stereotype.
“The reason I support contributions to health care and other benefits is because the public should be aware of compensation—that public employees are not overcompensated," she said. "It’s an issue in the public mind, if public employees have something they do not, they think they’re over-compensated."
Instead, she implied, public employees should be paid more but should contribute to their benefits in the same way private-sector employees do.
That prompted a bit of polite push-back from a police officer in the group, who pointed out that public employees gave up pay raises in negotiations in order to protect their benefits. "I feel the rules of the game are being changed at the end of the game," he said. Burke nodded.
To add to the confusion, she says that public sector workers should be paid more, even as she was saying people think they are already overcompensated. Er, shouldn't the decision on how the compensation is paid out be part of the collective bargaining Burke claims she is a fan of?
In summary, while Burke has said a couple of good things regarding the mess created by Act 10, she has also said things that should cause great concern. Even more troubling is that her actions, which speak louder than words, are not very reassuring either.
Although it's extremely unlikely, I would still like to see a true progressive get into the race. Because if it came down to Scott Walker versus Mary Burke, as much as I'm trying to like her, I can't say that I would vote for her. I know that there are many that would chant the "anyone but Walker mantra," but Chris Abele has shown just how foolish that argument can be. Abele is just as bad as Walker is, and in many aspects, is even worse.
Either Burke has to get her act together very quickly, the Democrats come up with another, more populist candidate or we all need to brace ourselves for another four years of Walker's corruption and maleficence.