This morning's Meet the Press Roundtable included AFL-CIO President Richard Trumpka, Mississipi Governer Haley Barbour, Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnel and rightwing talking points specialist Kim Strassel. With Trumpka there it was a balanced panel, and in fact one of the few times I have seen more liberal, or at least moderate panelists than conservative panelists.
Trumpka got the first shot and did a terrific job setting up the argument:
MR. RICHARD TRUMKA: Well, first of all, this isn't about the budget crisis. Let's look at how this--his arguments migrated. First he said it was--the budget crisis was caused because workers were paid too much in Wisconsin. We now have studies that show they're not overpaid, they're underpaid. In fact, people with a degree in Wisconsin get 25 percent less than their private sector things. Then he said it was about the pension. Now we find out that his pension plan, unlike a lot in the country, is almost fully funded. The assets match the liabilities. And then the employees said, or the members out there said, his workers said, "We'll accept your cuts." And he said, "No. We won't accept your accepting our cuts." And the most outrageous thing that he did, and he talked about this, was he's now saying to them, "You either have to accept a loss of your rights or I'm going to lay you off." Now, no person should have to face the right of their loss of their job or the loss of their rights. I know Governor Barbour would never say to his employees, his people down there, "You either have to give up your rights or you have to give up your job."
After a follow up question to Trumpka, Gregory turned to Barbour, who made this astonishing argument.
GOV. BARBOUR: That's the whole problem. They've got to change the system. About half the states in the country don't allow or limited--limit collective bargaining. The federal government doesn't have collective bargaining for wages, for health benefits. I mean, this--people act like this is some right, you know, that these are collective bargaining rights. There's no right to this under the Constitution.
And a few minutes later Kim Strassel seconded Barbours absurd argument.
MS. STRASSEL: Well, as the governor says, he needs to have a pair of shoes on picketing around Washington, D.C., because federal workers are not allowed any of these collectively bargaining rights that he's talking about there.
Really Governer Barbour? Federal employees do not have the right to collective bargaining? And Ms Strassel, you agree?
That will be news to the thousands of Union workers that I once represented and later negotiated with. I'm sure the Officers and members of the National Association of Letter Carriers and the American Postal Workers Union would be surprised to find out that they don't have collective bargaining. Especially since that explicit right was given to them in the 1971 Postal Reorganization Act. I'm pretty sure that I remember discussing grievances, advocating in arbitration cases and negotiating at the bargaining table as both a Union Business Agent and later a Management Labor Relations Specialist working for the USPS.
Since 2004 and my retirement from the USPS I have been in practice as a Labor Arbitrator. I'm certain it would come as a surprise to the US Army Corps of Engineers, The U.S. Airforce, The U.S. Navy, the Veterans Administration, and the Department of Justice, that they don't have collective bargaining agreements with their civilian employees, since I have heard and decided arbitration cases for all these federal agencies.
But the most gobsmacking aspect of Barbour and Stassel's assertions was not that it was completely false. No, it was that not one of the other three panelists challenged them on the lie! I know that time is limited, and that you desperately want to get your talking points in. But come, one of the three liberal panelists couldn't take thirty seconds to call Barbour and Stassel on this lie?