Gov. Scott Walker: Collective Bargaining Is Not a God-Given Right

April 14, 2011 - 6:33 PM

Washington (CNSNews.com) – Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who waged a tough political battle with government union employees in his state earlier this year, told CNSNews.com that collective bargaining is not a basic human right.

Walker, a Republican, testified on Thursday about state and municipal debt before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, at which one of the other witnesses testified that collective bargaining is a “basic right.”  After the hearing, CNSNews.com asked Gov. Walker, “Is collective bargaining a basic human right?”

Walker said,  “No, I mean the Constitution clearly lays out rights and those are things granted by the state and federal constitutions and, obviously, inherently granted from our Creator. It’s [collective bargaining] particularly for public employees an issue; it’s essentially a negotiated entitlement.”

He continued: “We think it's right to make changes. We did not eliminate collective bargaining in Wisconsin. We narrowed it down towards the base pay. And we think that’s an appropriate place to make sure we can balance future budgets, but more importantly to make sure we can make government work better for the people we serve.”

scott walker

Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker

Earlier, during the hearing, Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) had asked Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, “Do you believe that collective bargaining is really a basic human right?”

Shumlin said, “I believe it’s a basic right in a democratic society.”

“And, you know, I say that as a guy who grew up in, born and raised in Vermont,” said Shumlin. “My ancestors, like so many of us in this room, came to this country with nothing, perhaps through Ellis Island, [and] ended up picking beets -- my great, great grandfather [in the] Midwest somewhere.”

“And frankly, were it not for the right to collectively bargain, I don’t believe that my relatives or most middle-class Americans would have the opportunities for economic progress that they enjoy now,” said Shumlin.

DesJarlais noted that Shumlin’s response was in a contradiction with the view of Franklin Delano Roosevelt who was a pro-union Democrat.

DesJarlais cited Roosevelt, who wrote in a letter to Luther C. Steward, president of the National Federation of Employees, in 1937 that “meticulous attention should be paid to the special relationships and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the Government.”

Continuing, DesJarlais quoted FDR: “‘The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.’ And he goes on to say, ‘A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied.’”

Shumlin commented on the congressman’s recitation of Roosevelt’s words by saying that “even someone as great as Roosevelt could be wrong once.”