As the democratic revolution climaxed in Egypt, sending the dictator Hosni Mubarak to an early, ignominious retirement in Sharm El Sheikh, the Seattle Times editorial board felt the need to offer their own sage advice to the Egyptian people... apparently because nobody has more Arab street cred than the wise, old sages at the Seattle Times.
Yet one week into the popular uprising closer to home in Wisconsin, and we've heard nothing but crickets from the editors of our state's paper of record.
But before the Seattle Times breaks its silence and comes out in support of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his union-busting methods—a position that would be entirely consistent with its vast portfolio of anti-union editorials—I urge the editors to take a closer look at their own backyard in an effort to reexamine the relative benefits of working with our public employee unions to help address our current budget crisis, as opposed to relentlessly working against them.
For example, harken back to the Seattle Times' endorsement of Republican Susan Hutchison in the 2009 King County Executive race:
The county must act more like private-sector businesses if it is going to close the $56 million gap in the general fund in 2010 and more in the future, and create responsible, sustainable budgets instead. This means the number of people working at the county, union and nonunion, will be reduced. It also means union contracts and health benefits are going to need to be revisited. Not when they expire, but now.
Constantine is heavily backed by the unions and has said he can't open their contracts and will revisit concessions only once they expire. Constantine touts himself as a reformer. Reform can only happen if the old ways, including union contracts, are overhauled.
Hutchison, a former union member, has said she is not afraid to work with the unions and seek to open their contracts — now.
Of course, Dow Constantine won, and thanks in part to his good relationship with organized labor, he was able to negotiate tens of millions of dollars in concessions, saving many of the jobs the Seattle Times insisted would be lost. No protests, no walkouts, no drama. But had Hutchison won and taken the hardline approach the Seattle Times was advocating, do you really think negotiations would have gone smoother?
The irony in Wisconsin is that union leaders have repeatedly expressed their willingness to accept the same sort of wage and benefit concessions Republicans now seek to impose. But instead of negotiating with the unions the way Constantine did—and the way Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire did in persuading state employee unions to pay a larger percentage of their health insurance premiums than Walker unilaterally imposes—Walker has chosen to use a $134 million budget deficit as an opportunity for permanently stripping public employees of their right to bargain collectively. And he's created chaos in the process.
If that's what the Blethen gang really wants for Washington state, it's past time for them to come out and say so. But I sure do hope recent events have served to moderate their stance.