My newspaper's recent editorial aptly headlined "Wisconsin on the Susquehanna?" only got two of its two central points wrong.
The editorial argued that Gov. Corbett is going after unions by seeking to privatize the state liquor store system, and by pushing for a school voucher program.
But just because Gov. Corbett wants to get rid of the state liquor store system, it doesn't mean he's anti-union -- even though a privatized system would, as the editorial rightly points out, eliminate 2,200 union jobs. The state store system is uniformly ridiculed by citizens for its rigidity and lack of customer service. If it's a bad system, it should be eliminated -- unionized or not.
The editorial's second point was that school vouchers would be anti-union because the "money would go to private schools where teachers do not have the right to collectively bargain." This would be news to the unionized teachers of the local Catholic high schools who are ably represented in collective bargaining by the Association of Catholic Teachers and would presumably be the big beneficiaries of any voucher plan.
In addition, charter schools are not prohibited from unionizing, and four or five have. In one local charter, teachers launched an organizing campaign that resulted in a 24 to 3 vote against unionizing. Apparently for that school, the idea of teaching in a safe and respectful atmosphere, and doing it for children whose parents care enough to get them into the lottery, trumped the higher salaries of regular district teachers.
Both our liquor stores and schools are tangential to the central question: Could Wisconsin's labor turmoil happen here? If "here" is Philadelphia, the answer is clearly no. Wisconsin is a two-party democracy with a robust opposition no matter which side wins an election. In Philadelphia, cradle of liberty, we have one-party rule and that party, for better or worse, is beholden to its union supporters. Unlike in Wisconsin, Philadelphia taxpayers don't have a representative at the collective bargaining table, though Pennsylvania taxpayers might.
Our editorial ends by commending Wisconsin for holding this debate. Will the same debate come to Pennsylvania? Maybe -- but it hasn't yet.