February 27, 2011

AP’s Bauer Continues to Claim That Wis. Legislation Would ‘Eliminate Collective Bargaining’

From all appearances, the Associated Press’s Scott Bauer has a story, and he’s sticking to it — never mind the facts.

On February 17 (covered at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), in an item which mostly told readers that pending legislation would “eliminate collective-bargaining rights,” Bauer let a kernel of truth slip into his second-last of nearly 40 paragraphs:

Unions still could represent workers, but could not seek pay increases above those pegged to the Consumer Price Index unless approved by a public referendum. Unions also could not force employees to pay dues and would have to hold annual votes to stay organized.

If “unions still could represent workers,” and can still “seek pay increases,” then they would still have at least some “collective-bargaining rights.” They wouldn’t be as extensive, and perhaps they would be severely limited. But some level of “collective-bargaining rights” would still exist. Therefore, Bauer’s claims and implications elsewhere in his report that the legislation would completely “eliminate collective-bargaining rights” were self-evidently false and deceptive.

In a laughably titled story (“Facts overshadowed in debate over union bill”) datelined yesterday, Bauer again demonstrates, with assistance from colleague Patrick Condon, that he won’t let a silly thing like the truth stand in his way. Each of the following excerpted items implicitly or explicitly asserts that all collective-bargaining rights would end:

(Paragraph 1) The facts have been overshadowed by rhetoric at the Wisconsin Capitol, where protesters and politicians have been engaged in a tense standoff over the governor’s proposal to strip most public employees of their collective-bargaining rights.

(Paragraph 7, referring to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker) But the flashpoint is his proposed elimination of collective bargaining rights. Nearly all state and local government workers would be forbidden from bargaining for any wage increases beyond the rate of inflation.

(Paragraphs 18, 19, and 20) But the key to that plan, according to Walker, is ending collective bargaining rights. Doing that isn’t about busting unions, Walker argues, but balancing budgets.

If he’s intent on using cuts in state aid to balance the budget, eliminating collective bargaining does go a long way to achieving one of his key goals—giving local communities the ability to deal with the reductions.

With 3,000 units of government in Wisconsin, all in various stages of contractual negotiations, eliminating collective bargaining may be the only way they could quickly deal with the cuts, said Todd Berry, president of the nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

One could argue — in vain, in my opinion, but there’s at least a little wiggle room — that references to “eliminating collective-bargaining rights” somehow doesn’t refer to all rights. But when reporters make claims of “eliminating collective bargaining,” which Bauer and Condon did twice, that defense is no longer available.

As far as I know, the pending Wisconsin legislation hasn’t changed in the nine days between the February 17 and February 26 reports discussed here. If it is still true, as Bauer wrote on February 17, that “Unions still could represent workers, but could not seek pay increases above those pegged to the Consumer Price Index unless approved by a public referendum,” then Bauer and Condon clearly were not telling the truth in yesterday’s report. Further, Scott Bauer has to know that he was not telling the truth. Again barring proof to the contrary, shame on him and the AP.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.


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