Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker this morning got some rare Democratic support for his high-profile push to eliminate most state workers’ collective barganing rights — from former D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.
Fenty made his comments as a guest on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” making an in-studio appearance in New York with takeover mogul and ex-“car czar” Steven Rattner and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan.
When discussion turned to Walker’s anti-union push, Fenty jumped right in.
“This is kind of what I faced in four years as mayor,” Fenty told hosts Mike Barnicle and Mika Brzezinski. “He’s right on the substance, I think. I tend to agree with him on the need for collective bargaining reform. But he’s also right on the politics. I just don’t understand why the legislature has been given this pass to go to another state and not do what they were sworn to do, and that’s to take a vote. Unfortunately for Gov. Walker, he hasn’t been able to get that out. He needs to point the finger a little bit more at them and say. ‘Listen, they should take a vote. All I want is for them to vote up or down, and I will be fine with whatever they decide.’”
Brzezinski asked Fenty if he agreed with what Walker is doing.
“The substance of it, I do,” Fenty said. “Most governors and mayors would love to be able to manage their team without the interference of collective bargaining. ... I believe that managers have the ability to set fair wages, and to set fair hours, and to reward people or hold them accountable. I think it’s a new day. I think a lot of these collective bargaining agreements are completely outdated.”
Fenty was often at odds with city employee unions during his four years as mayor — not least of which the city’s teachers union. Organized labor fought hard to defeat Fenty and elect Vincent C. Gray instead. Today was not the first time Fenty’s been critical of unions — he said in October that teachers unions “are going to have to explain why when every tough decision is made to reform the school system they are at the lead in opposing it” — but it was by far his most sweeping public indictment of organized labor.
Earlier in the discussion, Brzezinski asked Fenty what he was up to these days. He replied that he was “getting involved in business and staying involved in education.”
He also tried his hand at political punditry.
Panelists discussed potential Republican presidential candidates, including Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump.
“The serious thing for the Republicans is, is there going to be a candidate who can get out there early? What this shows you is that it’s just completely wide open. ... That’s good for my party. That’s good for the Democrats. Hopefully, we’ll just sail in to the White House.”
Buchanan disagreed. “Mr. Mayor, I don’t think so,” he said, before pointing out that Mitt Romney was in a strong position to clear the field.