Well, the Tea Party called for a populist uprising. It looks like they’ve got one in The Badger State. Fresh from his victory in November, Republican Governor Scott Walker and his party’s freshly minted majorities in the legislature have declared war on public employee unions in the name of closing the state’s budget $3.6 Billion budget shortfall.
His bill would mandate the amount that government employees pay into their medical and retirement plans, strip them of their rights to bargain collectively on any issue except pay. Health benefits? No. Work hours and conditions? No. Safety standards? No. And on the question of pay, any pay increase above inflation would be subject to a referendum. Wow! So to get a pay raise to compensate for reduced benefits, a Wisconsin teacher would have to have win an election. If this is such a good idea, why don’t we try it out on the CEO’s of the banks that got government bailouts.
Of course, Wisconsin has a proud progressive tradition. It’s the home of such populist icons as Robert “Battling Bob” LaFollette and Russ Feingold (who is back and fighting!). Okay, it’s also the home of Joe McCarthy, but you can’t win ’em all. Wisconsin was the first state to allow collective bargaining for public employees. Like all labor victories, it was hard won and it will not be easily given up. That’ why these protests have been taking place. Public employees are not taking this lying down, nor should they. They need to let the legislature and the governor know that they take these actions at their political peril.
Just to clarify, who are these socialist agitators?
Parks and recreation employees.
People in your family.
The people who make a community work.
The people who get taken for granted until they’re needed.
The people who spend money in your community, who patronize as well as protect the private businesses.
But wait a minute. I’m in Washington. Why does this matter to me? Well, just as the Republican victory in November was a concerted effort to distort the facts about why our nation is in the situation that it is, this attack on public employee unions is part of a national GOP strategy to destroy the labor movement as a political force. If you live in a state that just changed into the GOP column, this is coming your way. Well maybe not. Reports out of Madison had legislators showing uncertainty about the fate of this bill. Make no mistake. The battle under way in Wisconsin is a big one. It’s not the whole enchilada, but a victory for Walker would embolden other GOP politicians in other states to attack labor. A defeat would give them pause.
If you live in Wisconsin, please call your legislators at: 1-800-362-9472 www.legis.state.wi.us