Published February 18, 2011
AP2011 – Feb. 16: Protesters to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to eliminate collective bargaining rights for many state workers gather in the rotunda at the State Capitol in Madison.
[Breaking: FoxNews has reported that the Administration, through the DNC and OFA (Organizing for America) is busing protesters in to join the union protests. OFA is the official campaign arm of Barack Obama and the DNC.]
The top Republican in the Wisconsin state Senate has asked Gov. Scott Walker to send state troopers after Democratic leader Mark Miller as Democrats boycott a vote on a bill that would end collective bargaining rights for unionized public employees.
Senate Democrats have been missing from the Capitol for a day and a half. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he has asked Gov. Scott Walker to send two state troopers to Miller’s home in Monona. He says he believes the troopers are en route.
The Wisconsin Constitution prohibits police from arresting legislators while they’re in session. Fitzgerald says he just wants to send a message to Miller — if he’s even home — that he must bring his caucus back to Madison.
The Wisconsin State Assembly, meanwhile, was poised to vote Friday morning on the bill that would force public workers to pay half the costs of their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health care coverage. It’s projected to save the state $300 million over the next two years.
Walker, trying to close a $3.6 billion budget gap, fired back on Friday at President Obama, who accused the Republican governor of unleashing “an assault” on unions by pressing the cost-saving legislation.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Friday fired back at President Obama who has accused the Republican governor of unleashing “an assault” on unions by pressing legislation that would end collective bargaining rights for public employees and sharply increase their health care and pension payments. (AP)
Curtail bargaining to fix budget?
“I think we’re focused on balancing our budget. It would be wise for the president and others in Washington to focus on balancing their budget, which they’re a long ways from doing,” Walker told Fox News.
In a White House interview with WTMJ-TV on Wednesday, Obama joined the raging budget battle in Wisconsin, taking big labor’s side.
“Some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally seems like more of an assault on unions,” Obama said. “And I think it’s very important for us to understand that public employees, they’re our neighbors, they’re our friends.”
“I think everybody’s got to make some adjustments, but I think it’s also important to recognize that public employees make enormous contributions to our states and our citizens,” he continued.
But Walker said the demands on public employees are “modest” compared with those in the private sector, and are meant to prevent a shutdown, which could result in 6,000 state workers not getting paid.
“We’re at a point of crisis,” the governor said, adding that he would call out the National Guard if needed to keep state operations, including prisons, running.
Republicans who swept into power in state capitols this year with promises to cut spending and bolster the business climate now are beginning to usher in a new era of labor relations that could result in the largest reduction of power in decades for public employee unions.
But as massive public protests and legislative boycotts in Wisconsin this week have shown, the Republican charge can be fraught with risk and unpredictable turns as politicians try to transform campaign ideas into action.
The question GOP governors and lawmakers are now facing is exactly how far they can go without encountering a backlash. Do they merely extract more money from school teachers, prison guards and office workers to help ease their states’ budget problems? Or do they go at the very core of union power by abolishing the workers’ right to bargain collectively? Do they try to impose changes by steamrolling the opposition, or by coming to the bargaining table?
“The consequences will be rolling forth for many, many years,” said James Gregory, director of Center for Labor Studies at the University of Washington. “The battle lines have been drawn and will be replicated around the country. This is going to be very tough for unions and public sector employees.”
In Wisconsin, new Gov. Walker is going for it all — the elimination of collective bargaining rights for public employees plus sharp increases in their health care and pension payments. His plan advanced quickly to the Republican-led Senate, despite several days of protests that drew tens of thousands of demonstrators to the Capitol. Then Senate Democrats suddenly fled the state Thursday, bringing the legislative process to a halt.
At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Walker said he’s willing to talk to the senators who want to force Walker and GOP lawmakers to negotiate revisions to the bill.
“I’m going to tell them they get paid to come to work, and they should be coming to work,” he told reporters.
Walker went “On The Record” with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren Thursday night and reiterated his appeal for the senators to return to Wisconsin.
“Democracy doesn’t come by hiding out in another state,” he said. “I made a personal appeal for all the senators to come back.”
In a statement he released earlier, Walker, said the actions of the lawmakers were “disrespectful to the hundreds of thousands of public employees who showed up to work today and the millions of taxpayers they represent.”
The confrontation comes as organized labor is reeling from a steady loss of members in the private sector. The public sector, with about 7.6 million members, now account for the majority of workers on union rolls, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Among union leaders, a sense of crisis is growing. Labor is preparing to spend at least $30 million to fight anti-union legislation in dozens of states, according to internal budget numbers reviewed by The Associated Press. They’re lobbying local officials, organizing public rallies, working phone banks and buying television and newspaper ads in a desperate attempt to swing public opinion.
“Plans are being put into place to silence workers, lower their wages, cut their benefits and increase the likelihood that they will suffer injuries and fatalities at work,” said Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “It is happening at a breakneck pace and too little attention is being paid.”
Labor plans to spend large amounts of money on battles in Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Missouri, New Hampshire, Maine, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Unions see their goal as not just playing defense — as opponents chip away at bargaining rights — but going on offense to try to educate the public about the role of unions.
But last fall’s midterm elections, which brought the defeat of many union-supported candidates and victories by pro-business Republican adversaries, show the difficulty the unions face in a climate shaped by the sour economy. In many states, Republican governors have blamed unions in part for the state budget crisis by negotiating flush benefit packages for public workers that have forced states to slash aid to schools, social services and important services.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
- YOU MIGHT ALSO BE INTERESTED IN
- Truth About Social Security Benefits and Wage Garnishment
- Justice Dept. Asks Judge to Clarify Health Care Ruling After Alaska Governor Refuses to Enact Law
- Entitlement Evolution Poses Threat to America’s Finances
- CBS Reporter Had ‘Really Bad Headache’ Before On-Air Breakdown
- A Nice, Wholesome Hooters Girl for the Kids