by MCJ Staff
Outrage and action.
That’s what Wisconsin’s public employees, their unions, community based groups and local politicians have expressed and have made a clarion call for in reaction to Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to strip public workers of most of their collective bargaining rights.
Walker’s budget adjustment bill (also called the “budget repair bill”) will also reportedly cut pay and gut benefits without any negotiation. The legislation has been called a “radical assault” on worker’s rights and is described by labor officials and activists as ill-conceived and dangerous; while threatening to severely undermine the state’s quality of life.
The governor’s proposal comes on the heels of already existing hardships on public employees who have already borne the brunt of unpaid furloughs, layoffs and wage freezes due to the state’s budget crisis.
A new study by the Economic Police Institute finds that public employees in Wisconsin make 8.2% less than similar private-sector workers, even when benefits are included.
Using a recently released analysis by the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB), the organization “One Wisconsin Now” said the Walker plan would add at least $30 million directly to the 2011-13 budget, despite Republican promises to not add to the deficit.
According to the LFB analysis, Walker is borrowing $165 million a month after approving $140 million in special interest spending last month. Walker also intends to allow the administration to slash health care assistance for as many as one million Wisconsinites without the approval of the full legislature—which may be unconstitutional.
The LFB reported that Walker’s effort to end collective bargaining rights of public employees would forever alter the relationship between management and workers to the detriment of Wisconsinites.
Observers and the state’s unions believe Walker is doing the bidding of large corporations who want to eliminate all checks on unfettered corporate power.
Since Gov. Walker unveiled his proposal last week, there has been an immediate and significant backlash by labor groups, public employees unions and University of Wisconsin employees.
All these groups have been protesting and speaking out against the bill in Madison and Milwaukee since it was unveiled. Some have gone as far as to picket in front of Walker’s Wauwatosa home.
Even seven former and current members of the World Champion Green Bay Packers have spoken out against the measure. “The right to negotiate wages and benefits is a fundamental underpinning of our middle class, said a written statement by the past and present Packer players.
“When workers join together it serves as a check on corporate power and helps ALL workers by raising community standards. Wisconsin’s long-standing tradition of allowing public sector workers to have a voice on the job has worked for the state since the 1930.
“It has created greater consistency in the relationship between labor and management and a shared approach to public work. These public workers are Wisconsin’s champions every single day and we urge the governor and the State Legislature to not take away their rights.”
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who was Walker’s Democratic opponent in last November’s gubernatorial election, said Walker has taken a difficult and serious budget issue and turned it into an ideological attack on the right to organize.
“Initiating a bargaining process would have been a more responsible strategy to gain the concessions and savings public employees, state elected officials and local governments all recognize are needed.”
Making matters worse, said Barrett, is the Walker Budget Adjustment bill pits general city of Milwaukee employees against the fire and police unions.
“It even allows for the continuation of special statutory protections for the Milwaukee Police Association that no other police union in the state has. The net results will be fewer savings to Milwaukee taxpayers and more of the cost cutting burden falling on non-police and fire employees.”
Both the police and fire fighter unions endorsed Walker.
Black lawmakers too have been have been particularly outspoken on the governor’s bill.
State Rep. Tamara Grigsby said Walker’s bill would cause “real harm” to everyday people if it becomes law. “This legislation is nothing but a formal assault on working families in Wisconsin. It is neither a real budget adjustment, nor is it a realistic way to solve Wisconsin’s long-term fiscal condition.”
What has been mind-boggling to most political observers is the threat by Walker to call out the Wisconsin National Guard, which has not been used in a labor dispute in the state since 1934.
Interestingly the last time the Guard has been used nationally against public employees was the Memphis sanitation strike in 1968, just before the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
August 19, 2012 //
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