Last November the people of Wisconsin went to the polls and elected Republican Scott Walker governor and gave the Republicans a majority in both chambers of the state legislature. Scott Walker, mirabile dictu, is actually delivering on what he promised to do in the campaign:
The proposal marks a dramatic shift for Wisconsin, which passed a comprehensive collective bargaining law in 1959 and was the birthplace of the national union representing all non-federal public employees.
In addition to eliminating collective-bargaining rights, the legislation also would make public workers pay half the costs of their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health care coverage — increases Walker calls “modest” compared with those in the private sector.
Republican leaders said they expected Wisconsin residents would be pleased with the savings the bill would achieve — $30 million by July 1 and $300 million over the next two years to address a $3.6 billion budget shortfall.
“I think the taxpayers will support this idea,” Fitzgerald said.
Wisconsin has long been a bastion for workers’ rights. But when voters elected Walker, an outspoken conservative, along with GOP majorities in both legislative chambers, it set the stage for a dramatic reversal of the state’s labor history.
Under Walker’s plan, state employees’ share of pension and health care costs would go up by an average of 8 percent.
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.
In exchange for bearing more costs and losing bargaining leverage, public employees were promised no furloughs or layoffs. Walker has threatened to order layoffs of up to 6,000 state workers if the measure does not pass.
The public employee unions have, predictably, gone berserk. For the past three days, union employees, most notably teachers, who have phoned in “sick” en masse shutting fifteen school districts, have flooded Madison, the capital of Wisconsin, with protesters. Democrat state senators, in order to stall action on the governor’s proposals, have fled the state and have taken political refuge in union controlled Illinois. (Actually, in Illinois, Rockford has a rather unique reputation throughout most of the state as a place to flee from.)
Walker’s actions are an opening shot of a political battle royal between public employee unions and fiscal sanity. The gravy train days for public employee unions are over. The sweetheart deals they have enjoyed from feckless Democrat politicians elected with their union donations cannot go on. The unions can rail against these proposals all they wish, but broke states cannot pay and change is coming, not only in Wisconsin but throughout most of the nation.