Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, wants to create his own Taft-Hartley by putting an end to “collective bargaining for nearly all public employees.” And it looks like he’s going to get a little help from the National Guard. You can read about what is happening here, here and here.
Governor Walker doesn’t know why people are surprised by his move because “Unless you were in a coma for the last two years, it was clear where I was headed.”
Hold on though. John Nichols from The Nation magazine begs to differ.
Well, Governor Walker took office in January, after a campaign in which he really ran as a feel-good Republican. He did not talk about gutting public employee contracts. He didn’t talk about getting rid of collective bargaining. He didn’t talk about perhaps imposing a sweeping right-to-work law that took away not just collective bargaining rights for public employees but for employees in the private sector. None of this came up. But in January, after taking office, he began to move very quietly behind the scenes to implement this plan. What’s fascinating is that while it does, as you note, attempt to take away collective bargaining rights for teachers, also for state, county and municipal employees, there is a special protection written in for police unions and firefighter unions that happened to support him in the last election.
Walker claims “the state’s broke” and that local governments “don’t have anything to offer.”
John Nichols has a rebuttle for that claim though.
The Fiscal Bureau of Wisconsin just said in January that it will end this year with a $123 million surplus. So the fact of the matter is that this is not being done because of a lack of money. This is being done because political forces, conservative political forces, would like to disempower public employee unions and remove that voice for a strong public sector.
There are two concerns here.
First, there is the attack on weakening the working class by taking away their option to opt for collective bargaining.
Second, it could lead to a domino effect–should Walker’s plan be successful–that John Nichols mentions during the Democracy Now! segment. It’s not the good type of domino effect we saw in the Middle East that started with Tunisia and spread like a wildfire to surrounding regions. It’s the bad type of domino effect that could spread to other states across the U.S. and weaken their working class by taking away their option to bargain collectively.