Wisconsin anti-union bill is a shameful attack on workers’ basic rights
Let's be clear: Governor Scott Walker and his Republican colleagues aren't really trying to balance the budget. They're using budget shortfalls caused by their own reckless tax cuts as a pretext for attacking collective-bargaining rights and the union movement.
The capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin, is the scene of a standoff both deeply scary and profoundly inspiring. Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans are trying take away the right of most government workers to collectively bargain. This basic right – to negotiate with your employer on an even footing – has nothing to do with Wisconsin’s budget crisis. The crisis is largely the result of Governor Walker’s massive tax giveaways, a huge cost that he’s now trying to cover by targeting state workers.Skip to next paragraph
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This is scary because if Walker and his colleagues succeed, it is likely to have a cascading effect on the dozen or so states where Republicans are also mounting similar campaigns against workers. And it is inspiring because tens of thousands of state residents – students, private-sector workers, government employees, and retirees – have begun to recognize these attacks as the political bullying they are and have peacefully gathered at the state capitol to say “No” to the scapegoating of teachers, nurses, and prison guards.
These citizens understand that Republicans are using budget shortfalls as a pretext for attacking an already weakened union movement in hopes of crippling their political opponent. They know that these attacks won’t create jobs or help the state get out of its budget mess, but instead will leave their state in much worse shape, with worse schools and services, and no one left to fight for the middle class.
Walker and his fellow Wisconsin Republicans are rapidly pushing a bill through the statehouse that would severely restrict the ability of most public-sector unions to collectively bargain on pensions and health benefits. It would also cap wage increases. And the governor is attempting to intimidate his opponents by repeatedly stating that he would put the National Guard on alert in case of “unrest.”
Gov. Walker’s justification for restricting the rights of workers in the name of fiscal rectitude would be much more convincing if the governor had not signed three bills that cut taxes and increase the deficit by $117 million. According to a memo from the Wisconsin Fiscal Bureau, the governor did not inherit a budget deficit in need of repair. Wisconsin would have been in a far better fiscal situation without those tax cuts. But those cuts gave him a convenient excuse to go after public-sector unions.
Sadly, Republicans in virtually every state where they are in power are following a similar strategy, pushing bills that attack public-sector unions in Ohio, Indiana, Idaho, Tennessee, Nebraska, and Florida, to name just a few states. To be sure, governments across our country face budget nightmares because of the sharp downturn in tax revenue during the Great Recession, especially from property taxes amid the housing crisis. Governments will have to make very tough choices, possibly including further cutbacks for government employees, even as governments struggle to maintain needed government services.