TAKING UNION BUSTING TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL…. With several new Republican gubernatorial administrations, public sector workers are facing an onslaught unseen in many years. But in Wisconsin, the GOP’s war on unions is almost hard to believe.
Citing Wisconsin’s gaping budget shortfall for this year and even larger ones expected in the years ahead, Gov. Scott Walker proposed a sweeping plan on Friday to cut benefits for public employees in the state and to take away most of their unions’ ability to bargain.
The proposal by Mr. Walker, a Republican who was elected in November after pledging that he would get public workers’ compensation “into line” with everyone else’s, is expected to receive support next week in the State Legislature, where Republicans also won control of both chambers in the fall.
The prospect left union leaders, state and local employees and some Democrats stunned over the plan’s scope and what it might signal for public-sector unions in the state.
On Thursday, the newly-elected Republican governor said he would refuse to negotiate with unions, and on Friday, Walker said he’s contacted the Wisconsin National Guard, making sure they’re prepared to respond to a protracted labor dispute, doing some of the jobs union members currently do.
Even by GOP standards, the scope of Walker’s union-busting efforts is striking. We’re talking about a governor effectively stripping nearly all government workers of their collective bargaining rights, and then trying to break the backs of unions themselves.
Mr. Walker made several proposals that will weaken not just unions’ ability to bargain contracts, but also their finances and political clout.
His proposal would make it harder for unions to collect dues because the state would stop collecting the money from employee paychecks.
He would further weaken union treasuries by giving members of public-sector unions the right not to pay dues. In an unusual move, he would require secret-ballot votes each year at every public-sector union to determine whether a majority of workers still want to be unionized.
And in case that wasn’t quite enough, Walker then added that union members would no longer be allowed to negotiate for better pensions or health benefits at all.
The governor is working with a newly-elected Republican-led legislature, and he’s expecting lawmakers to pass his anti-union plan quickly.
In December, after Walker deliberately rejected federal funds to improve Wisconsin infrastructure and create thousands of jobs, I wondered whether this is what state voters had in mind on Election Day. I’m wondering the same thing now.