Obama backs public employees in Wisconsin

OBAMA BACKS PUBLIC EMPLOYEES IN WISCONSIN…. We talked a few days ago about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) aggressive anti-labor campaign, which he’s trying to push through the Republican-led state legislature. It’s one of the more hard-line union-busting efforts we’ve seen in a while.

To briefly summarize, the Republican governor has a plan to cut state workers’ benefits and effectively remove their collective bargaining rights. Walker also hopes to make it harder for unions to collect dues, and prohibit union members from being allowed to negotiate for better pensions or health benefits.

And in case all of this was too subtle, the newly-elected conservative governor said a week ago he would refuse to negotiate with union leaders.

This week, tens of thousands of state employees have held massive protests at the state capitol. Yesterday, President Obama raised the visibility of their efforts, telling a Wisconsin-based NBC affiliate that Walker’s efforts look like an “assault on unions.”

“Some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally seems like more of an assault on unions. And I think it’s very important for us to understand that public employees, they’re our neighbors, they’re our friends. These are folks who are teachers and they’re firefighters and they’re social workers and they’re police officers.

“They make a lot of sacrifices and make a big contribution. And I think it’s important not to vilify them or to suggest that somehow all these budget problems are due to public employees.”

That’s good advice. The question is whether policymakers in Wisconsin will agree.

As of last night, Walker’s union-busting plan was approved by a legislative committee — every Republican voted for it, every Democrat voted against it — setting up a floor vote in the state Senate today.

Some minor changes to the proposal were approved by besieged legislators, but state employees, not surprisingly, found these inconsequential as their collective bargaining rights are poised to be taken away for the first time in generations.