WHERE THINGS STAND IN WISCONSIN…. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) aggressive anti-labor campaign is running into a little trouble. The Republican-led state Senate can’t approve a bill if it doesn’t have a quorum, and Democrats fled Wisconsin yesterday to deny that quorum.
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.
To prevent a vote, state Senate Democrats crossed state lines yesterday — outside the reach of Wisconsin police, dispatched to retrieve them — forcing the chamber to reluctantly adjourn last night. Republicans will try again today, but there’s no reason to think it’ll go any better.
Democrats and union leaders said their concerns were focused on losing decades-old bargaining rights, not the financial concessions. In a telephone interview from an undisclosed location, Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) said he was upholding the rights of workers by allowing for more debate on the bill.
“This is a watershed moment unlike any that we have experienced in our political lifetimes,” Miller said. “The people have shown that the government has gone too far…. We are prepared to do what is necessary to make sure that this bill gets the consideration it needs.”
Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) said the decision on when to return had not been made yet. Sen. Spencer Coggs (D-Milwaukee) said Democrats were prepared to stay away “as long as it takes.”
Of course, the demonstrations inside and outside the state Capitol are continuing as they have all week, and by some accounts, are growing. The Journal Sentinel said protestors “made the rotunda ring with chanted slogans as loud as the revving of a motorcycle engine.”
Also keep in mind, Wisconsin has become the focus of national attention, but it’s unlikely the union-busting efforts will be limited to the Badger State, and this will likely serve as the first of several related fights — Ohio and Indiana are next, and protests are already underway at the Ohio statehouse.