Wisconsin Leads Way as Cuts Workers Fight State
Already, protests erupted in
In many states, Republicans who came to power in the November elections, often by defeating union-backed Democrats, are taking aim not only at union wages, but at union power as they face budget gaps in the years ahead.
The images from
The parallels raise the inevitable question
Governor Walker, in an interview, said he hoped that by “pushing the envelope” and setting an aggressive example,
FreedomWorks, a Washington group that helped cultivate the Tea Party movement, said it was trying to use its lists of activists to turn out supporters for a variety of bills aimed at cutting the power of unions — not just in Wisconsin, but in Tennessee, Indiana and Ohio as well.
And officials seeking to curtail labor’s power in other states said that by focusing attention on public-sector unions, the tense standoff in
“We think that what’s going on in
With the falling popularity of unions in recent years, some union leaders see the attempt to take away bargaining powers as an effort that could shift the question from whether public-sector workers are overpaid to whether they should have the right to negotiate contracts at all.
To that end, unions and Democrats are preparing their own post-Wisconsin campaigns in a number of states against what President Obama called “an assault on unions” in a television interview this week.
As Gerald W. McEntee, the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the main union of state employees, put it
Governor Walker’s plan would limit collective bargaining for most state and local government employees to wages, barring them from negotiating on issues like benefits and work conditions. It would also require workers to contribute more to their pension and health care plans, cap wage increases based on the Consumer Price Index and limit contracts to one year. And it would take on the power of unions by requiring them to take annual votes to maintain certification, and by permitting workers to stop paying union dues. Police and fire unions, which have some of the most expensive benefits but who supported Mr. Walker’s campaign for governor, are exempted.
“If they succeed in
Its 7.5 percent unemployment rate is below the national average. Its pension fund is considered one of the healthiest in the nation, and it is not suffering from the huge shortfalls that other states are facing.
Those facts have groups on both sides thinking if it can happen there, it can anywhere.
“We weren’t well-versed in everything about the bill and why they’re doing what they’re doing except that we’re broke as a state,” said Adriana Inman, an organizer with the Fairfield Tea Party in Southwest Ohio, who attended the rally. She said that her group had many union members.
Some union members who are trying to preserve their rights have been cheered by what they have seen in
Joe Rugola, executive director of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees and an international vice president of A.F.S.C.M.E., said that 4,000 protesters gathered at the
State Senator Jack Johnson, a Republican who sponsored a measure to curtail collective bargaining rights for teachers, said he expected the bill to become law. “Collective bargaining between teachers and the school boards has been an absolute dismal failure,” he said.
In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican who is considered a possible presidential candidate in 2012, issued an executive order on his first day as governor in 2005 that ended collective bargaining for state employees. Now he is supporting a measure to limit negotiations by teachers to wages and benefits. Some state lawmakers have called for steps that would go further, but Mr. Daniels has said that he does not think their legislation should be passed this year because it has not been publicly vetted.
Not all new Republican governors plan to take aim at collective bargaining rights.
“We’ll begin negotiations with the public-sector unions and anticipate we’ll conduct those in good faith,” said Kevin Harley, a spokesman for Governor Corbett.
Michael Luo and Kate Zernike contributed reporting from New York, and Monica Davey from
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs