Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, elected with millions from the US Chamber of Commerce via the Wisconsin Republican Governors' Association, is about to declare martial law on public workers in his state. This is not an exaggeration.
Aware that there would be a loud outcry if he proposed legislation to strip public workers of their collective bargaining rights, Walker inserted a provision in his budget stripping workers of their right to bargain. By including it in the budget, he bypassed all hearings or opportunity for public comment, and is pushing the Wisconsin legislature to vote on it as early as next week.
Under Walker's immediate plan, all collective bargaining rights would be removed for state and local public employees starting July 1, except when it comes to wages. But any salary increase they seek could be no more than the consumer price index, unless voters in the affected jurisdiction approved a higher raise.
Contracts would be limited to one year and wages would be frozen until the next contract is settled. Public employers would be prohibited from collecting union dues and members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues.
The proposal would effectively remove unions' right to negotiate in any meaningful way. Local law enforcement and fire employees, as well as state troopers and inspectors would be exempt.
Walker's plan also calls for state employees to contribute 5.8 percent of their salaries to their pensions starting April 1. They would have to contribute at least 12.6 percent toward their health care. Those two items would generate $30 million by July 1 and roughly $300 million over the next two years when combined with the other concessions.
Walker insisted he was not targeting public employees and that his primary concern was balancing the budget. His bill also calls for selling off state heating plants to save money and refinancing state debt to save $165 million in the fiscal year that ends June 30.
As you might imagine, an action like this might trigger a strike, or at least, the threat of one. No worries, because Walker is ready to call out the National Guard if such a thing happens.
Gov. Scott Walker says the Wisconsin National Guard is prepared to respond if there is any unrest among state employees in the wake of his announcement that he wants to take away nearly all collective bargaining rights.
Walker said Friday that he hasn't called the Guard into action, but he has briefed them and other state agencies in preparation of any problems.
Walker says he has every confidence that state employees will continue to show up for work and do their jobs. But he says he's been working on contingency plans for months just in case they don't.
Russ Feingold has a thing or two to say about Walker's unilateral attempt to strip workers of their rights:
Governor Walker’s request to the State Legislature to eliminate nearly all of the collective-bargaining rights for thousands of Wisconsin workers is big government at its worst. No private employer can do what the governor proposes, nor should it. For decades, Wisconsin has protected the rights of workers to collectively bargain with their employer on wages, benefits, workplace rules, and many other aspects of their employment. The governor is wrong to suggest that public workers are responsible for the state’s budget woes, and he is wrong to use that bogus excuse to strip them of rights that millions of other American workers have.
And I'd go one step further and say he has no right to threaten law-abiding citizens exercising their right to assembly and free speech by bringing in the National Guard. What does he think that will accomplish? Does he expect to have guardsmen pick up the garbage, man state services' switchboards?
The last time the National Guard
was called in for used violence in connection with labor disputes was 1968, during the Memphis sanitation strike. Are we now going back to those days? Again?
The Republican Governors' Association spent over $5 million to get Walker elected. They're not shy about it -- it's right on their "congratulations, Scott Walker" page.
The Republican Governors Association congratulates Governor-elect Scott Walker on his election as governor of Wisconsin. Scott Walker succeeds Democratic governor Jim Doyle. The Republican Governors Association was a key investor in Scott Walker’s victory spending a total of $5 million.
What they don't mention is that the RGA has its own branch in Wisconsin. Wisconsin's state disclosure laws are not all that transparent, so reporting is sketchy. But millions went through that RGA branch. Millions, donated by Koch Industries, Texas builder Bob Perry, Target Enterprises, and many other corporate interests. Some of that money stayed in Wisconsin. Some went to other candidates in other states, laundered through an opaque reporting system in Wisconsin.
All of that money was spent with the goal of breaking unions, promoting corporate profits, and creating a permanent underclass to serve their wealthy overlords.
Now Walker has the resources of the National Guard and the mind of a dictator. Is that really what the people of Wisconsin thought they were getting when they voted for him?