Have you heard?  Wisconsin can protest with the best of them.

Protesters of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights for many state workers pack the rotunda at the State Capitol in Madison, Wis., Thursday. Andy Manis/AP

Shakesville’s Open Thread on Wisconsin from yesterday.

Background from the Guardian (which I got via the Shakesville post above):

Under its Tea Party-favoured new Republican governor, Scott Walker, and with a state legislature that recently flipped from blue to red (that is, from Democratic control to Republican), it is pushing a rightwing agenda that is shocking to American progressives. First up is an astonishing attack on unions. As part of spending cuts ostensibly aimed at digging Wisconsin out of a budgetary mess, Walker wants to brutally strip-mine state workers’ benefits and pensions. He has also launched a full-frontal attack on the collective bargaining rights of 175,000 state and local employees, allowing workers instead to negotiate only over salary. It is a shocking attempt at union-busting that has caused outrage – and scores of demonstrations across the state.

Yet, in the face of that, Walker threatened to call out the state’s national guard. But union-busting is only the beginning.

Walker is also aiming at a massive extension of power over the state’s health programmes, covering more than 1 million residents. Cuts are likely to aim at nursing homes, medical care for children and prescriptions for the elderly, among other targets. Walker and the Republicans also plan changes to Wisconsin’s electoral laws: scrapping voter registration on election day and tightening photo ID rules. Traditionally, such measures hit at Democratic-supporting low-income groups, students, minorities and the elderly. Now they have power, Walker and the Republicans want to cement it.

Then, there is the rejection of federal funds in a time of crippling austerity. In line with the Tea Party’s philosophy that government help should mostly be avoided on principle, Wisconsin has now given back $23m in funds aimed at expanding high-speed internet service. The excuse was that it came with too many contractual strings. But that sum pales to the $810m Wisconsin lost when it decided it did not want the federal government to build a high-speed rail line in the state. The money then went to other, more grateful, states instead.

From Mother Jones:

Wisconsin, the birthplace of public sector unions, is now ground zero for the Republican jihad to destroy them, with a GOP-sponsored bill to strip Wisconsin’s public unions of their collective bargaining rights now seemingly certain to pass. […]

Now why would this be? Is it because collective bargaining is somehow less of a problem for public safety employees than for teachers? Because strikes by cops are less hazardous than strikes by teachers? Because public safety employees tend not to be hard bargainers anyway? Because public safety employees are poorly paid?

Or is it because teachers tend to vote pretty reliably for Democrats and public safety employees don’t? Bingo.

Also from Mother Jones (Feb 17):

For the second straight day, demonstrators have been pouring into the streets of Madison, Wisconsin, to protest Republican Governor Scott Walker‘s anti-union plan to address the state’s $137 million budget shortfall, prompting comparisons (and denounciations of these comparisons) to the uprising in Egypt. Walker’s proposal would limit the collective bargaining power of many state and local employees, and roughly doubles their health care premiums. It would also give public union members the right not to pay their dues, deflating the groups’ coffers. Experts expect that Walker’s provisions will be voted into law by the end of the week by the state assembly and senate—both of which are controlled by Republicans.

In response, Madison public school teachers have called in sick for a second straight day. And teachers in over a dozen other school districts have followed suit. Meanwhile, union leaders are picketing the capitol, planning vigils and setting up phone banks to try to block Walker’s effort. Other state legislatures, meanwhile, could see Walker’s assault on public employees and their unions as a blueprint for how to fix their own budget catastrophes. The New York Times reports that such plans are already under consideration in places like Ohio, Indiana, and Tennessee, where the GOP scored major electoral victories last November.

In response, Democratic senators have literally run away to try to delay the voting:

Other links to check out:


Protesters at the State Capitol building in Madison, demonstrating against Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal. Photo: Getty Images/Mark Hirsch



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