Mad in Madison

As the U.S. Education Department conference on labor-management negotiations wrapped up in Denver, Wisconsin public-sector employees were protesting in Madison against  a proposed budget bill that curtails collective-bargaining  rights and makes workers pay more for health and pension benefits.  The demonstrators included many teachers who’d called in sick,  closing schools in Madison, Milwaukee and other districts for three days.  Protestors equated Republican Gov. Scott Walker with Hosni Mubarak, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

The Madison School District has gone to court to get teachers back to work, but a judge refused to immediately order teachers back to class.

. . . Strikes by teachers are prohibited by state law.

Teacher walk-outs also are very unpopular with parents.

With so many taxpayers taking pay cuts or losing their jobs and benefits, sympathy for public-sector workers is not high.

Ann Althouse, who posts signs of the times from Madison, wonders at one of the main chants in the Capitol:  ”This is what democracy looks like.”  Walker didn’t seize power in a military coup and rule Wisconsin for 30 years. He was elected by a majority of citizens in November along with a Republican majority in the state legislature.

P1060655

Elections have consequences writes Joe Klein in Time:

An election was held in Wisconsin last November. The Republicans won. In a democracy, there are consequences to elections and no one, not even the public employees unions, are exempt from that. There are no guarantees that labor contracts, including contracts governing the most basic rights of unions, can’t be renegotiated, or terminated for that matter. We hold elections to decide those basic parameters.

And it seems to me that Governor Scott Walker’s basic requests are modest ones–asking public employees to contribute more to their pension and health care plans, though still far less than most private sector employees do. He is also trying to limit the unions’ abilities to negotiate work rules–and this is crucial when it comes to the more efficient operation of government in a difficult time.

President Obama’s political machine is organizing pro-union demonstrations in Wisconsin and other states, reports the Washington Post. 

Their efforts began to spread, as thousands of labor supporters turned out for a hearing in Columbus, Ohio, to protest a measure from Gov. John Kasich (R) that would cut collective-bargaining rights.

By the end of the day, Democratic Party officials were organizing additional demonstrations in Ohio and Indiana, where an effort is underway to trim benefits for public workers. Some union activists predicted similar protests in Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

In a Clarus poll, 64 percent of voters — including 49 percent of Democrats — said “government employees shouldn’t be represented by labor unions that bargain for bargain for higher pay, benefits and pensions.”

About Joanne