Last month, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) said that if employees strike, “they should be fired,” and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) wrote in an op-ed that the moral case for unions “does not apply to public employment.” Now, facing a $137 million budget deficit, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has proposed a “budget repair bill” that would severely limit collective bargaining, eliminate the right of unions to negotiate pensions, retirement and benefits.
Walker is facing fierce criticism for this all-out assault against state workers, especially after he insisted that the “National Guard” will be used against a walkout:
When asked by a reporter what will happen if workers resist, Walker replied that he would call out the National Guard. He said that the National Guard is “prepared…for whatever the governor, their commander-in-chief, might call for. … I am fully prepared for whatever may happen.”
Traditionally, the National Guard is called to assist Americans in times of crisis; so Walker’s attempt to use the National Guard as a tool to suppress dissent is particularly deplorable. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, more than 50,000 Guard members were called to help, and following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, more than 50,000 Guards were deployed. Veterans have strongly objected to Walker’s recent intent to use the National Guard as a vessel to intimidate state workers. VoteVet released a statement today that says Walker shouldn’t use the National Guard as an “intimidation force“:
“Maybe the new governor doesn’t understand yet – but the National Guard is not his own personal intimidation force to be mobilized to quash political dissent,” said Robin Eckstein, a former Wisconsin National Guard member, Iraq War Veteran from Appleton, WI, and member of VoteVets.org. “The Guard is to be used in case of true emergencies and disasters, to help the people of Wisconsin, not to bully political opponents. Considering many veterans and Guard members are union members, it’s even more inappropriate to use the Guard in this way. This is a very dangerous line the Governor is about to cross.”
Wisconsin state employee unions already made $100 million in concessions last December. Now, under Walker’s new proposal, state workers would have to make further sacrifices by doubling their contributions to health insurance premiums and increasing allocations to their pensions. Walker’s bill would effectively take away the right of state employees to collectively bargain for everything from vacation, sick hours, and even the hours they work. But, smacking of political favoritism for the unions that supported Walker’s campaign, the State Patrol, local police, and fire departments would stay absolutely unchanged.
In response to Walker’s assault, the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO launched a major advertising campaign, in which they say Walker and other politicians plan to “take away rights of thousands of nurses, teachers and other trusted public employees” with almost no public debate.
A pattern is emerging, where Republican dominated governments across the country are shaping up to strip workers’ rights. In addition to Walker’s new proposal, last week, Ohio Gov. Kasich said that if lawmakers don’t pass a collective bargaining bill that he approves, Kasich will impose his own changes in the Ohio budget next month. Following in lockstep, Indiana, Idaho, and Tennessee all have legislation in the works to strip teachers’ ability to collectively bargain.