In an interview Tuesday night, former Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold characterized Governor Scott Walker’s crusade against public sector unions as an “assault on Wisconsin’s traditions,” and called on him to drop his bid to ban state and local workers from engaging in collective bargaining.
Feingold took particular issue with the threat Walker issued in his fireside chat Tuesday evening — that if Democratic state senators don’t return to Wisconsin and help him pass his legislation, thousands of state workers will lose their jobs.
“This is not about the budget at all this is about trying to destroy people’s right to collectively bargain,” Feingold told me. “If you begin with a dishonest approach…and begin making threats, it’s a really an assault on Wisconsin’s traditions. It’s really something a new governor shouldn’t be doing.”
“I call on him tonight to pull back, to drop this issue of collective bargaining and get back to budgeting,” he added.
Democrats lost all elected branches of government in Wisconsin this past November. Feingold thinks Walker’s actions should be a wake-up call to Democratic voters to take back the legislature from the GOP in 2012. But he declined to endorse a fledgling push by progressives to recall Walker early next year, at least until the new governor has established a more complete record of leadership.
“We’re going to have to elect a different legislature so this guy doesn’t have the kind of absolute power that he’s trying to abuse,” Feingold said. “This is about stopping this now, so we don’t have to recreate these rights that have been in place for so long on.”
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.