Wisconsin’s new Republican governor has set a new benchmark in fraying state-union relations in the wake of massive GOP victories in the November elections.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Scott Walker proposed stripping nearly all government workers of their collective bargaining rights. And as a warning shot across the bow, he told Wisconsin reporters Friday that he’s alerted the National Guard ahead of any unrest, or in the event that state services are interrupted. Under his plan, which he’ll include in his forthcoming budget proposal, most state workers would no longer be able to negotiate for better pensions or health benefits or anything other than higher salaries, which couldn’t rise at a quicker pace than the Consumer Price Index.
According to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer “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.”
He also says this plan is non-negotiable — as in, he’s cut off negotiations with prison guards, teachers and other state workers.
Walker’s casting the move as a part of a broader need to tighten the state’s fiscal belt. But it would basically turn Wisconsin into a right-to-work state overnight.
To get it done, he’ll need the help of the newly Republican state legislature. Republicans have a 19-14 majority in the state Senate and a 60-38-1 edge in the state Assembly. The question is whether this plan goes too far even for the Republican legislature — but he’s pushing them to pass the plan quickly.
Workers and their allies are responding as rapidly and forcefully as possible.
“Instead of balancing the budget on the backs of hard-working Wisconsinites, we need to come up with a balanced approach that looks at shared sacrifice from everyone,” said Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt.
In a statement, former Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, who lost in November to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), said the governor is using the state’s budget woes as a “bogus excuse to strip [Wisconsin workers] of rights that millions of other American workers have.”
This is symptomatic of a broad state-level GOP push, in the wake of the November elections, to roll back workers rights. But it’s probably the most stark example so far.
This post has been updated since publication
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.