Democrat Wisconsin Senators took off today instead of voting on a bill that would enact pension reforms and place some controls on collective bargaining for unions in their state. With them gone, the Senate lost their quorum and can not proceed the vote.
About 10,000 teachers, nurses, city workers and firefighters gathered at the Capitol to protest the bill today. In fact, 40% of the state’s teachers refused to show up to work yesterday or today and many took their students with them as they protested against reform.
The state’s 170,000 public employees were promised no furloughs or layoffs in exchange for bearing more costs and a change in those collective bargaining agreements. Under the governor’s proposal, public-worker unions could still represent employees, but could not pursue pay increases above those tied to the Consumer Price Index unless approved by a public referendum. Unions also could not force employees to pay dues and would have to hold votes once a year to stay organized. If the measure fails, Mr. Walker expects layoffs of 6000 public employees.
According to a local radio station, the “proposal marks a dramatic shift for the state, which passed a comprehensive collective bargaining law in 1959 and was the birthplace of the national union representing all non-federal public employees. In addition to eliminating collective bargaining rights, the legislation also would make public workers pay half the costs of their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health care coverage — increases Walker calls “modest” compared with those in the private sector.”
In spite of the long history of being a union state, voters in November elected Governor Walker, an outspoken conservative, and GOP majorities in both the House and Senate, a clear sign that the public was ready for a change.
“We’re at a point of crisis,” Mr. Walker told reporters. And while he said he appreciated the concerns of the public employees shouting outside his office door, taxpayers “need to be heard as well.” Mr. Walker said the dramatic action is necessary to close the state’s gaping budget hole for the fiscal year starting in July and avoid massive employee layoffs.
The runaways were found holed up in a Best Western in Illinois, presumably out of reach of the Wisconsin Highway Patrol. They have supposedly called CNN with a “list of demands.” Governor Walker calls today’s actions “more theatrics than anything.”
Tags: pension reform