New Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, is using his state’s budget deficit to strike a huge blow against public employee unions, report the New York Times’ Steve Greenhouse and Monica Davey. Walker proposed “sweeping” anti-union measures that the Wisconsin state legislature, which just assumed Republican control, will likely approve. Some address short and long-term budget problems such as a plan to make unionized state employees contribute more to their pensions. Others, however, simply limit labor’s collective bargaining power. Walker wants to “require secret-ballot votes each year at every public-sector union to determine whether a majority of workers still want to be unionized.” Also, “he would require public-employee unions to negotiate new contracts every year, an often lengthy process.”
One other notable measure: Walker would limit the annual raises of teachers and state employees to the consumer price index. Firefighters and police officers, though, are exempt from this proposal. It recalls Barack Obama’s freeze on pay for federal employees, except military personnel.
Evidently there’s bipartisan agreement that government workers who do masculine, sometimes physically dangerous work are more valuable than educators or health care workers. In any case, Obama, who did little to marshal support for the Employee Free Choice Act that he campaigned on, is nowhere to be seen on this newly emergent issue: Republican governors using state budget crises to eviscerate public employee unions. Washington will likely not bail out state governments with major budget deficits. And it seems Democratic leaders, neither nationally nor in states like Wisconsin, will forcefully counter Walker’s claim that unions are the cause of state budget shortfalls.