What is actually being proposed in Wisconsin?
Reading the commentary, I think a lot of people are confused about what’s actually being proposed in Wisconsin. So let’s go through it.
You can find Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal here. It’s called “the Budget Repair bill.” The section that’s attracted all the anger is “State and Local Government and School District Labor Relations.”
In it, Walker proposes that the right to collectively bargain be taken away from most — but not all — state and local workers. Who’s left out? “Local law enforcement and fire employees, and state troopers and inspectors would be exempt from these changes.” As Harold Meyerson notes, these are also the unions that happened to be more supportive of Walker in the last election. Funny, that.
The best way to understand Walker’s proposal is as a multi-part attack on the state’s labor unions. In part one, their ability to bargain benefits for their members is reduced. In part two, their ability to collect dues, and thus spend money organizing members or lobbying the legislature, is undercut. And in part three, workers have to vote the union back into existence every single year. Put it all together and it looks like this: Wisconsin’s unions can’t deliver value to their members, they’re deprived of the resources to change the rules so they can start delivering value to their members again, and because of that, their members eventually give in to employer pressure and shut the union down in one of the annual certification elections.
You may think Walker’s proposal is a good idea or a bad idea. But that’s what it does. And it’s telling that he’s exempting the unions that supported him and is trying to obscure his plan’s specifics behind misleading language about what unions can still bargain for and misleading rhetoric about the state’s budget.