Gov Career

By Phil Piemonte

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Fighting Bob is rolling in his grave

Have you been watching Wisconsin?

The state has a century-long association with the labor movement. It’s the birthplace of Progressive icon (and former Republican) Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette, U.S. senator, trust-buster and champion of labor.

But the winds over Wisconsin have changed.

Democratic state lawmakers there—now outnumbered by Republicans in the state Senate—didn't show up for work on Thursday. The reason? They were boycotting a vote on a bill that would strip almost all government workers there of most of their collective bargaining rights. Since at least one Dem has to be present to conduct a vote, the cops were sent out to find them. Or at least one of them. Gov. Scott Walker (R) rolled out the measure last Friday, and a vote had been planned for Feb. 17.

All this follows days of protests by crowds clogging the streets around the Wisconsin statehouse. Not a few, either. Estimates by some sources put the number at more than 30,000, according to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

In solidarity with the protesters, hundreds of teachers across the state have called in sick, forcing classes to cancel.

The legislation in question, the “Budget Repair Bill,” would severely limit collective bargaining by most of the state’s public service workers—except local police and fire department officers and members of the state highway patrol. Government workers would be permitted to negotiate over wages only. The proposal also would shift more of the cost burden for worker healthcare and retirement benefits onto government employees in the state.

AFSCME, which has 1.6 million members, was born in Wisconsin in 1932—a fact that the union said made the Wisconsin governor’s proposal “particularly galling to AFSCME members.” AFSCME said the bill would affect about 200,000 union members.

But you don’t have to be a union member to watch this one closely. What's unfolding in Wisconsin is a pretty strong indicator of just how much is at stake these days for all public employees. For play-by-play updates on the action there, go to:

Posted by Phil Piemonte on Feb 18, 2011 at 4:02 PM

Reader comments

Thu, Feb 24, 2011 Rick DC

When you lie down with Dogs......
Some of the absurdly wealthy people in our country have chosen to conspire with the egotistical ideology on the right to buy elections with excessive funding for candidates and PACs that are not regulated by the current campaign financing laws. The Governor of Wisconsin is one such luck boy, and the evidence given of his own free will in the recorded phone call yesterday proves his real intentions and who he owes his political agenda to. He can say he represents the "people of Wisconsin, but the poles show he is wrong. He can say he needs to eliminate collective bargaining to balance the budget but he already has all the financial concessions he needs from the unions and in making no effort to roll back the huge concessions he gave to the wealthiest 2% in the state. Potential investors in state energy assets have set the agenda letting the governor know that unless he can break the bargaining option of unions they will not likely throw billions on the table for additional development. The only tool that ordinary, non-wealthy citizens have against the supper wealthy in this economy is the power of collective bargaining. It is not socialism or communism as some of the blogger ( the new Red Baiters) would like to tag this energized labor movement but the balancing of the economic rights of 90% of the population against the small but ridiculously overcompensated, incredibly selfish, class of political manipulators like David Koch.
When you lie down with dogs you will smell like a dog!

Thu, Feb 24, 2011 Glenn Beck not Wisconsin

Take a look at the five states with the lowest average SAT scores and you'll find that it is the five states that don't allow teacher unions. The Gov. is a liar. The lie, that removing barganing rights is needed to fix the state budget, when the unions are already agreeing to the monetary concessions. Obviously, taking the barganing rights is just a slap in the face after taking money out of their pockets. Especially after passing a tax cut for industry which lost revenue stream can't even be covered by this "austerity measure."

Thu, Feb 24, 2011

Professional Unions are a school of comminism.

Thu, Feb 24, 2011 Ark

"Professional Unions are a school of communism'"
V.I. Lenin

Wed, Feb 23, 2011

Everyone seems to forget that these public salaries are paid for by "we the people" Many here have it backwards. We don't want wealth redistributed to us, we just want to keep more of our own money and not keep adding to the debt and the entitled lifestyle of the public employees. The Democratic party gets a huge part of the dues paid by the union members, which subsidizes their elections. The union is corrupt, democratic elected officials owe their jobs to them and that is why they are willing to run and hide to keep from doing their jobs just because they know a vote will not go in their favor. I hope they all lose their jobs, America needs a reality check.

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