Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, claims that the state is in financial trouble. He’s asking teachers, plow drivers, janitors, nurses, garbage collectors, and other public sector workers to contribute more to their pensions and to pay a larger amount of their health premiums. It appears many of those workers are willing to negotiate with the governor and to consider having more money taken out of their paychecks for their pensions and health insurance. What those employees are not willing to do is relinquish their right to collective bargaining.
I can understand why Governor Walker is asking public employees to have more deductions taken from their paychecks during these fiscally difficult times. What I question is his budget-repair bill that would strip public employees of their right to collective bargaining. If the governor believes that taking away that right will help with the state budget shortfall, why isn’t he demanding that police, firefighters, and state troopers give up their right to collective bargaining too? Could it be political payback? Does that sound like a possibility to you?
Here is an excerpt from an article that Todd Richmond wrote for Bloomberg:
Walker has introduced a bill that would strip public employees across the board — from teachers to snowplow drivers — of their right to collectively bargain for sick leave, vacation, even the hours they work. But absolutely nothing would change for local police, fire departments and the State Patrol.
The bill smacks of political favoritism for public safety unions that supported Walker’s election bid last year and sets up new haves and have-nots in Wisconsin government, said Paul Secunda, a Marquette University professor who specializes in labor law.
“That’s called ‘thank you, I got your back,'” Secunda said. “There’s no surprise there. This is the worst type of favoritism there could be.”
Well, Wisconsin firefighters are showing their solidarity with their fellow public employees. There’s a post at Mother Jones about an interview that Uptake’s Oliver Dykstra had with Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin. (Mother Jones also posted a video of the interview.)
Here are some of the highlights of that interview—which I’ve taken from Mother Jones:
- “The reason that we are here is because it’s important that labor sticks together. There was a message from the governor’s office to conquer and divide…collective bargaining is not just for us, police and fire, it’s good for all involved. It’s a middle-class upbringing.”
- “When firefighters see an emergency, one thing we do is respond. And we see an emergency in the house of labor, so that’s why we’re here.”
- “Every day, if you notice, we lead the AFSCME employees, the SEIU employees, all the public sector employees into the building, because we are here to fight with them.”
- “Collective bargaining is not about union rights; it’s about rights of workers…We ask Gov. Walker to come back and negotiate with the people, negotiatie with the state workers’ unions, and get things worked out, as opposed to just putting out this bill and we don’t hear from him again.”
- “Us as firefighters, we have been exempted from this bill…There’s a 5.8 percent pay into the pension, there’s a 12.4 percent pay into the health care premium benefits…For the betterment of the government, for the betterment of the state, we don’t mind helping to pay for that. We don’t want to price ourselves out of a job. Ever. What we want to do is have a fair and equitable treatment among our members.”
I have great respect for the Wisconsin firefighters who are supporting their fellow public employees—even though they have nothing to gain politically or financially by doing so.
“We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” ~Benjamin Franklin