Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he needed to rein in collective
bargaining in order to secure key long-term budget savings. Is he
right? Here are the arguments pro and con.
Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican allies in Wisconsin have
made it clear this week: They insist on a major rollback of union
collective bargaining power, not just on some budget concessions
from public employee unions.
Partisan conflict on the issue has only escalated this week.
Republicans in the state Senate on Wednesday used a procedural
gambit to pass a measure to strip key bargaining powers from state
workers, without a quorum. The state's House approved the measure
Thursday afternoon, as protesters thronged the Capitol and union
members weighed the option of a general strike.
So, what is this debate over collective bargaining all about?
Beneath the ruckus is an issue that goes to the core of labor
union power in today's America. To backers of organized labor, it's
about defending cherished means of advocating on behalf of workers,
at a time when a majority of unionized workers are in the public
sector. To union critics, it's about rolling back powers they say
are inappropriate in the government sector and harm state economies.
Governor Walker framed it this way in a statement after the
Senate vote: "I applaud the Legislature's action today to stand up
to the status quo and take a step in the right direction to balance
the budget and reform government. The action today will help ensure
Wisconsin has a business climate that allows the private sector to
create 250,000 new jobs."
Mark Miller, the state Senate's Democratic leader, has taken an
opposite view: "Public workers have stepped up and agreed to ...
increased contributions for health care and pensions," he said in a
recent statement. "All they have asked for in return is to maintain
the rights they have had for over 50 years."
Walker wants both the concessions on benefits and a shift in that
50-year tradition. The bill passed this week focused just on
bargaining rights. By keeping direct budgetary issues out of the
bill, the Senate was able to pass it without a quorum, although some
argue the maneuver was illegal.
It's easy to see the drama through the lens of political self-
interest. Public-sector labor unions are a vital source of campaign
funding for Democrats, while some of the biggest donors to
Republicans are business people who would like union clout to be
Both sides say they're fighting for important principles that
will make their state a better place to live - and they both make
substantive points to back up their views. Here's a look at the
arguments on both sides - and some of the evidence that might
support or counter those claims.
The case for Walker's bill
Stripping away union bargaining power on compensation doesn't
make Wisconsin unique. States have a patchwork of policies: Some
require collective bargaining for many workers, others permit it,
and a few largely prohibit the practice. …