The battle in Madison has become the epicenter of a national fight between newly empowered small-government conservatives and Democrats backed by government worker unions.
The grassroots political operation of President Obama, who on Wednesday denounced the austerity legislation as an “attack on unions,” has swung in behind the government workers. Organizing for America, the activist organizing wing of the Democratic National Committee is helping keep the pressure on Republican lawmakers who plan to pass the legislation today.
Members of the Service Employees International Union, the most influential union in national Democratic circles, have also joined the fray in support of the government workers. The SEIU is helping man an around-the-clock occupation of the central halls of the state capital.
Tea Party groups, meanwhile, have planned a counter demonstration for Saturday at the capitol in support of the measure, raising the prospect of a clash between the activist groups.
Thousands of union activists have tried to shut down the process at the statehouse, which swung to the GOP in the 2010 elections. The efforts to block access to the state Senate and disrupt debates have been described as “mostly peaceful,” though union groups have expanded their protests to the homes of individual lawmakers.
Nine protesters have been arrested so far for disorderly conduct.
The holdup in the vote is due to the fact that the Democratic members of the Senate are on the lam, denying Republicans a quorum and the chance to vote. The Democrats are holed up at a resort just across the Illinois border, putting them beyond the reach of Wisconsin law enforcement agencies that could otherwise compel at least one Democrat to appear in the Senate so a vote could take place.
So far, the hideout seems to be backfiring. Moderate Republicans who had been on the fence over the legislation are denouncing the shutdown as undemocratic.
The lower chamber of the legislature may take up the bill today if Senate Democrats remain in hiding.
The measure would increase the contributions of public employees to their own retirement and medical benefits. The plan, put forward by new Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wisc., would have public workers make equal contributions to their retirement funds (teachers currently contribute $1 for every $56.94 from the state) and increase workers’ share of health insurance premiums to 12.6 percent. Teachers in most districts currently pay less than 5 percent of their insurance costs. The national average for workers is 27 percent.
Quin Hillyer’s observations about the Obama-led “thugocracy” illustrate the yawning chasm between the intimidation tactics of the Left and all the prattling about “civility” liberals dished out last month.
The still-greater chasm is the economic gap between the striking government employees and the taxpayers who pay their salaries. Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard points out that the average teacher in Wisconsin receives $77,857 in total compensation, when the value of their generous benefit package is added to their salaries. Given that the median household income in Wisconsin is just above $50,000 (and the typical household has more than one wage-earner), this means that the striking teachers are earning substantially more than the people whose taxes pay their salaries. Furthermore, the basic bone of contention between them and Gov. Walker is his plan to make them contribute a larger share toward their pension and health benefits.
Michelle Malkin has more eye-opening facts about the economic realities of the Wisconsin strike. It is obvious that if voters and taxpayers pay attention to the facts, Walker wins and the strikers lose, as I said this morning:
The unemployed, the under-employed and regular folks trying to pay their bills aren’t likely to have a lot of love for people who (a) have jobs, (b) work at taxapayer expense, (c) get paid more money than the average taxpayer, and (d) go on strike because they don’t want to pay a dime toward their own generous benefits.
The thuggish behavior of the left-wing unions, supported by Barack Obama, has even radical leftists from Time and the Washington Post crying foul.
Wisconsin parents should go on strike against the teachers’ union. A friend e-mailed me to say that the graduation rate in Milwaukee public schools is 46 percent. The graduation rate for African-Americans in Milwaukee public schools is 34 percent. Shouldn’t somebody be protesting that?
Governor Walker is facing a $3.6 billion budget deficit, and he wants state workers to pay one-half of their pension costs and 12.6 percent of their health benefits. Currently, most state employees pay nothing for their pensions and virtually nothing for their health insurance. That’s an outrage.
Nationwide, state and local government unions have a 45 percent total-compensation advantage over their private-sector counterpart. With high-pay compensation and virtually no benefits co-pay, the politically arrogant unions are bankrupting America — which by some estimates is suffering from $3 trillion in unfunded liabilities.
Exempting police, fire, and state troopers, Governor Walker would end collective bargaining over pensions and benefits for the rest. Collective bargaining for wages would still be permitted, but there would be no wage hikes above the CPI. Unions could still represent workers, but they could not force employees to pay dues. In exchange for this, Walker promises no furloughs for layoffs.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is also pushing a bill to limit the collective-bargaining rights of teachers for wages and wage-related benefits. Similar proposals are being discussed in Idaho and Tennessee. In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich wants to restrict union rights across-the-board for all state and local government workers. More generally, both Democratic and Republican governors across the country are taking on the extravagant pay of government unions.
Why? Because taxpayers won’t stand for it anymore.
Let me get this straight: Union-loving Dems shirk their duties and leave the state? And what, exactly, is bad about that? (That’s horrible behavior on their part of course, but if they leave and don’t come back that would be swell.)
Unemployment is stuck at 10% — which means non-union unemployment is much higher — and they think this will improve their reputations?
Poorly performing teachers close at least 15 school districts to go fight for their entitlements? Yeah, that’ll garner a lot of sympathy.
I have been super busy at work and working weekends, so I haven’t been covering this story as much as I should be. But like Neil, I am extremely excited about this. I picked two winning issues for the GOP in 2012: School choice reform and de-funding abortion. Those are two issues that fiscal conservatives and social conservatives agree on. I’d like to now add two more issues to the list: a federal right-to-work law (can work without having to join a union) for ALL employees – public and private, and reforming public sector pensions to be in line with private sector pensions.
We have to go after Democrat special interest groups hard and stop them for collecting all of this private sector taxpayer money. Social conservatives should support this because unions are notoriously pro-abortion and anti-marriage. We need to stop giving them taxpayer money to fund their left-wing political activism.