Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Recall For Republican Legislators And Governor Walker Brewing Over Eliminating Union Bargaining Rights For Public Workers

Photos: Labor Union News and WIAFL/CIO

More than 15,000 public workers protested in Madison and other parts of the state including Milwaukee, according to WIAFL/CIO.

By H. Nelson Goodson
February 16, 2010

Madison - More than 15,000 public workers and supporters from the state gathered in protest against Republican Governor Scott Walker's (R) proposed budget repair plan shortfall to cut public employees benefits including pensions, health benefits and eliminates most union bargaining rights, except for wages. Walker wants an estimated 175,000 public employees to pay for half of their own health benefits.
But, three unions representing the Milwaukee police, fire fighters and state police that endorsed Walker for Governor won't be effected. Favoring some unions over other unions is not the right thing to do and Walker is facing criticism over his decision not include them in the cuts for bargaining. Some protesters call Walker's police union favoritism as a first step on the road to corruption in state government.
Walker wants cuts to save millions for the state, however he left himself out by not cutting his salary, paying for half his benefits and failed to eliminate perks. Other Republicans have followed Walker's example by proposing cuts for public workers, except themselves. Walker and the Republican controlled legislature should lead by example, but they fall short of doing so.
The proposed Walker budget plan bill is expected to pass the Senate and the Assembly by Thursday. State GOP legislators are rapidly moving to pass the budget bill without public hearings throughout the state. The passage of the bill will result in statewide effords by public workers and union supporters to organize and begin their quest in recalling Walker and other Republican legislators or just vote them out of office by next election, according to protesters.
Once the bill is approved and signed into law by Governor Walker, protesters, supporters and unions will definately halt all public service and operations in the state in protest. Such work stoppage, can end up paralyzing the entire public worker sector effecting every part of the state that Walker and the Republican controlled legislature can't afford due to the economic catastrophic effect it can create in Wisconsin.
Walker says the state is broke and is determine to pass the bill eliminating most union bargaining rights despite the economic outcome. Walker projects, the budget shortfall by the fiscal year ending in June 30 will reach $137 million. If the bill is approved this week, it would save the state about $30 million by June and at least $300 million by the end of two years, according to Walker. The state has more than a $3 billion deficit.
Walker warned that thousands of state employees could be layed off, if the budget bill fails to pass. State workers say, the proposed pension cuts of 5.8% and 12% health care costs for employees will make it difficult for them to afford the costs. Public workers are willing to negiotiate concessions with Walker, but won't give up their right for unions to bargain for them.
Protesters composed of teachers, public workers and supporters marched in front of Walker's Wauwatosa home in solidarity against the budget repair bill. Most teachers wore red in solidarity in schools on Wednesday. The proposed budget will cut about $1 billion of statewide school aid. It would cut school aid by $200 million from the Milwaukee Public School District (MPS).
MPS officials are expecting for Walker to reject tens of millions of federal Title-1 aid for low-income students. MPS is facing a $13 million deficit.
On Wednesday during a news conference at the State Capitol steps, Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) President Mary Bell and Rick Badger, executive director of AFSCME Council 40, asked all Wisconsin citizens to come to Madison on Thursday and Friday to show their support for the educators and other public employees in their community, a press release from WEAC reported.
On Thursday, school districts around Madison will be closed for second day. Teachers have skipped classes in the Milwaukee metropolitan area to attend the protests at the capitol. Governor Walker is expected to see a surge of classes and school districts around the state to graduately close as teachers and workers continue to protest his budget repair bill in Madison.
WEAC estimated, that over the last two days as many as 35,000 people have rallied at the Capitol to protest Governor Walker's bill that would essentially strip educators and public employees throughout the state of their right to bargain a contract.
Bell asked for the support of all citizens in this fight for fairness. "Stand along your neighbors, family members and friends and help our voices to be heard!" she said, "We need your help."
“We know these are tough times and we have made it clear to the governor and legislators that we are prepared to do our part to help our state recover. This isn’t about protecting pay and benefits – it’s about protecting the right to collectively bargain. That’s what’s being stripped away here – the rights to be represented... Wisconsin has a tradition that respects the value of work and the individual workers. Governor Walker in a few short days will have destroyed our traditions and imposed his values on all of us," Bell stated during the gathering in Madison.
The Wisconsin AFL/CIO reported that, International labor groups are alarmed that the budget shortfall is being used as a convenient excuse to engage in union busting; religious leaders are pointing out the mutual benefits of labor management cooperation; current and former Green Bay Packers players want public employees to know that they have fans; and veterans groups are alarmed by Governor Walker’s threat to call in the National Guard.

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