Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) caused a massive uproar in 2011 when he and his Republican allies eliminated collective-bargaining rights for most state employees, most notably public school teachers. The policy, which Walker neglected to mention to voters before he was elected, positioned the Republican governor as one of the nation’s fiercest opponents of organized labor.
Indeed, Walker later admitted his tactics were intended to “divide and conquer” his opponents in Wisconsin unions.
Viewer Dave Wollert emailed us this week to let us know Walker isn’t quite done dividing and conquering.
Two-and-a-half years after mostly sparing police officers and firefighters, Gov. Scott Walker said this week he is open to the idea of limiting their ability to collectively bargain.
Such a move would undercut the few unions where he has found support. The unions for Milwaukee officers and firefighters, for example, were among those that endorsed Walker in 2010 and in the 2012 attempt to recall him from office.
After expressing his openness to the idea on Monday, Walker hedged a little on Tuesday, telling reporters he doesn’t have “a specific proposal” that he’s currently “pushing.”
And while that may be mildly comforting to firefighters who want to keep their collective-bargaining rights, it doesn’t change the fact that the Republican governor has an opportunity to take those rights away, and he’s clearly interested in doing just that. Indeed, in context, it’s worth keeping in mind that Walker conceded that the topic came up in legislative discussions – suggesting some state GOP policymakers may well pursue the policy.
In case anyone needs a reminder, Walker’s union-busting policy is, from a labor perspective, simply atrocious.
Under the law, known as Act 10, most public-sector unions can bargain over base wages but nothing else. That makes it impossible for the unions to negotiate over issues such as working conditions, overtime, health care, sick leave and vacation. In negotiations over wages, they can seek raises that are no greater than the rate of inflation.
They also face much tougher standards to achieve recognition from the state. For instance, in annual votes they must win 51% support from all workers eligible to be in the union, not just those voting…. Another aspect of Act 10 required public workers to pay more for their pensions and health care, effectively cutting their take-home pay.
And now the governor is open to applying the law to some of the only public employees in Wisconsin who weren’t punished under the 2011 bill.
As Scott Walker gears up for a national campaign in 2016, he appears to have positioned himself as the most anti-union Republican in recent memory.