Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's proposal to strip public employees of most collective bargaining rights, cut pay and gut benefits without any negotiation the most radical assault yet by the current crop of Republican governors on the rights of workers has inspired outrage in a historically progressive and pro-labor state.
With unions calling on members an allies to "fight back" against a "blatant power grab," tensions are running so high that the governor, who took office in January, is threatening to call out the National Guard in case of industrial action by state, county and municipal employees. "Even if you don't like unions," says Rich Abelson, executive director of AFSCME Council 48, the union that represents Milwaukee County workers, "surely we all can agree that anti-freedom attacks that deny public employees the right to negotiate a fair contract"are outrageous and wrong."
Even Republicans are unsettled, with a senior GOP legistator, state Senator Luther Olsen, describing the governor's announcement a "radical" move that threatens "a lot of good working people."
Walker never discussed ending collective bargaining during a campaign in which he promised to work across lines of partisanship and ideology to create jobs.
Instead, he has chosen to play political games.
The governor's budget repair bill, which includes the plan to gut collective bargaining protections for public employees, does not seek to get the state's fiscal house in order.