Will the Capitol Square be Madison's Tahrir Square in reverse?
It certainly sent "Mubarek quitting Egypt" to the second rank in Saturday morning's Wisconsin State Journal.
Under 96-point, all-caps boldfaced headline, this headline dominated the Wisconsin State Journal: WALKER TO UNIONS: NO NEGOTIATIONS.
This is bread and butter, "who shall rule" struggle, deploying vociferous protests, dramatic legislative intrigue, and potentially protracted court battles later and wilding in the streets sooner. Of Metro Madison's 350,000 workers, 85,000 are employed by government. (Our metro area includes Iowa and Columbia Counties.)
This is the biggest local story since the 911 emergency center controversy following the (still-unsolved) murder of Brittany Zimmerman in April, 2008.
The Legislature is scheduled to vote on Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill Thursday and Friday. Protests will start Monday sharp by Madison's left wing. The unions will mobilize Tuesday and Wednesday. The WSEU will bus protestors into Madison, which is like carrying coal to Newcastle. There are bound to be thousands of protestors streaming out of the three GEF buildings alone.
Will the tea party ride in to Madison to confront the unionists? Scott Walker will not step down as governor. My read is that he has this thing wrapped up more tightly than a compact disc in a discount store. He probably has huge out-state, "about time" support.
That is what frustrates the protestors -- the well founded sense that neither the legislature nor the courts nor public opinion, statewide, are on their side. That they are beat. That is a toxic combination, especially when fueled inside the Leftist hothouse of Madison politics. The fact is that Scott Walker is a cause hero to many in Wisconsin. A motivator. Someone who can rouse the so-called rabble.
The weather -- temperatures in the upper 30s -- will be congenial to turnout. I put the odds of physical violence next week in Madison at 20 percent; of property vandalism at 60 percent, of arrests at 80 percent.
Ironically, the bad stuff may not be caused by actual state workers but by the hot-headed youngsters from fringe groups egged on by Ben Manski, Progressive Dane, and the Teaching Assistants (who would be affected) at the UW. Those protests begin Monday. Kristian Knutsen has an authoritative round-up.
Significantly, Gov. Walker exempts police unions from his restructuring. I don't yet have the responses of the Madison police union or the sheriff's deputies union, but the State Patrol is on board to enforce order.
This is a classic power struggle, a "who shall rule" arm wrestling contest between officials elected by the people and their tax-supported employees. I won't sugar coat it: Gov. Walker is declaring war on public employees unions who seem to prevail in good times and bad. His predecessor, the unlamented Jim Doyle, actually granted labor union organizing to well paid, tenured professors in the state university system, who already enjoy shared governance.
Unions are already gelded
I must confess to missing the big story on Friday. Yes, Gov. Walker's proposed legislation is huge. It would strip most public employee unions at every level of government from all collective bargaining except for wages -- and then only up to the cost of living. And it would cut back on the unions' life blood, union dues, by deleting fair share payments from non-members and by requiring members to physically write out a check every pay period to their unions. No more automatic paycheck withdrawal. Here is a breakdown.
On the same day Gov. Walker unveiled these proposals, his Department of Administration officially notified the unions that effective March 13 the contract extension will be cancelled. Walker could do that because state workers were working without a contract since July 1, 2009.
"This means that all of us will have no contract protections," acknowledged AFSCME Council 24, the Wisconsin State Employees Union. "All local agreements and memoranda of understanding are unilaterally cancelled. Everything affecting your daily work life is in jeopardy."
Yes the 19 state employees unions remain, they are not extinct, but they have no say in the workplace; no grievance procedure, no shop stewards, as of March 13.
Battle takes to the air
The WSEU union will be up on T.V. (QuickTime .mov file), both commercial and cable, starting Monday, as well as radio.
So will the other side. Independent ads supporting Gov. Walker's stance toward the unions are up in the districts represented by leggies who might be a little wobbly. Here is one from The Club for Growth (QuickTime .mov file).
This is Gov. Walker:
The legislative schedule (from the Wheeler Report):
Monday: Deficit reduction bill is to be introduced in the Legislature.
Tuesday: Assembly Organization Committee 9 am, Assembly Parlor. To introduce special session bill.
Tuesday-Wednesday: Joint Finance Committee considers the bill.
Thursday-Friday: Bill to be taken up by Legislature
"This is huge"
A potpourri of comments from the blogosphere and under the dome.
Walker to Propose Ending Government Employee Unions -- "This is HUGE." -- Owen Robinson in Boots & Sabers, Feb. 10.
End to public employee unions as we know them -- Rep. Mark Pocan, as reported by the Sconz.
Legalized slavery -- Walker has introduced "legalized slavery," Senator Spencer Coggs, as channeled by Christian Schneider at WPRI ("As if slaves in the South were saying, 'boy, I'm glad we don't make an average of $50,000 per year with full health and pension benefits.' Thank God we're not Wisconsin government workers.")
Please go on strike! "I would hope that public employees will make their value expressly known in the days to come." State Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison.
Walker the bully! -- Today, governor Walker announces that he will, in essence, cut the heart out of the public employees by eliminating their unions. (He would, at the same time, castrate the unions in the political process.) Ed Garvey in Fighting Bob, Feb. 11.
Drown in a bathtub -- Gov. Walker has adopted the Grover Norquist theory of public policy, namely: Make government small enough to drown in a bathtub. -- Bill Christofferson, Uppity Wisconsin, Feb. 11.
"Gun Barrel diplomacy," -- Rep. Louis Molepske, D-Stevens Point.
"Balance to bargaining' -- Governor Walker's proposal brings balance back to bargaining. ... School boards need flexibility to provide the best classroom experience for our state's students and the Governor's proposal moves us in that direction. This plan helps school boards better manage health care costs and allows examination of contracting for services -- John Ashley, president, Wisconsin Association of School Boards.
"Defang these ... monstrosities' -- I just had to say how proud I am that Governor Scott Walker and Conservative leaders in the state senate & assembly, are doing what they were elected to do, to take on the public employee unions. If Wisconsin Republicans can pass the law that Walker is proposing, it will defang these public employee monstrosities, and given the edge back to the taxpayers of Wisconsin. -- Patrick Dorwin, Badger Blogger.
Brought it on themselves -- I'm very pro-union. My husband, a General Contractor, was in the Carpenter's union and our son is also. However, public employees unions are a different animal then private unions. They give money and help to the candidates that, when elected, will be approving their union contracts. For that reason, I've always believed it was unethical/conflict of interest for candidates to accept money and help from public employee unions.
Everyone seems to forget that elected officials are elected to serve the citizens not public union employees. The purpose of government isn't to employ people but to provide basic services. The unions brought this on themselves and it has to be stopped. -- Former Madison Ald. Dorothy Borchardt to this blog.