One of my favorite blogs, Illusory Tenant, gives us a lesson in the power of protest. Just take a look at the difference two weeks of demonstrations can have on a paper's outlook.
Restoring Wisconsin to fiscal health is not for the squeamish. The medicine is going to be bitter. Gov. Scott Walker's proposals to strip state employee unions of much of their bargaining power illustrates just how bitter.
But Walker is right to do this. He must insist that state workers pay a bigger share of their benefits. And he's right to take steps to compel them to do so.
But while the state should control benefit packages, unions should retain the right to bargain on other issues.
But no matter how deep the budget hole, Walker and his Republican allies in the Legislature were wrong to try to bust public-employee unions. Workers have a fundamental right to organize, even when it's inconvenient for the rest of us.
To its credit, the JS did mention in its first editorial that provisions aimed explicitly at weakening union organizing, such as elimination of automatic dues and annual re-certification, were unnecessary. But it gave no indication that such quibbles should doom the bill. Indeed, the editorial was titled, "Walker picks a fight, and it's the right fight."
The JS, like everybody else, is influenced by the emotion on display in Madison. When so many come out to demonstrate so forcefully, and for so long, even the least attentive observers of state politics begin to believe that Walker must have done something to deserve it. It's not that most people feel particularly strongly about collective bargaining rights -- they certainly don't lose sleep over the many public employees who are not in unions.
However, people are disturbed by how casually Walker can take away something many employees have long considered a given. He's changing the rules in the middle of the game.
The other day, Mrs. Sconz was shocked to report that her father, a lifelong Republican, had told her "Walker is being a real jerk, shoving this down people's throats." Later she asked me, "Do you think it's possible he thinks Walker is a Democrat?"