Protesters at the Wisconsin capitol enter their sixth day of battling Governor Scott Walker and his plan to end collective bargaining for some state employees. According to the governor, the state is facing a $137 million budget shortfall for the current fiscal year and a $3.6 billion shortfall for the next.
According to MSNBC, the bill for Wisconsin is estimated to save $30 million by the first of July and $300 million during the next two years. The governor says in order to achieve those savings, public employees must pay half the cost for their pensions and roughly 12 percent of their healthcare costs. If the bill does not pass, Mr. Walker has said he will lay off up to 6,000 public employees.
The biggest problem the protesters have with the bill is the end to their collective bargaining. Under the governorÂ’s plan, unions can still represent the public employees but they cannot ask for increases in pay about the Consumer Price Index. Also, the unions cannot collect union dues through automatic withdrawals or require members to pay dues. The other issue regarding collective bargaining is local police, state troopers, and firefighters are exempt from the ban on collective bargaining. Some have called it pay-for-play while the governor says that is not true.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mr. Walker exempted police and firefighters because he thought his bill would cause some employees to walk off the job in protest and he did not want them to do so. The governor said, Â“To me, that's not an area to mess around with.Â” Also, two of the four police and firefighter unions back his opponent in the November election.
Teachers, students, and others rallied at the state capitol to protest what they see as the governorÂ’s attempt to bust unions in the state. School districts around Wisconsin had to close because teacherÂ’s called out sick to protest at the capitol but the president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council called for teachers to return to the classroom. Â“It's time for educators to be back in the classroom with the students.Â”
Legislators on the DemocratsÂ’ side left Wisconsin to delay a vote on the bill. Republicans have enough votes to pass the bill but without the democrats, they do not have a quorum to hold a vote. Mr. Walker called out the democrats saying, Â“Democracy is not about hiding out in another state . . . It's about showing up here in the capital and making the case there.Â” State Senator Julie Lassa, a democrat, said, Â“For all of us who left the state, we believe we're standing up for democracy.Â”
The unions and the Democrat legislator said they will agree to the financial concessions the governor wants as long as he allows state workers to keep their collective bargaining rights. Unfortunately for them, the governor is unwilling to compromise. He said, Â“We're willing to take this as long as it takes because in the end we're doing the right thing.Â”