Is the Wisconsin counterrevolution building into a fire that will warm the hearts of all Americans through the sheer excitement of heading off change and shoring up the status quo?
At Truth-Out, The Nation's John Nichols says Republican state senators are going wobbly in the face of the large demonstrations that have rocked the state capital in Madison:
Republican legislators—who had been poised to pass the governor's plan Thursday, and might yet do so – were clearly paying attention. Two GOP senators broke with the governor, at least to some extent. Dale Schultz from rural southeastern Wisconsin and Van Wanggaard from the traditional manufacturing center of Racine, proposed an alternative bill that would allow limited bargaining rights for public employees on wages, pensions and health care for the next two years but allow them to continue to bargain on other issues.
While that's hardly an attractive prospect to state workers – as it would also require them to make significantly higher pension and health-care contributions – the measure rejects the most draconian component's of the governor's plan. Other Republicans resisted the proposal, however, offering only minor amendments to the governor's plan.
If Schultz and Wanggaard actually vote "no" … just one more Republican senator would have to join them in order to block the bill.
Wanggaard, whose home in Racine has been targeted for teacher union protests, appears to have manned up subsequently, and announced his intention to support Gov. Scott Walker's plan to slow the growth of government employee entitlements and restrict some of the public sector unions' collective bargaining powers.
But the very impressive street theater in Madison is making it easier for anti-taxpayer unions to do what they're already pretty good at: bringing out large numbers of demonstrators.
In New Haven, Connecticut, a small reduction in police head count prompted a march by 200 of the city's finest.
The New Haven Independent notes that the action did not succeed in saving 16 cop jobs. Police union officials urge the public to take up arms and vow that the decision will come back "to bite [Mayor John DeStefano] in the ass." More:
Police Union President Louis Cavaliere made that announcement around 1:15 p.m. Thursday as he emerged from a pow-wow with the 16 cops inside the police substation on City Hall's first floor.
Before that, Cavaliere and other union brass had spent more than an hour upstairs in Mayor John DeStefano's office. Cavaliere said the union asked the mayor to hold off on the layoffs another two months while the two sides negotiate a solution that would save the 16 jobs. Cavaliere said the mayor rejected the offer.
Meanwhile, the city started the process of laying off another 40-plus city workers Thursday, all in an effort to close a $5.5 million budget gap in the fiscal year that ends June 30. A separate round of layoffs is expected in July to close next year's gap.
And in Ohio, between 1,800 and 3,800 government employees picketed the statehouse to protest a bill that is even stronger than the one in Wisconsin. This would ban collective bargaining by all public employees and limit binding arbitration rules for local government. One picketing government worker blames Ohio taxpayers for acting like victims:
"What I'm seeing here today is that management is trying to be seen as the victim here, but they sit across the table and negotiated these deals just like us," said Lawrence McKissic, of Twinsburg, who was at the Statehouse on Thursday. McKissic is an IT specialist for the Bureau of Workers' Compensation in Garfield Heights.
"My concern as a state worker is that we would be unilaterally taken out of collective bargaining and it is being done without any word or input from the union or the employees," he said. "They're just trying slam this through this committee."
McKissic refers to "management" as if he's calling out a cabal of plutocrats rather than the people of Ohio, who will have to take up the slack for whatever new benefits accrue to the vital IT specialists of Garfield Heights. I think this is where the pro-union movement will find its limit. Outside of Detroit, Hollywood and what's left of the newspaper industry, when you say "union" you almost always mean "government employee union." In the private sector they expect results. The hard truth is that where public sector unions are concerned, there are no bazillionaires to point to on the other side of the bargaining table.
But you can always try. President Obama's shameful interference in the Wisconsin issue shows a remarkable deafness to popular sentiment – and in fact to a large swath of liberal/progressive sentiment – on this issue. At Mother Jones, Andy Kroll reveals the inevitable connection of Charles and David Koch to Wisconsin's governor and the broader movement to reduce public sector unions' power. (Full disclosure: The Kochs enjoy the right of prima nocta with all Reason staffers.) But it doesn't take the Kochtopus to turn public sentiment against unions that urge your kid's teacher to call in sick, beggar the public for their own gain, and shout down anybody who speaks up for the taxpayers. There was a time when you could say the union movement – regardless of its excesses and (woefully underreported) penchant for violence – was legitimately fighting for the rights of the underprivileged. This is not one of those times. As Economic Collapse blogger Michael Snyder writes:
On the one hand it is good to see Americans coming together and standing up for what they believe in, but on the other hand what these teachers are freaking out about shows just how much America has changed. These teachers are not protesting for liberty, freedom or to change the government. Rather, they are protesting because they want things to remain the same. They simply don't want anyone to mess with their pay.
At one point the smart money was still on Hosni Mubarak's survival, so I'm not betting. But I'd be surprised if the pro-public-sector-union bench turns out to be much deeper than what we've seen in the field this week. Ohio Gov. John Kasich has vowed to fire any striking government employees. Wisconsin's Walker doesn't show any signs of backing down either, and as Josh Brokaw noted yesterday, Walker's plan still seems to have broad popular support. The New Haven rally, like many efforts to head off emergency spending cuts, came to nothing. The whole country is out of money, and in a perverse way that's a strong negotiating position.