Wisconsin public employees are protesting the bill they claim will destroy public employee unions. There are marches on the capital and the matter is very contentious. Gov. Scott Walker (R) hasn’t helped the situation, saying he’ll call out the National Guard. One cannot help but see some similarities between recent events in the Middle East and upcoming budget battles in a number of states with new Republican governors. Michigan’s Rick Snyder seeks concessions from public employees, as well.
There is much discussion—at least in Michigan—about how public employee wages and benefits compare to those in the private sector. One can cite statistics to substantiate whatever position you want. I can tell you, from personal experience, I had very good, and inexpensive, healthcare benefits while on state duty with the Michigan Army National Guard. When I became a Federal employee, my benefits were actually less than I was acustomed to in the private sector, yet entailed similar employee contributions. It sounds like great benefits for Wisconsin state workers is also the case.
Still, the main stream media is painting Wisconsin’s budget bill as union-busting. Teachers, in particular, have taken up the hue and call. The fact is, the Wisconsin bill does not break unions. It places limits on pay raises, tying them to the Consumer Price Index, but doesn’t affect most other collective bargaining topics. Calling the bill anti-union is disingenuous and fails to recognize the other side of the coin.
Gov. Walker promised no furloughs and to not lay off 6,000 state workers if the bill passes. Seems like a pretty fair deal to me. The reality is Wisconsin has a structural deficit that needs to be addressed one way or another. There are only 3 options: increase revenues to cover expenses (raise taxes and/or fees), reduce employee expenses (concessions), or cut costs (employee layoffs).