School is out in Madison, Wis., today, where teachers and other union members are protesting Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed changes to the state’s labor law. The bill, which cleared the legislature’s budget committee late last night with only Republican support, would effectively limit union workers’ collective salary bargaining rights. Walker introduced it as an effort to close the state’s $3.6 billion budget gap. He said the move will prevent up to 6,000 layoffs for state employees. “We don’t have a lot of options here, folks,” Republican Rep. Alberta Darling said, according to Madison’s Channel 3000 News. “It’s not like we’re choosing to do this. We are broke.”
The state Senate is expected to pass the bill, which will then move to the Republican-controlled Assembly. Thousands of protesters have flocked to the State Capitol this week in response, arguing that limiting union bargaining rights strips members of representation. Wisconsin Education Association Council President Mary Bell last night called for all citizens of the state to join the protests in Madison Thursday and Friday. “We are here tonight in the spirit of Martin Luther King calling on our union members and all Wisconsinites to look tonight into their hearts and to listen to their conscience to decide what kind of Wisconsin we want to call our home,” she said to the crowd of protesters. “What happens to the rights of some today endangers the rights of others to come.”
U.S. News blogger Leslie Marshall also thinks Walker is being unreasonable. She writes:
The argument put forth by Walker is that he has to get his budget in line. But Walker is lying. Statistically, whether it be Wisconsin, Ohio, Nevada, or New Jersey, union workers make on the average 6 percent less than their private sector counterparts. Also statistically, if you look at the budget of Wisconsin, the biggest savings have nothing to do with state workers or collective bargaining; by Walker’s own admission, he could save $165 million just restructuring the current debt. And we know this isn’t about money or savings to the state of Wisconsin or its citizens, it’s politics.
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