Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, fulfilling commitments he made during the campaign to change the way state government functions, has apparently won the fight to limit the collective bargaining ability of state employees.
Walker, whose efforts were opposed by state’s public employee unions as well as the Democratic elected officials the unions bought and paid for, becomes a new hero to limited-government conservatives who realize that government itself has become one of the nation’s largest special interests. [Read the U.S. News debate: Should public sector workers keep collective bargaining rights?]
It was not an easy victory. The unions, with help from the Democratic National Committee and, some say, the White House, organized protests comparing Walker to Hitler, occupied the state Capitol building, preventing Republican lawmakers from getting to their offices, and attempted to intimidate Walker. Instead, while refusing on principle to budge, he managed to persuade a majority of the state legislature’s Republicans to pass a stand-alone bill limiting but not eliminating the collective bargaining process for most public sector unionized workers, through the kind of deft parliamentary procedure that is lionized by the left when it’s practiced by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.
The measure is neither as radical or as antiworker as its opponents claimed; instead, it offers real reforms that allow the state government, as well as local governments, to get their books in balance over the long term without jeopardizing the delivery of state services, which has been exactly what has happened in the other states where such reforms have been implemented or where state workers do not have collective bargaining to begin with.
The real issue here is not what Walker tried to do to the state’s workers, but what the state’s workers tried to do to the people of Wisconsin: hold them hostage to a system that threatens to drown them in a sea of red ink. Walker’s victory over the attempted Madison Union Hall Putsch is an important one that is likely to be replicated by other governors with budgets to balance. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the federal budget and deficit.]
Likewise, it has emboldened GOP-leading groups like American Crossroads GPS, which is up on the air with a new television spot that dramatizes the problem, exposing “how government unions protect their pay and benefits by backing politicians who give them everything they want—at the expense of the taxpayers,” the group said in a release.
It’s a powerful spot, one that explains exactly what the stakes are—as when National Education Association General Counsel Bob Chanin says the NEA is effective “not because we care about children, and it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child.”
“NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power,” Chanin says, “and we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues.” [See a slide show of photos from the protests in Wisconsin.]
Whether they are actually “willing” or not is an open question. What is beyond debate is that the demonstrations in Wisconsin—which may happen in other states—is not representative of what the majority of people want or are willing to stand for. Rather than being a massive defeat for the GOP, Walker’s victory is a small step forward for the cause of limited government and for the supremacy of the interests of the taxpayers in the battle against the government special interests that are bankrupting America and robbing our children of their future.