Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why Can't We All Get Along in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin has brought us so much political excitement in the past year in between the football seasons.

The Republicans swept the 2010 election; a blue state bled red. The new Republican governor and legislature acted quickly, as did the Democrats in Washington in 2008, to capitalize on their newly acquired power.

Wisconsin’s state and local government budgets were hemorrhaging, as they were nationally. Public employee salaries, medical expenses, and pensions, as well as related contractual obligations were a major cause.

The Republican response in Wisconsin was to use the budget as the means to reform, that is, to curb public employee collective bargaining rights through the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill. Benefits would be trimmed. The employees would contribute more to their benefits. The unions, of course, screamed bloody murder.

But this wasn’t the real issue. The Republican measures were intended to defund and defang the public employee unions as banks for the Democratic Party. If money is the mother’s milk of politics, then the Republicans were aiming to forcibly wean the Democrats.

Government would no longer collect the mandatory dues of the public employees. Indeed, the public employees no longer have to pay mandatory dues, which makes Wisconsin a semi quasi right to work state.

No wonder the unions went ballistic. Other newly Republican states, especially in the Midwest, might follow. The union funds are an even greater issue to the Democrats than reapportionment.

The Wisconsin unions suddenly agreed to the employee contributions if the union busting provisions were dropped.

They demonstrated, followed by civil disobedience and sit-ins in the state capitol. The democratic senators fled to Illinois to avoid a vote. The unions sued; a friendly judge in Madison enjoined the bill until overruled by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

They unsuccessfully fought to block the reelection of a conservative judge to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The vote was 4:3 to uphold the statute. They mounted recall campaigns against 6 Republican Senators to turn the senate blue again. They won two Senate seats, but fell one short of control of the Senate. They are threatening to recall Governor Scott Walker next year.

Solidarity forever. Unions from outside Wisconsin poured funds and organizers into Wisconsin to defeat the Republicans.

The citizens of Wisconsin want the parties to work together. The Republicans are speaking magnanimously, but they won. They can be graceful in victory.

Some labor leaders are not in a conciliatory mood.

Randy Radtke, President of the Marathon County Labor Council, announced last week that elected Republicans would not be allowed to march in the Wausau Labor Day Parade. It is, after all, a parade to celebrate workers and the union movement. Republicans are not going to rain on their parade.

The ban received national attention, but not necessarily favorable.

The ban appears petty and vindictive. It feeds into the negative image many have of unions. One conservative wrote “Union Thugs Ban Republican Rep. Sean Duffy From Their labor Day Parade.”

The labor representatives refused to budge from their principles.

Jim Tipple, the non-partisan Mayor of Wausau, then stated that the labor organization would have to foot the costs of the parade. He said “This is not a political rally, it’s a parade, for God’s sake.” He also stated that the banning of a political party from an event co-sponsored by the city is against public policy.

He’s only talking $2,000, and the unions could certainly raise that money, but Radtke relented yesterday. Republican politicians, including the Republican Congressman, state senator, and assemblyman from Wausau can march in the parade.

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