Originally, they tried to pass this as part of a state spending bill to help alleviate Wisconsin's budget deficit. Several pay and benefit cuts are also included in the bill, which the unions have agreed to give. They've even said they'll give more, they just won't give up their right to bargain. With their right to collectively bargain as a union they could eventually raise pay and benefit levels when the state could afford it again, so they don't mind giving up the money, just not the right to get it back. Can you blame them?
So Governor Walker and his GOP cronies have been trying to get this pushed through for weeks. Since the Democrats didn't have the votes to stop it, they decided to use parliamentary procedure to hold things back. State law in Wisconsin requires that a quorum of 20 senators be present for any spending bill to be eligible for a vote. So a few weeks ago, several democratic state senators, now known as the "Wisconsin 14," left the state for Illinois to prevent a vote on the bill.
This was working to prevent any further progress on the bill, while protesters attempted to convince the brick wall that is Scott Walker that pushing this through would be his undoing. Yesterday, the GOP decided they were done entertaining the possibility and stripped the bill of it's spending provision, allowing them to take a vote without a quorum. This will of course be signed by the governor, considering he authored the bill.
State democrats are now in the process of challenging the legality of the procedures used to do this. It's all fairly esoteric parliamentary procedure stuff. People far more knowledgeable than I have explainedit in detail at various places over the web. I would also like to note the one GOP state senator does in fact have a conscience, and voted against the bill.
So, that's about where we stand at this point. Likely tomorrow, (Friday) Walker will sign the bill into law and all public employee unions in the state of Wisconsin (not including "Public Safety" workers, such as firefighters and police officers, whose unions supported Walker's campaign for governor, but now find themselves siding with fellow unions for fear of being next) will lose their right to bargain with the state for benefits, raises, etc.
The entire duration of this, Walker has constantly stated that he is doing this to help the state's fiscal crisis. Similar to almost every other state in the country, Wisconsin is facing a deficit and Walker is supposedly attempting to fix that.
The problem is that it's not actually about the budget at all. If it was, this would have been over the instant unions said they'd give up everything asked of them except collective bargaining. It's just their right to do so, the state doesn't actually have to give in. And since they're willing to take pay and benefit cuts to help alleviate budget issues, I doubt they'd immediately go on strike to get the pay cuts back.
The fact that they stripped the bill of any monetary provisions, which makes it no longer able to alleviate the budget deficit in any way, just to get the ban on collective bargaining rights passed, shows that this is purely about busting up the unions. They're even trying to assist other states in doing the same or similar.
Walker and his cronies are scum. I've heard this argument beat to death from Republicans for years, usually targeted at the teachers unions (one of those most affected in this issue), and I'm sick of it. They say they're overpaid. Since when is 30k, or even 40k a year overpaid. Especially for thankless jobs like trash collection, city maintenance, etc.
Since everyone wants to focus on the teachers union for this, lets follow suit. Conservatives will often claim that teaching is "cushy" job, not even proper full time work. Of course not, they get summers off right? In the public schools I went to not a single one of my teachers had the summer off. Even when I went to a private school, some of those (non-union) teachers couldn't afford to not work during the summer.
Most teachers hold a second job, and are often married to a working spouse as well. Not because they want to work so much, but because they fucking have to. Most public schools expect those teachers to take a chunk of their meager salary and spend it on supplies for students as well. Field trips also often come out of teacher's pockets when they're not sponsored by some student fund-raising event.
I make less than your average teacher, certainly, but do I want to see them suffer for that? Fuck no. Part of the problem seems to be just straight bitterness at them because there are in fact, plenty of us who are worse off than they. I myself was a bit annoyed at the start of all this. "Where were they when we were arguing for minimum wage increases" I had said.
Once you take two seconds to get over the initial selfishness of "fuck them, they're better of than I am" you realize what's truly going on here. Not only is the GOP attempting to dismantle organizations that effectively protect workers rights, but they're taking a shot at a major arm of the democratic party.
Like it or not, labor unions are a big part of the democratic party's base, from funding to man power. The Republican party is very aware of this, and is making a direct attack on the Dem's ability to fund and coordinate.
Several players in this debacle now find themselves under threat of recall petitions. Several others, including the governor, will find themselves under the same threat once they are eligible. Unfortunately, unless the Democrat's manage to successfully argue that some sort of violation has occurred - ethics, procedural, or otherwise - the damage will have already been done.
Public sector unions will have to fight tooth and nail for years to get their rights back, and in the mean time I'm sure the GOP won't stop there. If they had their way, we'd all work for pennies and have no right, no say. And with Ohio already having passed their own law scraping away at the unions, as well as several other states proposing various similar bills under the guise of fixing the budget crisis, their victory in Wisconsin will unfortunately not be their last.
And if all this wasn't enough for you to think Walker is a bottom feeding prick, head on over to The Beast and listen to the infamous call between one of their journalists posing as David Koch (Who's company was Walker's third largest campaign contributor, excluding the Republican Party) and the asshole himself, Scott Walker.
I suggest listening to the entire 20 minute call, during which Walker talks about having considered placing people in with the protesters to cause violence. He also talks about a plan to lure the democrats back by offering to talk with them, provided they all come back, and then essentially tricking them into session allowing the quorum required to take a vote.
He also talks about other governor's attempting to take similar actions in their states. There's also some lofty banter about how great he thinks he is, and to close it all off, the acceptance of "good time" in California on Koch's dime. What any normal person would call a bribe.
I'm originally from Wisconsin, so not only is this ideologically important to me, it's personally important. I live in a right to work state, I've been a part of an employment sector that attempted to unionize and was beaten into submission. I've seen where this road leads, and I assure you it's just one more step in the GOP's overarching hatred of any citizen worth less than six figures.