A bitter struggle over collective bargaining rights is raging in Wisconsin. I deal with many workplace issues as a lawyer, so this story is of particular interest to me.
In short, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a freshman Republican, seeks to curb collective bargaining power from government employees. He argues that these drastic cuts are necessary to balance the state budget, which has $137 million shortfall.
Public sector employees, or those who work for the federal, state, or local government, enjoy several benefits, like health care and retirement benefits.
To curb benefits through negotiation is one matter, but what is significant in Wisconsin is that the very right to bargain for those benefits is in danger. Governor Walker seeks to permanently undermine a worker's right to bargain at the same time with other workers.
If Gov. Walker has his way, government workers will have to may more towards their benefits out of their own pockets. It amounts to a big pay cut, but more importantly the workers will no longer be able to rely on the unions that negotiated the agreements for the workers in the first place.
Several different unions and mostly Democrat-leaning supporters oppose Gov. Walker. They argue that a decline of benefits will undermine the middle class, and widen the gap between rich and poor. The top 1% of Americans have an income of more than $348,000 a year, compared to 1 in 6 Americans that liven below the poverty line.