Posts Tagged ‘city workers’
The Wall Street Journal FEBRUARY 17, 2011 By KRIS MAHER And DOUGLAS BELKIN
For a second straight day, thousands of Wisconsin public employees converged on the state capitol in Madison to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to close the state’s projected $3.6 billion budget shortfall by increasing the cost of their pensions and health benefits and taking away their collective bargaining rights.
About 10,000 teachers, nurses, city workers and firefighters chanted “Kill the Bill” and held signs outside that said “Recall Walker,” while others squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder inside the capitol rotunda as a key legislative panel held hearings on the bill.
In Madison, Wis., thousands protested a plan to balance the state’s budget in part by stripping public workers of bargaining rights.
Mr. Walker said Wednesday afternoon he would listen to lawmakers’ concerns but didn’t plan “to fundamentally undermine the principle of the bill, which is to allow not only the state but local governments to balance their budgets.”
In exchange for bearing more costs and losing bargaining leverage, the state’s 170,000 public employees were promised no furloughs or layoffs. Mr. Walker has threatened to order layoffs of up to 6,000 state workers if the measure fails.
President Barack Obama called Mr. Walker’s bill an “assault on unions.” He made the remark in the course of an interview with a Milwaukee radio station about federal budget issues.
“I think it’s very important for us to understand that public employees, they’re our neighbors, they’re our friends,” Mr. Obama said. “These are folks who are teachers and they’re firefighters and they’re social workers and they’re police officers.”
In Madison, the protesters aimed to sway a handful of moderate Republican senators from traditionally Democratic districts.
Mr. Walker said the dramatic action is necessary to close the state’s gaping budget hole for the fiscal year starting in July and avoid massive employee layoffs.
“We’re at a point of crisis,” Mr. Walker told reporters. And while he said he appreciated the concerns of the public employees shouting outside his office door, taxpayers “need to be heard as well.”
Beyond eliminating collective bargaining rights, the bill would force public workers to pay half the cost of their pensions and at least 12.6% of their health-care coverage.
Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO called the bill “an attack on organized labor and middle class values.”The protests have been among the most well attended in recent Wisconsin history.
Public schools in Madison were closed on Wednesday because 40% of teachers called in sick.
Archbishop Jerome Listecki of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference called on state lawmakers to “carefully consider” the implications of removing collective-bargaining rights for public workers.
Under Mr. Walker’s proposal, public-worker unions could still represent employees, but could not pursue pay increases above those pegged to the Consumer Price Index unless they were approved by a public referendum. Unions also could not force employees to pay dues and would have to hold votes once a year to stay organized.