Thousands of protesters are storming Wisconsin’s state Capitol in response to a bill eliminating union rights and slashing public employee benefits. The Wisconsin Senate’s Democrats have literally gone into hiding to prevent a vote on the measure from taking place. (State police are in the process of hunting them down, according to several news outlets.)
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s legislation would increase public employees’ pension and health-care contributions, and eliminate most collective bargaining rights for non-emergency workers.
Could Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett propose similar changes during his budget address next month? Pennsylvania AFL-CIO president Rick Bloomingdale said he’d be surprised if that happens, explaining Corbett has “never shown any anti-union inclinations.” Bloomingdale said he knows he won’t like the Republican’s budget plan, but added, “eliminating the right to bargain is wholly different than being a tough bargainer.”
Bloomingdale blasted the Wisconsin bill in a statement reading, “The entire labor movement in Pennsylvania stands united with the working men and women of the Wisconsin Labor Movement who are battling in the streets for their rights, their jobs, and their living standards. Your fight is our fight, against extremists who are attempting to scapegoat unions and working families for a budget crisis that was created by Wall Street not by Main Street. Declaring war on the middle class is a cowardly act that will not resolve the budget crisis or promote good jobs. This is a threat to every worker no matter where you live.”
Still, Pennsylvania House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said several GOP lawmakers are taking a serious look at Walker’s idea. “As Pennsylvanians are worried about whether or not they’re keeping their jobs, whether they’re going to not get an increase in pay but they’re getting decreases in pay and benefits. The public sector unions have continued at taxpayer expense to get increases,” he said.
Corbett’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment, and Senate Republican spokesman Erik Arneson said he’s “not aware of any discussions” of a similar proposal in Pennsylvania.
Walker is trying to close a $3 billion budget gap. Pennsylvania’s is expected to be at least $1 billion larger.