Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker testified today before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and he had the chutzpah to say: "In Wisconsin, we are doing something truly progressive."
His idea of doing something truly progressive, he said, was "reforming the collective bargaining system so our state and local governments can ask employees to contribute 5.8% for pension and 12.6 percent for health insurance premiums."
Notice the word "reforming."
He's not "reforming" the collective bargaining system; he's crushing it. Under his new law, still held up in the courts, many people would no longer be eligible for collective bargaining. Those who are still eligible could bargain only for wage increases, and only up to the level of inflation. And unions would have to hold annual recertification elections, and no public employer could deduct union wages from workers' paychecks.
Notice the word "ask."
As head of the state, he won't be asking employees to contribute more for pension and health insurance; he'll be imposing these contributions.
And notice that he didn't mention that most state workers had already agreed to contribute 5.8 percent for pension and 12.6 percent for health insurance if they could only retain their collective bargaining rights, but he refused their offer.
So he lied about "reforming," and he lied about "ask," but the biggest lie was about "truly progressive."
Fighting Bob La Follette and the Progressives of Wisconsin always stood for labor, for the recognition of unions, for full collective bargaining rights. And it was progressives in Wisconsin who were the first to recognize the right of public sector workers to organize.
Samuel Gompers, writing in the April 11, 1914, edition of La Follette's Weekly (the predecessor of The Progressive), wrote: "Let the right to organize never be menaced or withheld."
Walker is menacing and withholding the right to organize in Wisconsin.
And in so doing, he is no kind of a progressive. He is a reactionary, pure and simple.
Addendum: If you didn't get a chance to see Representative Dennis Kucinich tear into Gov. Walker at this hearing and to get Walker to concede that making unions recertify every year doesn't save the state anything, you should check the video out here: http://ohiodailyblog.com
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Obama Vigorously Defends Social Programs, But Then Buckles on Deficits."
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