One of the first topics I want to broach is the ongoing protests in Madison, Wisconsin by public sector unions objecting to a portion of the budget favored by Governor Scott Walker which strips them of the right to collectively bargain on issues of benefits and hiring practices. In the meantime, the state’s Democratic senators have absconded across the border to Rockford, Illinois to avoid apprehension by state troopers in order to break quorum and block the bill.
It is worth describing the background to this crisis before I give my opinion on the matter. Wisconsin is in bad shape fiscally and economically. It’s budget deficit rivals that of California on a per capita basis. In last November’s election, the state went from Democratic control of the governorship, the assembly, and the senate to Republican control of all three institutions.
Wisconsin was a state that pioneered the establishment of public sector unions in 1959. Part of the reason that this budget fight has gotten national attention is because of the possible political effects outside the state of Wisconsin. Wisconsin was the first state to allow collective bargaining among public employees as referenced above. Since then, many states have followed Wisconsin’s example leading to a map of public sector collective bargaining laws that cuts along regional and cultural lines:
As Wisconsin lies at the core of public sector collective bargaining rights, both historically and culturally, a Republican victory on this issue would send shock waves through the nation and would encourage other states to use similar measures to balance their ailing budgets and prevent municipal default.