News / USA

Union Power at Issue in Wisconsin Dispute

Opponents to the governor's bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights for many state workers sleep on the floor of the rotunda at the state Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, at the start of the tenth day of protests, February 24, 2011
Opponents to the governor's bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights for many state workers sleep on the floor of the rotunda at the state Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, at the start of the tenth day of protests, February 24, 2011

Multimedia

In U.S. politics, all eyes are on the Midwest state of Wisconsin where a budget battle rages that could have a profound impact on the power of labor unions around the country.  The Republican governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, wants to curb the collective bargaining power of unions representing state employees as part of a plan to balance the state budget.  Union members in Wisconsin are protesting the move and are drawing support from union activists around the country.

For now, Wisconsin is the epicenter of an intensifying national debate over whether states should be able to force unions to give up some of their collective bargaining rights in order to reduce the mounting cost of government.

Wisconsin’s new Republican governor, Scott Walker, is demanding union concessions on collective bargaining power as part of a plan to balance the state budget.

"We are broke in this state because time and time again politicians of both political parties ran away from the tough decisions and punted them down the road (put off dealing with them) for another day," Walker said.

Thousands have protested the proposal in the state capital, Madison, and similar battles over the scope and power of union bargaining have cropped up in other states like Ohio, Indiana and New Jersey.

Related report by VOA's Kane Farabaugh

National labor leaders are taking note of the confrontation in Wisconsin, where Democrats in the state senate have fled to neighboring Illinois to deny Republicans a quorum for a vote on the governor’s proposal.

Richard Trumka is president of the nation’s largest labor federation, the AFL-CIO, which represents more than 12 million workers nationwide.

Trumka spoke on the CSPAN public affairs network.

"It is about weakening unions because having taken away collective bargaining rights does not do a single thing to help a budget deficit," Trumka said. "When you have a union and collective bargaining, you can work collectively to make those cuts."

Many Republicans around the country are cheering Governor Walker as a hero for insisting that unions give up some of their collective bargaining rights.

What happens to Walker in Wisconsin is being closely watched by other Republican governors pressing for union concessions in their states, including Ohio’s Republican governor, John Kasich.

Kasich argues it is essential for his state to reduce the obligations to state workers that include pension and health-care plans.  

"I am spending a lot of time talking to companies here that are being courted by other states," Kasich said. "If we keep losing jobs, we will not make it as a state."

Thousands of state workers have protested in Ohio as well, and the demonstrations are drawing national attention from union activists and members who fear victories by Republican governors at the state level would deal a severe setback to the power and influence of labor unions.

A retired truck driver and Teamsters Union member who gave his name as Michael spoke out on a CSPAN call-in program.

"All this kickback we keep getting about the unions nowadays, it seems like we are just dirty dogs," Michael said. "It looks to me like we need to do a little kicking back and show these folks that maybe we got a little bit of power left."

Labor experts say the battle in Wisconsin is serving as a wake-up call for unions around the country to stiffen their resolve in battles over their collective bargaining rights.

Professor Harley Shaiken is an expert on unions at the University of California at Berkeley.

"Wisconsin is serving as a galvanizing moment for labor," Shaiken said. "No union leader would have wished for this, but Wisconsin is causing many union leaders and members and others in the community to stand up against what they view as unfair treatment."

Although the battles in Wisconsin and other states are being cast as partisan, many states with Democratic governors are also facing daunting budget challenges and are demanding some concessions from unions, though not in the area of collective bargaining.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, has become a leader in the effort to demand concessions from unions as part of his effort to close a state funding gap.

Christie notes that Democratic governors in New York and California are demanding wage concessions from union workers.  Christie says it is time for political leaders to step up and make difficult decisions about budget cuts that they have long been unwilling to tackle.

"Leadership today in America today has to be about doing the big things and being courageous," Christie said. "Our country and our states are weighed down by an albatross of irresponsibility that we have foisted upon ourselves as leaders, and that you as citizens have permitted us to get away with."

Both sides in the dispute over union power will keep a close eye on public opinion.  A new Gallup poll found 61 percent of those asked would oppose a law in their state that restricted the collective bargaining power of unions.  But a Rasmussen survey found that 48 percent of likely voters support Governor Walker in the Wisconsin dispute, while 38 percent sided with the unions.

You May Like

Ukraine: Mysterious 'Roaming Tank' Reportedly Takes Aim at Smugglers

Ukraine's TV, print media, Facebook abuzz with reports a 'roaming tank' is on the loose, destroying vehicles of those involved in smuggling More

US Wildlife Service Begins Probe of Killing of Cecil the Lion

Minnesota man accused of killing beast is in hiding, has been asked to contact US officials; White House to review extradition petition More

Video Kerry Five-Nation Tour to Cover Security, Iran Nuclear Deal

Secretary of state will visit Egypt, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam to discuss security issues, Iran nuclear deal, Trans-Pacific Partnership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs