Unions energized after Wisconsin defeat

The three-week long and bitter battle in Wisconsin is over, at least for now. Governor Scott Walker and his Republican colleagues in the state legislature got their way in the end. Wisconsin’s public employees no longer have the right to collective bargaining.
A clever parliamentary maneuver, which outraged the Democrats, paved the way for their victory. In a hastily called evening meeting, without debate and without the participation of the 14 Democratic state senators still in exile in Illinois to prevent a vote on the budget, the Republican majority stripped public employees of the right to collective bargaining, which has been a fact in Wisconsin since 1959 — the first state to give public employees such a right.
Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne reported the other day on a nationwide poll in which a clear majority supports the unions and while the governor is supported by only 31 percent of the respondents. Dionne points to that numbers and draws the conclusion that these could have serious political implications for the Republican Party in next year’s election.
The governor did not give in. A ban is necessary, he said, to overcome Wisconsin’s budget crisis. But the New York Times says it “was always about politics.”
It is hard to imagine that something similar could happen in Scandinavia or Western Europe today, where the unions are not only stronger but also a more acceptable part of the social machinery than here in America. Still today, in nearly half of the States, public employees have no right to collective bargaining.
However, Wisconsin governor’s victory may be short-lived. The trade unions – having faced headwinds for many years – have new and strong winds in their backs. They believe that Walker, who was elected last fall with 52 percent of the vote, may have gone too far. Donations to the unions are up, so is recruiting. The union leaders, who admit that they lost this battle, now see that loss in as a clear political advantage for next year’s election. It remains to be seen. But there is new energy and new hope in the air.


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