Could what’s happening in Wisconsin happen here?

The political uproar in Wisconsin may be spreading to Ohio, where a similar bill to curb collective bargaining rights for public employees is under consideration. Today’s Question: Could what’s happening in Wisconsin happen here?

  • hiram

    Not as long as Mark Dayton is governor and not as long as there are a enough Democrats in the legislature to prevent the override of a veto, but it is true that many of the same pieces of legislation so objectionable to the people of Wisconsin have been submitted here.

    Wisconsin has become a cautionary tale to all of us.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Could it? It almost certainly would have if Emmer had won the eleciton.

  • The bigger question is who has gone too far?

    A. The Governor for sticking to his proposals

    B. Organized labor and their political groups for shutting down the schools and legislature

  • Tim

    Of course it could. Isn’t it interesting that when things get tough, like in a recession, it’s always the workers and the poor who get the blame and the cuts. The people who make the decisions that get us into trouble get tax cuts and continue to receive lavish compensation, because ,we are told, that if we don’t treat them the way they think they deserve, they will take their talents elsewhere. We have had 14 recessions since the end of WW2, on average, that’s one every 4.6 years. Should we be listening to other voices?

  • Clark

    I am not a supporter of unions and have seen first hand how their stubborness has ruined many industries, auto’s, steel, airlines, etc.

    GM had over 10,000 non working union employees on the payroll called the “job bank” as part of union contract. What industry can possibly afford paying anyone not to work?

    I believe the major issue with public unions is all their donations are to democrats who wink and smile back at the unions, which means I, as a private citizen, will end up paying higher taxes to support higher wages, benefits etc. for pubic sector unions.

    The state of Illinois is now issuing municipal bonds for one purpose, to secure payment of public union pensions and health care. That is incredibly scary and should be sending red flags too anyone interested in muni’s.

    Something has to be done other then to raise taxes to control cost of public workers benefits. I for one, do support the efforts by the Wisconsin Gov. I doubt dayton would move in this direction as most of his election funding came from where, public employee unions? Another wink and smile from a far far left democrat!

  • Steve the Cynic

    “The bigger question is who has gone too far?”

    A. The Wisconsin’s governor and his political groups for being stubborn and refusing to compromise, or

    B. Organized labor for insisting on negotiations?

    If you right-wingers go too far with your union-busting and your pandering to big business, eventually it will backfire. Read your history. In the 1930s there was a real risk that America would fall into a full-blown socialist revolution. What took the wind out of the sails of the hard-core socialists was the success of labor unions, together with FDR’s moderately progressive policies. The Communist Party hated those things, because they made conditions just good enough for ordinary workers that they weren’t motivated to revolt. The long-term future success of capitalism absolutely depends on having effective labor unions, progressive taxes, and a reliable social safety net.

  • Joe Schaedler

    Wisconsin’s events could happen anywhere that has a Republican governor and Republican legislature in power together.

  • Tony

    It absolutely could happen here; it’s already happening in other states.

    I have two thoughts: 1) Follow the money; 2) This could end tragically.

    1) Follow the Money

    Republicans are engaged in a tragically misguided, zealous race to the bottom. If bargaining rights are removed then those in power have no obstacles in their quest to reduce the standard of living for the average person to poverty levels.

    Consider their stated logic: Private employees are being paid less, so in their minds public employees should also be paid less. That way still more people will be paid less. Except for wealthy people like the Koch brothers, and government workers like Scott Walker.

    Even though the public employees unions have agreed to the financial cuts Wisconsin’s Governor says he needs, Republicans want us to believe that the right to bargain is itself a cost. By that logic any inalienable right is a cost.

    Which may explain why, as MPR reported this morning, Wisconsin unions have called for a general strike if Scott Walker’s bill passes.

    2) This could end tragically

    Don’t underestimate the volatility of an agitated populace. The reports, so early in all of this, about Governor Walker being prepared to call out Wisconsin’s National Guard seem to suggest Scott Walker is prepared to use armed force on striking workers. That would be a horrible and tragic development.

    Ironically, the catalytic nature of this whole affair has united Democrats in a way many couldn’t imagine.

    Scott Walker could find himself the single biggest reason Republicans may end up as a nationally villified force of evil, and on the losing end of elections for a long time to come.

  • Raoul

    The prior House in WI failed to pass a bargain with the public union for the past 18 months. Teachers have had a golden ride in WI with not paying into their own retirement. The real story is the Union leaders of today and the insane amount of money from union dues spent on lobbying the liberals to ensure their golden fleecing of WI.

    Unions have ensured their choice of Insurance company is secured and it is the costliest!

    Union leaders are the problem, not their members except for the whining entitlement attitude ones that are protesting, essentially an illegal walk out and costing parents and the state millions!

  • Sue de Nim

    Sure it could happen. I’m sure Pawlenty would have tried, had he had Republican majorities in both houses.

    BTW, I can’t believe the unmitigated gall of Gov. Walker in evoking the memory of FDR by calling his address a “fireside chat.” His policies are absolutely antithetical to what FDR stood for.

  • Gary F

    Sure it can. We will have a government shutdown come June and then government union people will not get paid.

    Besides being short 6.2 BILLION, HE WANTS TO SPEND EVEN MORE!?

    Mark Dayton was born ultra rich and has never worked in private sector. He’s never had to meet a payroll, he’s never had to worry how he was going to pay the rent, has never had to worry about an accounts receivable or accounts payable account, worry whether customers were going to come in the door, feed the family, pay his taxes(he has a lot of he wealth in tax free South Dakota).

    The government shutdown is coming folks, so make your cuts now, because you will not be getting a paycheck during the shutdown.

  • Brian

    I hope everyone appreciates the irony that the Republican Party and the Tea Party like to pound their chests like Tarzan and claim that they are the protectors of freedom, democracy, and liberty, while trying to deny union workers a voice. It’s also interesting that in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya the people have overthrown–or are overthrowing–governments that would not allow them a voice in their own destiny. Is everyone picking up on this?

    One of the principal objectives of the Republican Party from Reagan to today has been to divide and conquer the U.S.’s workforce: turn workers against one another, generate hatred and resentment, and then exploit those emotions to ride to victory and pass tax legislation that has consistently over the last thirty years favored the mega-rich at the expense of everyone else. The principal target over the last few years for generating hatred, rage, and resentment has been public-employee unions. So obviously, some variation of what is happening in Wisconsin is going to happen here. The Republican legislature in Minnesota will make sure of that.

    But of course, we can’t raise taxes on the mega-rich. Nope. The middle class is shrinking, the working poor are getting poorer, the number of people living in poverty is increasing all the time, and the Republican Party’s principal objective is to protect the wealth of the wealthy and scapegoat public-employee unions, demonize them, and generate hatred.

  • Dan

    Once a scapegoat is identified, sure, anything could happen here. The Wisconsin governor has identified his scapegoat, the organized public employees of his state. In an effort to avoid problems with symbolism he has exempted Police and Fire. He can say he’s not out to bust the unions but that doesn’t make it so.

    Clark makes an interesting point about the 10,000 GM jobs, but those jobs were negotiated in a contract, who from GM management agreed to that contract? Certainly not someone with the long-term interests of the company at heart.

  • Kevin VC

    Considering how many showed up yesterday to protest whats happening in Wisconsin….

    I am just happy its been peaceful.

    If our state government TRIED to do something as lame as the Governor of Wisconsin is….

    (Budget in the black until he suddenly gives away money to the rich in his state, then suddenly is short money he just gave away and then tries to blame the unions which had nothing to do with this… And targets the ‘rights’ of the workers, not really the budget…)

    I think Minnesota will rise up even louder then Wisconsin merge forces and then roll all over the country… (Hopefully peacefully)

    Seriously, I hope our state leaders realize Minnesotans are not about removing rights of people.

  • CHS


    You just pointed out the fundamental problem with public employee unions. Who are they negotiating with? They are negotiating with the very people that their money and support put into power in the first place. It’s a fundamental conflict of interest. Who does the legislature represent, the people of their district or state, or the people that provide the money for their election campaign?

    To me union money is just as bad as corporate money, to support one while vilifying the other is hypocritical.

  • dug2008

    The last couple comments hit it right on the head. Those very ideas (right to work state, union concessions) have already been discussed and proposed here. The only thing that prevented us from seeing the exact same thing here was a couple thousand votes. The lesson here? Time to stop being complacent observers, folks! Get up and get involved before it’s on our own doorstep!

  • steve maupin

    i think it could happen here if all the ingrediants are right-wisc is a test case for the rest of the nation!

  • Steve the Cynic

    Unions have sometimes been unreasonable and demanded too much. That doesn’t make unions categorically bad. Businesses have sometimes exploited their workers unjustly. That doesn’t make business categorically bad. What’s categorically bad is the extremist rhetoric and tactics from either side, and lately that’s been coming much more profusely from the right wing than the left. The protests in Wisconsin are an attempt to bring things back to the center.

    The left wing and the right wing are like two people shouting at each other while standing on opposite gunwales of a canoe. If either one moves toward the center, the canoe will tip over. The only way to get out of the fix they’re in is for both to move at the same time. What happened in Wisconsin is that the voters pushed the port-side shouter into the water and expected the one on the starboard to keep the canoe stable by himself.

  • Matthew

    Of course it can and will happen here. Kurt Zellers and Amy Koch are extreme neoconservative zealots who are absolutely clueless. If the Koch Brothers come calling with bottomless bags of money, they’ll go the Walker route.

    We have the lowest state taxes since 1991. Upwardly adjusting that highest bracket is not an option. They’ll get their money from the poor and middle class, in increased fees, elimination of services, or higher property taxes, just like Pawlenty did for eight years.

  • Diane

    I hope not…have we not learned anything from history? Hitler abolished unions in 1933!

  • Carrie

    No. Thank goodness we ended up with Dayton instead of Emmer.

  • jim e.

    all of the sudden all this support for labor. where were you when the airline unions were being dismantled ? oh, that’s right, cheap airfare is more important. hypocrites.

  • Matthew

    Regardless of how one stands on this issue, is it a good idea for the GOP and conservative pundits to defend Gov Walker’s decision to dismantle unions by alluding to the lack of benefits and job security for private sector employees? Why should that be the standard for which we strive as a nation? Why should corporations be afforded a presumption of correctness with respect to treatment of employees? That’s a joke! Corporations are unpatriotic locusts that will do whatever and go wherever for the sake of the bottom line. There was a time when corporations operated by a business ethics decision making model that identified employees, consumers, and shareholders as stakeholders. Since the elimination of unions in the private sector, the only stakeholders who matter are the shareholder and corporate officers. As Wisconsin goes, so goes the nation.

  • Pam

    Republicans have always been against

    unions as far as I remember.

    We are lucky enough to have Mark Dayton

    at the helm at the moment otherwise I would fear that we would go lock step with our neighbor state.

    Unions are not the evil groups that they are being made out to be. They protect their members and help create pensions and usually better health care plans. I have been a union member most of my adult life and I know for a fact that my union has made my work place much better.

    I hope that the Democrats in Wisconsin hold out long enough for cooler heads to prevail.

    Even in these tough times there has to be a better solution.

  • Lou

    Yes it could happen here as well as in any other state. According to a national Rasmussen poll, a higher percentage of people side with Governor Walker than with the union workers on this issue. As long as this is the case, it could be considered smart politics to try to eliminate collective bargaining for public employees. There is a popular perception that public workers are not as motivated as workers in the private sector so this attitude will contribute to the governor’s position. This position will probably change when the trickle down effect of the lower take home pay for public employees in rural areas begins to be felt in the private sector.

  • Amy

    Uh, hello MPR, what’s happening in Wisconsin IS happening here-albeit through a slightly different avenue. There is currently a “Right to Work” bill in the House, H.F.65 which would prohibit an employer from requiring membership in a union as a condition of employment, essentially the same thing-elminating unions. The difference is this would be proposed as a constitutional amendment, thus, Minnesotans would vote it in (or not) and not the Governor or legislature. I’d much prefer, at least in our state, to have it voted it on by the Legislature rather than the general populace as it would be vetoed. So this IS OCCURRING right here in MN and if you ask me, in a much worse way!

  • Curt

    The right to work bill that’s working it’s way through our legislature, will essentially accomplish the same thing as is being done in Wisconsin. And if we had elected Tom Emmer, the state would be in exactly the same place as Wisconsin. Big business is out to kill the Union movement in the United States. Out to shut them down, just as much as Henry Ford did, when he called out his goons to shoot union members in Detroit.

    Our saving grace here in Minnesota, is our Governor, Mark Dayton. We are fortunate to have an executive that understands the problems and desires of the working people of Minnesota, and will not….give in to the outrageous ideas and demands of the Republicans. Every day, I thank God that Mark Dayton has finally put an end to the tyranny of the Republican party in Minnesota.

    I look forward to the 2012 elections, when the public will undoubtedly toss out the party of NO….and elect the Democratic legislatures in the state and national arena, that will once again, put this country on the road to economic recovery, and social justice.

  • Jamie

    “They are negotiating with the very people that their money and support put into power in the first place. It’s a fundamental conflict of interest. Who does the legislature represent, the people of their district or state, or the people that provide the money for their election campaign?” ~CHS

    CHs, where do you get this idea? Your Republican Talking Points are wrong as usual. The state employee unions don’t negotiate with state legislatures. Negotiations are between the union’s representatives and the state employment department’s representatives. It could be said that Minnesota’s and Wisconsin’s REPUBLICAN governors have had the final say in these negotiations in the recent past, so that’s even more proof that THERE IS NO CONFLICT OF I NTEREST.

    Oh, and yes, as others have said, it could and it IS happening here.

  • James

    Let’s hope so. Unions are FOR PROFIT BUSINESSES, and they act in that capacity.

    They should be allowed to exist and operate under the same rules as any other business. There is no longer a need for unions to enjoy the benefits of advantageous and archaic rules under which they thrive.

    Once, they brought needed reforms, today they collect money and encourage mediocrity.

  • Bill

    In all of this economics cannot be forgotten. This is true in both private and public spheres. How the wealth is created and distributed varies with economic system, these not being unrelated, but inextricably linked. The vast majority of economic events are local (e.g., disputes over collective bargaining and public employee benefits). By local, I mean that they are shortsighted. As such, they are generally unconcerned with global effects. So, on the one hand, we tax the rich because there are more of us than them, or insist upon higher benefits because they can’t take the political pressure. On the other hand, we pay the lowest wages possible to our employees so that we can make more profit. All economic events, despite being local, have global effects, effects we can’t see. Economic, as political, democracy presumes that this push and pull struggle works its way out in a generally mutually beneficial and sustainable fashion. Nonetheless, all groups in the struggle strive to undermine it. Indeed, the Founders believed this would always be true, and believed that global welfare depended upon local self-interest. Unions, as well as big business, and many others work zealously to overthrow democracy. They want their interests to win the day, often with disregard for those of others. In this struggle there are often groups that are left out. The poor and minorities come to mind, but even these groups, have significant power and voice, and express the same self-interest myopia as any other group. Often this working of things out is a very bumpy road, resulting often in distrust of the “system.” It is from this corner that we find those who want “five year plans,” “planned economies,” and the like. The question has long been between a bumpy freedom or controlled security.

  • Steve the Cynic

    The idea that unions are no longer needed, because workers are no longer unjustly exploited like they were before the union movement, is like saying we no longer need to give kids measles shots, because measles isn’t a problem like it used to be.

  • Raoul

    REALLY? Why are we talking about public unions losing strength to corrupt the system? Unions did well in the eastern states where a Toll Booth coin operator makes close to $90,000 a year. They lobby for more each year and it is a self perpetuating system. Not all union members are liberals that want their dues used for lobbying the DFL. The Communist USA Party today gave a printed support of teacher’s union_ HOW FREEKIN’ proud are you as teachers to have that group support you?? What’s next? wear a Mao T- shirt like Obama’s former advsisor Anita Dunn wears?

    Obama speaks out on day one at WI yet he is silent for 8-9 days for speaking out on the Youth protesting for their basic freedoms in Iran and Lybia! COME ON_ get a clue_ Unions and green environmentalists have allowed the Cass Sunstein czar to exist as a force, ruining the country. The Gulf oil ban was lifted but commie Cass Sunstein refuses to allow one new permit to begin drilling so America can be independent from the middle east! How does Congress alow a czar to have such unconstitutional powe?

    And yet, you all worry that public union leaders will lose their corrupt power over our elected system??? Really??? Lets hope so and hope it spreads across the country. Indiana does just fine without a teacher’s Union.

  • SM


    Did you get your smallpox shot?

  • Raoul

    I just saw the multiple film clips from the WI protest at the Capital. Why does NPR, CBS, MNBC and ABC seem to overlook who is standing beside the teacher’s union mob? How do they miss those red “Socialist banners or the signs from the CP-USA? Do they approve of these radical groups stirring them up for what? anarchy? weeks of strikes, millions of dollars cost for this protest seems odd.

    As a former Union member, and union representative, not once were any union negotiations about student needs in the classrooms, for better equipment to do our jobs, was only_ for more money and shorter days, as IF a 7 hour day was somehow too abusive??

  • Steve the Cynic

    SM: There’s a very good reason I used measles instead of smallpox in that simile. Like measles, exploitation has not been eradicated from the world and could easily return if we let our guard down.

    Raoul: Communist czars???? ROTFL!!

  • Steve the Cynic

    And why the fear-mongering about communism? In America today, communism is absolutely not a threat. Plutocracy, however, is.

  • SM


    To the contrary, there are now numerous federal laws, as well as the tort system which protect workers from genuine and capricious exploitation. Not to mention the “invisible hand” of the market which moves the best workers to companies who understand how to both be profitable and retain the best workers.

    Smallpox is much more analogous than measles.

  • Flip

    Actually, no. Given the same governor/legislature arrangement and decree, I don’t think what happened across the St. Croix could happen here.

    Minnesotans are far to passive to raise a protest like those in Wisc. What ever the government does we just roll over, play dead and accept it. As much as I dislike public worker unions, especially TEACHERS unions!!, I have to say I admire those protesters over there in Madison for their perseverance. Minnesotans simply do not have it in their blood for such demonstrations.

    Cases in point. Smoking is all but illegal in Minnesota. 25% of the population smokes. You think there would be 25% of the population protesting and having a state-wide “smoke-in”.

    Property taxes in Minneapolis are to the point where homeowners can no longer afford to keep their houses. Where are they all? Not Downtown clogging streets or the lobby of City Hall, that’s for sure.

    So, if the situation were the same here as it is in Wisc. Yeah, there may be protests… but all the protesters would be from Wisconsin!

  • Steve the Cynic

    “To the contrary, there are now numerous federal laws, as well as the tort system which protect workers from genuine and capricious exploitation.”

    Are you referring to those onerous regulations that the Gang of Plutocrats are trying to get rid of at the same time they’re trying to destroy the unions?

    “Not to mention the ‘invisible hand’ of the market which moves the best workers to companies who understand how to both be profitable and retain the best workers.”

    Is that why the gap between CEO pay and ordinary workers’ pay has been growing explonentially?

    Measles is the correct analogy.

  • Jamie

    “Toll Booth coin operator makes close to $90,000 a year.”

    That’s bull. I don’t know where you get your “information,” Raoul, but a lot of what you have written here is false. You must be listening to Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Bachman, both of whom have been found to be lying much of the time by non-partisan fact-checking organizations.

    I think it was you who quoted some other outrageous salary earlier in this thread. Anyone can find isolated incidents of unbelievable salaries of union workers. When you look closely at them, you usually find out that they’re managers with 35 years of experience and they live in the city with the highest cost of living in the country or something. Or else you find that it’s just not true. Look at MPR’s Bob Collins’ News Cut blog for a real comparison of some union salaries.

    And, by the way, I don’t know of any full-time teacher who works only 7 hours a day. It’s usually more like 9 or more hours.

    I can’t get over how mean-spirited the union haters are here. Makes me think they’re stingy business owners who don’t want to pay their workers what they’re worth and what they deserve.

  • SM


    I’m asserting neither of those things, merely responding to your implication that unions have a role to play in their current form, and that the labor environment is even close to the environment that existed in the days of union creation. Neither are true. The fact is that these businesses (unions- yes they are businesses that earn profit as their primary goal) enjoy a system of laws that amounts to legal extortion.

    What WI is doing goes too far, and is not the right approach, but reform to a system of laws created during a much different era is certainly in order.

  • Jamie

    “To the contrary, there are now numerous federal laws, as well as the tort system which protect workers from genuine and capricious exploitation.”

    Yeah, and everyone can afford the time and expense of filing a lawsuit. Riiight.

    Meanwhile the right-wing Supreme Court guts those laws even as Republican Senators and Representatives try to dismantle them.

  • Jamie

    “yes they are businesses that earn profit as their primary goal…”

    More bull. Where do you guys come up with this stuff?

    And, Raoul, if you’re worried about toll-booth workers making too much money, you must REALLY be upset about the humungous and growing gap between millionaires and billionaires and all of us regular folks, right? The hundred-million dollar salaries are the ones that are really hurting our country, not the rare-if-she-exists-at-all $90,000/yr union worker.

  • SM


    There are laws supported by long standing precedent that establish the right of “prevailing parties” to collect the costs of successful law suits, as well as punitive damage awards under many cases.

    Trust me, if you have a legitimate case, you will have no trouble finding an attorney to take you on a contingency basis!

  • SM


    You really didn’t know that unions are for profit businesses?

    If your going to engage in this debate, please do your homework. I invite you to ask your union leadership on this well known topic.

    If you’re just interested in slinging rhetoric, may I suggest the comment section on Yahoo.

  • Jerico Minikee

    I belong to a Union and believe me…there are not many people who would want to do my job. So people, please have a modicom of intelligence and realize that you are being dupped by people who would have you believe Union employees do not work hard, do not earn their money, their pensions and their rights…

    Do you remember what this country was founded on? Or do you just want to get out your gun and shoot everyone except for those who are rich and bleeding you dry without you even knowing it, because you are pointing your finger at the wrong group. Remember….the bank bailouts???? Who supported that – the middle class…that is us, people… WAKE UP!

  • Naomi

    It won’t need to happen here.

    I interpret the vote in Minnesota as meaning that we want fiscal responsibility – including from the rich in asking them to pay their fair share. That’s why we got BOTH Dayton AND Republicans.

    Fortunately, we’ve got two sides – and they’ll have to talk!

  • Steve the Cynic

    “Trust me, if you have a legitimate case, you will have no trouble finding an attorney to take you on a contingency basis!”

    Uh huh. And “trial lawyers” are another favorite whipping boy of the Gang Of Plutocrats. They’re telling us it’s okay to hobble unions, because there are regulations. And it’s okay to get rid of regulations, because there’s tort law. But there are too many trial lawyers and hence too many frivolous lawsuits, so we need tort reform.

    And that’s why it’s important for America to have healthy labor unions.

  • Raoul

    Union members are mostly all great Americans. It is the Union leaders that run the groups much as a 1950’s mafia did. Collect dues from all_ like protection money, the members have NO say how their dues money is spent. MN NEA president makes three times the teacher salary and four times the benefits. The teacher’s NEA president took in $640,000 in 2009. Members are unaware of the 6 figure salaries the Union mob bosses collect for themselves or the millions spent for political lobbying for things that are not specific to Union members working conditions. Does ACORN voter registration apply to Union members working conditions? Nope.

    The Union bosses pressure states and communities to use their insider Insurance companies, and at a higher cost than could be found elsewhere. They also, behind the scenes have sold out union pension fund management to cronies that hedge and make huge profits while the members suffer.

    The point is that members are good but their Union boss dictators are dictators and corrupt.

    Teachers and police could do better and save $600.00 a year or more with spending 1/4 of the required dues to hire legal aid to bargain for salary. NO OTHER worker/employee can bargain for free benefits or which benefit package will be offered.

  • Patrick

    You got it, ‘jerico’.

    The thieving financiers smile as the working class chew on one another. The morally corrupt bankers now rival mafia intentions ….pure parasitic opportunists.

    Those opposing collective bargaining show their stripes. They do not support the people, having evolved into a corporate servant. And corporations have one goal…money.

    Collective bargaining, as with the protests in N. Africa, threatens autocracy, plutocracy, and the facade of democracy in the US.

    Focus, people.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Another thought related to this question….

    We should be cautious about underpaying government workers. In parts of the world where civil servants are paid poorly and/or have lousy pensions, graft tends to be endemic. It’s in everyone’s best interests to have our government employees be paid well enough so that the risk of losing one’s job is a significant deterrent to accepting a bribe. The job security and pension that go with a civil service job is one of the reasons we have so much less of a problem with corruption than most of the rest of the world does.