Wisconsin Workers Say They Agree To Pay More For Health Benefits

In Wisconsin, public workers are continuing their protests about Gov. Scott Walker's proposal, supported by Republican legislators, to strip collective bargaining rights from the union, news outlets are reporting.

The Associated Press: For Compromise In Wis., 3 GOP Senators Are Needed 
Gov. Scott Walker made clear Monday he won't back off his proposal to effectively eliminate collective bargaining rights for most public employees. Senate Democrats who fled the state last week to delay the plan vowed not to come back to allow it to pass — even if they have to miss votes on other bills Tuesday. And union leaders said they would not let up on protests that have consumed Wisconsin's capital city for a week … The plan would also require many public employees to cut their take home pay by about 8 percent by contributing more of their salaries toward their health insurance and retirement benefits. Union leaders said their members are willing to accept those concessions, but they will not give up their right to collectively bargain. (Foley, 2/21).

USA Today: Wisconsin Governor Rejects Union Compromise 
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said today he won't accept a compromise that would make the removal of collective bargaining rights for public workers temporary. Walker told MSNBC that every Republican other than Sen. Dale Schultz, who is proposing the compromise, will vote for Walker's original plan. Walker wants to strip public workers of their collective bargaining rights for everything except salary increases higher than the Consumer Price Index (Bacon, 2/21). 

The New York Times: Wisconsin G.O.P. Plans to Work Without Democrats 
Republican leaders dismissed all such talk [of a conmpromise] and said that they intended to pass the package of cuts to state workers’ health care and pension benefits, and limits to broad collective bargaining rights. ... Mr. Walker’s plan would require government workers to put 5.8 percent of their pay into their pensions (most pay less than 1 percent now), and would require them to pay at least 12.6 percent of health care premiums (most pay about 6 percent now). ... “We have been clear — and I will restate this again today — money issues are off the table,” Mary Bell, the president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, said Sunday. “Public employees have agreed to Governor Walker’s pension and health care concessions, which he says will solve the budget challenge.” (Sulzberger and Davey, 2/21). 

CBS News: Wis. Labor Protests A "Tea Party For The Left" 
Nine other Republican governors, from Nevada to New Jersey, are also trying to get major concessions from unions in ways that can strip workers of rights as well as benefits. Americans for Prosperity, a business-allied front group which has campaigned against health care reform, introduced a website, standwithwalker.com, asking for signatures on a petition against collective bargaining and the "extravagant pension and health benefits" that labor receives. ... CBS News political analyst John Dickerson says the changes called for in Walker's "Budget Repair Bill" will drastically affect unions in Wisconsin - and also others far beyond that state. ... Dickerson said the protests spurred by Walker's anti-union bill can be for progressives and labor what anti-tax and anti-health reform protests were for conservatives and business - a potential Tea Party movement for the left. (Morgan, 2/21). 

Politico: Republican governors strike hard at unions
"The new crop of governors is even more bold," said Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who was elected last year but previously served four terms in the 1980s and ’90s. ... [Branstad] told POLITICO he was anxious to reassess Iowa’s public employee benefits and had brought in an official from the private sector to examine the state’s collective-bargaining law. "We have state employees paying nothing toward their health insurance,” exclaimed the governor with a tone of incredulity. ... What makes the politics of it somewhat easier for the new crop of Republican governors, though, is that after a sustained recession, those Americans who work in the private sector and have lost their jobs or seen their wages stagnate have less sympathy for public employees who, in some cases, enjoy enviable health care and pension packages. (Martin and Smith, 2/21).


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