On the Ground in Madison: NFFE National Vice President John Obst Shares His Rally Experience
“DON’T TAKE MY RIGHTS AWAY – I’M NOT DONE WITH THEM YET!!” read one of the most poignant signs held by thousands of protesters who have peacefully “overrun” the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison. Newly elected Republican Governor Walker used exaggerated claims of a budget crisis to demand that government workers pay more toward their retirement and health benefits – and his budget bill also proposes to strip away collective bargaining rights for all except police officers and firefighters.
Some 50 years ago, Wisconsin was the first State to grant collective bargaining to government workers. It was also was the first State to enact workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits. With such a progressive and enlightened history, it is especially hard to swallow this bitter pill from state Republicans.
Regarding the budget, it should be noted that one of the first things that Republican Walker and the Republican Assembly and Senate did was to pass tax DECREASES for businesses. These tax cuts were unfunded and will cost over $100 million over two years. Walker told the citizens of Wisconsin that he would later disclose where that money would come from. And now we know: it is coming out of the pockets of government employees.
It should be noted that State employees already have suffered a pay cut each of the two past years through furloughs. Further, State employees had past agreements where they traded higher salaries for better benefits, and now they are unfairly being called “fat cats”. Pay comparisons between State and private sector employees show that