Wisconsin is Typically a Battleground State, but never quite like this…

By Katy Venskus, Wisconsin State Director


OK, so we all know the Democrats in Wisconsin took it in the teeth last fall. The GOP took not only the Governor’s office and both houses of the legislature, but they heisted the office furniture and window treatments as well. The Republicans have large enough majorities that they could have sent the Dems to the sidelines, if they had played it right. Instead they overreached and now those sidelines are in northern Illinois. Instead, Democrats have in effect been granted the power to hold up the biggest piece of legislation Governor Scott Walker has tried to advance to date.


The foundation of Walker’s bill was extracting wage and benefits concessions from teachers to balance the state budget – issues on which Walker likely would have more or less prevailed. The twist is that Walker also included in the bill a provision that, for all intents and purposes, would took away public employees unions’ rights to collectively bargain, which is the reason unions exist in the first place. (The words “union” and “collective” are synonyms, along with words like “group” “cooperative,” and shared.”) Last week this was a do or die issue for Walker, exponentially growing crowds “stormed” the Capitol, setting off a grassroots firestorm the likes of which is unprecedented here. Meanwhile, Democratic legislators fled the state to deny the Governor the quorum needed to formally proceed on his bill.


State Employees Storm the WI Capitol


There are two things that shock me about the current situation. One makes me smile and the other strikes me as a terrible missed opportunity on the GOP’s part. First of all, I am fairly familiar with the Democratic Senate Caucus and I have witnessed first hand their inability to create leverage for themselves with control of both houses and the Governor’s office. Now with significant minorities and only one option…a nuclear one…they have managed to make themselves very, very relevant, albeit from 100 or so miles away. More significant though is the missed opportunity – the GOP would have seen concessions from the unions, even the Democrats understood those were necessary. The GOP does not need to wipe out collective bargaining to make real change or to balance the budget  – they need to wipe out collective bargaining to make a political point.