Wisconsin Democrats on Thursday fled the statehouse in an effort to prevent legislators from reaching a quorum and passing a bill put forth by Gov. Scott Walker (R), which would cripple the collective bargaining rights of public unions.[...]Former Congresman David Obey:
One Democratic senator told the Associated Press that he and his fleeing colleagues are currently in Illinois.
Their flight further heightened the drama that has surrounded the Wisconsin statehouse this week. On Wednesday there were an estimated 30,000 peacefully rallying in front of the state capitol building, and on Thursday an estimated 25,000 turned out.
Madison public schools are closed for the second day running, as teachers call in sick and students walk out.
Wisconsin is a stronghold of the labor movement -- the birthplace of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, one of the nation's largest labor unions -- with a long history of successful battles for workers' rights. This is part of the reason the pushback to Walker's bill has been so strong. It's also why, if the bill does pass, the precedent it sets for other conservative governors looking to go after collective bargaining rights is so powerful.
"The attacks on public-sector public bargaining rights are extremely ferocious, and the outcome depends on the magnitude of the fight back," Cornell Professor of Labor Relations Rebecca Givan said. "Other governors are closely watching."
If the bill is passed, Givan said, wages will be frozen and benefits will be slashed. The one flexibility Walker's bill offers for collective bargaining, the ability to bargain over wages, is, in Givan's view, practically meaningless.
"They can bargain over wages but only up to the Consumer Price Index -- that's barely bargaining," she said. "That's just 'we're going to go for scraps.'"
The bill cannot be passed if there is not a single Democrat in the chamber. But even if one is rounded up, and the bill passes the senate, protesters won't stop fighting.
Former Rep. David Obey (D-WI), a 41-year veteran of the House, the former chairman of the Appropriations Committee and an icon in Wisconsin politics, assailed Gov. Scott Walker for engaging in "political thuggery" and accused him of channeling toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak before his fall.I stand with labor.
"All I know is that last week, when people were asking where Mubarak was -- whether he had gone to Sharm el-Sheikh or Paris -- I was saying he was ensconced in the governor's mansion in Madison," Obey said in a telephone interview with TPM.