Interesting conflict going on in Wisconsin: A new governor recognizes that when government workers are unionized, they have a huge advantage when it comes to negotiating perks and benefits, because they can shut down the government if they don't get everything they want.
So over time, unionized government employees slowly aggregate relatively huge pensions and health-care bennies compared to their private-sector counterparts.
Government employee unions have another huge advantage in negotiating perks, in that they can tap their members' dues to give huge contributions to candidates who have voted for them or promise to do so if elected.
(You say that's illegal? There's certainly a federal
law to this effect, but it only applies to federal elections. Otherwise it's up to the various states.)
In light of this virtually unlimited power that a unionized government workforce has (since it can shut down government), Wisconsin's new governor--do we need to tell you he's a Republican?--asked the gubmint unions for small wage/benefit concessions.
This got a quick F-U from the union bosses.
He then announced support for a bill that would bar public-employee unions from "collective bargaining"--in which the bosses speak for every employee, and can presumably call a strike if they feel slighted.
Whereupon highschool teachers in the state took their students out of classes and started demonstrating at the state capitol.
At roughly the same time, the bill was about to be brought up for action by the state senate--in which the Republicans had a very slim majority after last November's election. But before the vote, senate Democrats--realizing the Repubs were likely to pass the bill their labor union constituents hated--did the responsible, adult thing: They fled the state and holed up in Illinois.
They left Wisconsin because doing so put them beyond the legal reach of Wisconsin state troopers. Had they stayed in the state the governor might have had troopers haul 'em to the capitol to do what the taxpayers were supposedly paying them to do.
The Dems fled because knew there were only 19 Republican senators, and state rules require 20 senators for any financial business to be conducted. So rather than vote on a measure they expected to lose, the Dems shut down the senate.
Wow, that "democracy" stuff is pretty neat, huh? It's really important to get out and vote, and try to win a majority--except that if the Dems lose their majority it means nothing because they'll just shut down the whole shebang if they expect to lose a vote.
Who knew that was the way it was supposed to work?!
Keen observers may recall that Democrat legislators in Texas did the same thing to prevent redistricting after Republicans won a majority of the seats for the first time either in decades or possibly ever. So this seems to be a fairly popular Democrat tactic.
Do the Repubs ever do this? For decades the legislature of my state was totally dominated by Democrats, but I can't ever recall Republicans using this tactic to block a bill they didn't like. Does anyone know of Republicans doing this in some other state?
In any case, tensions are mounting, crowds are screaming and comparing the governor to Hitler and Mussolini--really! For wanting to reduce government spending.
And it's coming to your state sooner than you think.
As a commenter here
noted, government-employee unions will pillage the public treasury to the extent they can, because unlike private business, governments have the power to increase revenue at the point of a gun. So there's very little incentive for politicians to spend more than a token effort to oppose golden pensions and golden health-care benefits for public employees.
Though it sounds harsh, the only way to prevent government unions from growing into insatiable monsters is to eliminate them.
UPDATE: A Wisconsin resident notes that the 20-member requirement is only to pass *financial* bills, and that other business simply requires a majority of senators to be present. The Repubs have this number, so he suggests that they simply begin taking up bills that would rectify some of the most glaring wrongs supported and loved by Democrats--like requiring people to produce photo ID to vote.
Or requiring all candidates for president to produce notarized proof of eligibility to hold the office in order to get on the state ballot. (!)
He's pretty sure that if the Repubs simply started the session and began considering bills, the absent Dems would come charging back rather than concede all votes to the Repubs.
I would LOVE to see that tried.