Watching Wisconsin

by Melissa Brunner

If you've ever thought the Kansas Legislature could be odd in its functioning, then you're probably entertained (for better or worse) by what's been happening in Wisconsin's legislature.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, proposed an emergency budget fix that calls for public employees who are union members to pay more toward health insurance and pension, and also takes away much of their unions' collective bargaining power. The move had drawn thousands of people to the state capitol to protest. Notable among them are teachers, which last week resulted in more than a dozen school districts around the state closing their doors. Republicans are ready to vote on the bill. Democrats dislike it so much, they not only didn't show up, they left the state. Brilliant political moves or political dysfunction at its finest? You be the judge.

Full disclosure here: my sister is a special education teacher in Wisconsin, so I'm hearing a bit of the teachers' viewpoint from her. Her view: she's willing to pay more in pension and health care, but she's bothered by the taking of the union's ability to negotiate. The teachers in her school are not skipping work and those who are attending demonstrations are doing so on their own time. 

For his part, Gov. Walker is not budging, either. It's a situation the nation is watching for its possible implications in other states. Many analysts believe the outcome will spell the future for how unions in our country operate. What do you think - does it matter?



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