The Wisconsin Question

February 20, 2011 § 1 Comment

I know everyone on the progressive left is saying that behind Scott Walker’s attack on Wisconsin’s public sector unions is a Republicans vs. Democrats battle (Maddow’s headline: “THE SURVIVAL OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY”) — the only three such unions Walker made an exception for are police, firefighters, and state troopers, the only three that supported the Republican party. But might there be another, more straightforward reason for excluding them?

The state trooper’s union did support Walker. Of the state’s police and firefighter’s unions, however, only Milwaukee’s broke rank, over failures to fix their radio system. Nor did they offer much in terms of campaign donations.

As Maddow argues, yes, unions are among the few big institutional donors for (some) Democratic causes. Another one is Wall Street. And is Walker’s assault really in a different ideological universe from Obama’s 2-year pay cut (read: tax hike) for federal employees?

Here’s one state trooper’s alternative theory for Walker’s apparent favoritism of law enforcement:

Much of the backlash comes from the fact that the Wisconsin State Troopers’ Association, a lobbying group which is not affiliated with the WLEA, endorsed Walker during last year’s campaign, against the wishes of many in the union. And the Troopers Association was quick to applaud Walker’s move to exempt the State Patrol from the curtailment of bargaining rights. The Troopers’ Association, a group that lobbies for benefits, isn’t affiliated with the WLEA,

But Fuller doesn’t think Walker is paying off the Troopers’ Association for its support. He thinks Walker needs the support of the largest police contingent under his control. The State Patrol has about 380 troopers and more than 100 inspectors on hand — not to mention the fact that the State Patrol provides the governor’s personal bodyguards. And while Walker has raised the specter of calling on the National Guard to step in if needed due to any strikes, quelling any unrest from his assault on public workers will likely fall to the State Patrol and local law enforcement agencies.

“What we think is he needed to have the State Patrol because it fits into whatever plan he had for dealing with the fulfillment of his budget proposal,” Fuller says. “There’s conversation from other unions about walkouts and things like that. There are going to be protests here in Madison at the Capitol that he’ll most likely need to have law enforcement coverage for. And to me, the State Patrol is ideally suited for that.”

And if summoned, the troopers will heed the call, he says.

“We’re at his disposal,” he says. “We’re all state employees and we’re law enforcement officers. We’re sworn to protect the citizens and serve at the governor’s command. In that way, what choice do we really have?”

Union officials also speculate that Walker’s exemption of local law enforcement agencies is similarly motivated. If his push to strip bargaining rights from non-law enforcement jail personnel and state prison guards prompts walkouts, “you’re going to need deputies and cops to go into those jails,” says Mike Sacco, president of the WLEA local that represents UW and Capitol cops.

I’m not saying campaign support and undermining his Democratic opponents hadnothing to do with this — in fact I’m sure they did. But as a causal explanation, class warfare seems a little more to the point.

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