The Big Tell

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February 19, 2011 11:38 a.m.

In all the swirl and drama of events in Wisconsin and all the competing fiscal accounts, one thing is pretty undeniable: the crux of the fight isn’t about reductions in benefits, it’s about the future of collective bargaining for public sector employees. Killing collective bargaining rights doesn’t do anything to solve the current fiscal crisis. That’s why pretty much everyone sees that this is a push to break the unions. There’s an active disagreement about whether that’s a good thing. But everyone gets that that’s what this is about.

But there’s another layer of the story that’s only gotten cursory attention in the national media. Walker’s proposal doesn’t apply to all public sector unions in the state. Broadly speaking it targets unions that consistently support Democrats (teachers and other public employees) and exempts those that are often more friendly to Republican candidates (police and firefighters). Walker has been quick to point out that the statewide police and firefighters unions, as opposed to those in Milwaukee, both supported his opponent last year. He claims he makes the exception because the state can’t afford any walk-outs from these public safety related employees.

But that doesn’t really hold up.

It strains credulity to see this as anything but a political effort to destroy organizations that are critical foot soldiers for Democratic candidates at election time.

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