NYT discusses labor unrest in WI on "Room for Debate" page

February 19, 2011
Room for Debate


Wisconsin protests
Darren Hauck/Reuters Protesters at the state Capitol on Friday. View more photographs.

In Wisconsin, the weeklong showdown between the Republican governor and the public employee unions ended in a timeout. Democratic legislators had holed up over the border in Illinois, avoiding a vote in the Republican-dominated Wisconsin legislature on a bill pushed by Gov. Scott Walker to make public employees pay more toward their pension and health care benefits and to slash their collective bargaining power. On Friday, the unions, which staged huge protests for days, said they would agree to the benefit changes if they could retain their rights to negotiate wage contracts and work rules. The governor quickly refused to compromise.

Many states limit or ban collective bargaining by public employees. But Wisconsin is considered a cradle of labor rights and progressive social policies. In recent years it has become a battleground over rollbacks of those legacies. What does the current standoff in Madison portend for the fights in other states to reduce the power and benefits of public employees?

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