Last week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker fired the shot heard ’round the world by signing a bill that limited the rights of most municipal and state employees to engage in collective bargaining. The bill does exempt public safety employees, including police officers, fire fighters, deputy sheriffs, state probation and parole officers, and persons that provide combined police and fire protection services, from the restrictions mandated by the bill. Interestingly, I did not spot an exemption for correctional workers.
While the Great Recession had many fathers (and mothers), I don’t believe that public sector unions were one of them. Nevertheless, when the government needs to ratchet down its expenses to match its diminished revenues, government workers stand out as an obvious target (and solution). Admittedly, when times are good, unions have no impetus to offer concessions of any kind. So, if Wisconsin or other states intend to rebalance its books on the back of public employees, now is the time when the unions recognize that they have to bear part of the burden as well.