This week people all over Wisconsin have woken up to the dramatic changes quickly taking place in America’s Dairyland.  There have been rallies, sick outs, school kids leaving class, and dozens of peaceful demonstrations all across the state.  The reason?  Governor Walker has proposed a measure to end collective bargaining with public employee unions.  Wisconsin has a long and proud history of union participation in many aspects of people’s lives.  Not only do many people belong to employee unions, we embrace credit unions and student unions more than most states.

I’m about to run off to another protest today, but here’s the gist of why we’re all so upset:

* Unions have been offering concessions on pay, benefits and pensions throughout the recession. Instead of trying to negotiate with the unions to come to an agreement that Gov. Walker feels comfortable with, he has instead refused to even come to the table with unions and is now proposing to end collective bargaining.  This will end nearly 50 years of peaceful, effective bargaining for nearly 200,000 public workers.  These are teachers, cops, firefighters, librarians, EMTs, professors, prison guards, mental health workers, clerks–since when did these people become the bad guys?

* The changes are being rushed through. Gov. Walker announced his “budget repair” proposal on Friday and wants it passed into law by tomorrow (that’s one week).  In one week nearly 200,000 people will find their pay and benefits dramatically decreased and will have no recourse to negotiate with employers once the economy begins to improve.

* The whole thing reeks of politicking on the backs of middle-class people. Gov. Walker’s plan offers exemptions to two unions that endorsed him–essentially paying them back for the Governor’s office they helped him purchase, while punishing tens of thousands of other families across the state.

Not only that, the Governor has exaggerated the extent of the budget crisis in order to rush this legislation through before people could truly understand the damage to the state before it had been done.  Further, he is pressuring us by making threats related to healthcare that are not  based on facts. He’s a bully and a manipulator.

Fortunately, Gov. Walker grossly misjudged the level of civic involvement in Wisconsin and the passion people have for working together to find cooperative solutions.  I have never been in an employee union, but I know they have value.  The pay and benefits union members receive not only set up a comparable scale for the rest of us, but unions support middle class salaries–that money is used in all sectors of our economy.  How does it help anyone to hurt the middle class right now?

Badgers, if you care about your state, now is a great time to come rally and support each other.  Let’s not bring each other down, but build each other up and find other solutions to our problems through honesty, open debate and creative solutions.

I’ll try to keep updating through Twitter–very proud of my state that there are so many people willing to fight this massive attack on regular, taxpaying, hardworking Wisconsinites.

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