Heartland Institute Experts React to Government Worker Protests in Wisconsin

Published February 17, 2011

Thousands of public employees in Wisconsin marched on the state capitol Thursday to protest a bill that would force public employees to pay more for pension and health benefits while limiting their union’s collective bargaining power. State Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) announced in an email the state capitol is in lock-down. Police are advising legislators to lock their doors, children are marching in the corridors shouting and banging drums, restrooms are blockaded, and angry protestors are pounding on the legislators’ glass windows, according to media reports.

Other reports confirm a number of schools are closed and children have been transported to Madison to protest. No Democrats have appeared in the capitol to debate the budget – which has a projected $3.6 billion shortfall in the next several years – and state troopers reportedly have been sent out to find those Democrats who failed to show up for work.

The following comments from Heartland Institute scholars may be used for attribution in coverage of this story. For more information or additional comments, contact Jim Lakely ([email protected]) or Tammy Nash ([email protected]) via email or call 312/377-4000.
“This rage in Madison is erupting because public employees are being asked to contribute modest amounts toward their pension and health care benefits, which will prevent thousands of them from being fired.

“This seems like a small price to prevent the state from going broke and save jobs for many state employees. The selfishness many of them are exhibiting is pretty shocking, and it is particularly reprehensible for the teachers’ union to bring the kids into it, up close and personal.”

Maureen Martin
Senior Fellow for Legal Affairs
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]
(Note: Ms. Martin is a resident of Green Lake, Wisconsin.)
“Gov. Walker is trying to return balance to the private-/public-sector relationship. It’s long past time for such a move because government workers never should have been allowed to form unions in the first place.

“We now have government workers receiving far more in pay and benefits than private-sector workers receive. Health insurance and retirement benefits are off the charts compared to those in the private sector. And government workers have far greater job protections.

“Even President Franklin Roosevelt, who championed unions in the private sector, opposed them in the public sector. He made this clear in 1937, when he wrote to Luther Steward, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees: ‘All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations.’
“Lawmakers need to heed Roosevelt’s words.”
Steve Stanek
Research Fellow for Budget and Tax Policy
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]
The Heartland Institute is a 27-year-old national nonprofit organization based in Chicago. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site at http://www.heartland.org or call 312/377-4000.