"Dropped the bomb" was what Scott Walker called Act 10, his Budget Repair Bill, during the infamous Fake Koch phone call.
3 years ago today, February 11, 2011, very late on a Friday, Scott Walker introduced his Budget Repair Bill. Someone working late actually read the thing and sent out an alert on what was actually inside the bill. The first I heard of it was an urgent email from my union President asking for volunteers to phone bank the weekend and Monday in order to get as many members as possible to Madison starting on Tuesday. We couldn't even order busses until Monday since businesses had closed, but planned on ordering them every day for a week.
The Budget Repair Bill had little to do with repairing a budget that Walker himself had sent into deficit by enormous tax breaks to business. It had everything to do with slashing our safety net and ending collective bargaining rights for every single public employee in Wisconsin.
Union dues collection would no longer be done by payroll deduction, unions would have to go from member to member collecting dues. Every public employee in Wisconsin would be required to pay 12% of their salary for health insurance and 6% for their pensions despite the fact that many unions were already paying into their insurance and had given away what could have been wage increases in order to maintain benefits.
Unions would have to recertify every single year by holding a union vote the same way that a brand new union would have to certify to represent a group of employees, but they'd have to hold an expensive election every year. The evil didn't stop there, though. Anyone who didn't vote would automatically be considered a "no" vote. Imagine doing that for any other election - every person not showing up to vote becoming a "no". We'd never elect another politician ever (that might be a good thing).
And public employee unions would also be prohibited from negotiating anything but wages, and those only within a maximum cap which the state itself would determine. No more input into health and safety conditions, vacation selection, days off, shift selection, working conditions, staffing, the type and scope of benefits (which ultimately allowed governments to introduce junk insurance to replace standard insurance).
While the courts stopped a few of the worst abuses, the rest is still in place.
Public employees lost 18% of their paychecks and our economy suffered as a result. With a lot less money, belts tightened with the vigor of a hungry python, homes were foreclosed and businesses in areas like Madison that had a large number of public employees were forced to close. You can't take that much out of paychecks and not expect the economy to hum along unscathed.
Walker continues to tout Act 10 as a Big Success. For him, it was. He degraded the unions, bolstered his standing among Republicans, and ensured that Republicans biggest opponents, unions, lost a great deal of their might. Act 10 propelled him into a Republican Rock Star jetting around the nation raising money, as well as his profile, and giving him the perfect launch into his next ambition, the Presidency.
Since Act 10, he's been forced to create his own phony jobs numbers to hide his failure to keep his one campaign promise: create 250,000 jobs. Instead he touts "new business creation". Of course he does. His new rules count the creation of even a new Boy Scout Troop as a "new business".
Business and corporations love Scott Walker. He subsidizes them, cuts their taxes, and, with the downward spiral of wages in Wisconsin that's he's ushered in, ensured that they can pay their employees even less.
It's been non-stop extremism in Wisconsin. Cancelling the high speed rail lines that the Federal Government would have paid for, mandating ultrasounds for women seeking abortions, gleefully signing TRAP laws that closed abortion clinics, ensuring the proliferation of charter schools by funneling tax dollars into them (by taking away a billion dollars out of public schools), signing stand your ground, concealed carry and opening state parks to hunting to satisfy the NRA. And not only rejecting Medicaid expansion and state insurance exchanges to placate the Obama Care haters, but so severely restricting Medicaid eligibility that 92,000 Wisconsinites lost their coverage. And then there's the extraordinary gerrymandering that will keep Republicans in the majority for a long, long time which was done in secret, off state property, only viewable by Republicans who signed an oath of secrecy, which, sadly, the courts allowed them to keep.
The Ring of Fire wealthy suburbanites sure love them some Scott Walker. The rest of us just pull harder at our oars.
Not a happy anniversary.
Yet the Wisconsin protests energized the nation, ultimately resulting in protests in other states where newly elected Red Tide Governors and Legislators were ramming through ALEC sponsored extremist legislation, exposed ALEC and the Koch Brothers, and later influenced the start of the Occupy Movement.
And that's not nothing.