As the legislative standoff continues in Madison, several other state Legislatures, apparently unfazed by the protests in Wisconsin, have introduced bills similar to the contentious one in this state limiting the collective bargaining rights of public employees. But none have prompted the backlash seen in Wisconsin, not even Ohio’s bill, which is tougher than Wisconsin’s and on track for passage.
Legislatures in at least seven other states – Ohio, Iowa, Idaho, Washington, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Tennessee – have introduced legislation limiting collective bargaining for public employees, according to the National Journal and the Wall Street Journal. Missouri’s legislature is debating right-to-work legislation (which would make membership in both private and public unions optional) and Kansas is considering a bill to prevent automatic deductions from public employee paychecks for political activities. Its bill would also prevent public employee unions from endorsing candidates.
In at least another four states – California, Nevada, Michigan and Massachusetts – lawmakers have proposed limiting public employee collective bargaining but haven’t introduced legislation. In California, Nevada and Massachusetts, such proposals would likely be dead on arrival due to a Democratic governor, Democratic control in the state Legislature or both. In Michigan, however, it’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder who is putting a damper on the discussion. Like some other GOP governors, he’s taken on a diplomatic stance, asserting recently, “It’s about how we do collective bargaining to achieve a mutual outcome where we all benefit.”
But none of these states have seen protests on the scale of those in Wisconsin, according to a National Journal database, and some of the demonstrations were in support of Badger State workers, not those in the protestors’ own state. Outside of Wisconsin, the largest protests have broken out in Columbus, Ohio, where crowds have numbered in the thousands (as opposed to tens of thousands as in Madison).
Like Walker’s budget repair bill, the Ohio legislation would limit collective bargaining by public employees in the state to wages alone. Unlike the Wisconsin bill, however, it includes no exemptions for police and firefighters.
“Where is the outrage?” asks the Christian Science Monitor, which notes that Ohio is chock full of public employee union members: It has twice as many as Wisconsin and the sixth most in the nation.
But compared to Wisconsin, Republicans hold a far bigger edge in the Ohio State Senate with 23 of the 33 seats. That body passed the bill 17-16 despite no-votes from six Republicans. Opposition from those Republicans almost killed the bill: Senate leadership removed two of them from committees to prevent them from harpooning it before it arrived on the senate floor.
“The Republicans who defected were those who tended to live in more urban areas that have more union members in them,” an Ohio State University political scientist told the newspaper. National polls suggest most Americans oppose limiting collective bargaining by public employees but support increasing their contributions to their health insurance and retirement plans.