This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
Political drama doesn’t get much richer than what’s unfolded in Wisconsin the last few days.
Democrats fleeing the state. Republicans dispatching state troopers to catch their leader. Tens of thousands of demonstrators mobbing the Capitol.
Behind it is a dead serious issue: the extraordinary power public unions have exercised over government budgets.
In Wisconsin, the backlash against government unions has taken the form of a GOP drive to repeal collective bargaining for most public-sector employees. Similar drives are happening in other states where Republicans recently won governorships and gained control over legislatures.
This would not be happening if the unions had the support of the public. Many of those unions have forfeited that support by clinging to lush compensation packages at a time when workers in the private sector – including union members – are enduring the toughest economy in generations. A time when public services are being scaled back ruthlessly while generous labor contracts have continued on autopilot.
Too many examples are found in Pierce County. Although the cost of living has been flat, some union leaders have adamantly rejected pleas to reopen their contracts to reduce “cost-of-living” raises that considerably exceed the actual rate of inflation.
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