Wisconsin's new Republican governor, Scott Walker, wants to get his austerity budget rammed through the state's new Republican legislature, and he just supposedly doesn't have the time to deal with public employee unions. So he's introduced a proposal to eliminate workers' collective bargaining rights for wages, pensions, and other benefits while sharply raising their required contributions. And if these employees respond by striking? The proposal allows allows state authorities to fire workers who "participate in an organized action to stop or slow work" or who "are absent for three days without approval of the employer."
But what's even worse is the threat Walker issued along with his proposal, which is already under debate and massive protest from state workers, the AFL-CIO, and the Green Bay Packers football team. What if state employees, suddenly stripped of their longstanding collective bargaining rights and facing a 12.6% contribution hike for their health care premiums, resort to striking? Bring in the National Guard!
When asked by a reporter what will happen if workers resist, Walker replied that he would call out the National Guard. He said that the National Guard is "prepared ... for whatever the governor, their commander-in-chief, might call for ... I am fully prepared for whatever may happen."
Now this doesn't necessarily mean he's going to immediately start smashing skulls of state file clerks with billy clubs and rubber hoses. Walker most likely means that he'll resort to using the National Guard as scabs, should, say, prison guards go on strike. But using the National Guard as your personal temp agency to break unions still really isn't cool! Here's a list of the legal reasons Wisconsin's governor can use to call the National Guard into active duty. A good right-wing lawyer can probably find his way around the spirit of the law, but the National Guard is clearly not intended to help the governor fill jobs whenever he wants to radically and abruptly disrupt the workings of his state. It's an authoritarian move preempted on a state of emergency that the governor actively works to create.
Also? Scott Walker knows exactly what message he's passing on by saying that the National Guard is prepared for "whatever may happen." Even if he just meant "for scab work," which, again, is problematic enough, he was trying to paint unions as uppity, violent, and uncontainable, a destabilizing force from Hell that only armed militias may be capable of reining in. It's the same imagery that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie plays off of when he berates union supporters at town halls and then has state troopers march them out, just in case. Or former D.C. schools chancellor and Oprah's best friend, Michelle Rhee, when she fires hundreds of teachers and has the police escort them out our their classrooms in the middle of a school day. It's not the Red Scare anymore, but they'd like you to think it is.
Scott Walker is not a very reasonable man. And although he can't be governor everywhere, Walker could've at least been gentlemanly enough to park himself in and then fuck up a state that didn't have such a distinguished labor tradition. But hey, maybe he'll get to be the next Reagan! He's probably thinking about it.
[Image of today's Wisconsin state capitol protests via AP]