Gov. Scott Walker says other states should consider emulating Wisconsin in curbing the power of public unions. He also hinted he's open to doing the same to police and firefighter unions.
Speaking at a Public Policy Forum conference on Monday, Walker touted Act 10, the Wisconsin law that weakened most public worker unions.
Walker outlined his reasons for pushing for the law, early in 2011. He said public unions held so much power that they had driven local government budgets to the breaking point.
Now, Walker says with their new power, school districts, cities and counties have reined in spending. He insists the formula would work in other places, even Detroit, which is on the verge of bankruptcy.
“What we did may be bigger and bolder than what others have done, but it’s not far removed from where other states and even other cities need to go if they’re going to be sustainable,” Walker says.
One person in the audience told Walker that Act 10 gave communities only half the tools they need. The law exempts police and firefighter unions. In some cases, they comprise half the community’s workforce.
The audience member asked the governor if he would consider limiting the bargaining rights of first responders.
Walker says he feared doing so at first, in case they’d walk off the job and put public safety at risk. But now, he says the climate could be different.
“I think now for those areas, having seen that the world didn’t come to an end for other municipal employees and county employees, there might be a greater opening going forward, because they’d say, ‘hey, you know, things worked out,'" Walker says.
The governor says the principle of limiting the rights of public unions has a long history, among both Republicans and Democrats.
According to Walker, Democratic president Franklin Delano Roosevelt also opposed public sector collective bargaining.