From Madison to Columbus, Public Employees Under Fire

Updated Friday afternoon

For years, public employees enjoyed relative job security and some of the best benefits in the Great Lakes states. Now, as states slash their budgets and restructure their operations, they are under fire.

It’s a big debate across the region and Changing Gears plans to keep you posted. To begin, here are some stories following the public employee crisis.

Photo by Andy Manis/AP via NPR

In Wisconsin, the situation has all the traits of a television drama.

On Friday, the state Senate adjourned indefinitely to await the return of Democratic lawmakers. They have left the state for Illinois, where they are said to be in scattered locations. Here’s the latest from WUMW.

The protest is being called “The Battle of Madison.” Protesters swarmed the state capitol Thursday as the legislature debated a bill that would end half a century of collective bargaining power for state employees. NPR’s coverage is here.

Republicans control the state house but are one vote short of passing the bill, which President Obama has called “an attack on unions.” It appears the outcome could rest on one independent lawmaker.

Protesters have gained support on Facebook, where some people have changed their status updates to read, “Today I stand with the teachers, nurses, and all public employees of Wisconsin who are fighting for their rights. If you do too, change this to your status for the rest of the day. Keep the progressive tradition alive.”

In Michigan, newly elected Republican governor Rick Snyder is proposing deep cuts across the board, including higher health care contributions for state employees. Here is Michigan Radio’s take.

Michigan Radio aired a special Friday on the budget crisis. It will reair Friday at 8 pm ET. Look for the link this weekend.

Columbus, Ohio is seeing its own debate over state employee bargaining rights. Thousands of people, clad in red, protested at the state capital building over a measure similar to Wisconsin’s that would take away collective bargaining rights. (The protesters chose red to change the impression that union members vote for Democrats, who’ve embraced the color blue.)

Here is a report from Ohio Public Radio on that situation.

What are your views on public employees? Should they have collective bargaining rights? Are their pensions too generous?

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