Opinion Brief

Will Wisconsin's unrest kick off a year of American rage?

Some wonder if the budget revolt in Madison, Wis., is just the "tip of the iceberg"

A clash between Democratic protesters and Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin, over the proposed gutting of collective-bargaining rights for public-employee unions, has sparked a national debate. The protests in Madison are already being replicated in cities across the Rust Belt, with national leaders throwing their weight behind each of the causes. President Obama condemned Republican Gov. Scott Walker's plan as an "assault on unions." House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) sided with Walker. Meanwhile, public sector workers are gearing up for even more protests around the country. Wisconsin is just the "tip of the iceberg," says Jane McAlevey at The Nation. Who's next?

Ohio
A "similar fight is brewing" in the Buckeye State, says Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo. More than 1,000 public sector workers turned up to protest Bill 5, which would end collective bargaining rights for state workers just as Gov. Walker's bill would in Wisconsin. "Emotional protests" are one thing, says the Toledo Blade, but Ohio's labor unions have not come up with a solution to the state's $8 billion deficit. "'No!' is not a plan, however loudly repeated."

Indiana
Steelworkers turned up at the Indiana statehouse earlier this week to protest a proposal by Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, a possible 2012 presidential candidate, that would prevent union membership and fees from being a condition of employment. The week before, teachers protested in Indianapolis over the same bill. "Indiana isn't yet seeing a similar level of progressive momentum" as Ohio and Wisconsin, says Amanda Terkel at The Huffington Post, but leftwing activists are attempting to marshal the troops.

Michigan
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has upset public workers in this economically struggling state, with the "most far-reaching and deep-cutting budget and tax plan of recent times," says Chris Christoff at the Detroit Free Press. A "few dozen" protesters turned up on Thursday to demonstrate against Snyder's bill, but the governor has not yet detailed exactly what concessions labor unions will be asked to make.

New Hampshire
The Granite State's GOP-led House favors a bill outlawing unions' ability to have workers fired for not paying union dues, says RedState. Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, has vowed to veto it. But "overriding a gubernatorial veto is readily within the GOP's grasp." If that happens, expect New Hampshire to become a flashpoint for protests.

Iowa
A bill that would give state and local governments more power in negotiations with labor unions was approved by an Iowa House subcommittee. But "the bill stands almost no chance of winning final approval in both chambers," says William Petroski at the Des Moines Register. Nevertheless, says Jane McAlevey at The Nation, Iowa's leadership is clearly intent on taking on unions. Republican Gov. Terry Branstad's first executive order was to undo a key construction labor union agreement, and he's "excited to take up the challenge" of doing more.

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