Wisc. Labor Protests Ripple Across Midwest

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Wednesday marked day 10 of protests by union workers in Wisconsin. They are protesting a budget cutting measure which restricts some of their collective bargaining rights.

The protest trend seeming to be spreading, setting up a major battle between unions and state governments across the Midwest.

Democratic Wisconsin state senators have remained holed up in Illinois. They have stalled a vote on Republican Gov. Scott Walker's budget cuts designed to reduce the state's $137 million deficit.

Why should the average American worry about union disputes in a handful of states? Phil Kerpen, with Americans for Propserity, has more, following this report.

Richard Noyes, director of media analysis at the Media Research Center, talked more about this story on CBN News Channel Midday News, Feb. 18. Click here for his comments.

"We had to come to the land of Lincoln because we felt that the values and traditions of Wisconsin were being threatened," said Sen. Chris Larson, D-Wisc.

However, Badger State Republicans worry traditions won't matter if the reins aren't tightened on state spending.

The GOP has enough votes to pass Walker's bill, but without a quorum in the State Senate, they can't send it to the governor's desk.

Walker's bill requires most state workers to contribute more to their pensions and health insurance. It also strips their right to collectively bargain anything but their salaries.

Walker has upped the stakes on Tuesday, warning that some state employees could start receiving pink slips next week if his bill isn't passed soon.

As more states work to trim spending, the labor protests have spread.

In Ohio, unionized state workers are fighting a bill that effectively ends their collective bargaining rights.

"If you have no say in your benefits, no say in your wages, no say in your working conditions, it's going to continue to get worse and worse and worse," said Brian Gates, who opposes the Ohio Senate measure. "It's a race to the bottom."

Yet, Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, said the bottom is where Ohio will end up if the state doesn't get its fiscal house in order.

"I'm spending a lot of time talking to companies here that are being courted by other states," Kasich said. "If we keep losing jobs, we won't make it as a state."

In Indiana, Republicans repeatedly called the State House roll Tuesday, but only three Democrats were present.

The rest left the capitol to allow legislation banning collective bargaining rights to expire.

Also, in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie, (R), has announced major cuts to union employee benefits.

"There can no longer be two classes of citizens -- one that receives rich health and pension benefits, and all the rest who are left to pay for them," Christie said.

Meanwhile, in California and Massachusetts, pro-union rallies formed in solidarity with union workers in other states.

Union workers have warned Republicans they will remember efforts to strip their bargaining rights come election time. However, political scientists say cost cutting measures could also help Republicans with conservative voters, including influential Tea Party activists, during the next election.

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CBN News
Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.