Wisconsin Union Protests: Gov. Walker Rejects Compromise, Pro-Union Website Blocked In Madison
On Tuesday, union leaders and state Senate Democrats union offered to accept the salary and health benefit portion of the bill that Gov. Scott Walker demanded, but they want public employees to be able to retain their collective-bargaining rights.
"I have been informed that all state and local public employees – including teachers - have agreed to the financial aspects of Governor Walker's request," Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach said. "This includes Walker's requested concessions on public employee health care and pension. In return they ask only that the provisions that deny their right to collectively bargain are removed. This will solve the budget challenge. This is a real opportunity for us to come together and resolve the issue and move on. It is incumbent upon Governor Walker to seriously consider and hopefully accept this offer as soon as possible."
But state Senate Majority leader Scott Fitzgerald said the bill's terms are not negotiable.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker also rejected a compromise, once again calling on Democratic lawmakers who have left the state to return. A statement released by Walker's office on Tuesday said: ""These are many of the same senators who, two years ago, rammed through a billion dollar tax hike in 24 hours with no public input. The quickest way to resolve the current situation is for the Democratic Senators to stop shirking their responsibilities and debate the bill in Madison. We continue to call on them to come to Madison and do their jobs."
Walker also told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Monday that Republicans wouldn't back down from the protestor's demands. "I think our Senate Republicans, our assembly Republicans have only grown stronger. They are not going to be intimidated by union leaders from Washington or any other state. They're going to listen to the people of Wisconsin. They elect us overwhelmingly, to balance the budget not only now but to make sure we make a commitment to the future instead of dire consequences for our children in the future," he said. "So, we are not going to back down. We are doing the right thing for the right reasons and in the end, you know, democracy means participating. We are going to stand up for the people.
However, Walker may not find a sympathetic American public. A new USA Today/Gallup opinion poll shows a majority of Americans are on the side of the unions. The poll shows that 61% oppose laws that would limit collective-bargaining rights of public employee unions, while just 33% favor a law such as the one being considered in Wisconsin.
As the standoff between Republicans and Democrats continues to escalate, at least one Wisconsin politician is willing to play the role of the mediator. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said in a news conference on Tuesday that he has met privately with lawmakers from both parties in an attempt to come up with a resolution.
The Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel reported: "His pitch: the Legislature should adopt the higher employee contributions for health care and pensions that Walker wants and put off consideration of the more controversial bid to eliminate bargaining rights on everything except wages.
The bill currently proposed would force union members to pay more into their pensions and health benefits, while also limiting their collective-bargaining rights.
Republicans and Democrats also exchanged words on Tuesday after a left-leaning, pro-union website was blocked in the Wisconsin State Capitol.
CNN reported: "The website, defendwisconsin.org, could not be accessed on Monday and into Tuesday morning in the Capitol building, where crowds assembled over proposed legislation that would increase the costs of benefits to public employees and curb their collective-bargaining rights."
Wisconsin Democratic Party's press secretary blamed Gov. Scott Walker and Republican lawmakers for causing the outage, but the governor's spokesman called that accusation "a lie."