Governor Scott Walker issued a statement today about the mass shootings at a Wisconsin Sikh Temple this morning, in which 7 are confirmed dead, including one gunman. Walker called the shooting “evil” and praised the first responders.
Our hearts go out to the victims and their families, as we all struggle to comprehend the evil that begets this terrible violence.
At the same time, we are filled with gratitude for our first responders, who show bravery and selflessness as they put aside their own safety to protect our neighbors and friends.
It was Governor Walker who went after collective bargaining rights in his state, and told a donor that doing so would kill unions that protect our first responders and once the unions were dead, the state would turn red. Walker said, “We’re going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill. The first step is we’re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer.”
Walker chose to divide and conquer by attacking and demonizing public sector employees like teachers, while leaving collective bargaining rights for firefighters and police in tact (this strategy is alleged to violate the state constitution). Divide and conquer didn’t work out as well as Walker had hoped, as police and firefights showed solidarity with other unions.
Furthermore, firefighters and police who were supposed to be exempt turned out to not be safe after all.
Changing Gears reported in February:
The Wisconsin state worker’s union estimates that some 22,000 public employees are taking home 13 percent less pay since the law has taken effect. As it was written, public safety workers like police officers were supposed to be exempt.
But now, police and firefighters are finding, they, too, are facing increased pension and health care costs.
“We knew there was going to be a slippery slope,” says Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, the state’s largest police union.
“Economic conditions that are impacting Wisconsin aren’t going to go away,” Palmer says. “And we knew that if municipalities in this state continue to see a shortfall, and if police and firefighters are the only ones with collective bargaining rights, we would be next.”
And that’s why some local governments are saying police and firefighters have to pay more on health care costs – regardless of what the union says. So the unions are fighting back. As of now, there are at least three court cases going on in Eau Claire, but also Milwaukee and Green Bay.
So first responders got hit in Wisconsin as well. Those same first responders Walker is praising today.
But it was Scott Walker who, making a sharp turn to the middle after surviving his recall election, disagreed with Mitt Romney’s interpretation of the recall election. Rommey said that the message from Wisconsin was that voters oppose hiring more teachers, firefighters and police officers:
ROMNEY: Instead he(Obama) wants to add more to government. He wants another stimulus. He wants to hire more government workers. He (Obama) says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin, the American people did, it’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.
I’m sure the voters of Wisconsin are praising their fast acting first responders right now. While they might not always be first in our minds, when tragedy comes, they are invaluable. What first responders do is central to protecting our communities and supporting our citizens. They deserve to be paid a decent wage for a hard, heart-breaking job.
It’s fair to ask if we should make those jobs so unattractive, so poorly rewarded, that we fail to attract the kinds of citizens we need in those jobs.
It’s also fair to wonder what Romney’s plans are for emergencies like this one, if he plans on cutting back even further on police and firefighters, who played a central role today and were first on the scene.