With the popular revolutions of Tunis and Egypt sparking interest in the power of peaceful protest, the world is on watch for the next hot spot. Yemen, Iran or Bahrain? How about Wisconsin? Yesterday hundreds of public employees and their supporters held a "citizens filibuster" in the state capitol to protest a proposal to abolish collective bargaining rights. The protesters overflowed a committee hearing room and camped out overnight. The Associated Press is reporting that the new administration in Wisconsin is proposing the elimination of collective bargaining for all state and local employees in the state, except for law enforcement and firefighters. Proponents claim that collective bargaining agreements make it harder for the state to make cuts in spending.
Unions also add a layer of protection for whistleblowers. Those public employees who have information about suspicious activities can feel more secure about disclosing that information when they know that a union grievance or arbitration process stands between management and their discharge. Civil service hearings depend on appointees of the administration and are much weaker as a protection for whistleblowers. Any government has greater integrity when it protects free speech and due process. Doing away with collective bargaining rights will be a victory for those public officials who want to abuse their power and keep the employees too afraid to speak up.