President Barack Obama has also weighed in, saying in an interview with Milwaukee television station WTMJ that Walker’s bill to “an assault on unions.”
Under Walker’s plan, state and local public employees could no longer collectively bargain over any issue except wage increases that are no higher than the Consumer Price Index. It would also make workers pay half the costs of their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health care premiums. State employees’ costs would go up by an average of 8 percent.
The changes would save the state $30 million by June 30 and $300 million over the next two years to address a $3.6 billion budget shortfall.
Unions could still represent workers, but they could not force employees to pay dues and would have to hold annual votes to stay organized. Local police, firefighters, and state troopers would retain their collective bargaining rights. But despite the exemption, many of them have shown up at the rallies in support.
For video on the protests:
Democratic lawmakers have said they and union members would agree to financial concessions that the Republican governor wants in exchange for workers keeping their collective bargaining rights. But Walker said he wasn’t willing to budge, and he expected the bill to pass as is.
The controversial measure led to massive protests that started Feb. 15 and have gained steam each day. An estimated 68,000 people turned out Saturday. Most opposed the bill, but the day marked the first time that a significant contingent of Walker supporters showed up to counter-protest.
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