Dear Commons Community,
The New York Times editorial today focuses on Governor Scott Walker and his scorched earth policy regarding state workers in Wisconsin. His style and policies were completely rejected nationally when he tried to secure the Republican presidential nomination last year, yet he continues his war on labor. Here is the editorial:
“What’s a politician to do after his ballyhooed campaign for the Republican presidential nomination flames out before the first vote is cast? In the case of Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, it means returning home to the anti-labor obsession that got him noticed in the first place — and signing into law, less than two weeks ago, a “reform” plan that promises to gut much of the state’s historic Civil Service system.
Gone are objective Civil Service examinations; instead, as of July, hiring for state jobs will be based on résumés and the impressions they leave on administrators perusing them. Gone, too, is seniority as a bulwark for job protection; administrators will now be able to do layoffs based on subjective evaluations of a worker’s job performance.
New hires who had six months’ probation will now be under a two-year watch in which to please their masters. And should anyone wonder where the power lies in this “streamlined” system, the law centralizes hiring decisions firmly in the governor’s administrative office, with a new system of merit bonuses at the ready.
Patronage, anyone? Mr. Walker hailed the changes as “common sense” efforts to “get the best and brightest in the door and keep them there.” He did not mention energetic toadying as a possible qualification, nor the political cronyism the law so obviously invites.
Wisconsin citizens thought they had abandoned the spoils system and patronage corruption a century ago when Civil Service was championed by Gov. Robert La Follette, the historic progressive who eloquently railed against the very abuses now being resurrected in the Wisconsin statehouse. Here it comes again.
Mr. Walker became a national sensation among conservatives five years ago when he stripped almost all public workers of their collective bargaining rights while using the state budget to eliminate the requirement in force in local communities to pay the prevailing wage to workers on government projects. Back then, he denied having any designs on the Civil Service system. But that changed once he returned from his failed presidential venture and found the Republican Legislature’s retrograde employment measure awaiting his signature.
The governor’s presidential hopes lasted only two months after weak debate performances among the pack of 17 candidates. He may be remembered most for failing to convince people that his anti-labor toughness in surviving a recall vote in Wisconsin was somehow a foreign policy credential for standing up to Islamic terrorists. “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world,” he insisted.
The patronage-friendly measure Mr. Walker signed in the name of better government is no more convincing than his presidential campaign. It undermines the welfare not only of the state’s 30,000 workers but of Wisconsin citizens who are losing an important part of their heritage of government fairness.”
Walker and his big money backers are a plague upon the workers in the state of Wisconsin.