Protests in Wisconsin have national, local repercussions

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Statesman Journal, “Democratic senators flee Midwest state to delay a bill to strip collective-bargaining rights”

Public employees and unions in Oregon are closely watching the turmoil in Wisconsin. Union members there, particularly teachers and educators, have been protesting at the state capitol for several days in response to proposed legislation that would eliminate collective bargaining rights as well as making public workers pay half the costs of their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health care coverage.

The protests began with hundreds of teachers calling in sick on the same day, forcing administrators to close schools.

“It’s all the buzz here, at all our offices and worksites,” said Ed Hershey, a spokesman for Service Employees International Union Local 503, Oregon’s leading state-workers union.

Public employees here in Oregon and across the nation are facing cuts to their health benefits, pensions and salaries through furlough days and layoffs because of budget shortfalls. These proposals come after two hard years of state workers sacrificing for the greater good of our state by taking furlough days and pay freezes while they continue to provide for our children, elderly and disabled on the front lines of our economic crisis.

Without teachers, home care workers, firefighters, caseworkers, prison workers and many more, Oregon would crumble. We can’t balance the budget on the backs of public servants – and the people standing strong in Wisconsin know that.

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