The threat by Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin in the US, to end collective bargaining arrangements with public sector workers in that state is the nastiest move yet by the ‘free market’ Republicans as a response to the slump in US capitalism. The governor is trying to portray the very victims of the banking collapse and the subsequent Great Recession as the villains. For him, the crisis was not the fault of reckless bankers, a corrupt financial sector and their grotesquely overpaid executives, but the fault of teachers, health workers, refuse cleaners and other public servants who are paid too much!
The governor not only wants public sector workers to take huge cuts in their pay and conditions but also to lose their rights even to negotiate with their employers. In a policy designed to divide workers in the private sector from those working in the public sector, he deliberately excludes the police and firefighters from his draconian laws. He knows there is too much sympathy for them. But he gambles that other public sector workers will be seen as ‘fat cats’ who are paid more and have better conditions than workers in the private sector and so should ‘suffer more’ under these programmes of ‘fiscal austerity’.