Maryland is not Wisconsin

March 14, 2011

George Liebmann says the Wisconsin controversy has been framed as a controversy about money ("Maryland is ripe for backlash against teachers unions," March 10). Certainly that is how the Republicans and their media supporters have tried to frame it. But people who paid attention have known all along that it was primarily about collective bargaining rights. The unions had made concessions on money issues and were prepared to make some others, but not on bargaining. Roughly two-thirds of the people of Wisconsin agree with them.

Now that the Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate have rammed through a bill stripping unions of collective bargaining rights, which is sure to be challenged in court on procedural grounds, several senators are targeted for recall elections. The governor certainly will be also, after he has served in office long enough; preliminary organization is already under way. There will be a massive rally in Madison on Saturday, and there is a possibility of a general strike across the state.

The people of Wisconsin understand that most of their state's budget "crisis" is the result of large business tax breaks forced through in January, and that the cuts now being imposed mean cuts in basic services to them and their children. They understand that what the Republicans are doing is likely to put their children in overcrowded classrooms, as many as 60 to a teacher. They do not accept that as necessary or right, and they are not dumb enough to blame the unions.

Could a Wisconsin-style union backlash happen in Maryland? If our legislature were as irresponsible as Wisconsin's, you bet it could. The people of Wisconsin are an inspiration to us all.

Katharine W. Rylaarsdam, Baltimore

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