Local opinion varies on governor's budget proposal

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Saturday, February 19, 2011
— Unions once had their place, but society no longer has problems with issues such as child labor, Janesville resident Cheryle Hauner said.

“I don’t think we need unions anymore,” she said when asked her opinion of Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill. “I don’t think we need one all-powerful anything anymore.”

Hauner, interviewed outside Hedberg Public Library on Main Street in Janesville, said everyone is struggling—she makes $10 an hour in retail—and unions are forcing businesses overseas.

“I believe in merit. I don’t believe in across the board, get what you want,” she said. “And I think it’s time for us to stand on our own.

“I think they (union members) need to live in the real world like all of us, and I don’t think they realize the unions are bringing us to our knees,” she said.

Hauner’s opinion was in the minority among about 20 people interviewed Friday afternoon in downtown Janesville. Most people—many with union ties—oppose Walker’s plan because it strips workers of their rights and attacks unions, they said.

The Gazette talked to people at the Janesville Senior Center and Hedberg Public Library. Asked their opinions, people responded with everything from laughter to “Let’s not even go there” to “Walker’s a jerk” to in-depth answers.

Rochelle Buttke wishes Republicans would stop referring to people in two groups—taxpayers versus the “rich” public employees, she said while playing cards at the senior center.

“Government workers are taxpayers,” she said.

She thinks the protest is more about taking away collective bargaining rights than wages.

“This is an attack on unions,” she said.

“I’m sure if he would meet with his state employees, they would all negotiate something with him, but to be told you don’t have any more collective bargaining rights is absolutely wrong,” she said.

At the next card table, Kathy Hanson said she disagrees.

Her late husband was a union president in Beloit.

“All that happens is they end up keeping the people that should be fired because the union has to back them,” she said.

She said a young teacher could be better than someone who’s taught for 15 years, but the young teacher would be cut under union seniority. She also took issue with the Senate Democrats hiding in Illinois.

“They do need to come back and face it,” she said. “I think it’s outrageous that they left.”

Hanson thinks Walker needs to do something to get public employees to pay more for benefits.

“My husband worked for the city. If we would have had to pay for some of his pension and benefits, we would have dealt with it,” she said. “We never had to.”

Across the room, Helen Winchell-Hodd said she’s with the teachers.

“I hope they do not give in,” she said. “And you can raise my taxes to pay their wages.”

Most of those who oppose Walker’s plan said they were particularly angered by the plan to remove public workers’ collective bargaining rights for everything but wages.

“I think I voted for the wrong guy,” said George Rohrbacher of Janesville. “I think it’s a shame that he’s trying to take the bargaining agreements away.”

Walker is moving too fast, he said, though he thinks public employee benefits should be more even with those of private-sector workers.

Workers can sacrifice a little bit, Winchell-Hodd said, but not as much as Walker wants.

“Don’t touch their rights,” she said. “They’ve fought for them since ’59.”

Last updated: 4:16 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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