Wisconsin’s new Republican Governor Scott Walker announced this month a plan to end collective bargaining for nearly all public employees, as well as cut their pay and benefits. On Democracy Now!, The Nation‘s John Nichols says this radical assault on a historically progressive and pro-labor state is part of a nationwide conservative strategy to take down public employee unions.

Unions threaten Republicans because of the power they have over our politics and because they’ve been the primary advocates for public sector spending and public education, Nichols says. “If Governor Walker pulls this off, if he succeeds in taking away collective bargaining rights from the union, AFSCME, which was founded in Wisconsin back in the 1930s, if he takes down…one of the strongest and most effective teachers’ unions, WEAC, in the country, then we really are going to see this sweep across the United States. There is simply no question of that,” he says.

Walker has notified the National Guard to be on alert for actions taken by unsatisfied state, county and municipal employees. The real shame, according to Nichols: Wisconsin is not broke, and in fact, the Fiscal Bureau of Wisconsin announced it will end this year with a $123 million surplus.

“The fact of the matter is that this is not being done because of a lack of money. This is being done because political forces, conservative political forces, would like to disempower public employee unions and remove that voice for a strong public sector,” he says.

Sara Jerving