ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports: As the third straight day of protests continue at the Wisconsin State Capitol to protest the governor’s proposal to strip public-sector employees of collective-bargaining rights, President Obama has sided with the workers.
“Some of what I've heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you're just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally seems like more of an assault on unions,” President Obama said Wednesday to WTMJ TV “And I think it's very important for us to understand that public employees, they're our neighbors, they're our friends.”
Republican Governor Scott Walker has proposed a $3.6 billion budget deficit, demanding that public employees pay more for their pensions and health care – the equivalent of a 7% pay cut. But the thousands of workers protesting since Tuesday are mostly upset that the budget strips away nearly all of their union bargaining rights.
In responding to the controversy the president said it is important “not to vilify” these employees, “or to suggest somehow all these budget problems are due to public employees.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney said today that while President Obama understands the needs and the challenges that governors face to deal with their own fiscal issues and the need to make tough budget decisions, “what he sees happening in Wisconsin, making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain, seems more like an assault on unions. “
“He doesn't see that as a good thing,” Carney said, adding that it is sometimes easy to paint public employees as “faceless bureaucrats,” but emphasized these people are teachers, nurses, policemen and firemen.
“The best way to deal with this is for people to address these problems by sitting down at the table to collaborate and work out a solution.”
Speaker of the House John Boehner today credited Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker for taking “courageous action” and “daring to speak the truth” about his state’s financial difficulties and ripped President Obama for criticizing Walker’s proposed reforms and failing to show leadership on the economy.
“Republicans in Congress – and reform-minded GOP governors like Scott Walker…are daring to speak the truth about the dire fiscal challenges Americans face at all levels of government, and daring to commit themselves to solutions that will liberate our economy and help put our citizens on a path to prosperity,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement Thursday. “I’m disappointed that instead of providing similar leadership from the White House, the president has chosen to attack leaders such as Gov. Walker, who are listening to the people and confronting problems that have been neglected for years at the expense of jobs and economic growth.”