The Democratically-controlled Massachusetts state House of Representatives passed a bill that would curb public sector unions' ability to collectively bargain over health benefits earlier this week. Does that mean the dark blue state is "the next Wisconsin"--site of weeks of protests and contentious debate over a bill that prohibited government workers from collectively bargaining for anything but a pay raise? Depends on who you ask.
The bill hasn't passed the state Senate, and Gov. Deval Patrick (pictured above) indicated that he expected the legislation to be weakened. "This is not Wisconsin," Patrick told the Boston Globe's Michael Levenson. "I’m not going to sign a Wisconsin-type bill in the end. We’re going to have a meaningful role for labor, and we are going to deliver on the savings for municipalities. ... The bill is not final." Nevertheless, the Republican Party of Wisconsin took delight in the vote, releasing a statement headlined, "
RPW Welcomes Scott Walker Ally Deval Patrick to Wisconsin." Executive director Mark Jefferson was quoted, "It’s refreshing to see that even a liberal Democrat from Massachusetts recognizes the importance of collective bargaining reform and its significance in helping local communities save money."
The Massachusetts bill "doesn't go nearly as far" as Wisconsin's, The Washington Post's Rachel Weiner explains; still, "Massachusetts unions don’t see ‘not as bad’ as a good deal." But national labor leaders have yet to step into the fight, the Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle reports. Not the head of the AFL-CIO, not the head of the National Education Association, not the head of the SEIU. The NEA's spokesman told Boyle that it simply hadn't been asked by the local unions, and besides, "It's not at the level of fever of pitch Wisconsin was." SEIU Massachusetts political director Harris Gruman says he thinks the state House is just playing "bad cop" and that cooler heads in the Senate will prevail.
But The Wall Street Journal's Kim Strassel thinks the two states have more in common than people are admitting. "Wisconsin moved to rein in collective bargaining powers that are crushing the state. Massachusetts moved to rein in collective bargaining powers that are crushing the state. The only difference is that Democrats have chosen to portray Mr. Walker's legislation as 'union-busting' while presenting their own as necessary reform."