Let me begin by pointing out that I understand why the teachers are angry--they're worried about more money coming out of their pockets. The governor wants them to start kicking in for their own retirements (no!) and to pay for 1/8 of their health care costs (horrors!). Neither of those is unreasonable, but since they haven't had to pay for them before, they will see less take-home pay if the measure passes. Additionally, the governor's plan will place limits on what types of workplace issues can be bargained collectively.
I've seen interviews with some of the protesters who claim that they understand about the money, but it's the collective bargaining they're concerned about. I don't believe them, but let's assume for a moment that that's true for one or two of them. What's being proposed is only a return to the status quo 2008:
Mr. Walker also wants to limit the power of public-employee unions to negotiate contracts and work rules—something that 24 states already limit or ban.
The governor's move is in reaction to a 2009 law implemented by the then-Democratic legislature that expanded public unions' collective-bargaining rights and lifted existing limits on teacher raises.
Since Wisconsin is widely recognized as the state where "progressivism" began or held the most sway, I'm having a hard time believing that Wisconsin's teachers toiled in sweatshop conditions until the 2009 law was passed. The democratically-elected governor, who hasn't felt the need to tell anyone "I won" in order to try to get his policies approved, is merely trying to rein in a public union that has been given too much leeway.
And because of this he's compared to Mubarak, Mussolini, Hitler, et al, and legislators have actually left the state to avoid a quorum in a state senate otherwise sure to pass the bill.
As a teacher, though, I'm appalled at the behavior of the teachers (and of the doctors that lie for them). We tell students to follow the rules, and these teachers lie about being sick in order to continue to be paid--from public funds!--while protesting a reasonable law. We teach students about civil disobedience, but these teachers act like a mob. Civil disobedience involves violating an unjust law, hoping to be arrested in order to draw attention to the need to change the unjust law; that is not what is happening in Wisconsin. We teach children that it's a sign of maturity to accept the consequences of one's actions, but these teachers get doctors to write notes which illegally claim the teachers truly are sick so that the teachers don't get in trouble for violating both their own contracts as well as state law (more on that here and here and here). We tell children how important their education is, how they're our top priority, but these teachers shut schools down for 4 days in a row in order to throw a temper tantrum.
In other words, those teachers are, for their own selfish purposes, violating every major tenet of socially acceptable behavior that we teach in our schools. Their lessons are now "just words", and their students, like all people, will absorb the lessons based on actions to a much greater degree than those of mere rhetoric. These teachers have dealt a crippling blow to their own credibility.
These teachers, and their union bosses have demonstrated far better than any Republican could why teachers unions need to be curtailed, and they certainly show why none other than President Franklin Roosevelt himself was against public sector unions. Governor Walker's plan to require that the union be recertified every year, and to limit what can be bargained, are simple ways to start curtailing that power and influence.
Let the curtailing begin.
Update: I'm not the only teacher who feels this way.
Update #2: Joanne's round-up is, as you would expect, exceptional.
Update #3, 2/23/11: A wise way of looking at things:
To Republicans, the budget fight has involved the widespread shirking of responsibilities: teachers walking out on students, legislators running away from their offices, even doctors abandoning medical standards to make excuses for perfectly healthy teacher/protesters. To Democrats, the fight has touched a core issue; anything is justified to preserve union benefits.
Update #4, 2/23/11: How could I forget this one?
Unions take to the streets to defend their collective bargaining agreements... which ban work stoppages and "any unauthorized concerted activity."
Update #5, 2/24/11: Another teacher (and frequent commenter here at RotLC) weighs in.