Mark Miller, the state Senate's Democratic leader, has taken an opposite view: "Public workers have stepped up and agreed to ... increased contributions for health care and pensions," he said in a recent statement. "All they have asked for in return is to maintain the rights they have had for over 50 years."
Walker wants both the concessions on benefits and a shift in that 50-year tradition. The bill passed this week focused just on bargaining rights. By keeping direct budgetary issues out of the bill, the Senate was able to pass it without a quorum, although some argue the maneuver was illegal.
It's easy to see the drama through the lens of political self-interest. Public-sector labor unions are a vital source of campaign funding for Democrats, while some of the biggest donors to Republicans are business people who would like union clout to be pared.
Both sides say they're fighting for important principles that will make their state a better place to live – and they both make substantive points to back up their views. Here's a look at the arguments on both sides – and some of the evidence that might support or counter those claims.
Stripping away union bargaining power on compensation doesn't make Wisconsin unique. States have a patchwork of policies: Some require collective bargaining for many workers, others permit it, and a few largely prohibit the practice.