PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Hundreds of union supporters gathered in downtown Pittsburgh Thursday to express solidarity with protestors in Wisconsin.
The issue is public employee pensions, pay and bargaining rights.
A quickly-organized Tea Party rally in support of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker gathered in front of the City-County Building noon on Friday.
“We wanted to make sure that the taxpayers voice didn’t get lost in all of this because ultimately, particularly when public sector unions are concerned, the decisions that are made we end up paying the bill,” Janet Cook, Tea Party organizer, told KDKA Political Editor Jon Delano.
Organizers stressed they weren’t anti-union — just supportive of those governors who are trying to deal with the high cost of public employee pensions.
“We’re not anti-union per se,” says Sam DeMarco of Veterans & Patriots United. “What we’re talking about is the unsustainable promises that were made by previous politicians to this public sector unions. We just don’t have the ability to pay it any longer.”
“Collective bargaining used to be a good thing,” adds Russ Hall of New Castle. “Now it’s just a power play by the unions to take away money from the taxpayers and we resent that.”
A few union supporters who showed up don’t see it that way and started debating Tea Party members.
“We cut taxes for the rich. We cut taxes for corporate America.”
“Okay, so you don’t want to talk. You can’t debate the situation.”
“You presided over the biggest tax cuts in history, and we still don’t have any jobs. Where are the jobs?”
“The guy can’t explain it.”
Tea Party supporters want Gov. Corbett to stand tough when he presents his budget to the legislature in March.
“My message to Governor Corbett is we elected you to make the hard decisions,” says Tea Party organizer Dale McCoy. “We have faith that you will be make the hard decisions.”
And with legislators having better pensions than most public employees and paying less for health insurance, there was another message to Harrisburg.
“The legislators should lead the way. They work for us. We pay their bill, and it’s the same pool of taxpayer money. So absolutely, the legislature should lead the way by example,” adds McCoy.
It remains to be seen whether Pennsylvania legislators will deal with their own special perks when they debate any proposals to curb benefits and bargaining rights for public employees.
Gov. Corbett has not said what he will propose in his budget speech on March 8. He is obviously caught in the middle.