Teachers’ Union Chief: Wis. Gov ‘Wants to Take Away People’s Voice’

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:

The fight being waged with labor unions in Wisconsin and several other states is emerging as a particular war on teachers, as budget crunches prompt a reexamination of benefits packages and tenure protections that have long been enjoyed by teachers.

On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said governors like Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker “would rather finger-point than solve problems.”

“What Walker's trying to do -- he's essentially saying that public workers -- teachers, nurses, firefighters -- who didn’t cause this budget crisis … should be blamed for it,” Weingarten told us. “What the governor wants is he wants to take away people's voice, and he doesn’t want anybody to be able to mount a case to defend against that.”

Walker, R-Wis., is trying to break unions under the guise of a budget crunch, Weingarten and her allies argue.

“This is not a budget fight -- he's just trying to stick it to middle-class workers,” she said.

Teachers are being unfairly portrayed as having cushy benefits packages, she said. Unions are ready to work with state and local leaders to ensure accountability in the classrooms, but won’t stand for attempts to malign their profession, she said.

“There is not an epidemic of bad teachers,” Weingarten said. “Frankly, most people go into teaching not because anybody wants to get rich on it, but because people want to make a difference in the life of kids. …”

“We want to step up and take responsibility,” she added. “But ultimately instead of working with us, you know, [New Jersey ]Gov. [Chris] Christie would rather demonize us. And that's just wrong in terms of teachers. We need the public's support. Ultimately we have to be better at what we do, so do parents, so do kids. Because we have to help make sure we help kids succeed in a knowledge economy.”

Also today, we spoke with Tom Golisano, the three-time gubernatorial candidate in New York, about his work with the National Popular Vote campaign.

The effort would drastically change how the Electoral College works, by getting enough states to agree to award their electors to the winner of the national popular vote so as to guarantee that the person with the most votes nation-wide is elected president.

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