State governments taking steps to "abolish" collective bargaining rights for workers is similar to slavery, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) contends.
Speaking Monday at a Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) event about GOP-proposed budget cuts, Rangel brought up Republican governors' plans to target public sector workers, as in the case of Gov. Scott Walker's budget-fix plan in Wisconsin.
“It doesn’t really make any sense at all for the president of the United States to talk about creating jobs in order to improve the economy and find out that mayors and governors are talking about laying off people," Rangel said. "Collective bargaining is something that is so close to slavery in terms of abolishing it, that it is not an American concept to tell people that they cannot discuss their economic position."
Rangel's statement is one of the strongest rebukes of Republican-controlled state governments' efforts to cut spending and go after public-employee unions.
Walker's plan would not entirely abolish collective bargaining for state workers, but it would limit their ability to collectively bargain over everything but wages. The plan does not apply to police, firefighters or state troopers. Walker's proposal would also force workers to pay an increased share of their pension and healthcare benefits.
The budget bill sparked widespread protests from union workers and their supporters that have lasted weeks; state Senate Democrats have fled Wisconsin in protest, preventing the bill from being passed.
Ohio and Indiana have proposed similar plans.
On Tuesday, CBC members blasted congressional Republicans' plans to slash federal spending, calling that a step back for civil rights.
"It's really especially poignant that this year during Black History Month, the Republican leadership has proposed a budget for fiscal year 2011 that will fall most heavily, mind you, on the backs of the most vulnerable in our society: African Americans, Latinos, and poor, those who have been shut of the American dream," said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)
Rangel, who was censured by the House last year for ethics violations, said the GOP has "chutzpah" to support the spending cuts, which he said fall unfairly on the poor.
“In New York, they have a certain expression called 'chutzpah,'" he said. "And I think that it takes a lot of chutzpah to talk about everybody making a sacrifice and targeting just the working people that come from the poorest communities."