Depending on which side is speaking, this is either a noble and necessary effort to return the state to fiscal sanity or a devious plot to break the unions.
If you listen to what the union supporters say, they give everything to work on behalf of the citizens, they 'sacrifice,' they're the only middle class and they've given concessions to help the situation. They also say that making them pay a portion of their pensions and a portion of their health insurance costs is 'unfair.'
But the main issue - the one that I believe is really motivating the unions (not the members, specifically) to protest is that their income is on the line. It's the money, stupid.
Now, you've probably not heard about these provisions in the proposed law:
1) The proposal to remove the requirement for state employees to belong to a union. No longer would a state employee have to join a union upon getting a job with the state. They could join, but they wouldn't have to.
2) The proposal to eliminate automatic deductions from paychecks for union dues. In most government sectors with unions, the dues are deducted from the employee paycheck and forwarded directly to the union by the governmental entity. If the law passes, employees will have to pay the union directly - after they cash their paychecks.
3) The proposal to require an annual vote to maintain a union's certification with it members. The current members of the bargaining union would be able to decide yearly if they want the union to continue representing them.
In looking at all three of these proposals, they could have a dramatic effect on union coffers. Many people would choose to join a union, but a significant portion wouldn't. If you had to actually write a check to the union instead of letting your employer take it from you before you even see it, are you going to be more or less likely to pay - and then monitor how your money is being spent? And if you could vote - every year - on whether or not you wanted a union to represent you, imagine how responsive that union would have to be to continue to earn your support, especially when any number of other unions could vie for your attention. If they didn't do a good job, they'd lose you (and everyone else) as dues-paying members.
I believe the real reasons the unions are mobilizing so strongly isn't because of terms they could negotiate - like pension and health care contributions - but because their bottom line is at risk.
This isn't really about representing their members. If it really were about the 'all for one' approach, no union would accept layoffs for some in order to keep wage rates for the remaining. But that's something they do regularly - especially in the public sector. They willingly sacrifice the jobs of some of their members in order to maintain what we now know are unsustainable compensation levels for the remaining.
And when union members realize that the union which claims to be working on their behalf is really working on its own behalf, such laws as Wisconsin is proposing will be the least of their worries.
***Sidenote: According to this summary of the Governor's proposal, the collective bargaining proposals do NOT apply to all unions:
Makes various changes to limit collective bargaining for most public employees to wages. Total wage increases could not exceed a cap based on inflation unless approved by referendum. Contracts would be limited to one year and wages would be frozen until a new contract is settled. Collective bargaining units are required to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union. Employers would be prohibited from collecting union dues, and members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues. Changes would be effective upon expiration of existing contracts. Law enforcement, fire employees and state troopers and inspectors would be exempt from the changes. (emphasis added)