Can he talk his way out of this? (photo: via Flickr)

Scott Walker has been threatening public workers with layoff notices for a solid week, so another threat isn’t surprising. This time the deadline is tomorrow. Before it was last Friday. And then Tuesday.

So what is surprising? That there’s talk of compromise in the air.

Walker says he’s also negotiating with Senate Democrats to get them to return and vote on the bill. The 14 senators left town two weeks ago to avoid voting on the measure.

Walker says he won’t concede on the collective bargaining issue, but he may on others.

A tweet from the chief of the editorial board for the Wisconsin State Journal adds that union re-certification and dues in paychecks are “on the table.”

This is a significant pullback, actually, though I don’t think it’ll be enough for the unions. Let’s explain. The budget repair bill didn’t only strip collective bargaining rights from public employees. It set up a process where the unions would almost certainly be destroyed. Under the bill, the union would have to be re-certified by its members every year. It’s hard to understand why members would re-certify their union if they couldn’t bargain over anything but a narrow band on wages up to the Consumer Price Index. In addition, the bill would allow workers to drop their union dues if they chose. Again, if the union cannot fully bargain on your behalf, I don’t see why anyone would pay for the privilege of membership. This would have drained the unions of funds, and eventually, of members. It was the real reason behind the bill.

And now, Walker says he’s wavering on those pieces. This issue has escalated, and he’s trying to figure out a way to get a deal without giving up on stripping collective bargaining. It’s good to see re-certification and dues in paychecks possibly go away, but I’m guessing the unions will say no deal unless they retain the right to collectively bargain.

Still, who’s showing weakness now? Indeed, in a separate tweet from the head of the Wisconsin State Journal, Walker acknowledged he would probably go to bid on the sale of state-owned power plants. Again, a little slippage there, as the bill allows for no-bid contracts.

Senate Republicans continue to try and strong-arm the Democrats, finding them in contempt of the legislature and putting the state patrol out to detain them. Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Police Professionals Association, had another memorable quote about that: “Politics aside, encouraging the forcible detention of duly elected lawmakers because they won’t allow you to dictate with a free hand is an unreasonable
abuse of police power. Due to the fact that Wisconsin officers lack any jurisdiction across state lines, does Senator Fitzgerald intend to establish a lawmaker border patrol?”

But behind the scenes, Walker feels like he needs to make a deal. His political capital is slipping away. Democrats ought to be adamant here. When your opponent’s in trouble, throw him an anvil.