Sourced from: AlterNet
The Uprising that Began in Wisconsin Is Going Nationwide — Follow the Latest Developments Here
The drama unfolding in Wisconsin is now in its second week, and as tens of thousands of workers and their supporters ring the state’s capitol expressing outrage over Union-busting Republican Governor Scott Walker’s bill, the impasse doesn’t appear to be headed towards a resolution anytime soon. AlterNet is staying on top of this momentous story, and here are the latest developments.
Update (by AlterNet staff): “Existential struggle”
A New York Times editorial calls the protests in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio an “existential struggle” between organized labor and conservatives trying to decimate a major force behind Democratic victories and a hindrance to the right-wing agenda.
The piece points out that in the past, conservative politicians in states with strong unions have generally left them alone, but that “changed this year after wealthy conservatives poured tens of millions of dollars into the election campaigns of hard-right candidates like Mr. Kasich and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin.” These include the right-wing billionaire Koch brothers, as Adele Stan reported on AlterNet.
If the stand-off were really about the states’ budget woes, the piece points out, Gov. Scott Walker would have agreed to negotiate by now — union leaders have offered a ton of concessions, including using up more of workers’ wages for pension costs and upping their health insurance payments. But Walker refuses to negotiate. The NYT concludes:
His true priority is stripping workers of collective-bargaining rights and reducing their unions to a shell. The unions would no longer be able to raise money to oppose him, as they did in last year’s election, easing the way for future Republicans as well.
The game is up when unionized state workers demonstrate a sense of shared sacrifice but Republican lawmakers won’t even allow them a seat at the table. For unions and Democrats in the Midwest, this is an existential struggle, and it is one worth waging.
Update (by AlterNet staff): Speaking of right-wing billionaires trying to destroy organized labor … Americans for Prosperity, the right-wing group founded and partly funded by the Koch brothers, is blanketing Wisconsin airwaves with a new ad demonizing teachers and other public employees and slamming Democratic lawmakers who left the state to block a quorum on the anti-union legislation. The AFP blog brags that the group spent $342,200 on the ad buy; it will run both on network and cable TV.
Update: Alex Pareene sums up our own feelings at Salon:
Tonight, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker had a “fireside chat” to dismiss the claims of protesting Wisconsin public employees and the millions of Americans who sympathize with them in their fight to retain collective-bargaining rights.
Walker warned that outside agitators were being shipped in from Nevada and Chicago. He claimed that his union-busting bill was aimed purely at deficit reduction, and not intended as a “battle with unions.” If he’d meant to cripple unions, he said, “we would have eliminated collective bargaining entirely or we would have gone after the private-sector unions.”
“Our bill is about protecting the hardworking taxpayer,” he said. “Unless the taxpayer is a teacher,” he didn’t add. “It’s about Wisconsin families trying to make ends meet and help their children,” he said. “Although I have no idea how any specific family will be helped by depriving state employees of the right to negotiate for benefits,” he also didn’t add.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, spent three hours greeting workers and union members who gathered in 26 degree temperatures around the Ohio State Capitol to protect their right to organize. He called it, “a defining moment in the history of our state that will determine the rights of workers for years to come.”
“The hundreds of workers who I personally spoke to feel betrayed. The federal government has no hesitation to hand out billions to Wall Street, but when it comes to workers there is an effort in Ohio and other states to destroy the right to bargain collectively,” said Kucinich.
“This is the beginning of a long and drawn out battle between state government’s corporate philosophy and the workers,” added Kucinich. “I am proud to stand on the side of the workers.”
Economist Dean Baker destroys WaPo columnist (and former Bush speechwriter) Michael Gerson’s anti-union spin:
On the Washington Post opinion pages you can make up anything you like as long as you are using it in an argument against working people. Therefore we get columnist Michael Gerson telling readers that:
“…public employee unions have the unique power to help pick pliant negotiating partners – by using compulsory dues to elect friendly politicians.”
Nope, that is not true in this country. Unions are prohibited from using dues to pay for campaign contributions. (If Mr. Gerson knows of any violations of the law, I’m sure that there are many ambitious prosecutors who would be happy to hear his evidence.) Unions do make contributions to political campaigns, but these are from voluntary contributions that workers make to their union’s PAC. They are not from their union dues.
As Barry Goldwater once said, “making things up in the service of the wealthy is no vice,” or something like that.
Emily Loftus at Mother Jones reports that Indiana’s GOP-dominated state senate passed a measure stripping teachers of their right to bargain collectively. As is the case in Wisconsin, Democratic lawmakers in the House have fled the state to deny Republicans a quorum to vote on the matter — are in an “indefinite” caucus meeting.
The billionaire Koch brothers — major funders of the Tea Parties, Scott Walker’s campaign and much of the Right’s infrastructure — have “quietly” opened a lobbying shop in downtown Madison, according to The Capital Times.
Scott Walker is pushing a hard-right agenda, and the one thing he’s said that is accurate is that this should come as no surprise to anyone who paid attention during his campaign.
David Dayen at Firedoglake noted this today:
I got a sense from Sen. Chris Larson and some others in Wisconsin that the Governor and his Republican allies had run amok in the Capitol before attention was paid to their machinations due to the assault on public workers. But I didn’t realize how bad it was until I saw this come across the transom:
Madison – Today, Governor Scott Walker signed Special Session Assembly Bill 5 which requires a 2/3s vote to pass tax rate increases on the income, sales or franchise taxes.
“I went to work today, met with my cabinet, and signed legislation that will help government operate within its means,” Governor Scott Walker said.
These proposals, which I wrote about in November, allow a minority to hold state legislatures hostage. Law-makers can’t raise taxes when necessary, so they are forced to cut — it’s a method of entrenching conservative policies and making elections moot.
In other words, Walker has already destroyed Wisconsin state government for a generation to come. We learned that the hard way here in California.
According to a new USA Today/ Gallup poll, 61 percent of respondents oppose limits on union bargaining power.
CNN estimates 10-15,000 protesters in Columbus, Ohio. There are reportedly 1,500 at a protest in Canton.
Via Twitter, Matt Stoller sends this pic of a demo he describes as a “Fairly large block-long Cheesehead rally outside Fox News” headquarters in New York:
Let’s talk numbers. The National Institute for Retirement Security conducted a study (PDF) using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and came up with this finding:
Benefits make up a slightly larger share of compensation for the state and local sector. But even after accounting for the value of retirement, healthcare, and other benefits, state and local employees earn less than private sector counterparts. On average, total compensation is 6.8% lower for state employees and 7.4% lower for local employees than for comparable private sector employees.
The Economic Policy Institute put out a fact-sheet last week (PDF) that noted that wages in the public sector has grown more slowly than it has for comparable workers in the private:
The total growth of inflation-adjusted wages for high school educated workers in the private sector between 1989 and 2010 was 4.8%, slightly faster than the 2.6% wage growth for comparable public employees. This means that inflation-adjusted wages have been essentially flat for two decades for high school educated workers regardless of sector. In contrast, productivity growth, reflecting the increase in the economy’s overall gains, grew 62.5% in the 1989-2010 period.
For those with a bachelor’s degree (but no further education), inflation-adjusted wages grew by 19.5% in the private sector from 1989 to 2010, far more than the 9.5% growth seen by state employees
A common refrain from people wishing to destroy public employees’ unions is that their workers are ‘demanding more from the tax-payers.’ It’s a testament to how confused the Right is about the role of government.
Public employees are not demanding anything from “the taxpayer.” They are workers demanding fair wages from their bosses.
We live in a democracy, and tax-payers get to participate by voting. If, for example, one doesn’t like our public education system, one can vote for a representative who shares his or her view on the subject.
However, a sizable majority of Americans do want a decent public school system. It’s a democracy, so we’ll have public schools. That’s the end of the role of the tax-payer in this story.
Now, our schools need to hire teachers, and those teachers are workers, and our school system is their employer. They’re not making any demands on the tax-payer — the tax-payers role was deciding to have public education in the first place. And the same can be said of garbage collection, law enforcement or anything else the public sector does.
Nationwide protests are scheduled for this Saturday to fight back against balancing the budget on the backs of working people while corporate America shelters hundreds of billions in potential tax revenues. Find out more at US Uncut.
Over at the HuffPo, Van Jones argues that we may be seeing the emergence of a new movement centered on social and economic justice.
Reinvigorated by the idealism and fighting spirit on display right now in America’s heartland, the movement for “hope and change” has a rare, second chance. It can renew itself and become again a national force with which to be reckoned.
Over the next hours and days, all who love this country need to do everything possible to spread the “spirit of Madison” to all 50 states. This does not mean we need to occupy 50 state capitol buildings; things elsewhere are not yet that dire. But this weekend, the best of America should rally on the steps of every statehouse in the union.
On Saturday, the powers-that-be (in both parties) should see a rainbow force coming together: organized workers, business leaders, veterans, students and youth, faith leaders, civil rights fighters, women’s rights champions, immigrant rights defenders, LGBTQ stalwarts, environmentalists, academics, artists, celebrities, community activists, elected officials and more — all standing up for what’s right.
Here’s The Uptake on Scott Walker threatening layoffs if he doesn’t get his way today:
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said today if his proposal to eliminate collective bargaining on all issues but pay does not become law, Wisconsin will need to layoff 1,500 state employees. As Walker spoke to the media, thousands of protesters converged on the Capitol, eventually becoming so loud that they could be heard where the Governor was.
Walker said there was “no room for compromise” on the collective bargaining issue. “We’re broke”, said Walker.
Read on to see how mendacious this claim really is — the state isn’t broke and stripping workers of their right to negotiate would result in insignificant savings for the state budget.
The United States’ last general strike — with workers from different industries all walking out at once — occurred in 1934. They’re illegal under the Taft-Hartley Act enacted in the 1940s.
But last night, the Madison AFL-CIO local issued a press release raising that possibility:
Motion 1: The SCFL endorses a general strike, possibly for the day Walker signs his “budget repair bill,” and requests the Education Committee immediately begin educating affiliates and members on the organization and function of a general strike.
Motion 2: The SCFL goes on record as opposing all provisions contained in Walker’s “budget repair bill,” including but not limited to, curtailed bargaining rights and reduced wages, benefits, pensions, funding for public education, changes to medical assistance programs, and politicization of state government agencies.
Mike Elk notes that because of Taft-Hartley, “the key word is the phrase ‘begin educating affiliates and members on the organization and function of a general strike’.
Many private sector unions would not go out on a general strike out of fear of being of sued by their employers. However, local labor observers say many public sector unions and some of the construction unions would go out on a strike. Threatening a general strike creates even more pressure for Scott Walker in the business community.
A major protest is being organized in Columbus, Ohio this afternoon. Ohio Dems:
Now is the time. If ever there was a time to show up, stand up and let our voices be heard, it is now. The fate of Ohio’s middle class is on the line at the Ohio Statehouse.
[Today,] the legislature is scheduled to move on Senate Bill 5, a bill that would strip away collective bargaining rights, hurt the middle class, kill jobs and destroy communities. I want to invite you to come to the Statehouse in Columbus on Tuesday to voice your opposition to this bill. Please click here and let us know that you can attend.
It’s day 2 of labor’s show-down against “right to work for lower wages” legislation in Indiana. As they have in Wisconsin, Democratic lawmakers have left the state to prevent a vote. According to the Indianapolis Star-Tribune, Democrats are headed to Illinois, though it was possible some also might go to Kentucky.
They need to go to a state with a Democratic governor to avoid being taken into police custody and returned to Indiana.