Outrage in Wisconsin
A brief summery of what’s going on in Wisconsin. I wrote it awhile back, and forgot to publish it here, so some info is a little old.
Labor unions brought us the weekend.
Labor unions brought us the minimum wage and the eight hour day. But now Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker is trying to take away public workers right to collectively bargain, a right unions have had since 1934
Naturally, Wisconsin has erupted into protest. Protests have occupied the state capital and tens of thousands more have been protesting outside. Walker and the Republicans fought the surge of popular opposition by claiming the bill is the best way to help the Wisconsin budget
The rights of collective bargaining is the only thing that legitimizes labor unions, lets them negotiate with their employers and give the common, blue collar worker a voice. It was finally given in 1934 with the signing of the Wagner Act, after years of often fruitless, often violent strikes and poor working conditions.
Before labor unions pressured employers and the government to require better wages and working conditions, people would work sixty hour weeks on very low wages with no payment for overtime. Child labor was perfectly acceptable, and often preferable, for their hands were small enough to work the machines. People were crammed into small factories filled with deadly machines, and if someone got their arm ripped off, their family was not compensated for the new handicap and inability to work.
Labor unions today help their workers get better benefits, such as pension and healthcare, and ensure their working conditions are acceptable.
In an attempt to get Wisconsin out of its 2.2 billion deficit, Walker asked state employers to accept a 5.8 percent pay cut, and a 12 percent cut on their health care premiums. This on its own is not too egregious, but then came the part about termination collective bargaining rights.
Public sectors workers have been demonized as of late.
Speaker of the House John Boehner said “so be it” after hearing his budget plan would cost 200,000 public sector jobs. Ohio Governor Kaisch was caught on film talking about how the police are just a bunch of “idiots.”
But these public sector workers are not terrible, lazy or greedy people. These are teachers and nurses. They are all right with cutting their benefits for the good of Wisconsin, but there is no chance they will let their collective bargaining rights be cut.
Walker claims he is doing this to help the budget. But refusing to compromise on this bill shows otherwise. He has been offered a compromise, pass the bill with only the benefit cutting part, but he refuses to part with the collective bargaining part, which is coincidentally the part of the bill that will not help the budget. Just because workers have the right to bargain for better benefits does not necessarily mean they will get them. It is just a right, like any other, than needs to be protected.
Because this is an issue dealing with the budget, the Wisconsin senate needs two thirds of the senators in the chamber before it can be brought to a vote. Legally, the Wisconsin National Guard is allowed to round up state senators and force them to go to the state capital when its in session- but their jurisdiction is only within state lines. If the bill can not get brought up to a vote, it can not get passed, so the 14 Democratic Senators, dubbed the “Fab Fourteen” by their supporters have left the state and are thought to be somewhere in Illinois.
Walker has been putting pressure on them, by threatening pay cuts, their jobs, and threatening to fire public workers. These tactics were revealed in a twenty minute long conversation Walker had with a man pretending to be David Koch- the head of the infamous oil company and high powered lobbying firm, Koch Industries. The prank call’s transcript was released on the Internet, and showed how beholden Walker is to the corporate interest groups.
Everyday workers and union supporters have been putting equal pressure on Walker. Just two weeks ago, there were protests across the country, one in every major city, even one here in Atlanta.
Public opinion is one the side of the protestors, a Gallup poll cited that 61% of Americans opposed limits on collective bargaining.
Naturally, every union in the country has come out again Walker’s plan, but the protestors are also getting support from unexpected people. The National Football Federation Player’s Association released this statement: “The NFL Players Association will always support efforts protecting a worker’s right to join a union and collectively bargain. Today, the NFLPA stands in solidarity with its organized labor brothers and sisters in Wisconsin.”
Proof came March 9th that the point of this bill is not to help the Wisconsin budget after all. After empty threats directed the Democratic senators, the Republicans in the state senate found a little loophole. A quorum is only needed if the bill is of a fiscal nature, so they can pass the cutting collective bargaining part separate from the cutting pension part.
But this whole debate was about how cutting collective bargaining was a fiscal issue. So Walker’s plan is not to reason with the Democrats, but instead pass the part of the bill they object to, on a two hour notice.
The part about cutting pensions and pay and healthcare still has not been passed. The Republicans went ahead and ripped the objectionable part out of the bill and passed it on its own. In a political atmosphere where bipartisanship is the major buzzword, this shady political move ca not look good for Scott Walker and the Republicans
More importantly, he has gone against the public opinion and passed this bill in an abrupt manner, exacerbating the issue. Now the major new story out of Wisconsin will be the fights against this bill, and the outrage it has caused. The politicians in Wisconsin have created a nationwide issue that distracts from the major point of the bill in the first place: to ease Wisconsin’s deficit.
This disturbing anti-collective bargaining sentiment seems to be spreading, [x] states, including Ohio are planning to bring such measures to a vote in the future. These attacks on the only power employees have over their employers are worrisome.
Opposition groups are questioning the legality of the bill and the way it was brought to vote, and other groups are starting campaigns trying to recall Governor Walker and major Republican senators.
Hopefully the opposition to this bill can achieve success and properly tell the Republicans that they can not be allowed demonize and hurt the common working family.