Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Battle of Wisconsin

Well, that's that. The Wisconsin Senate Republicans used a possibly illegal parliamentary maneuver to break the gridlock over the issue of public workers rights and passed a bill which restricts the collective bargaining rights of  public sector workers. Scott Walker looks like he may have a win. For now. I am positive that if this change becomes law that Wisconsin will become a virtual new Eden of economic development as businesses fall over themselves to move to a state with weakened public sector unions who gave up money and rights to lure these companies there. I mean low wages and weak unions are the stepping stones to prosperity, right?

In an 18-to-1 vote, the Senate Republicans approved the restrictions on collective bargaining.
Republican Sen. Dale Schultz, the lone no vote, warned his GOP colleagues: "This issue is not going away."
"In 30 minutes, 18 state senators un-did 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin. Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten," Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller said. Miller and other Senate members said they would now be coming back to the state and continuing the fight.

The Senate bill severely restricts collective bargaining for tends of thousands of the state's public worker unions and increases their health care and pension contributions.
The measure has prompted massive demonstrations in the state capital by the bill's opponents and triggered a wave of recall campaigns targeting both the governor's supporters and opponents in the legislature.

On Wednesday night in the Capitol, the ground floor and first floor appeared nearly as full as they were during the first days of the demonstrations more than three weeks ago, and protesters stayed in the Capitol overnight, defiantly chanting "recall" and "Whose house? Our house!"
Outside the Assembly chamber, Barca allowed protesters to fill out forms listing themselves as witnesses to a violation of the state's open meetings laws, stemming from the Republicans' earlier conference committee meeting. 

Let's be honest about this and drop the niceties for one moment. I know that there are reasonable people on both sides of the spectrum. I know and work with a great many honorable and decent Republican leaning people. I don't think they strangle puppies and foreclose on widows before breakfast-at least not all of them.

But make no mistake, the modern Republican Party has one overarching purpose that unites it and that is a war against working people. They want cheap labor with no restrictions on business, the wealthy and the powerful. That's it.

The other goals which are popular among some subgroups among the Republicans-immigration restrictionism, creationism, libertarian fundamentalism, anti-abortion activism, neo-con war mongering, scaring white people about all the fertile non-whites, increasing the police and warfare state powers, telling Christians that gays are out there being gay, while getting their opponents hot and bothered are simply not as important to the Republican leadership as ensuring that the rich and connected can do what they want, when they want and how they want while getting richer and more connected. This is why Republicans mount ongoing attacks on any institution which does not serve or is not dominated by the wealthy. Unions are front and center. Republicans have to struggle to say anything nice about unions because fundamentally Republicans and their corporate bosses simply do not believe that unions have the right to exist.

Unions are bad for you. Trust me on this.
The ultimate goal for many conservatives is to reverse the entire past century of union struggle and government spending and protections directed at middle class/lower class people. No matter what the issue is - food safety, oil drilling regulations, discrimination, manufacturing, workplace safety regulations, the ability to sue for damages, protection from police abuse, cash and food subsidies for the poor and /or disabled, the ability for non-property owners to vote, social security and yes the ability of workers to organize and agitate for better working conditions and pay- it's a pretty safe bet that conservatives will be found arguing that the market knows best, anyone harmed should just get over it,  there should be no restriction on the ability of the corporation or employer to act as it pleases and government shouldn't protect people.

There's no shame in their game. They created a crisis and moved to exploit it. This time though they may have bitten off more than they can chew. It's up to the people of Wisconsin to make sure that Walker and his friends are recalled or pay the price at the polls. It's up to the rest of us to look in our own states and decide what we can live with. Governor Walker is hardly an outlier-though he may be an out and out liar.

If you work for someone else for a living, if you have a net worth of less than $1 million, if you know people whose salary is calculated in a two digit hourly rate, if you know what the minimum wage is, if an unexpected car repair messes up your budget for the next 3-6 months, if you financially could not afford to take a few years off from your position, the Republicans are not on your side. It's that simple.

The only question left is which side are you on?

Questions: Is this the beginning of the end for public sector unions? Will this energize the middle class and working class to throw out the Republicans in 2012? Why did the people of Wisconsin vote Walker into office if NOT to do this? Do you think that restricting or eliminating public sector unions is a good idea?  Will everyone have forgotten about this in a year or so?
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