FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

All Out War on Workers’ Rights in Wisconsin!

Republicans in Wisconsin, after a fresh set of tax giveaways to corporations and limits on liability in a special session of the legislature this week have decided to go for the whole bratwurst and devour all public sector unions in one big gulp.  Fueled by worker distress, Tea Party bluster, and big corporate donors, the governors of New Jersey and Wisconsin are engaged in a kind of tailgating “competitive eating” contest to see which can be the most anti teacher and anti public employee.  These governors are feeding at the trough of American angst created by the economic crisis, the bullhorns on Fox News and shout radio.  Rollbacks of labor rights and cuts in health care for the poor and elderly are on offer for the red meat crowd that wants someone to pay for their own distress.

The “fat dude,” Chris Christie, who fills out a suit like a Usinger’s sausage casing, had the early lead in feeding, but had a head start over Wisconsin’s Governor, taking power in 2009.  Wisconsin’s Governor, Scott Walker, the “thin guy,” has deceptively Takeru Kobayashi-like competitive eating skills, and has quickly overtaken Christie in feeding at the grill of austerity and union busting.  Yet, Walker may have now overreached as workers across the state unite to oppose his proposal with massive rallies in Madison and talk of a state-wide strike.

The bill, which has united unions across the state, would:

limit collective bargaining to wages which would be capped at the inflation rate prohibit employers from collecting union dues require yearly votes on certification of all local unions require all state employees to pay 12.6 per cent of their health plan and 5.8 per cent of their pension deny all University of Wisconsin employees bargaining rights on working conditions and benefits

The budget fix also privatizes state-owned power plants that will leave taxpayers with a long-term bill and allows massive cuts in health care for seniors and the poor by shifting decision making over Medicare from elected representatives to the Governor’s office.

This week is a critical week in United States labor history as conservative unions like the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) who have traditionally stuck to bread and butter unionism, are now are faced with a threat to their very existence.  This week’s struggle will test if they are up for the fight of their lives.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s largest city, was once the world’s high tech and high wage leader, as recently as the 1970’s.  This was enabled by a tradition of clean government, solid infrastructure, trade unionism and a world class educational system otherwise known as Sewer Socialism and the Wisconsin Idea.  Oh, how Milwaukee has fallen.  Now the city has the dubious distinction of being one of the four poorest large cities in the US.  How did we get here?  In short, by implementing the policies of Republicans Ronald Reagan and former Governor Tommy Thompson.

Now Scott Walker is reprising the off key tune of his American Idols.  Instead of the serious industrial policies of US competitors, China and Germany, Reagan and Thompson offered a bubble gum pop chorus of lower taxes, deregulation, free trade, small government and whistling “always look on the bright side of life.”  As the United States declined Reagan assured us it was “morning in America”.  Channeling his hero Walker now breezily announces Wisconsin is “open for business,” as a substitute for serious economic policies.

Painting by numbers Scott Walker is following the Gipper’s first stroke, taking on labor.  But Walker’s PATCO moment (the busting of the Air Traffic Controller’s union) may be an overreach.  Walker, the George Babbitt of our times, may find that following Reagan and Thompson’s recipe produces different results today. After 30 years of economic decline workers in the United States are recognizing the bankruptcy of these policies and are fighting back.

CHRISTOPHER FONS is a Social Studies teacher in Milwaukee and a member of the Milwaukee Teacher’s Education Association (MTEA). He can be reached at fonsca@gmail.com

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail