Friday, February 18, 2011

The Sound Of One Shoe Dropping

I've long been mystified at the passivity of the middle class as a great deal of their safety net has been shredded. Lost jobs, lost homes, lost pensions: nothing seemed to penetrate their consciousness. Well, that passivity just might be ending, at least in one unlikely place -- Wisconsin.

The new Republican governor of that state, Scott Walker, demanded a bill that would end collective bargaining rights for most public employees (he exempted police, fire fighters, and state troopers). The rationale given by Walker was that healthcare and pension costs were killing state and local budgets. As the state legislature, now controlled by Republicans, met to do the governor's bidding, a goodly amount of hell broke loose in the state's capital, Madison. Union members and their supporters converged on the city. More than 20,000 protesters showed up on Thursday, with a promise of even more due to arrive on Friday. At the same time, 14 key players left the city and the state.

The biggest crowds of the week squeezed into the Capitol on Thursday, shouting down the state Senate president as he tried to start the session. Thousands more gathered outside, their cries echoing off the building's stone walls well into Thursday night. During the day, 15 school districts in the state closed because teachers were at the protests.

Before the expected vote on Walker's proposal, all 14 Democratic senators fled, leaving Republicans one senator short of a quorum. The Senate adjourned without debating the bill.

What is so amazing about the protest, which included not only the affected unions but also sympathizers from unions not affected (many from the private sector), is that a goodly number of the participants in all likelihood actually voted for Walker and the Republicans in the state legislature. It hadn't dawned on them that they were as likely a target for getting screwed as their poorer and darker skinned neighbors. When that realization was forced on them, they finally got the message and then got angry.

If the governor's proposal was really about cutting costs, he would have done what Arnold Schwarzenegger did in California. He would have called each of the unions into his office and negotiated contracts which reduced pension and other benefit costs for new hires. But that apparently isn't Governor Walker's style. He ruled out negotiating with unions right from the start. That's when it became clear that his real intention was to bust unions, especially those representing state workers.

That was obvious to anyone with a brain:

...observers said Walker's proposals went beyond immediate cost savings.

"What's going on in Wisconsin is not simply an attempt to adjust the benefits or co-pays or health plans," said Theda Skocpol, a political science professor at Harvard University. "It's an attempt to bust the unions."

Even President "No Drama" Obama recognized the M.O.:

"Some of what I've heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you're just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain, generally seems like more of an assault on unions," Obama said. "And I think it's very important for us to understand that public employees, they're our neighbors, they're our friends."

And that's what enraged the hardhats and teachers, the cops and fire fighters, the clerks at the DMV and the truck drivers. This wasn't about saving money. It was about denying them, the middle class, of a pretty basic right.

Welcome to our world, the one in which the sky is blue.

Now, to my friends and relatives in Wisconsin: keep at it. Don't give up. Your cause is just. Don't retreat. Keep showing up and exercising another pretty basic right, one that the Constitution guarantees. You are carrying the banner for all of us.

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Blogger Hecate said...


5:22 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

Very few teachers voted for SW, but by comparison, police voted/supported/donated him in droves, and strangely enough their pensions are safe.

10:58 AM  
Anonymous darms said...

Another 'oh sh*t' in Walker's bill. Crony sales of publicly-owned power plants to (of course) the Koch bastards.

"16.896 Sale or contractual operation of state−owned heating, cooling, and power plants. (1) Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state−owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b)."

9:56 PM  
Anonymous Kid sis said...

and today's news of his comments on a phone call with who he thought was one of the nation's billionaires showed more of his arrogance! Hang in there Wisconsin! Keep up the good fight!

7:53 PM  

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