Some of the Wisconsin politicians who just voted to destroy worker's rights are headed to Washington, D.C., to be showered in money from lobbyists for some of the biggest national and international corporations and banks.
In an interview with the "Fox & Friends" morning show last Sunday, Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald arrogantly dismissed public support for the "Fab 14" Democratic Senators, recycling discredited talking points to deceive the public (and perhaps himself). Here is what Fitzgerald said and why it is wrong.
On the day that the bill passed the Wisconsin Assembly effectively ending 50 years of collective bargaining in Wisconsin and eviscerating the ability of public unions to raise money through dues, a new front opened in the battle for the future of Wisconsin families.
Bagpipes blaring, hundreds of firefighters walked across the street from the Wisconsin Capitol building, stood outside the Marshall and Ilsley Bank (M&I Bank) and played a few tunes -- loudly. Later, a group of firefighter and consumers stopped back in at the bank to make a few transactions. One by one they closed their accounts and withdrew their life savings, totaling approximately $190,000. See a video clip. After the last customer left, the bank quickly closed its doors, just in case the spontaneous "Move Your Money" moment caught fire.
The Wall Street Journal has pointed out what an expensive bureaucratic nightmare it will be for the twenty-person Wisconsin Employee Relations Committee to certify annual elections for the 2,000 unions representing Wisconsin's 200,000 state employees around the state.
According to its newly-minted website, the Advocates "are dedicated to supporting the University of Wisconsin-Madison ... [and] will promote greater accountability through enhanced autonomy for this unique institution." This lobbying effort is similar to efforts afoot in other states to use state budget issues to privatize public higher education institutions and put more assets and power at the disposal of powerful corporate interests.
The lobby shop's PR description closely mirrors the title of the Wisconsin Public Research Institute's December 2010 report titled, "Making the University of Wisconsin More Accountable Through Greater Autonomy." WPRI is heavily funded by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, a right-wing neo-conservative think tank.
Wisconsinites and many across the nation have received a wake-up call in the past two-plus weeks with the labor protests in Madison, in Wisconsin and in the other 49 states.
"This movement is one we will look back on as a brand-new awakening for our nation," said Center for Media and Democracy Executive Director Lisa Graves, speaking as part of a panel on Media and the Wisconsin Labor Struggle. "This awakening has been long in coming and it's going to need to be sustained."
Graves was among the panelists for the free public forum held Thursday night, March 3, at the Orpheum Theater in Madison, and organized by the The Labor & Working Class Studies Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Haven's Center. Graves said the eyes of all have been opened to how little corporations pay in taxes, and how they have shaped the divisive budget debate in Wisconsin and elsewhere.
Cheesehead hats have never been so chic. The foam wedges could be spotted on the heads of people gathered in crowds throughout the U.S. yesterday, as protesters in all 50 states rallied in support of Wisconsin workers. The events were organized by MoveOn.org. Here's a brief roundup of some of the action from across the nation:
In his attack on workers' right to bargain collectively, Scott Walker is diametrically opposing the legacy of former President Ronald Reagan -- the same conservative figure Walker idolized in his prank phone call with a blogger posing as "David Koch."
Reagan understood the importance of unions intimately. He served seven terms as president of a labor union -- the Screen Actors Guild -- during tumultuous years from 1947 to 1952, and again from 1959-1960. Under his tenure, the union became one of the first to require a loyalty oath from its members. As president of SAG, Reagan fought for and won many payment rights for actors during at the time when the popularity of big-screen movies waned due to the advent of television. Under Reagan's presidency, SAG members also won pension and health plans.
Governor Scott Walker's budget repair bill effectively dismantles over 50 years of public sector collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin. While bill supporters have obscured the reasons that hundreds of thousands have been protesting (acting as if the controversy is really about pension and healthcare contributions rather than union-busting, and claiming the fiscal gaps exacerbated by Walker's tax cuts leave the state with no choice but to crush unions), others recognize the attack on collective bargaining rights but nonetheless support it as applied to taxpayer-funded public servants. Should public sector workers be allowed to organize?
It is both ironic and symbolic that Wisconsin's governor is the most visible one leading the way to dismantle workers' rights in the U.S. Wisconsin has been a pioneer in achieving workers's right in America, making Governor Scott Walker's efforts in this state particularly poignant.
In 1959, Wisconsin became the first state in the union to guarantee collective bargaining rights for public employees by enacting a law that protects municipal workers from being fired or otherwise discriminated against for engaging in union-related activities. That law was further strengthened in 1963 to give either the union or the employer the right to call in a "fact finder" to help resolve bargaining disputes. In 1965, Wisconsin's state employees won a limited right to bargain collectively, and those rights were further broadened over the next six years.