Politicians like to drop bad news bombs on Friday afternoons, and last Friday Wisconsin’s Governor Walker dropped a big one: abolishment of collective bargaining rights for all state, county and local government workers. He claims it’s to save money in the budget, but to most of us it’s obviously the fulfillment of a right-wing wet-dream and payback to the corporatists that funded his campaign.
Oddly, this bit of union-busting wouldn’t apply to police, firefighters, or the State Patrol, whose unions were coincidentally Walker supporters. To their credit, the leaders of these unions are standing in solidarity with the teachers and other school staff, road maintenance crews, university workers, building and facility staff, social workers, prison guards, administrative teams, and all the other unionized staff that make our state function. A group of current and former Green Bay Packers players (all union members) also issued a statement of support for public employee unions.
(Disclosure: One of my family members was once a unionized public employee, and a couple of others still are.)
Under Walker’s plan, unions would no longer be allowed to negotiate for anything other than wages, and wage increases would be limited to the official cost of living index. So no negotiation over hours or working conditions, pensions, health care, sick leave or vacation days. Workers would be immediately required to contribute more to their pension plans and health care, effectively cutting their take-home pay by 8%.
As an upwelling of public anger developed over the weekend, Walker turned it into an eruption by playing the “National Guard card.” He said that he briefed the Wisconsin National Guard “in preparation for any problems…”
The area around the state capital in Madison is starting to look like Egypt right now, as angry citizens converge by the tens of thousands – numbers that have grown every day this week. But Walker is dismissing the concerns of “a handful of protesters” while doing the bidding of the monied elites that elected him. He intends to railroad this proposal thru the right-wing legislature (strange behavior for someone who despises railroads) by the end of this week.
This proposal dismantles contracts that have been negotiated in good faith by public workers, who sacrificed wages in order to preserve the benefits that Walker now intends to take away.
I have never met a “rich” union worker (some exist, but I haven’t met any Packers players 🙂 ). Contrary to mythology, most union workers do not make exorbitant salaries, but they do make enough to live comfortably, take care of their health, and save for retirement. I keep hearing right-wing pundits howling about “greedy union workers” and how they make so much more than the rest of us. They should be screaming about how the rest of us aren’t making enough.
Scott Walker now wants to crush the one group of workers that hasn’t already been crushed: public employee unions. After years of starving the treasury through tax cuts, our new right-wing dictator claims the state is too broke to provide a dignified pay and benefits package to the people who make the state function.
For a generation, the wages and benefits of the average worker have been stagnant while the expansion of wealth has been hoarded by those at the top. This latest proposal accelerates that process, which can only lead to a state where a handful of the wealthy elite luxuriate in their lush gated communities, and rule over the rest of us who are left to live in destitution with a toxic and crumbling infrastructure.
That is the vision of right wing Repugnantans like Scott Walker and his rich corporate backers. It is mean-spirited and un-American, and it will condemn the forward-looking people of Wisconsin to live in a third world state.