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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Time to Shut Down Wisconsin

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has threatened state workers with layoffs if the 14 self exiled Democratic Senators do not return to the state senate so that he can pass a bill removing collective bargaining rights for unions who did not support his campaign for Governor. Walker indicated he would lay off 1500 workers as soon as next month, unless his demands are met.

Governor Walker and other recently elected Republican Governors from New Jersey, Michigan and Ohio have sought to reduce or eliminate collective bargaining rights for public sector unions since being elected in November. The Governors claim that they are doing this to try to relieve state fiscal deficits, although it is clear that taking away collective bargaining rights will only lessen the ability of union members to negotiate, not reduce the deficit. Notably, many unions have agreed to increasing contributions to pensions and benefits and some have agreed to pay cuts. As a result, the unions see this as nothing more then a ploy to weaken the political power of the unions who require dues from their members and usually endorse Democratic candidates.

Case in point: Governor Walker of Wisconsin received heavy support during his campaign from the extreme right wing billionaire Koch brothers of Kansas. The Koch brothers are ardently against unions of all types as they unabashedly state on the web site for their front group, “Americans for Prosperity .” They are both ranked 24th on the list of wealthiest Americans, worth an estimated $17.5 Billion. That money helped get Walker elected and he is doing his best to eradicate the unions even though polls in Wisconsin show he does not have the support of the people on ending collective bargaining rights.

The middle class has been losing ground for the last twenty years: 2001-2006 saw the first economic expansion in US history where the middle class saw no rise in income. Then in 2008, the economy collapsed with the middle class and working poor being the main victims. Factor in outsourcing for cheaper labor overseas and it’s not hard to see why our middle class is quickly fading away. For many working Americans the only weapon they have against these societal shifts are their numbers and their ability to act together to ask for better pay and benefits. In other words, the unions. The unions also provide political clout because they represent voting blocks that can pool money to support friendly candidates. Less then 10 % of all American workers are currently unionized down from 23% during the 70s. The decline of unions saw a corresponding decline in middle class incomes.

Republicans have used the economic crisis (caused by millionaire and billionaire bankers) as a pretext to weaken the ability of workers to negotiate better pay and benefits and to frustrate union efforts to get politicians elected who will look out for their interest. This is nothing more than an attack on the middle class, a middle class already under siege as a result of poor economic decisions on the national level by the previous Republican administration.

So, should the union members stand by and allow these threatened layoffs to happen or should they take action? For too long many union members felt the Republican Party was sympathetic to their plight and would help them “get the Government off their back.” Of course the reality is that for most middle class people Government programs like Social Security and Medicare have been a godsend that have lifted millions of Americans out of poverty. The idea of a Government “encroaching on our freedom” is something rich people say to avoid paying taxes; it is irrelevant to the middle class who benefit greatly not only from Social Security and Medicare, but also from education loans for college and the public school system.

No doubt many union members are now realizing the hostility of the Republican Party toward regular citizens having a voice politically and economically. The Governor is threatening lay offs if he does not succeed in doing away with collective bargaining rights. Why not show him the power of people and shut down the state? Let him see how the working people of Wisconsin feel about his taking away their basic right as Americans to negotiate higher wages to support their families. Every public sector worker should go on strike if the Governor goes ahead with the layoffs. In addition, every private sector worker should go on strike in solidarity. Shut down the state. Show the people of Wisconsin that this attack on the middle class is unacceptable. Then maybe Walker and other state Governors will learn the value of the middle class.

Consider the hypocrisy of the Republican Party: they insisted on extending the tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires but now ask teachers and cops to make sacrifices. The current budget proposal from the Republicans in the House cuts distribution of food and milk to single mothers-yet they are unwilling to end subsidies to the oil companies who make record profits. The middle class needs to make a stand now, or it will only get worse. Shut down Wisconsin.

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1 Comments :

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August 5, 2016 at 1:53 AM  

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