- It was reminiscent of November 22, 2000 Florida, outside
the Miami-Dade County Canvassing Board offices when dozens of imported
Bush-Cheney ruffians rampaged through Miami's County Hall, disrupting the
recount of about 10,000 undervotes, ballots with no presidential choice
- They assaulted Democrat party representatives, near rioted,
and succeeded in halting the process. As a result, hundreds of Gore-Lieberman
votes weren't counted in largely Democrat Dade County.
- Fraud, intimidation and ties to big money infest US politics.
Washington's criminal class is bipartisan, but Republicans are especially
brazen. Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker matches the worst of his Capitol
Hill counterparts. Likely he's been chosen for his role and was directed
by party bosses to wage open warfare on labor rights, the same scheme playing
out across America, including by Democrats, many as extremist as Republicans
at a time working people are being hammered relentlessly.
- Target one is America's middle class, headed for extinction
by decades of wealth shifts to super-rich elites, millions of high-pay/good
benefit jobs offshored to cheap labor markets, and unions earmarked for
elimination - policies Washington's duopoly endorses.
- Outside the beltway, Wisconsin is ground zero, but anger
is spreading and may erupt anywhere at a time workers are struggling to
save hard-won labor rights, targeted for elimination. As Wisconsin goes,
so goes America perhaps.
- The stakes are that high. Bipartisan complicity is involved.
So are union bosses tied to corporate interests against their own rank
and file, concerned only for their own welfare and self-enrichment. For
decades, they betrayed their loyal members, functioning as wealth and power
instruments, not legitimate labor leaders the way early organizers envisioned.
- Reports from the Scene
- On February 20, Milwaukee's Journal Sentinel headlined,
"Biggest protests yet as pro-Walker side, larger union crowd meet
peacefully." Well, mostly. One Tea Party announcement said: "bring
cleaning supplies to clean up the pigsty the liberal union goons left behind
at OUR house."
- Overwhelmingly against them were teachers, students,
police, firemen, other public service workers, and many private sector
ones, knowing their own rights are at stake.
- Against them were pro-Walker supporters brought in by
influential extremist groups like Americans for Prosperity, the billionaire
Koch brothers (David and Charles), Freedom Works (chaired by former Republican
House majority leader Dick Armey), and other right-wing organizations,
with America's major media providing anti-worker coverage.
- According to Media Matters, right-wing media, especially
TV, "characterized the protests as 'riots' and 'uprisings' and attacked
the protesters as 'thugs' who could 'get violent.' " In fact, they're
working class Americans, teachers, professors, students, police, firefighters,
nurses, and supportive spouses, united in solidarity for decent jobs, a
living wage, essential benefits, and a secure retirement. Throughout days
of protests, they've been resolute and peaceful, showing remarkable restraint
despite an all-out assault on their rights.
- Walker wants to double their out-of-pocket contributions
to healthcare and pensions, amounting to an eight to 20% haircut by most
estimates. Most disturbing, however, would be loss of collective bargaining
rights, indexing pay raises to the grossly understated CPI index, and giving
Walker emergency powers to fire workers unilaterally.
- On February 19, Milwaukee's Journal Sentinel reported
"no political compromise in sight," writers Bill Glauber and
Don Walker headlining, "Struggle could change the way government does
business with its employees," saying:
- At issue is "nothing less than a defining moment
for organized labor in America." It's a national battle pitting rank
and file workers against politicians, corrupt union bosses, and big money,
"an epic struggle" to save hard-won worker rights on the chopping
block for elimination.
- Wisconsin's Historic Significance
- Ironically, Wisconsin is AFSCME's birthplace - the American
Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, representing a diverse
group of 1.6 million public employees.
- It's also where government workers, in 1959, first gained
collective bargaining rights, three years before federal ones. Today's
conditions are far different. States across the country claim budget shortfalls
require painful choices on the backs of working people, not elitists getting
- As a result, workforces are being slashed and benefits
cut, including wages, healthcare, Medicaid and other help for the nation's
poor. Everything's up for grabs for reductions or elimination in a ruthless
race to the bottom at a time America's super-rich get more than ever, thanks
to bipartisan policies favoring them at the expense of most people losing
- According to Cornell University Labor Studies Professor
- "Attempting to dramatically change the laws and
the way collective bargaining is handled will be noticed in Wisconsin.
It's happening there. It's happening in Ohio. Even in New York" with
a Democrat governor and legislature. "This is the first time we've
seen such a widespread thing to seek concessionary bargaining in the public
sector (to) roll back" important rights.
- As a result, they're literally on the line. At stake
is losing them entirely with Walker spearheading the assault, a Republican-chosen
- On February 19, New York Times writers Monica Davey and
AG Sulzberger (son of Times publisher Arthur Punch Sulzberger, Jr.) said
"Republicans waited in frustration, Democratic senators showed no
inclination to return and Mr. Walker put off the release of his budget
proposal (until March 1), with no end to the battle in sight."
- In a separate article, Davey headlined, "For Wisconsin
Governor, Battle Was Long Coming," saying:
- Angry protesters demand his recall, "calling him
a bully and likening him to Scrooge, Hosni Mubarak, even Hitler. (He's)
become a national figure," a lightening-rod, "the man who set
off a storm of protest, now spreading to other states..."
- "Critics and supporters alike say Mr. Walker has
never strayed from his (political) approach....pressing for austerity,
and never blinking or apologizing for his lightening-rod proposals."
- He's unabashedly pro-business, anti-labor, and, like
all politicians, beholden to big money backers. According to Democrat Senator
- "Unions have always been his pinata, over and over.
And this time I think he's trying to out-right-wing the right wing on his
way to the next lily pad."
- Unfazed, Walker said he's "not going to be intimidated,
particularly by people from other places." Within days of taking office,
he hung a sign on his office doorknob saying: "Wisconsin is open for
business," meaning he's brazenly pro-business/anti-labor.
- Straightaway, he and state lawmakers passed $117 million
in mostly business tax breaks, exacerbating state budget problems. Moreover,
according to Democrat party spokesman Graeme Zielinski:
- He's "a hard-right partisan who does not negotiate,
does not compromise. He is totally modeled after a slash-and-burn, scorched-earth
approach that has never existed here before."
- Clearly he was chosen for his role to ram through harshness
to be replicated nationally. Last fall he was preparing. Before taking
office, he urged Republican lawmakers not to approve new lame duck session
public workers contracts. Once governor, he wanted "maximum flexibility"
to force passage of anti-labor measures. Now he's got it, arrogantly and
- "Months from now, when this is is enacted and people
realize it's not the end of the world, not all, but I think the vast majority,
including the vast majority of the public employees, will realize this
was not nearly as bad as they thought it was going to be. And we'll get
back to work in the Capitol."
- Popular Anger Perhaps to Spread Nationally
- Opposing him are tens of thousands of committed angry
workers, teachers and students, university ones facing a 20% tuition hike,
unaffordable for many. Ground zero remains the capitol rotunda, resonating
chants, drumbeats, banners and posters showing slogans including: "Tax
the Rich." "Wisconsin workers: unite or die," and "United
we Stay" combined with "Hell no, we won't go," "Kill
the Bill" chants.
- One worker spoke for many, saying "Walker wants
to turn Wisconsin into" WalMart. Another added, "If they cut
our pay further, I would qualify for BadgerCare (health insurance for low
income, uninsured families with children), food assistance and home heating
assistance." Diluting them ahead is planned, perhaps eliminating them
in future cost-cutting. It's happening elsewhere - in California, New York,
Michigan, Illinois, and many other states nationally, one round of cuts
begetting others in a race to the bottom war on workers.
- Their sole defense is resolute unified resistance through
protests, strikes, and other actions, hanging tough, staying the course,
no matter the long odds against them. The alternative is too grim to imagine,
a long march to serfdom, what Walker et al have in mind.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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