- The issue is simple and straightforward - organized big
money v. organized people essential to beat it. Since February 15, Wisconsin
public workers, students, and supporters have sustained heroic resistance
against corrupted dark forces determined to crush unionism there and across
America. A previous article explained, accessed through the following link:
- The scheme is old, dirty and ongoing - a conspiracy involving
corporate bosses, federal, state and local Democrat and Republican leaders,
and corrupted union heads to bust unions, effectively depriving workers
of collective bargaining and other hard-won gains, returning them to 19th
century harshness when they had none.
- The battle lines are drawn. Across America, public and
private worker rights are threatened unless mobilized resistance saves
them. Governments at all levels are using dire economic conditions to make
ordinary people bear the burden of recovering from the hardest times since
the Great Depression. The solution is worse than the problem - the usual
IMF diktat, including:
- -- wage and benefit cuts;
- -- less social spending;
- -- eliminating pensions and other entitlements;
- -- privatized state resources;
- -- mass layoffs;
- -- deregulation;
- -- debt service superseding public need;
- -- lower taxes for corporations and America's super-rich;
- -- eroding hard won worker gains before eliminating them
- In the 1980s, it was Reaganomics, trickle down and Thatcherism.
In the 1990s, it was shock therapy. Today, it's austerity to make workers
pay for a Wall Street/Washington caused crisis - a Main Street Depression,
leaving them struggling on their own to get by. Nonetheless, officials
are capitalizing on crisis conditions to inflict more pain on the backs
of already victimized people.
- Causes of State Budget Shortfalls
- Economist Jack Rasmus titled his latest article, "Why
Public Employees Aren't the Cause of States' Budget Crises," discussing
five reasons behind them:
- (1) A "lopsided (pseudo-recovery) from recession
without jobs," producing less tax revenues from remaining workers.
- (2) Decades of counterproductive state policies to reduce
taxes for business and investors, resulting in a revenue-producing "race
to the bottom."
- (3) "(R)unaway health care costs" because predatory
insurers, drug companies and giant hospital chains game the system for
maximum profits in collusion with Washington.
- (4) "(S)harply rising costs of borrowing by States
in the municipal bond market, where (rates) have risen sharply due ultimately
to the speculative excesses of the recent financial boom and bust."
- (5) Massive unfunded pension liabilities - a multi-trillion
dollar future problem because of mismanagement, underfunding, speculation,
bad investments, and criminal fraud, not out-of-control pay and benefits.
- Republican and Democrat governors across America want
workers to bear the burden through wage and benefit cuts as well as loss
of collective bargaining rights at a time they're more than ever needed.
- Surviving Depends on Organizing, Struggling, and Resisting
- Facing a $175 billion shortfall, governors across America
are using the same script - help business and super-rich supporters with
tax cuts, other benefits, and austerity for state employees when they need
help, not cutbacks.
- For 10 days, Wisconsin's Republican GovernorScott Walker
made headlines, demanding draconian harshness for public workers. Protests
continue, including huge crowds expected this weekend, maintaining pressure
for social justice against a governor told by Republican leaders, corporate
bosses and funders to give none.
- Senate Democrats haven't returned. House ones introduced
scores of amendments to stall and force debate ending in defeat along party
lines. Preserving collective bargaining rights is central. Democrats agree
with Republicans and union bosses on wage and benefit cuts up to $400 or
more a month, besides furloughs and other concessions.
- Ohio's Republican Governor John Kasich proposes tougher
measures than Wisconsin, promising to stay the course to enact them. Former
Governor Ted Strickland, his predecessor, called his bill a "coordinated
attack on the working class."
- A February 20 Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial headlined,
"Rethink, repair public employee collective bargaining law,"
- "The state should not be in the business of dictating
terms....of what should be collectively bargained (for in) local labor
agreements. (It's) unfortunate the GOP approach has been to set a maximalist
tone on an issue that should be looked at carefully - before discarding
a system" that's stood the test of time for decades and should be
- The proposed bill "is incontestably radical."
Instead, the current "debate should be, 'Mend - don't end," and
don't make workers bear the burden for state shortfalls in lieu of more
- In Indiana, Republicans back a "right-to-work"
bill, prohibiting union-employer agreements requiring workers join public
or private sector unions and pay dues. As in Wisconsin, Democrats left
the state to stop it. Thousands of workers rallied on Statehouse grounds.
Republican Governor Mitch Daniels supported the bill conceptually, but
on February 22 urged Republicans to drop it because it interferes with
- Michigan Republican Governor Rick Synder wants $180 million
in state worker concessions through higher healthcare contributions and
other benefit cuts.
- Connecticut Democrat Governor Daniel Malloy demands more
draconian cuts than Walker's. He wants state workers to bear the brunt
of the state's $1 billion shortfall, amounting to an average $20,000 employee
haircut annually in 2011 and 2012 through a combination of wage and benefit
cuts. By comparison, Walker demands $300 million in savings.
- New Hampshire's Democrat Governor John Lynch wants 10%
of state workers cut over the next two years, eliminating 1,100 jobs, as
well as other proposed savings.
- Colorado Democrat Governor John Hickenlooper wants the
biggest K-12 education cut in state history. He also proposes hikes in
state worker pension contributions, from 2.5 - 4.5%, and a third year with
no pay increases.
- In January, Democrat Governor Jerry Brown proposed far
more draconian cuts than former Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger to resolve
the state's $24.5 billion shortfall. Included are large reductions in welfare,
child healthcare, Medicaid, higher education, other public services, and
state worker pay and benefits, including pensions. In addition, he wants
six bargaining units to remain on three day per month furloughs at least
through mid-year and likely longer.
- Campaigning, Brown promised to "invest in jobs and
the working families who make California strong." As governor, he's
waging war against them.
- So isn't New York Democract Governor Andrew Cuomo, declaring
the state "functionally bankrupt....there is no money, (so) painful
choices" involve draconian cuts affecting working households most,
including state employees bearing the burden like elsewhere.
- Facing a $10 billion 2011 shortfall and an estimated
$14 billion 2012 one, he wants 10% cuts for state agencies, requiring layoffs
as well as comparable pay and benefit cuts. Healthcare and education are
also targeted, including Medicaid. According to Daniel Sisto, Healthcare
Association of New York State president, he wants "the largest cut
to healthcare services in New York State's history" with more planned
- Demanding lower future labor costs, expect more layoffs
besides 34,700 lost federal, state and local government jobs in 2010. With
over $2 billion less 2011 New York city aid, 6,000 teacher jobs are at
risk. Those remaining face draconian cuts on top of previous ones imposed
and those from Albany.
- At the same time, Cuomo pledged no tax increases on wealthy
New Yorkers able to pay more. Moreover, he'll let a so-called "millionaire's
tax" surcharge on earnings above $200,000 expire at year end, losing
a badly needed $1 billion annually.
- Presently, wage freezes are in effect for all state workers,
pending contract negotiations expiring on March 31 in which he's seeking
$450 million in concessions.
- Florida Governor Rick Scott wants state workers to pay
5% of their salaries for pensions and have their healthcare benefits capped,
despite annual exponential cost increases workers will have to pay themselves.
He also proposes 8,700 job cuts. In addition, legislation was introduced,
requiring state workers sign up annually for union membership and prohibiting
the current dues check off provision.
- The Tennessee Republican-controlled legislature backs
a bill to repeal a 1978 law, requiring collective bargaining in local school
districts where most teachers support the Tennessee Education Association
- Idaho's Tom Luna, Superintendent of Public Instruction
wants 750 teachers cut and collective bargaining ended for issues like
class size, workload and promotions. Legislative measures also propose
ending tenure and seniority as factors affecting layoffs. As a result,
angry teacher protests rallied in Boise and across the state.
- In New Jersey, future presidential aspirant Republican
Governor Chris Christie allied with Democrat Senate President Stephen Sweeney
to make public workers pay more for healthcare and pension benefits.
- They want healthcare contributions raised from 8 to 30%
of costs. State payments for employee pensions will also be withheld for
the second straight year unless benefits are sharply reduced by increasing
the retirement age and ending cost-of-living adjustments.
- A previous article addressed hard times in Illinois,
facing the nation's largest per capital shortfall. Access it through the
- As a result, taxes were raised, benefits cut, and more
draconian measures are planned, affecting pay, healthcare, pensions and
other ways to make state and private workers bear the burden of years of
mismanagement, fraud, and corporate favoritism under Democrat and Republican-led
- A Final Comment
- Strong unions in America face an existential struggle
for survival, pitting worker rights against big money allied with all levels
of government and union bosses, harming rank and file interests for their
own privilege and self-enrichment.
- As a result, workers are largely dependent on their own
tenacity, resourcefulness, and courage to struggle for rights too precious
to lose. It's not solely a Wisconsin issue. All public and private workers
across America are affected, their futures on the line against destructive
dark forces essential to recognize, confront and defeat. The moment of
truth is now.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the
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