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The governor, his GOP Republican Guard, Tea Party Militia and Corporate Special Forces have declared war on public employees and their unions in Wisconsin.
Their immediate aim is nothing less than the destruction of collective bargaining for all public sector workers. But the ultimate objective is removing all of organized labor as a force for progressive social change and an obstacle to unfettered corporate exploitation, deregulation and privatization for all American working people. Unions are a check on their power and greed.
This attack is no more about fiscal responsibility or solving deficits than the invasion of Iraq was about weapons of mass destruction or the invasion of Afghanistan was about democracy and the rights of women.
They use buzz-words like fiscal "responsibility", "flexibility" and "efficiency" to target public sector unions, but the real victims are workers like us - our neighbors, members of our families, parents of our children's schoolmates - public servants who deliver the services that protect our communities, care for the needy, educate our children, and ensure that our working conditions and neighborhoods are safe.
They tell us there's just not enough money - after giving tax breaks to the rich that deprive our communities of resources needed to provide a decent place to raise our families. The truth is - there's plenty of money - but its in the wrong pockets, and squandered on illegal wars, fruitless occupations, useless weapons and a bloated Pentagon bureaucracy.
What is happening in Wisconsin is taking place in one form or another across the country. It is part of a broader ideological assault on the very concept of a public sector, "the common good", and the value of government operating in the interests of the whole society rather than as an instrument of the wealthy elite.
It did not begin with Governor Walker's outrageous proposals in Wisconsin in 2011. There is a clear trail of class war victims leading all the way back to the air traffic controllers fired by Reagan in 1981.
The neo-conservatives, rightwing billionaires and corporations that are behind this attack want unions out of the way so that nothing stands between them and deregulation and privatization of every aspect of life, driving wages and living standards ever lower in a furious race to the bottom. They hope to do that by pitting private sector against public sector workers, community against community, state against state and all American workers against their own government and workers around the world. It is the classic divide-and-conquer strategy.
Once they break the back of public sector unions, they will try to finish off what's left of private sector unions. They will shift even more of the tax burden for what remains of government onto the backs of working people, while adding to their own tax breaks and public subsidies. And they will pour ever more resources into expanding instruments of social control - the military, police, prisons, courts, surveillance while choking off access to the media.
If Wisconsin does not offer a convincing enough example, look at Iraq.
When Bush invaded Iraq, he set about creating a model of a completely deregulated and privatized society. He sought to subject every aspect of Iraqi life to the will of the "market", but in reality that really means the will of multinational corporations that control the market. A critical part of that strategy involved continuing to enforce Saddam Hussein's law against unions in the public sector so that there would be no way workers could organize to defend themselves, their families or their publicly owned enterprises. Iraq was and still is a laboratory for the neo-cons. Along with Iraqi oil, they now want to import those same practices back to the U.S.
The only thing that can stop them is a united, determined and militant labor movement allied with other progressive social forces. The people of Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq and elsewhere across the Middle East are showing it can be done. Now it is up to us to make it happen!
WANT TO HELP?
HERE ARE SOME THINGS YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW:
USLAW has produced a leaflet that tells the truth about what's going on. It calls for "new priorities" to put our country on the right track.
DUPLICATE OR ASK YOUR UNION TO DUPLICATE THIS FLYER AND DISTRIBUTE IT WIDELY IN THE LABOR MOVEMENT, IN THE COMMUNITY AND THROUGH YOUR SOCIAL NETWORKS.
READ AND DOWNLOAD A COPY
ATTEND A SOLIDARITY RALLY, VIGIL OR DEMONSTRATION
TO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR THE WORKERS OF WISCONSIN
and to put anyone else who's thinking about trying the same thing that they will face a united, determined movement to oppose them.
Contact your union, central labor council or state federation of labor to find an action near you - or use the link in the next section.
Support workers this week!
- Find a solidarity rally near you.
- Dear Jobs with Justice Activist,
- As you have no doubt followed on the news, there is lots happening in Wisconsin! Workers, students, faith, immigrant rights groups, LGBT groups, womens groups, all sectors of labor, environmental groups, and more continue to occupy the state capitol and more than 70,000 people came out to rally in Madison yesterday.
- In states across the country, workers are fighting back against corporate-backed lawmakers who are trying to use state budget problems as an excuse to gut workersâ€™ rights and benefits, when in fact it was Wall Streetâ€™s gambles and broken promises that have hurt taxpayers and the middle classnot workers. CEOs are trying to shift the blamee for high unemployment and rising poverty levels away from themselves and onto workers and our unions.
- We are working with key allies to mobilize our bases in Wisconsin and for solidarity rallies in nearly every state in the country this week.
- FIND A RALLY NEAR YOU: http://bit.ly/wisolidarity
- Right now we have information on 40 actions planned, but we are updating this list frequently, so please check back in the coming days and keep us informed of any actions you are planning.
- At a time of record economic inequality, these laws which would direct more money to corporations will only widen the gap between the wealthy and the poor, enriching a lucky few while forcing more people into poverty. This struggle is about who will control our communities: working people or corporations?
- Thanks in advance for your support! This is a huge moment for Wisconsin and the many other states fighting similar battles!
- In Solidarity,
- Allison Fletcher Acosta
- Jobs with Justice
REPORT FROM THE FRONT LINES
[AFT Local 212 is an affiliate of USLAW in Milwaukee.]
I have been in Madison for the last two days with tens of thousands of teachers, firefighters, veterans, nurses, police officers and students who have drawn a line in the sand against Governor Walker's outrageous attempt to take away our rights. We need your help in Madison tomorrow, Saturday, Feb. 19th.
The wind is strong, but we are dressed for the cold. Congressman John Lewis, the great freedom fighter, will speak tonight because worker rights are human rights. We are united. We are fighting for all the right reasons. There are too many 212 members and their families here for me to count.
The mobilization in Madison has become nothing less than a movement to save democracy in Wisconsin.
14 Democratic Senators, including Senator Spencer Coggs, the husband of an AFT Local 212 part time faculty member, left the state yesterday so that the Senate did not have a quorum and could not pass this draconian legislation. It is rumored that Governor Walker will send the National Guard after them.
We salute all 14 members for standing up for our nation's basic democratic values. They are American heroes Unions, workers, their families, students and your colleagues have drawn a line in the sand in Madison. Today, MPS is shut down. This afternoon the entire Wisconsin Department of Revenue staff walked off the job.
There are supporters joining us from all over the nation, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Illinois and Indiana. Support rallies have been held in New York City, Albany, New York, Milwaukee (by Local 212) and California. Support emails are coming from all over the world.
Today Richard Trumka, the President of the AFL-CIO spoke to the tens of thousands who attended the noon rally.
For years Local 212 and all public employees have been attacked and scapegoated by mean spirited Republican politicians and the right wing media who want to blame us for an economic recession we had no role in creating. Check out the reactionary Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial today if you need evidence. They want to use the recession to cut funding for education, Social Security, Pell Grants, Medicare, Badgercare, our salaries and more. Why? To redistribute even more wealth to millionaires through tax breaks like the $130 million Walker has passed since he was elected.
We can win this battle. But we need your help.
We need you to come to Madison on Saturday! Walker is organizing his tea party base to come to Madison on Saturday to show he has support. We outnumber them, but we need to dwarf their numbers and send a message that we will not go back to the days of arbitrary authority and administrative disrespect. We are American citizens. We are patriots and we will not allow our rights to be taken away.
Please come to Madison on Saturday and Sunday and stand up for yourselves and your families. Please come and be a part of history! This is something you and your families will always remember! The whole world is watching! We need you this weekend!
In solidarity, Michael Rosen, PhD President AFT Local 212
Photographer: Mark Hirsch/Getty Images
The USLAW Leaflet
LITTLE KNOWN DETAILS OF GOVERNOR WALKER'S ATTACK ON PUBLIC EMPLOYEE UNIONS
Walker has created this "crisis". The State of Wisconsin started 2011 with a $121.7 million dollar surplus per the Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo of 1/31/11. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau is a nonpartisan dept.. Memo is here.
Walker came in and immediately pushed through $140 million in new spending for special interest groups. Now Walker is saying we have a "Fiscal crisis" of $137 Million, but if the Legislature rescinded the spending promises Walker made there wouldn't be a "fiscal" crisis and we wouldn't need this kind of repair bill.
The media is focusing the portion of the bill affecting the unions because of the protests, but this bill is full of massive changes like putting more areas under the Dept of Administration and out of legislative control. The Dept. of Administration reports directly to the Governor so this allows him to make lots of "administrative" changes without any due process.
The bill contains a plan to "significantly modify" Medicaid, the state-federal health plan for the poor, according to a Legislative Fiscal Bureau analysis. Department of Health Services would be given responsibility to restrict eligibility , increase premiums, modify benefits and revise reimbursements. The elected Legislature currently is responsible for these duties. This would affect more than a million state residents from infants to the elderly and include the services provided by all of the BadgerCare plans, FamilyCare and SeniorCare.
The bill would do away with the Wisconsin Quality Home Care Authority which trains, screens and places workers in homes, where they bathe prepare meals and provide assistance to the elderly and handicapped. The Bill would transfer the Home Care Authorities services to the overworked Department of Health Services.
It also converts 37 Department agency positions from civil service positions to appointments made by the Governor. The converted positions could be hired and fired by the Governor without following the civil service process.
Limited Term Employees (LTE) would lose all of their benefits (health and retirement) under this bill. LTEs currently do not get sick, holiday or vacation pay. Some of these LTE positions are seasonal or temporary, but LTE's frequently attain full time status by working 2 part time LTE jobs.
The bill also gives the Department of Administration the authority to sell the state owned power plants or to contract for their operation. This would result in the lost of jobs plus the state would end up paying more for power.
Wisconsin public servants
already face a compensation penalty
Economic Policy Institute
The campaign against state and local workers is often justified with claims that they are privileged relative to their private-sector peers or have somehow been cushioned from the effects of the recent recession and slow recovery. These claims are clearly false.
In Wisconsin, which has become a focal point in this debate, public servants already take a pretty hefty pay cut just for the opportunity to serve their communities (Keefe 2010). The figure below shows that when comparing the total compensation (which includes non-wage benefits such as health care and pensions) of workers with similar education, public-sector workers consistently make less than their private–sector peers. Workers with a bachelor’s degree or more—which constitute nearly 60% of the state and local workforce in Wisconsin—are compensated between $20,000 less (if they just have a bachelor’s degree) to over $82,000 a year less (if they have a professional degree, such as in law or medicine).
Balance of article . . . .
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