Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Egypt Comes to Wisconsin As Protests Continue To Rock State

02/16/11-by Bridgette P. LaVictoire

LezGetReal’s L.S. Carbonell asked when the Egyptian-style protests would hit the United States. Her prediction came true sooner rather than later. Protests against Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker’s push to end the rights of public employees are continuing for a second day with schools in the state capital of Madison closing. It is not sure if there was a case of ‘blue flu’ or something else going on.

Walker wants to remove the right of the unions in the state to negotiate in any meaningful way- except for the law enforcement and fire unions. Those would be exempt from his plan to prevent unions representing state workers from being able to negotiate for better pensions, health benefits or anything other than higher salaries. Salaries are restricted from rising higher than the Consumer Price Index.

Walker, and the GOP in his state, say that this raping of worker’s rights is necessary to deal with the state’s budget shortfall. Instead, it is an excuse by the Republicans to do what they can to undermine labor in the United States.

TPM quotes the Associated Press as having said:

“The proposal would effectively remove unions’ right to negotiate in any meaningful way. Local law enforcement and fire employees, as well as state troopers and inspectors would be exempt.”
Supposedly, in Madison, School Superintendent Dan Nerad was forced to close the schools after forty percent of the 2,600 members of the teachers union called in sick.

The campaign is the first coordinated absence by Madison school employees in 16 years, Matthews said.

“We have only one day where we can make a difference, and it’s because of the ridiculous means by
which the governor tried to shove this down the throats of public employees,” Matthews said.

On the other hand, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that there have been no signs of higher teacher absences in Milwaukee.

Over a thousand demonstrators gathered at Walker’s home in Wauwatosa. They marked from a nearby AFL-CIO building, and the line was reproted to be ten blocks long. A budget committee hear open to the public lasted seventeen hours. The Republicans ended the meeting at 3am, but Democrats kept it open, taking a half hour break between 8:30am and 9am in order to move rooms. Yesterday, 10,000 people gathered at the state Capitol to demonstrate against the proposal

Walker has threatened to call out the National Guard in case of a walkout. There are currently 9,600 Army National Guard in Wisconsin and 2,200 Air National Guard. According to WSWS:

When asked by a reporter what will happen if workers resist, Walker replied that he would call out the National Guard. He said that the National Guard is “prepared … for whatever the governor, their commander-in-chief, might call for … I am fully prepared for whatever may happen.”

Walker’s proposal allows state authorities to arbitrarily fire workers who “participate in an organized action to stop or slow work,” or who “are absent for three days without approval of the employer,” according to the governor’s press release.

notes that “Wisconsin was the first state in the country to implement a collective bargaining law in 1959, so Walker’s anti-union bill not only deeply disturbs Wisconsin residents but affects the nation as a whole.”

Making matters worse for Walker is that the unions have some pretty hefty support right now- from the Green Bay Packers who released this statement:
“We know that it is teamwork on and off the field that makes the Packers and Wisconsin great. As a publicly owned team we wouldn’t have been able to win the Super Bowl without the support of our fans.

“It is the same dedication of our public workers every day that makes Wisconsin run. They are the teachers, nurses and child care workers who take care of us and our families. But now in an unprecedented political attack Governor Walker is trying to take away their right to have a voice and bargain at work.

“The right to negotiate wages and benefits is a fundamental underpinning of our middle class. When workers join together it serves as a check on corporate power and helps ALL workers by raising community standards. Wisconsin’s long standing tradition of allowing public sector workers to have a voice on the job has worked for the state since the 1930s. It has created greater consistency in the relationship between labor and management and a shared approach to public work.

“These public workers are Wisconsin’s champions every single day and we urge the Governor and the State Legislature to not take away their rights.”

The NFLPA also released a statement in support of the AFL-CIO. “The NFL Players Association will always support efforts protecting a worker’s right to join a union and collectively bargain. Today, the NFLPA stands in solidarity with its organized labor brothers and sisters in Wisconsin,” the statement said.

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