From The Nation
Now that a series of crude power plays -- violations of open meetings laws,
restricted debates, denial of access to dissenting legislators, snap
votes -- have given Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker a momentary victory in
his fight to strip public employee unions of their collective bargaining
rights, the governor and his allies are claiming that they are
implementing the will of people of Wisconsin.
Referencing last November's election results, which gave him the
governorship and control of the legislature, Walker has repeatedly said
through the month-long fight in Wisconsin that "the people have spoken"
and "the voters have spoken."
And, if we elected monarchs (or "kings for four years," as Thomas
Jefferson feared), then Walker's pronouncements from on high might have
to be accepted -- at least by those inclined toward a docile citizenship.
But, of course, the United States went with a representative
democracy model where elected officials are supposed to at least note
and ideally respond to the will of the people.
The clear will of the people of, as confirmed by contacts with the
offices of Republican legislators that ran in some cases 10-1 against
the governor's proposal, in polls that show less than one-third of
Wisconsinites support the governor's approach (and that a clear majority
would replace him as governor if they could) and in mass demonstrations
that have already drawn hundreds of thousands into the streets and that
could draw hundreds of thousands more this weekend.
Click Here to Read Whole Article
There is a lot of talk about where to take this energy, and a lot of
options -- all with credible arguments and all with support from serious
In Madison and Milwaukee, you'll see posters calling for a general
strike. The calls frequently reference some of the boldest and most
romantically recalled moments in labor history, harkening back to the
great 1934 struggles in San Francisco and Toledo, both of which garnered
such broad support that they forced the hands of private employers and
yielded significant gains for what would become the International
Longshore and Warehouse Union on the West Coast and the United
Auto Workers in the Great Lakes states. Those actions, like the
Flint Sit-Down Strike of 1936 and 1937, are the stuff of labor lore. But
the Wisconsin struggle, a statewide fight that involves public-sector
workers, is a different game in many senses. What's significant is that
some Wisconsin unions are serious about exploring options for mass
action that borrow from more recent experiences -- especially the "Days of Action"
strikes organized by Ontario public-employee unions when they came
under attack from the government of Conservative Premier Mike Harris in
"There are a lot of people in Wisconsin who are looking at what was
done in Canada, how it was organized and maintained, how they made sure
that emergency services were maintained, that vulnerable people were
protected, while at the same time getting their point across," explained
Madison Firefighters Local 311 union president Joe Conway Jr., a key
activist in the Wisconsin struggle.
Not all unions are on the same page with regard to strikes, general
or otherwise. And there is concerns that Walker, who fancies himself as a
new Ronald Reagan, might delight in firing striking state employees.
But the Madison-based South Central Labor Federation has passed two motions relating to the effort:
"Motion 1: The SCFL endorses a general strike, possibly for the day Walker signs his budget repair bill.
"Motion 2: The SCFL goes on record as opposing all provisions
contained in Walker's budget repair bill, including but not limited to,
curtailed bargaining rights and reduced wages, benefits, pensions,
funding for public education, changes to medical assistance programs,
and politicization of state government agencies."
SCFL president Jim Cavanaugh says: "As the labor movement moves to
address this naked class war waged upon us, we know we have already
accomplished much, setting an example to the nation and the world for
how to fight for our rights and for our children's futures. It appears
we have much more to do."
And this is not just local talk in Madison. Communications Workers
of America president Larry Cohen is talking about organization of of a
national "no-business-as-usual" day of action on April 4, the
anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
At the same time, many unions are embracing a plan to move money from
banks and businesses that have supported Governor Walker's campaigns
and his current initiative. Firefighters' union president Conway and
members marched Thursday on the M&I bank branch in downtown Madison
and began withdrawing money -- taking out close to $200,000 in the initail
action -- as a protest against the support the bank executives have given
"Pull the plug on M&I Bank!" reads the literature distributed by members of Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local 565.
"M&I execs gave more money than even the Koch Brothers to
Governor Walker and the Wisconsin GOP," the message goes. "M&I got a
$1.7 billion bailout while its CEO gets an $18 million golden
parachute. Tell M&I Bank: Back Politicians Who Take Away Our Rights
(and) We Take Away Your Business."
David Goodspeed, Local 565's business agent, says the unions top
international leaders have taken up the cause, which means that
substantial amounts of money could be removed from banks that back
Walker. And the United Steelworkers union president Leo Gerard says his
union "has started taking a very close look at where we are banking."
Next Page 1 | 2
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).
John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.
Nichols writes about (more...)