Monday, February 21, 2011

How Far Is Wisconsin?

The spectacle of the anti-union, anti-middle class governor of Wisconsin openly trying to break public unions is something I'd never expected to see, even after years of Fox News brainwashing the American public with pro-corporate nonsense. Yet there it is. Walker got his ducks in a row by precluding negotiations with the lame-duck session that preceded him. His first instinct was not to push this legislation, but rather to simply decertify unions. Nonetheless, with the legislation he proposes, unions would have so little power they'd be irrelevant.

Oddly enough, union leaders have already accepted the notions of increased contributions to pensions and health care benefits, claiming they just want to preserve their right to collectively bargain. Of course, giving into these demands before any bargaining process may have rendered collective bargaining, in this instance, a moot point. Nonetheless, Governor Walker says there will be no compromise, and is busing in thousands of idiots from the Tea Party to bolster his principled position--that he can do whatever the hell he feels like and working people can go screw themselves.

One thing you don't read about very much is that Walker issued a tax break that pretty much equals the savings he's trying to recoup on the backs of state workers. It's kind of a Robin Hood thing, except the money goes to Walmart instead of the poor, and takes from the middle class instead of the rich. Another thing not often mentioned is that, under Walker's bill, unions would have to be recertified on an annual basis. Think about Walmart, and how it's managed to avoid union all these years. It closed a store in Canada rather than admit union.  When meat-cutters in a Texas Walmart decided to unionize, it cut meat cutting from the entire chain. It took nine years before Walmart even discussed this. Can you imagine having to face a Walmart-style intimidation campaign on an annual basis?

And this, clearly, is the model Walker likes. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama failed to keep his campaign promise to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. Such an act would have made it far more difficult for sleazeballs like Walker and the charter-loving Walmart family to continue thwarting the efforts of working people. Having waited past the point when the House turned GOP, the legislation is pretty much dead in the water.

But we need to keep an eye on Wisconsin. This is clearly the GOP template for the rest of the country, and while a corporatist slimeball like Andrew Cuomo won't yet openly embrace such tactics, he's also declined to continue a popular millionaire tax that could substantially ease our budget gap, preferring to cut schools and medical aid to the poor. He's also stated very clearly he plans to go after unions.

Could it happen here? Not right now. But Wisconsin is a flash point, a place where collective bargaining for public unions originated. Half a century later, look how things have changed. While Cuomo doesn't yet openly embrace Walker-style tactics, and NY's legislature wouldn't likely support him right now, his rhetoric is not all that foreign from Walker's.

There's an apocryphal Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times."

I'm afraid the interesting times are unfolding right before us. We've done our part to enable them by voting for Bloomberg, voting for Cuomo, and voting for the 2005 UFT Contract. UFT leadership has helped by endorsing numerous deals not in our interest.

High time we all wised up. Otherwise we may as well all get jobs at Walmart.
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