More Cowbell; Less Governor Walker

Posted on by Kim McMurray (kjmcmurray)
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Last week, the events in Wisconsin went from revolutionary to just plain ridiculous. Under the cover of night, with 14 Democratic Senators still hiding out over state lines, Governor Scott Walker and his loyal band of Republicans passed their anti-collective bargaining bill. After almost a month of claiming that government employees needed to give up their collective bargaining rights in order to get the state budget under control, Senate Republicans changed their minds. Oops. In order to pass the bill without the necessary ¾ quorum, Republicans said that the bill had nothing to do with the budget and thus could be passed with a simple majority. Upon hearing this, Governor Walker said, "Sorry, I'm not sorry."

This is worse than the time they locked the protesters out of the capitol building. Or when they released a memo threatening to take away copy machine privileges from any Democratic staffer whose boss was still in Illinois. Sadly, it happened. I guess they had to scan things?

This might seem incredibly childish, and it is, but what happened in Wisconsin will change the rest of your life. Or to be slightly less dramatic, the outcome of Governor Walker's standoff with workers in Wisconsin will have huge ramifications throughout the political world for years to come. This outcome will determine who has power: the people or the corporations, the working class or the rich, the Democrats or the Republicans. It doesn't get any bigger than that.

First, a little background information if you've been without internet, a phone line, or outside communication for the past two weeks (you might have an excuse if you live in a developing country, but even Egyptians sent pizza to the Wisconsin protesters). On February 11, Governor Scott Walker released his budget for next year. This document more closely related a slaughterhouse than an outline of government spending. Besides cutting programs across the board that working families depend on, Governor Walker cut salaries for public employees and significantly increased their contributions to their pensions and health care plans.

Hey, we are all suffering and public employees including teachers, correctional officers, and garbage men need to tighten their bootstraps like everyone else, right? Even though if we tighten our bootstraps any further, we might not be able to lift ourselves up by them anymore. So the public employee unions agreed to the cuts. But Governor Walker went a step further. He added a provision that stripped public employee unions from being able to collectively bargain. And in this line, he declared war.

Since the beginning of the labor movement, unions have fought for better conditions for workers. Enjoy your weekend? Thank the unions. Pretty happy you didn't spend your childhood in a coal mine? Thank the unions. Still have all your fingers? Thank the unions. They get their power through collective bargaining, because if one man threatens to quit because of unsafe conditions, he would be fired, but if everyone does, the conditions get better.

Wait? Isn't this supposed to be about Democrats and Republicans? Ah yes, besides fighting for generations to raise the working class, besides working together to pull up millions of people by one huge bootstrap, the unions also happen to give a lot of money to Democratic candidates. Why the Democrats? Hmm, maybe because they support issues that working families depend on, like health care, public schools, and a living wage?

In 2008, out of the top 9 PACs (Political Action Committees) that spend money on elections, 4 of them were labor unions. Since 1988, the 11 out of the top 20 contributor are labor unions. They are huge power players on the political scene, second only to....corporations. There it is! And who do corporations largely give to? That's right, Republicans. So by cutting off the unions' power through collective bargaining, Governor Walker is also cutting off funding from their members (because what good is a union on the job if it can't bargain for better wages and benefits?), and thus, union contributions to political campaigns--mainly, his Democratic opponents.

This is a fight for power as old as time. And the Democrats aren't going to give up that easily. Protests have continued in Madison since Governor Walker signed the bill, with many protesters yelling "Shame" at passing GOP legislators. You know, after a month, I think they can get a little more creative.

That is, unless they manage to recall Governor Walker first. It's going to be one hell of a year.

Who do you stand with?

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