Posts Tagged ‘labor unions’
The Wisconsin State Senate has authorized the arrest of the Wisconsin 14, who are self-exiled from their home state to prevent the destruction of labor unions in the state and across the country. Whatever one thinks of unions or these legislators, the right to withhold participation in government is a fundamental right of a democracy.
But the Republican Party, along with the Tea Party and their corporate supporters, have now criminalized that right. If any of the Democratic holdouts return, they will be arrested and become perhaps the first overt political prisoners of modern-day America.
And yet, the national Democratic Party has stayed silent. Now that Ohio has fallen into red hands, it will lose the presidential election in 2016, if not earlier. Soon, it will be the national legislators’ turn to be threatened with arrest. But do they care? Perhaps they will have officially switched parties by then.
The irony overflows. If government is an evil, then shut it down. Instead, Republican and Tea Party have chosen to resort to anything imaginable, including locking up political opponents, to keep the government running. Talk about Big Brother–it’s more like Big Brother in Jail.
In case you missed it, political opponents can now be made into political prisoners. Welcome to Fascist USA.
The Ohio state senate has voted to ban strikes by public workers and to establish penalties for those who walk out. Unionized workers can negotiate wages, hours, and certain work conditions, but not health care, sick time, or pension benefits. The bill passed despite the opposition of six Republicans. The bill is not yet law, but that is just a formality: the state house is even more heavily Republican, and the GOP governor is a strong advocate of the bill. Ohio has officially fallen into the red column for the foreseeable future.
As I explained in my previous blog, this fight is labor’s last stand, yet unions have not pulled out all their stops. And the national Democratic Party has practically stood down.
Also today came news that the self-exiled state senators from Wisconsin may be forced to return. The future is very grim.
Scott Walker made clear during the fake Koch phone call his plan to destroy labor unions: drag out the stand-off, tire out the media attention, and be the last one standing. While unions and progressive groups have wakened to the gravity of the situation, they have been unable to gain traction outside their core constituents. According to MoveOn.org’s email Sunday night, 50 thousand people went out to the streets nationwide in capitals across 50 states over the weekend. Yet there remain more than 300 million people in the country. Walker is right: the longer the fight goes on, the weaker his opposition will become. Supporters of unions and workers must expand quickly the war on workers beyond members’ right to collective bargaining, into a genuine movement to reorganize the working class in this country.
[Please see the list of brands that in effect fund the other side in Wisconsin, Ohio, and beyond. Thanks Sandra.]
The right’s audacity comes from decades of union decline, from a high in the 1950s when a third of Americans belonged to unions. The latest figures show more than 93% of private-sector workforce are non-union, and so are 88% in government agencies. That most Americans still oppose the Midwest governor is a fortunate blessing.
Many people (not just Tea Party animals) are asking: “Why should union members have health care when I don’t? Why should they have pensions when my employer took away mine? Why should they health care when I can’t afford treatments after having a heart attack?”
The truth is, neither public employees nor union workers were responsible for the economic meltdown or Ponzi schemes from Madoff to Goldman Sachs. They did not take away millions of jobs, erase thousands of pensions, or make employers and states to eliminate the life-saving vehicle that is health insurance.
Many of the same people upset at the benefits still enjoyed by some union members used to have good jobs, health care, pensions, and all the other trappings of middle class that this country was once built on. The question is not why union members still have them, but “Why don’t you have yours?”
And the answer is that they don’t have a union anymore.
You want more than poverty wages? Join a union. You want health care? Join a union. You want weekends off and not a bankrupted retirement? Join a union.
The only way unions and their supporters can win against Gov. Walker (despite an almost silent Democratic Party) is if they can leverage the power of the millions of angry and deprived workers who do not belong to any unions; if they have the backing of 100% of the private sector workforce, and 100% of public employees.
That means fighting to get them to have everything that union members have. Because if they don’t, they will turn on the ones who do.
This is the labor movement’s last chance. You have a few weeks at most. Organize, or die.
Law enforcement is looking for state senators in Wisconsin. Not because of indictments or charges–the targets in question are not accused on any crimes–but because the governor and Republican Party are intent on dismantling public unions, and they need the votes of at least one Democrat to pass their bills. In the words of Paul Ryan (not exactly a friend of the left), “Cairo has moved to Madison”.
Tens of thousands of Wisconsinites have amassed at the capitol in protest, and Democratic senators have fled the state. The drama sounds more like a police state than the model democracy that many Americans see their government represent.
Labor unions have been instrumental in mass revolutions current sweeping across the Middle East, leading successful efforts in the cathartic overthrows of regimes in Tunisia and Egypt after decades of dictatorships. While Tunisians and Egyptians have gained a measure of freedom, Americans in the Midwestern state face the prospect of seeing their unions castrated, as public employees can no longer bargain collectively under the Republican bills.
Americans already lack the right to strike like the Egyptians did, as national labor laws forbid “coercive secondary actions”. If you pick strawberries for a farmer, you cannot strike to force Wal-Mart to pay higher prices for the fruits. If you work for an Oregonian logging company, you cannot strike to force your president to resign. (Teachers may have walked off the job in Wisconsin, but their union cannot declare or organize a strike without incurring massive financial damages.)
It is difficult to reconcile what Governor Walker and his party is doing with the attempts of the same party to invade other countries in “nation-building” efforts, ostensibly to spread democracy. Yet in some ways, North Africa seems to serve as a better current example than the land of the free.