Early Friday the Wisconsin Assembly voted to strip away collective bargaining rights for most public employees. The controversial bill now heads to the Wisconsin Senate, where 14 Democratic Senators are missing. The Democratic minority left for Illinois to prevent the Republican majority from having enough votes for a quorum, and effectively shut down operations in the Senate. The fight isn’t over yet, but the clock is ticking.
Curiously left out of Scott Walker’s union-busting bill are the Republican-leaning unions that supported him during his campaign: police officers, state troopers, and firefighters. Walker’s weak excuse for this obvious political hypocrisy was that he did not want to disrupt the work of public safety officials. But left out of Walker’s effort to spare public safety workers are the corrections union; I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that they supported Walker’s opponent, Tom Barrett. Walker’s interim plan is to have the National Guard fill in for corrections workers on strike. Sounds like a great idea, especially for all of those National Guard members who have never worked in corrections before!
This fight isn’t just about public sector unions anymore, or even about Walker’s disgusting attempt to destroy his political enemies. This is about the future of the endangered middle class in this country. Unions are the only institutions standing in the way of a total corporate takeover of democracy in America, they are the only big political spenders that represent the interests of the middle class.
The truth is that the greed of public sector unions has nothing to do with Wisconsin’s fiscal crisis. Public sector workers in Wisconsin are actually underpaid. The biggest factor behind fiscal issues in Wisconsin, and all across the country, is the current economic recession caused by greed and criminal fraud on the part of Wall Street bankers. Yet there is no discussion of a financial transaction tax or increasing taxes on Wall Street bonuses, or rolling back the Bush tax cuts for the rich, to help pay for increased state aid from the federal government.
How have we allowed public workers, who were justifiably treated like heroes after 9-11, to suddenly become the lazy, greedy, parasites responsible for the country’s fiscal problems? Rather than directing our anger towards the people who deserve it, the criminals on Wall Street, the right-wing is trying to convince the country to demonize underpaid, overworked, middle-class public employees instead. If Walker crushes the public unions in Wisconsin, the birthplace of the labor movement, it will be the first domino in a national effort by the Republican Party to destroy the middle class.
Don’t let them.