by Gary Farber
David Dayen, aka dday, points out that Ohio, Indiana See Protests Against Anti-Union Bills:
Wisconsin remains the main battleground for the broader assault on worker’s rights. But elsewhere in the Big Ten states and across the country, these battles have moved forward. In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich is pushing pretty much the exact same bill as Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Known as SB 5, the bill would strip collective bargaining rights from Ohio public employees. SB 5 is a piece of legislation, so Kasich isn’t trying to implement this under the cover of a budget bill. However, he has said that if he doesn’t get what he wants out of SB 5, he will put those items into the next budget bill. Alternatively, this could go to the ballot. So SB 5 won’t be the last showdown. The Governor, aping Scott Walker, claims this is a fiscal issue, but nobody can explain how much money SB 5 would save.
Many Ohio Republican legislators are already looking askance at SB 5. With pressure rising from state editorial boards and organized labor, the State Senate may not have the votes to get this thing out of committee.
There’s a large rally planned in Columbus for tomorrow at 1pm local time, and local rallies throughout the state. Enough Republicans are on the fence to derail the bill, if not in committee then in the full Senate.
Indiana has organized protests as well over House Bill 1468, which would basically turn it into a right-to-work state. It would prohibit employers from requiring employees to join the union or pay dues to work at their jobs. The construction industry would be exempt, which given the money involved with the industry and the connection to state jobs, doesn’t surprise. There’s a lot more about the right to work bill here.
The UFCW has been reporting from the protests, timed with a House hearing on the bill today. They have members on every floor of the Indiana Capitol building, occupying it in much the way that the Capitol in Madison has been occupied. Governor Mitch Daniels, who may be eyeing a Presidential run, has said publicly “he’d rather avoid a fight” on this bill rather than press the issue. But the labor movement in Indiana isn’t taking that for granted.
The movement is already spreading beyond Wisconsin.
This fire also is burning in Michigan. The Christian Science Monitor: Wisconsin labor unrest spills across Lake Michigan, and further:
Michigan union leaders and social justice activists will join with colleagues in Wisconsin and Ohio on Tuesday as the AFL-CIO plans street protests in Lansing against Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's attempt to balance the state budget on the backs of public employees.
[...]IIn scenes that US Rep. Paul Ryan (R) has likened to the massive recent protests and clashes in Cairo, Wisconsin public sector employees and union activists staged a seventh day of protests in Madison Monday as Gov. Scott Walker (R) refused to budge on his plan to gut collective bargaining, the behind-closed-doors process by which civil service workers, including teachers, secure pay, health, and pension benefits.
Fighting similar proposals, Ohio union activists protested in Columbus last week, as well, and now Michigan union protesters are planning a morning protest in Lansing. In Tennessee, a Republican-backed plan to end collective bargaining for the state's 52,000 teachers has drawn sharp rebukes from the education establishment. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has also proposed curbing collective bargaining rules in the Hoosier State.
The protests have highlighted a sharp ideological battleground between the progressive, union-backed ideals of President Obama and small-government conservatives who rejiggered the balance of power in an arc of upper Midwestern states in the 2010 mid-term elections.
These protests "probably have to roll out [through the region]," says labor expert Robert Bruno at the University of Illinois, in Champaign. "If you're engaged in progressive politics, you're part of the labor movement, and you're looking at a real threat to your ability to function and to your very existence, it does call out strong resistance."
"I absolutely believe that is politically motivated, and they are using this budget crisis to run a very different agenda, and that is to attack worker rights and silence public employees," Dennis Van Roekel, president of the 3.2 million-member National Education Association, told the Columbus Dispatch newspaper.
Under the Wisconsin plan, workers would retain the right to negotiate their pay under collective bargaining rules, but reduced health and pension benefits would be imposed by the state legislature.
Wisconsin has racked up $315 million in unpaid bills. Michigan has a $1.8 billion budget deficit this year. Ohio faces a nearly $8 billion hole in its two-year budget.
Those fiscal challenges, added to anti-union sentiment among small-government conservatives, mean that public sector employees and their union representatives are "coming up against a deep-seated belief that [government] is all waste, fraud, abuse, and earmarks, and that you can actually make cuts where deficits will melt away and nobody will" really notice, says Norman Ornstein, a fellow at the nonpartisan American Enterprise Institute.
The Michigan AFL-CIO, which is organizing Tuesday's planned protest, says it opposes over 30 bills in the state legislature, including a proposed law that would give the state power to terminate union contracts in bankrupt cities and towns.
Aaron Krager wisely notes that What Happens in Madison Doesn’t Stay in Madison:
[...] the protests and the power grab by Governor Scott Walker matters greatly for the rest of the country. The struggle is between middle class working families. Most of them provide every day services that we take for granted. They teach Wisconsin’s children, they do the day to day work in state run offices and they plow Wisconsin’s roads. Basic services that Wisconsinites depend upon are done by workers who are lucky enough to enter into a union are being demonized.
What can happen now? Any number of forks. The "Moderate Wisconsin Republicans" are "Offering] Compromise." This being Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal, we see the old Passive Voice Jedi Mind Trick being employed:
With Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker maintaining a hard line on his budget bill and Democratic senators refusing to return to Madison to vote, attention is turning to a group of moderate Republican senators to negotiate a compromise to the stalemate that has drawn thousands of protesters to the state capital for a sixth straight day.
Whose attention? Why, that of some interests we'll return to, and their friends in the press:
The proposal, written by Sen. Dale Schultz and first floated in the Republican caucus early last week, calls for most collective bargaining rights of public-employee unions to be eliminated—per Mr. Walker's bill—but then reinstated in 2013, said Mr. Schultz's chief of staff Todd Allbaugh.
"Dale is committed to find a way to preserve collective bargaining in the future," said Mr. Allbaugh in a telephone interview.
On Sunday, Mr. Walker reiterated his confidence that Republicans would pass their proposal intact.
"We're willing to take this as long as it takes because in the end we're doing the right thing for Wisconsin," Mr. Walker said during an interview with Fox News on Sunday.
Where he surely received hard questions on labor rights. But that it's the "right thing" for Wisconsin, it's true -- just not the best thing.
One hardly need point out that a proposal to wipe out union rights, and then "reinstate" them:
a) makes no sense: either it's a good idea, or it's a bad idea (and it's a horrific idea), and that it would:
b) work exactly like the Bush tax cuts. Once in place, these rights will never be restored, as the same interests will press against them, and the status quo is always easier to maintain in politics. Which is precisely why this maneuver is both being attempted, and is so crucial both to those interested in the rights of workers, ordinary middle-class people, against the increase of income inequality, and who oppose what communist Teddy Roosevelt called the malefactors for great wealth:
Too much cannot be said against the men of wealth who sacrifice everything to getting wealth. There is not in the world a more ignoble character than the mere money-getting American, insensible to every duty, regardless of every principle, bent only on amassing a fortune, and putting his fortune only to the basest uses —whether these uses be to speculate in stocks and wreck railroads himself, or to allow his son to lead a life of foolish and expensive idleness and gross debauchery, or to purchase some scoundrel of high social position, foreign or native, for his daughter. Such a man is only the more dangerous if he occasionally does some deed like founding a college or endowing a church, which makes those good people who are also foolish forget his real iniquity. These men are equally careless of the working men, whom they oppress, and of the State, whose existence they imperil. There are not very many of them, but there is a very great number of men who approach more or less closely to the type, and, just in so far as they do so approach, they are curses to the country.
Who do I speak of? Lee Fang reports:
Much of Walker’s critical political support can be credited to a network of right-wing fronts and astroturf groups in Wisconsin supported largely by a single foundation in Milwaukee: the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, a $460 million conservative honey pot dedicated to crushing the labor movement.
Walker has deeply entwined his administration with the Bradley Foundation. The Bradley Foundation’s CEO, former state GOP chairman Michele Grebe, chaired Walker’s campaign and headed his transition. But more importantly, the organizations lining up to support Walker are financed by Bradley cash:
– The MacIver Institute is a conservative nonprofit that has provided rapid-response attacks on those opposed to Walker’s power grab. MacIver staffers produced a series of videos attacking anti-Walker protesters, including one mocking children. Naturally, the videos have become grist for Fox News and conservative bloggers. In addition, MacIver created studies claiming that Wisconsin teachers and nurses are paid too “generously” and other reports claiming that collective bargaining rights hurt taxpayers. The Bradley Foundation has supported MacIver with over $300,000 in grants over the last three years alone.
– The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute is a major conservative think tank helping Walker win support from the media. The Institute has funded polls to bolster Walker’s position, and like MacIver, produced a flurry of attack videos against Walker’s political adversaries and a series of pieces supporting his drive against the state’s labor movement. Over the weekend, the Institute secured a pro-Walker item in the New York Times. The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute is supported with over $10 million in grants from the Bradley Foundation.
– As ThinkProgress has reported, the powerful astroturf group Americans for Prosperity not only helped to elect Walker, but bused in Tea Party supporters to hold a pro-Walker demonstration on Saturday. In 2005, the Bradley Foundation earmarked funds to help Koch Industries establish the Americans for Prosperity office in Wisconsin. From 2005-2009, the Bradley Foundation has given about $300,000 to Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin (also called Fight Back Wisconsin).
It should be no surprise that Walker’s radicalism is boosted by Bradley money. Today, the Bradley Foundation is controlled by a group of establishment Republicans, along with Washington Post columnist George Will. However, the Foundation’s agenda still reflects the extremist views of its founder, Harry Bradley. Although he passed away in 1965, Harry, a member of one Wisconsin’s most powerful families and a key financier of nationalist hate groups, would have eagerly applauded Walker’s union-busting agenda.
[...]According to scholar William Schambra, Harry even studied Lenin and Stalin for ideas on how to wage guerrilla warfare against the left. He joined candy manufacturer Robert Welch to be one of the charter members of the John Birch Society (along with JBS board member Fred Koch, the father of Koch Industries executives Charles and David Koch), and financed other right-wing firebrands. Media Transparency’s profile of the Bradley Foundation sheds light on its founder:
Robert Welch, who founded the Society in 1958, was a regular speaker at Allen-Bradley sales meetings. Harry distributed Birchite literature, as did Fred Loock, another key figure at the company. They also supported the Australian doctor Fred Schwarz, founder of the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade; William F. Buckley, Jr.’s National Review; and a right-wing Midwest radio program produced by anti-communist producer Bob Siegrist. Harry’s main political targets were “World Communism” and the U.S. federal government, not necessarily in that order. His political philosophy was laissez-faire capitalism, and he was strongly opposed to anything that might restrict his freedom to conduct his business as he saw fit. His promotion of “freedom”, however, did not extend to his own workers. While women had worked at the plant since 1918, and made up nearly a third of the workforce during World War II, they weren’t paid the same as men. They finally sued in 1966, charging the company paid less to women than male workers operating the same machines. A federal judge ruled in their favor. Allen-Bradley was one of the last major Milwaukee employers to racially integrate, and then only through public and legal pressure. By 1968, when the company’s workforce had grown to more than 7,000, Allen-Bradley employed only 32 Blacks and 14 Latinos.
After the Allen-Bradley company was purchased by Rockwell International in 1985, the Bradley Foundation surged with an additional $290 million in funds. The money has gone on to finance ideas held strongly by Harry Bradley: anti-affirmative action scholars, anti-multiculturalism books (the Bradley Foundation underwrote the notoriously racist book The Bell Curve), anti-welfare campaigns, privatization efforts, neoconservative fronts, and tens of millions for groups opposed to public and private sector unions, particular in the field of education. As conservative writer Al Regnery has observed, conservatives have relied on the Bradley Foundation to finance the backbone of radical policy ideas that first take root in Wisconsin but are then championed by Republicans around the country. Gov. Scott Walker’s current fight to crush labor rights in Wisconsin is the fulfillment of Harry Bradley’s John Birch Society dream.
That, my friends, is who we're up against.
And why we must win this fight.
1 of the 14 Democratic state senators that fled Wisconsin rather than vote on a bill taking away collective bargaining rights says he fears Republicans may find a way to vote on a key part of the measure without them.
Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach told The Associated Press on Monday that Republicans could attempt to attach the part of the proposal taking away collective bargaining rights to an unrelated bill and pass it Tuesday.
Worse could happen, as Matthew Boyle reports:
Wisconsin’s Senate can move forward on many pieces of legislation — and could eliminate some or all collective bargaining rights for public sector workers — even without the 14 Democratic state senators who fled to Chicago.
Wisconsin’s Senate needs a quorum, or 20 senators, to proceed on any spending or fiscal business. There are only 19 Republican state senators, and because all the Democrats fled, the Senate can’t hold a vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s budget. But a quorum isn’t needed for most non-spending legislation.
Newly elected state Sen. Leah Vukmir, a Tea Party favorite, told The Daily Caller the Senate could separate the removal of collective bargaining rights for state and local employees from the spending bill if the Democrats refuse to return. Vukmir said she’s not yet sure if Wisconsin’s Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald will do so, but said it’s a possibility.
“All the collective bargaining stuff could be done as a separate bill,” Vukmir said in a phone interview. “I’m not certain if we’re going to do that at this point.”
Vukmir said the Senate could go a step further and make union membership voluntary for public sector workers, or change the rules so union workers would have to vote in favor of representation annually.
Back to the WSJ:
Even if moderate Republicans did move to support Mr. Schultz's proposal, it is not clear that Democrats would accept it. On Sunday, Democratic senators emphasized that the elimination of bargaining rights should be taken off the table all together since the state's public sector unions have accepted the governor's concessions on increase pension and health-care contributions to repair the current budget addressed by Mr. Walker's bill.
Several senators also said a compromise on the bill that would sunset the collective-bargaining provisions in 2013 would not be acceptable to Democrats. One reason is that Republicans will likely still be in control of both the state senate and assembly and simply extend the provisions. But a bigger reason, according to several senators, is that unions have already agreed to fix the fiscal issues.
"The collective-bargaining language has to be removed altogether.
Collective bargaining isn't a fiscal issue," said Sen. Jon Erpenbach. "If it's OK to collectively bargain in 2013, why isn't it OK today?"
As I said: why? Because it's a con game, a bunko, flim flam, gaffle, grift, hustle, scam, scheme, swindle, attempt to bamboozle the vast majority of the public who pay little attention to politics: the marks.
What do we do?
David Dayen again helps out:
A coalition of activists in Wisconsin has announced the formation of “Wisconsin Wave,” led by a former Green Party candidate and the executive director of a think tank called the Liberty Tree Foundation. Ben Manski said that the long-term campaign would bringing together “all the diverse constituencies that represent the majority of working people in this country” to focus on the needs and concerns of the middle class. “This shifting of the burden from the wealthy to the middle class and the rest of us,” Manski said in a press conference, “is part of a broader agenda that has been pushed by corporate lobbyists… for my entire life.” They plan to start by picketing Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, a state group that lobbies for corporate interests. A separate group called for boycotts of businesses that continue to support Scott Walker.
Democratic state Rep. Mark Pocan hosted the press conference in his office. Speakers at the Wisconsin Wave press event included the head of a firefighter’s local in Dane County. Firefighters have been exempt from the collective bargaining restrictions in the budget repair bill pushed by Republicans. Lisa Graves of the Madison-based Center for Media and Democracy said that this inclusive movement of students, people of color, labor, community and environmental justice groups would eventually flow across the country. “It’s about dividing the working class of this country,” Graves said, and posited Wisconsin WAVE as the alternative.
You can hear the press conference here. The most interesting part of movements like this happens when new organizations and coalitions spring out of it. This is essentially the model for an independent, anti-austerity movement along the lines of US Uncut (their first wave of actions will happen this Saturday, by the way) that is not located inside a political party. It’s that moment where you see a new way forward.
Let's move forward.
Let's have a living wage, as Leninist, I mean, Progressive, Teddy Roosevelt called for:
We stand for a living wage. Wages are subnormal if they fail to provide a living for those who devote their time and energy to industrial occupations. The monetary equivalent of a living wage varies according to local conditions, but must include enough to secure the elements of a normal standard of living--a standard high enough to make morality possible, to provide for education and recreation, to care for immature members of the family, to maintain the family during periods of sickness, and to permit of reasonable saving for old age.
Our aim is to control business, not to strangle it--and, above all, not to continue a policy of make-believe strangle toward big concerns that do evil, and constant menace toward both big and little concerns that do well. Our aim is to promote prosperity, and then see to its proper division.
The only effective way in which to regulate the trusts is through the exercise of the collective power of our people as a whole through the Governmental agencies established by the Constitution for this very purpose. Grave injustice is done by the Congress when it fails to give the National Government complete power in this matter; and still graver injustice by the federal courts when they endeavor in any way to pare down the right of the people collectively to act in this matter as they deem wise; such conduct does itself tend to cause the creation of a twilight zone in which neither the Nation nor the States have power.
Let's return to these radical idea of so many Republicans of 1912. That's how long we've been waiting, and fighting. We must sing of bread and roses:
As we go marching, marching, in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing: Bread and Roses! Bread and Roses!
As we go marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women's children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses.
As we go marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient call for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for, but we fight for roses too.
As we go marching, marching, we bring the greater days,
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler, ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life's glories: Bread and roses, bread and roses.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; bread and roses, bread and roses.
March, march, in the beauty of the day. Dance the Wisconsin Waltz.
UPDATE, 10:05 PM, Pacific Time: "Recall Walker" crowd chanting.
If a video doesn't work for you, try reloading your browser; if that doesn't work, click through to the original on YouTube. General principle.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, it was reported -- and I want -- we want to clarify this -- the Democrats offered to -- or the unions, we should say, offered to go along with cuts in pay, cuts in benefit, as long as they could keep their collective bargaining rights. The governor said no to that. Is that accurate?
JASON STEIN: That's right.
Over a couple of days, they -- they repeated that offer. Democratic senators have also said they're prepared to come back if that sort of a deal is struck. The governor has repeatedly rejected that offer, saying it's not enough.
So much for that.
UPDATE, February 22nd, 5:54 a.m., PST: Polling:
[...] Reaction to the specifics of Walker's Proposals include overwhelming opposition from Democrats, majority support from Republicans and sizable opposition from independents. Walker has a 10% net disapproval -- 39% approve, 49% disapprove. [...] Voters in Wisconsin strongly agree with the working families at the state capitol and oppose Governor Scott Walker's anti-worker agenda. Moreover, since the protests began, Governor Walker has seen real erosion in his standing, with a majority expressing disapproval of his job performance and disagreement with his agenda. Strong majorities disagree with eliminating collective bargaining for public employees and believe that if workers agree to concessions on pensions and healthcare benefits that the Governor should drop his plan to eliminate collective bargaining. [...] Overall, a majority (51 percent) of Wisconsin voters disapprove of Walker's job performance and give him net negative favorability ratings (39 percent favorable, 49 percent unfavorable). In contrast, 62 percent of voters offer a favorable view of public employees (only 11 percent unfavorable) and 53 percent of voters rate labor unions favorably (31 percent unfavorable). When asked if they agree or disagree with the position different groups and individuals are taking in the current situation, voters side with the public employees (67 percent agree), the protesters (62 percent agree), the unions (59 percent agree), and the Democrats in the state legislature (56 percent agree). In contrast, 53 percent disagree with Walker and 46 percent disagree with the Republicans in the legislature. [...] Just over half of Wisconsin's voters oppose the agenda offered by Walker and the Republicans in the state legislature. Only 43 percent favor it. It is striking that there is a real intensity gap with 39 percent strongly opposing their proposals and only 28 percent strongly favoring it. When voters are presented with Walker's specific agenda, including cutting benefits, freezing wages and eliminating collective bargaining, 52 percent oppose. The intensity gap actually increases to 41 percent strongly oppose and 24 percent strongly favor. [...] Finally, voters are convinced that if public employees accept concessions and pay more for retirement and healthcare that Governor Walker should drop his attempt to eliminate collective bargaining. Three quarters say that public employees should not have their collective bargaining rights eliminated including nearly half of Republicans. [....]
Implications obvious. Last night: Wisconsin Legislature Shuts Down Comment Line After Too Many Complaints.
[...] After a flood of calls that legislative staff tell TPM came from "unions and other non-profits," the legislature's Sergeant at Arms ordered the number disconnected Friday, a move that according to sources could save the state quite a bit of money as the protests against Gov. Scott Walker's (R) union-busting budget plan rage. [...]
Each call to the toll-free line costs the state 10 cents, the staffer told me. And once Walker's budget proposal became news, the calls starting pouring in nonstop. Once the phone was hung up, it would ring again. Hundreds and hundreds of calls, every hour -- even at 3 AM, when the Hotline transfers to voicemail.
But cutting off the line during the height of the protest, the argument goes, the state will save a ton. [...]
It's the first time in the more than 20 years the line's been open that the Sergeant at Arms had it disconnected, according to staff in Madison.
A spokesperson for the AFL-CIO told TPM that he didn't know of any scheme to direct calls to the Legislative Hotline, and he suggested such a plan didn't really make sense as legislators in Wisconsin would probably only care about calls that came from people in Wisconsin, not national complaints from people forwarded to them by an outside group.
At last, some help with the budget crisis.
UPDATE, Feburary 22nd, 7:46 a.m., PST:
Around 10:50PM Wisconsin Time on February 21st the South Central Federation of Labor endorsed the following motions:
Motion 1: The SCFL endorses a general strike, possibly for the day Walker signs his “budget repair bill,” and requests the Education Committee immediately begin educating affiliates and members on the organization and function of a general strike.
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.
It’s important to note that this is just a threat and not actually going out on a general strike. Under the Taft-Hartley Act a general strike in support of other workers is illegal; therefore the key word is the phrase “begin educating affiliates and members on the organization and function of a general strike”. In addition, only individual unions, not the central labor federation has the ability to call a strike.Many private sector unions would not go out on a general strike out of fear of being of sued by their employers. However, local labor observers say many public sector unions and some of the construction unions would go out on a strike. Threatening a general strike creates even more pressure for Scott Walker in the business community.