We Deny Ourselves

February 20, 2011

In the town and city squares of Tunisia and Egypt, and now Bahrain and Wisconsin people demand their right to be respected and heard —hundreds of thousands in Egypt, tens of thousands in Tunisia and Bahrain and maybe 70,000 thousand in Wisconsin.

In Egypt, Tunisia and Bahrain people understand when they’re being dissed and manipulated, used and discarded; they come together in widespread solidarity. In Wisconsin, not so much. In Egypt, Tunisia, and Bahrain the people are clearly better educated in the reality, means and methods of suppression. They seem to understand the aim of state propaganda. In Wisconsin and much of the rest of the country too many people rely on info from Republican State Media, a.k.a. Fox News. Up until now there’s been precious little collective outrage over how the two-headed monster gov/biz has taken advantage of American workers and the middle class, but that may be changing.

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin wants to rob union workers in the state of their right to collectively negotiate their terms of employment. This is not about budgets; this is about the right of free people to organize politically so they’ll be better able to counter the financial clout of business. The Governor spins his rhetoric to make it sound as if all he wants to do is to manage state expenses. He frames his beef with government workers in terms of financial responsibility, but what’s really going on in Wisconsin is a continuation of Republican/Corporate efforts to smash unions; a program that began to really roll with Ronald Reagan.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Walker’s “…budget repair bill…effectively strips public workers of their collective bargaining rights.” This has nothing to do with budget cuts. It has everything to do with workers’ legal right to associate and collectively negotiate the conditions of their employment. In fact according to the State Journal, “Top leaders of two of Wisconsin’s largest public employee unions announced they are willing to accept the financial concessions called for in Walker’s plan, but will not accept the loss of collective bargaining rights.” But this is not pleasing to a Governor whose party seems to come down on the side of corporations in any argument involving the rights of labor. The Republican Party is the political point of the corporate spear.

So, if unions are willing to concede about the money, why does the governor dig in his heels? It’s because the real issue is the legal right of the people to make choices regarding their happiness —the very right spoken of in the Declaration of Independence; the right to “… the pursuit of happiness.” In America of 2011 corporations have the right to lobby and negotiate for their happiness and governments have the right to grant it, but worker’s do not; the people do not? That’s not the country I grew up believing in.

Both Mary Bell and Marty Beil, leaders of unions for government employees, said in a conference call with reporters that workers will do their fair share to narrow Wisconsin’s budget gap. What they’re referring to is a willingness to concede on the financial aspects of Walker’s plan (for state, local and school employees to pay half the costs of their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health care premiums).

But Walker’s bill would also prohibit unionized public employees (except local police, fire fighters and the State Patrol) from bargaining on issues other than wages. Police, State Patrol, and fire-fighter’s unions —whose members coincidently support the Republican— will still be able to bargain for their rights as workers.

As Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo notes, “It strains credulity to see this as anything but a political effort to destroy organizations that are critical foot soldiers for Democratic candidates at election time.” It’s also interesting that the policing arm of government (its muscle) would be exempt from the governor’s curtailment of the liberty to negotiate.

In Egypt the hundreds of thousands who gathered in Tahrir Square and across the nation saw Hosni Mubarak and his government for what they were and demanded their rights as naturally free people, but many in Wisconsin can’t see through Walker’s Republican smokescreen —an instrument the governor uses to obscure the real intent of Republicans to further undermine the authority of the people to assure their rights as Americans and workers.

Walker has his supporters; they’ve been encouraging him not to give in. Unfortunately many of them are taxpayers who feel the pinch of our present financial debacle, but who are misguidedly looking for relief by selling-out their own rights to organize.  They seem reluctant to demand they be recognized as the peers of plutocrats in business and government.

In the 1980s Ronald Reagan began by shutting out air traffic controllers,since then corporations have continued to fight unions and outsource jobs, now in 2011 Governor Walker (another Republican union-buster) is after state and municipal employees. The question all tax-paying Walker supporters should be asking themselves is “When will I feel effects of Republican efforts to marginalize average people and workers?”

In Egypt and Tunisia the people said “No more!” to plutocracy. They said it in vast numbers.  In the USA, up till now, we’ve simply denied the reality of ours. When we do we deny our democracy; we deny ourselves.

by Jim Culleny
2/20/11
for The Greenfield Recorder

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