Class Warfare in Wisconsin: 10 Things You Should Know


Big shout out to my man Josh Healy of http://joshhealey.org/2011/02/17/class-warfare-in-wisconsin/ who penned this excellent run down of what’s cracking off in Wisconsin.. It’s important to get the word out about what’s taking place because there is an all out assault all across the country to dismantle public sector unions.

The attackers are multi-national corporations who through the use of media outlets that they own or have access to, have preyed upon the greed, fear and outright ignorance of many to spit venom and lies about unions while taking their mind off über rich Wall Street banker types who collapsed this economy…

anyway peep the article.. and drop a line over at Josh’s blog..

-Davey D-

For most of the last decade, I lived in the crazy, cold, contradictory state that is Wisconsin. I wrote research papers in Madison, performed poems in Milwaukee, walked picket lines in Jefferson, organized student conferences in Eau Claire, led artistic workshops in Green Bay, spoke at my roommate’s wedding in Merrill, and went camping with my future wife at Black River Falls.

A big-city kid from the East Coast, I never fully got used to the overwhelming whiteness of Wisconsin — the winter, and yes, the people. But I eventually learned how to wear five layers in February, and that amidst the farms and abandoned factories, there was a working-class people with a strong populist ethic. As my freshman roommate from Wausau once told me, “Josh, I don’t follow politics. I just hate corporations.”

Fast-forward to 2011: the new Republican Governor, Scott Walker, has declared war on my old roommate and all Wisconsin workers. Under the guise of a budget deficit, Walker just put forth a bill that would destroy the unions that represent teachers, social workers, and over 100,000 public employees. He’s also making huge cuts to schools, health care, public transportation, and anything that actually helps people live.

Want more crazy? Walker ordered the National Guard to get ready to respond to a strike or any resistance to his plan. The last time Wisconsin called in the National Guard during a labor dispute was way back in 1886, when Guard militiamen shot on a rally of Milwaukee workers advocating an 8-hour work day. Five unarmed workers were killed in the massacre.

I loved living in Wisconsin. Truth be told, I hated it many times too, especially when its ugly side came out like now. I was fighting this same struggle during most of my junior and senior years at UW. Our campaign demands were nothing new: lower tuition for students, better health care for workers, higher taxes on the rich, and a real investment in public education over private incarceration. That was with Jim Doyle in office. But now with this dude Walker, it’s at a whole new level.

Of course, the people aren’t going down without a fight. There have beenunprecedented demonstrations at the state Capitol in Madison every day this week — from 1,000 the first day to over 25,000 yesterday.

I wish I could be out there on State Street with my Badgers in the struggle, but at the very least, I can do my best to spread the word. So for all my old students and roommates taking to the streets, and for everyone else wondering what the hell is going on in America’s Dairyland, let’s clear some things up:

1. The deficit is a made-up crisis.
Like most states, Wisconsin is struggling in the recession, but the state government isn’t actually broke. The state legislature’s fiscal bureau estimated the state would end the year with a $121 million balance. Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit — but it is not because of an increase in worker wages or benefits. According to the Capital Times, it is because “Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for corporate and special-interest groups in January.” Nice. A man-made “crisis” as an excuse to push neoliberal cutbacks: Shock Doctrine, anyone?

2. Even if there was a deficit, blame Wall Street — not the workers.
The economy isn’t crumbling because state workers in Madison have decent pensions. It’s because Wall Street bankers stole our money, Bush and now Obama have us in two trillion-dollar wars, and states like Wisconsin keep spending more on prisons than schools. What do the rich pay? According to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, corporate tax income has fallen by half since 1981 and over two-thirds of Wisconsin corporations pay zero taxes.

3. The Green Bay Packers are with the people.
They won the Super Bowl. They’re owned by the people of Green Bay, not some schmuck billionaire. And now the Pack is standing in solidarity with their union brothers and sisters. If only Brady Poppinga (pictured below) would tackle Scott Walker like that. If the green and gold are down, you already know what side to roll with. (I heard Walker is a Vikings fan, anyway.)

4. This is not “just another Madison protest.”
Madison is famous for its progressive tradition, but this is more than just another march down State Street. This struggle is engaging people across the state — not just Madison and Milwaukee, but LaCrosseEau Claire, and outside Gov. Walker’s home in Wauwatosa. This struggle is multi-racial, multi-generational, and multi-issue. Working- and middle-class white folks (the majority population) might finally realize that long-term unity is stronger than short-term tax relief. Looking for the progressive antidote to the Tea Party? They’re brewing something in the Badger State.

5. Public worker unions were founded in Wisconsin.
The first union for public employees was actually started in Madison in 1932, to ensure living wages for the workers and end political patronage for government jobs. The biggest public union, AFSCME, was born right where the protests are happening today in Madison. Wisconsin has always had a dual legacy — home to the last Socialist mayor in the country (Frank Zeidler of Milwaukee) and the ultimate anti-Communist himself, Joe McCarthy; more recently, both progressive Sen. Russ Feingold and immigrant-basher Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner — but the Dairyland’s populist ethos can be traced back to the Progressive Era and its public unions.

6. Hurting public workers will not help you get a better job.
Many conservatives, and even some liberals, argue that we need to “bring public workers’ benefits down to the level of private workers.” First off, it’s not true that public workers are better off — they usually get lower wages in exchange for better benefits. More important, though, is the idea that we should raise all boats, rather than continue this race to the bottom. Russ Feingold said yesterday that “Republicans are trying to pit private workers against their public counterparts.” No more divide and conquer. Yes, people with a private-sector job (or, people who like 50% of black men in Milwaukee don’t have a job at all) have a right to be angry: but that anger should be reserved for the companies who are downsizing and outsourcing those jobs, not for middle school teachers and the lunch lady.

7. This is about more than unions.
This is about public education, affirmative action, immigrant rights, stopping foreclosures, and basic human rights.  This is about how much the Radical Right thinks they can get away with. This is about drawing a line in the sand — if first they come for the unions, who will they come for next?

8. The country is watching Wisconsin.
What happens this week in Madison has national ramifications. Right now, everyone’s eyes are on Wisconsin. The governor of Ohio and Tennessee are threatening to adopt similar legislation — and Obama has his own conservative budget proposal at the federal level. If they can force it through relatively liberal Wisconsin, your state could be next.

9. Wisconsin was watching Egypt.
News travels fast, and uprisings inspire each other across continents. The protesters out on the Madison streets watched the millions of Egyptians who successfully, nonviolently took down their dictator. Many of them are now carrying signs like the one below calling Scott Walker “the Mubarak of the Midwest.” And while the American media loves the union workers that toppled a dictator in Egypt, CNN has little sympathy for the workers that will be silenced right here in the heartland.

10. Who’s Capitol? OUR Capitol!
This is our moment. Our state. Our growing movement to change the course of the country. The legislature could vote as soon as today on Walker’s bill — unless the real Badgers stand up to stop him.

The protests are escalating every day, inside and outside the Capitol. To all my Madison folks, stay strong and know that we’re with you. To the rest of the country, spread the word, donate to the legal defense funds, and make sure your own states don’t go down this same road.

For resources and up-to-date info on what’s happening on the ground, check out:

AFT-Wisconsin
Wisconsin Wave
Teaching Assistants’ Association
Student Labor Action Coalition

On, Wisconsin! Solidarity Forever!

12 comments on “Class Warfare in Wisconsin: 10 Things You Should Know

  1. As a public official, I am getting really annoyed at many (e.g. media, private citizens and politicians) who constantly blame government workers for the financial mess THEY caused. Whenever their is a political uprising and budget issues, blame the government workers who are overpaid and underworked. The usual media reports show government workers’ pay and benefits outpacing private sector, blah, blah, blah. Well, I have a degree in accounting and am working on being a licensed certified internal auditor (CIA) and proudly do my civil service to ensure taxpayers’ money is spent properly (e.g. waste, fraud and abuse) and the intended recipients of gov’t money are being serviced. I could have went to the BIG 8 accounting firms (in 1999 and yes I am dating myself) and enjoyed the champagne lifestyle. However, I chose civil service and enjoy it. So, when politicans, certain private citizens and media start bashing government employees, they have crossed the line. Are there employees who are incompetent, YES. Are there employees who have no business in civil service, ABSOLUTELY. But the majority work their asses off, dealing with politicans and insiders with egos, shady media and those unappreciative public citizens for salaries (underpaid) and benefits (my dental plan SUCKS) that for the most part do not match the private sector. Of my nearly 12 years in the public sector, I have had to sacrifice a personal life (family, etc.) live out of a suitcase and adhere to some of the most outdated (most unreasonable travel policies) and work using limited or outdated resources to do my job. Could I have left? Yes, but I stuck it out and sacrificed because I believe in the mission of civil service and ensuring funds are used properly and towards those in need. Also, we HAVE to adhere to strict rules (e.g. conflict of interests rules, appearances/perceptions like no lavish parties or Friday beer bashes) that politicans and their insiders ignore like a motherless child. I like to see the critics do what we do for the sacrifice, pay, benefits, headaches, limited resources, non-existent training (as an accountant/auditor we are required to have so many hours of training per year) we go through. I do not think most citizens would last even six months. So for the critics, get rid of gov’t employees, cut more pay (my agency just imposed a pay freeze with prospects of it going for five years) and benefits, have us do more work with less benefits/pay. Those critics will be the same individuals whining about why services are slow and why there is a lack of people or resources doling out or handling the pork projects and other crap. And one final note, the federal budget battle is heating up to the point where Bohner (sic) has stated the read his lips that the Republicans will not pass another short continuing resolution to keep the government operating pass March 4 with significant budget cuts. Interesting, but I am calling their bluff and the gov’t shutdown will jeopardize funding to everyone from employees, contractors, gov’t program, the military and foreign aid.

  2. “As a public official, I am getting really annoyed at many (e.g. media, private citizens and politicians) who constantly blame government workers for the financial mess THEY caused”

    Sorry, the media doesn’t bomb Pakistan. Private citizens didn’t invade Iraq. Those who want small government didn’t bail out GM, or the banks, or promise entitlements that are little more than a Ponzi scheme.

    I work two jobs, I haven’t had a raise in years, I don’t have a pension.

    But you know what? I don’t work for the violent, corrupt, entitled bureacracy that has swelled to become this nation’s biggest problems.

    I don’t care if you’re a prison guard, an air force pilot, a parole worker, a homeland security screener, or a bean counter. Fuck you. You’re part if the problem.

    FUCK YOU

  3. Okay, I’m going to apologize for my language. The use of the f-bomb is uncivil, and uncalled for.

    So I’ll state my point another way: I am deeply skeptical that government is the solution.

    The Washington bureaucracy has clearly been captured by corporate interests — defense contractors, banks, and agribusiness.

    Government is too big to be effective, but too big to be controlled any longer. It is eating this society alive.

    The person at the top doesn’t much matter. Barack Obama is just a smarter, more capable version of George W. Bush. Same wars, same ineffective bureaucracy, same sense of entitlement by banks, defense contractors, and others.

    I truly, sincerely believe we could get by with a government 10% of its current size, and all be better off.

  4. Barack Obama is a smarter, more capable version of George W. Bush. Sure. So, let’s run down Obama’s life:

    He was born in Connecticut, moved to Texas at a young age.

    His father, a CIA agent, went into the oil business.

    Already wealthy, the Obamas became super wealthy with their oil profits, not to mention had gained political power in both Texas and in Washington.

    After having his father fix his grades at Yale and failing in several businesses, Obama became governor of Texas, putting more people to death than any Texas governor in history.

    In late 2000, Obama barely won election to president of the United States, having won the decisive state of Florida, where his brother, Jeb Hussein Obama, was governor, by just a hundred or so votes.

    As soon as Obama took office in 2001, he immediately focused on business deregulation, citing excessive regulation as a primary cause of what was, basically, the best economy America had ever seen.

    Should I go on, Brian?

  5. Brian if you have a problem with these people, then do everything you damn self. If you’re mad cuz teachers want a better working envirment, then teach your own damn kids! if you mad at firemen who risk their lifes for you cuz they want a better pension, if your house catch fire, put the damn fire out yourself. If you complainbing about the prision guards wanting fair play then you protect yourself, because you don’t need big government. I’m not pro police, but since you don’t need big government, don’t call the police when you need them! Hell, if you don’t want a pilot getting what he deserved, then fly you damn self. So unless Brian you’re a pilot, teacher, prision guards you should be thanksful for these people you don’t need. I love these ‘I hate big goverment people’.

  6. You love the pilots bombing innocent pakistanis? Okay, what are you a nazi? Sorry thAt’s a plane I don’t want to fly. Airline pilots, by contrast, don’t work for the government. They don’t murder people either.

  7. We don’t need less government, we just need to spend less money on military, law enforcement, and prisons, and more money providing living wage jobs. We need to bring in Donald Trump to say “you’re fired” to all of the private contractors that have taken the place of public sector employees in the past 30 years, and bring the public employees back. That can be done, Brian. It’s called a platform. You don’t have to be entirely for or entirely against government. You can allocate funds to areas of need. Seriously. There’s really no galactic law that says we can’t.

  8. So you’re telling me, that pilots from Southwest airlines or any other airline are bombing people? I’m not talking about military piliots, Brian.

  9. Pingback: Wisconsin Protest Breakdown

  10. Yeah, the “big government” shtick is getting stale. It’s more like “big corporations”, but even that COULD be diminished, if folks would quit cheerleading them like they’re something out of this world.

    @Rob Thomas
    Good breakdown regarding Bush vs. Obama. If it was found that Obama did even a 1/10 of that, we’d already be past the impeachment proceedings by now.

  11. “Brian if you have a problem with these people, then do everything you damn self.”

    We’re being forced to pay other people’s wages and thus brian has less resources to provide for himself

    “Yeah, the “big government” shtick is getting stale. It’s more like “big corporations”, but even that COULD be diminished,”

    Corporations are legal entities, they are creations of the government. The state and corporations are one in the same, you can’t have big corp. w/ out “big government”. To diminish the state is to diminish corp.’s
    But, should “small gov’t” folks also be mad @ those who work for corp. who receive these benefits from the state?
    As Ms. Bell noted in a recent post on here, wage laborers are turning around and spending their $ at the same store which is paying them shit. But, it is the same for the public worker who is paying there own salary through the tax structure.
    interesting article on the topic: http://c4ss.org/content/6222

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