Wisconsin, like every other state in the union, is broke. And, like every other state in the union, it’s looking at cutting services. As per usual, things like health and education are taking a hit in the budget; but, Wisconsin is gaining some national notoriety thanks to Republican governor, Scott Walker’s plan to not only cut benefits for unionized workers in the public sector, but strip the unions of their collective bargaining rights.
While Walker claims that this isn’t an issue of Union busting, to paraphrase Jon Stewart, if you take away a union’s collective bargaining rights, you’re just left with a bunch of people wearing matching t-shirts. While this may be a bit of an exaggeration, it is true that once you take away a union’s power to stand united, all that’s left is a glorified lobby––a lobby that will quickly lose members if the original purpose for its foundation is lost. So really, while this has been painted as an economic issue, it’s really just an excuse to strip the unions of any power they have left.
And the workers of Wisconsin are not taking this lying down. Although this attempt at breaking down the Union will only affect unionized workers in the public sector (not including: firefighters, cops, and state troopers), all kinds of Wisconsinites (including the non-affected firefighter’s union) are making their way to Madison to voice their opposition to this robbery of worker’s rights.
We could be making a point about the importance of participation in democracy, but as 2009’s Tea Party protests showed us, just because citizens turn out for a march, it doesn’t mean they’re right. So no, the point is not that people are mobilizing themselves, the point is that this time, the people are right. Unions have been instrumental in bringing about things like the eight hour work day, maternity leave, and the minimum wage––taking away their power to collectively bargain, takes away their power to officiate change; and, this is exactly what the Republican leadership wants.
Walker has refused to even talk about changing his budget proposal because, “[Wisconsin is] broke.” But if Wisconsin is so broke it feels the need to strip the working class of their rights to band together against injustice, how can he afford the $117 million he is giving to corporations in tax breaks? Why, when the median teacher’s income is already $3,000 bellow that of the average Wisconsin worker are they being asked to tighten their belts?
The truth is, Wisconsin’s Republican leadership is just using the economic downturn to finally destroy one of their longest-standing opponents––the unions that fund their Democratic opponents––while strengthening the corporations that tend to fund their own campaigns. Sneaky, Walker. But it seems that 70,000 protesters have taken notice, and it doesn’t look like the leadership will be able to pull this one over on the people.