jeudi 17 février 2011

A sleeping giant awakens in Wisconsin

Here in New Jersey, where property taxes on even a modest house often run upwards of $8,000 a year, Chris Christie's jihad against public sector workers has been met with either applause or crickets. If my own community is any indication, New Jerseyans care only about youth sports and nothing else. They don't put together than when the snow is plowed, it's a public worker who does it. Or when the potholes are fixed, it's a public worker who does it. They support their community's schools and praise THEIR children's teachers, but want OTHER communities' teachers to get screwed. Perhaps it's that there are so many Wall Street workers in the state, or the reality that so many governors have been stiffing the public pension fund for so many years that the problem may well be intractable. But where I live, these workers are silently taking it. And as a result, Chris Christie is touted more as the GOP Flavor-of-the-Month for 2012:

...despite that most of his budget-cutting is so far just bluster, as the state's bond rating has just been cut.

Not so in Wisconsin, where tens of thousands of state workers, perhaps inspired by the sight of large numbers of people amassing to force change, have gathered in front of, and in many cases, even IN, the state house, to protest the radical move by Wisconsin's teabagger governor Scott Walker to summarily remove the state workers' right to collective bargaining.

Unions make convenient punching bags. My own experiences with being a union member have hardly been edifying. I spent an entire summer after high school on a picket line in front of the Elm Street A&P (now a Trader Joe's) in order to preserve my ability to work summers there while in college. When my job at Standard & Poor's was a Newspaper Guild job, and my boss wanted to promote me to a non-union job, the shop steward blocked the promotion, despite the fact that I would be replaced by someone in the union. There are unions, and there are unions. In some cases, like mine, you are simply working for another level of management just trying to protect its own interests and not caring one whit for yours. But when you see things like Republican state senators trying to gut child labor laws and a Republican outgoing president rushing through a rule to make it more difficult for the government to regulate toxic substances that adversely affect workers on the job, you know what ultimately all this demonization of public workers is about. It's not ultimately about saving taxpayer money, it's about making sure that not one worker anywhere in the country has any say against an onslaught of corporate exploitation and greed. If workers have to develop life-threatening illnesses so people have microwave popcorn to eat while watching streaming movies, so be it.

Rachel Maddow talked with Russ Feingold last night about the demonization of public sector workers:

If you're lucky enough to still have a job; if you're paid well, maybe you just got promoted, you feel pretty secure -- if you think that you aren't expendable and jettisoning you onto the scrap heap of 99-ers isn't something that can happen if it means getting the company through the giant maw of Wall Street greed through another quarter, guess again. And the next time you demonize a public sector worker, go read about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Then come back and tell me that unions have been an unmitigated evil.

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