What’s disgusting? Union busting.

Kill the bill. This statement is short, concise, elegant, and best of all, it rhymes. This rhyming allows it to be a chant, a slogan, and a rallying call, present on the lips and in the hearts of all who recognize its truth. The Wisconsin state capitol in Madison has been occupied for the past two weeks by protesters carrying this statement high, drumming the mantra for countless hours, protesters from not just Wisconsin, but Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and New York. This is not the protest of a few, but the protest of workers, families, children, any and all affected by Governor Scott Walker’s proposal. The bill in question? Governor Scott Walker’s “Budget Repair Bill”, which focuses not so much on fixing the deficit as it does on fixing the opposition to corporate interests and the wealthy elite. The bill calls for, among other things, drastic pay cuts to public employees (excepting the police force, firefighters, and state troopers – interestingly, groups that backed Walker’s campaign), and the elimination of their right to collectively bargain, to fix a $137 million hole in the state budget. Some see this as necessary, citing the relative salary of Wisconsin public employees in relation to other states, or the apparent issue of public employees not paying for benefits, or the allegedly overpowered unions. Though these may be partly truthful, they are overwhelmingly flawed analysis. Wisconsin state employees may earn more in relation to other states, but when compared with private sector employees, public employees earn an average of 8.2% less, in some cases as much as 25% less; when compared with similar skilled positions, Wisconsin public employees are simply undercompensated. Additionally, though public employees may appear to not be paying anything towards their benefits, public unions have actually negotiated lower salaries for the cost of including these benefits; thus, in effect, state employees actually do contribute, but via the institution of collective bargaining. Furthermore, unions and state employees had actually agreed to cuts prior to this bill, in recognition of the need for decreased expenditures, so any indignation expressed for state employees “not pulling their weight” is an incorrect analysis. The “overpowered” unions have also been cited in the disagreement, with calls for their removal from government. This call, however, is essentially representative of the major political swing away from legitimate issues towards party politics and power jockeying. This bill is at its core a scheme to strip the unions of their power, and, by extension, strip the power from progressive reforms. Scott Walker said as much in the now infamous prank call by newspaper editor Ian Murphy, posing as billionaire David Koch, one of the top contributors to Walker’s campaign. Walker spoke of his union-busting goals, and the “slugger with [his] name on it” that he keeps in his office for such negotiations. Barring the serious ethical violations in Walker’s words and the questionably legal gambling of state jobs to bring the Democrats back (Walker called threatening layoffs “raising pressure” on the Democrats to return), the goals of union-busting become quite apparent, especially when viewing provisions that negate the mandatory participation in unions and the paying of union dues for state workers, the main source of unions’ income. Having thus destroyed the finances of the unions, Walker moves on to the very rights that define them – the right for workers to collectively bargain. Wisconsin was the first state to provide this right, as we have historically been very progressive and pro-labor. Walker’s actions have even been described as not like him, and not as radical as his normal politics, suggesting an interest or group behind him pulling the strings – and with similar actions against unions being taken at this moment in other states, we cannot help but see the grip of corporate control ensnaring the very rights and freedoms which define us as a people. This “budget repair” nonsense makes no economic sense; it will pull over a billion dollars in purchasing power (based on an 8% pay cut for all publicly employed) from Wisconsin’s economy. The egregious effects of this are not difficult to understand, and are, in fact, basic high school economics. A decrease in consumer expenditures, from the decrease in pay, leads to a direct contraction in the economy, only worsening problems like unemployment and state debt. The bill is party politics for corporate gains, false economics and elimination of rights. If Walker had wanted to fix the deficit, he needn’t have given $117 million in corporate tax breaks, or spent $140 million on special interest groups. This bill is not a credible political proposition, it is a travesty of democracy in which the people of the state of Wisconsin are being lied to and cheated by officials elected to represent them. More have protested this bill in Madison than protested the Vietnam War; the people are letting their voices be heard. We are a democracy, literally “rule by the people”, and the people are not going to sit down and accept legislation that serves no other purpose than to increase the power of its writers, and the corporations that finance them. This, Wisconsin, is democracy. It’s not going anywhere. #

– adh