Saturday, February 26, 2011

On Wisconsin!

Wisconsin's state Capitol Building is one of the most beautiful structures in the United States. Inside, the Rotunda opens into the largest granite dome in the United States, with Fighting Bob LaFollette holding court from the East Wing.  Between the dome's four arches are four pendentives: Legislation, Government, Justice, and Liberty.
Under the watchful eye of the four pendentives, for the past seven days, the people of Wisconsin have stood together to protect the collective bargaining rights of Wisconsin's public union workers.  On the ground floor, a drum line beats out an endless rhythm to fuel chants and songs rising up to the upper levels filled with people holding signs and American flags, echoing a deafening chorus: "This is what Democracy looks like!"
Until the mobilization of the people of Wisconsin against Governor Scott Walker's proposed budget, it appeared that the GOP, the Tea Party, and their billionaire backers were in the ascendancy.  Twenty-six state attorney generals filed suits against the 2010 Health Care Reform bill.  Immediate cuts for social safety nets were outlined.  Mitch McConnell's goal was nakedly clear: to make President Barack Obama a one-term executive.
That was until Governor Walker pushed to end collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin public union workers, which include public school teachers.  That was the case until fourteen bold Wisconsin Democratic Senators, following in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln circa 1840, left the state of Wisconsin to prevent a quorum.  That was until the people of Wisconsin converged on Madison, packing the Capitol Square.  They understood that if the public unions in Wisconsin fell, then all other unions would face elimination of collective bargaining rights from Wisconsin to across the United States.
Governor Walker attempted to support his bill as a means to balance Wisconsin's budget, facing a $137 million budget gap.  But commentators have noted that eliminating collective bargaining rights for public union workers will not help bridge the budget gap.  Public unions were not the catalysis that led to the collapse of the US economy in 2008, leading to massive unemployment, which led to severe reduction in tax revenues, which contributed to the huge budget deficits in states across the US.
Just in case anyone didn't know, that was courtesy of your benighted Wall Street Bankers.  None of which are in indefinite detention in some torture camp out of public sight.
Wisconsin prior to Walker pushing massive tax breaks to businesses within two days of his inauguration was looking at a $120 million surplus.   Walker claims that he must strip the public union collective bargaining rights in order to close that gap.   Those unions that supported Walker's candidacy, the public safety unions who have higher salaries and benefits are exempted.
The public union workers of Wisconsin mobilized, joined by University of Wisconsin students, by their fellow citizens: both union and non-union, from across the US.  Well-wishers from across the US and the world purchased pies from Ian's Pizza to sustain the energy of the protesters.  Union workers handed out bratwurst and water to protesters.  Egyptian Trade Unions issued a statement to Wisconsin: "We Stand With You as You Stood With Us."
It was an honor to stand alongside my fellow badgers to protect worker's rights in Wisconsin three days this week.  From the union worker handing out bratwurst to marching with other veterans to the bagpipers bringing down the house on the Capitol Square, it is a historic occasion that cannot be ignored.  Wisconsin is the first stand against the breaking of labor and the unchecked regressive policies of the Right Wing, brought to you by the Koch Brothers.  We cannot fail.