Wisconsin: Ground Zero for Republican War against Workers?

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[Speaking Truth To Power]

As mass protests against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s anti-worker initiatives enters its third week, the question is: has Wisconsin become an example of Republican attempts to gut workers’ rights?

Earlier this month, Governor Walker unleashed a firestorm of protests when he proposed a bill seen as an attack on the collective bargaining rights of workers and unions. Thousands of workers have rallied and protested at the State Capitol—and workers in other states have followed suit.

Other Republicans, like Ohio Governor John Kasich, are pushing similar legislation. And recently, in Tennessee, the Senate passed a bill to end collective bargaining for teachers. The situation, in Wisconsin, has forced Wisconsin Senate Democratic lawmakers to
employ an interesting political strategy: leaving the state, for Illinois, to deny the Wisconsin Senate, controlled by Republicans, a quorum—and any vote on passage of Governor Walker’s bill.

A quorum, in politics, represents the number of legislators necessary to perform legislative functions. Democratic lawmakers in other states are employing the same tactic against Republican union-busting bills. The governor argued he needs to make alterations to public employee contracts to help offset Wisconsin’s budget deficit. Ironically, while the governor intends to pinch workers, he nonetheless gave $140 million in corporate tax-breaks that some say worsened this year’s deficit, which is $137 million.

Moreover, Wisconsin was projected to have a $120 million surplus before Governor Walker decision to give tax-breaks to wealthy corporations. The governor asked—and received from the workers—concessions to place 5.8 percent of the workers’ salaries toward their pensions and set aside 12.6 percent for their health-care premiums.

However, it’s his attempt to remove collective-bargaining—except for workers wages and for specific groups like police, state troopers and firefighters—that have rankled most. And when state workers made it clear they would protest, the governor stated he would deploy the Wisconsin National Guard.

Yet Governor Walker’s attempt to silence workers has failed. Last Saturday, over 100,000 packed Wisconsin’s Capital Square for a “Rally for Worker’s Rights.” It was, reportedly, the largest rally in the history of Madison Wisconsin. And the police—one of the groups the governor exempted from his collective-bargaining bill—have refused to stop the protesters from protesting. In fact, it has been reported that hundreds of police joined the protesters. In a statement the officers said "We have been ordered by the legislature to kick you all out... But we know what’s right from wrong. We will not be kicking anyone out. In fact, we will be sleeping here with you."

All working Americans should stand with the protesters in Wisconsin. A war has been declared on workers. Remember when Republicans claimed President Obama and Democrats were enacting “class warfare?” Yet, now, these same people want to take power from working people by removing collective bargaining rights—thereby giving corporations maximum leverage against workers fighting for their share of the profits workers produce.

Is this how Republicans fight for the American people? Or is this how they fight for rich people—like the billionaire Koch brothers? David Koch, and his brother Charles, are the owners of Koch Industries the second largest privately held company in America, after multinational corporation Cargill, with annual revenue of $98 billion. Through groups like Freedom Works and Americans for Prosperity both organizations fund the Tea Party crackpots and political prostitutes like Governor Walker.

Due to the work of the Daily Beast’s Ian Murphy, we now have ample proof Governor Walker is down on his bended knees servicing the Koch brothers. In a now infamous prank, Mr. Murphy called the office of Governor Walker pretending to be David Koch.

Governor Walker swallowed Murphy’s bait hook, line and sinker and the ensuing conversation exposed the governor’s corruption.
Several troubling things are said during the exchange. For example, in responding to a question about “planting some troublemakers,” to provoke situations that could be used to discredit protesters, Governor Walker said “we thought about that.”

He then explains “My only fear would be if there’s a ruckus caused is that maybe the governor has to settle to solve all these problems…Let ‘em protest all they want…Sooner or later the media stops finding it interesting.”

The governor’s “fear” he may have to “settle” if there’s “a ruckus” speaks volumes about his real agenda and that of Republicans: an all-out assault against unions and workers. Republicans seem intent on shrinking deficits, created by the rich, on the backs of the poor.

How can Republicans argue for tax-breaks for the richest Americans while they seek to strip hard-fought gains earned by civil servants? Some argue union-busting has another benefit: helping Republicans defeat President Obama in 2012, while rich corporate players get what they want: vulnerable workers with less, or no, legal rights.

The governor should have to “fear” the fact he has been recorded and shown to be a greedy, amoral politician willing to destroy the lives of hard-working Wisconsin workers for personal profit. If America follows Wisconsin’s lead, the nation’s workers will defeat Republicans, like Governor Walker.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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