The Wall Street Journal has pointed out what an expensive bureaucratic nightmare it will be for the twenty-person Wisconsin Employee Relations Committee to certify annual elections for the 2,000 unions representing Wisconsin's 200,000 state employees around the state.
According to its newly-minted website, the Advocates "are dedicated to supporting the University of Wisconsin-Madison ... [and] will promote greater accountability through enhanced autonomy for this unique institution." This lobbying effort is similar to efforts afoot in other states to use state budget issues to privatize public higher education institutions and put more assets and power at the disposal of powerful corporate interests.
The lobby shop's PR description closely mirrors the title of the Wisconsin Public Research Institute's December 2010 report titled, "Making the University of Wisconsin More Accountable Through Greater Autonomy." WPRI is heavily funded by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, a right-wing neo-conservative think tank.
Wisconsinites and many across the nation have received a wake-up call in the past two-plus weeks with the labor protests in Madison, in Wisconsin and in the other 49 states.
"This movement is one we will look back on as a brand-new awakening for our nation," said Center for Media and Democracy Executive Director Lisa Graves, speaking as part of a panel on Media and the Wisconsin Labor Struggle. "This awakening has been long in coming and it's going to need to be sustained."
Graves was among the panelists for the free public forum held Thursday night, March 3, at the Orpheum Theater in Madison, and organized by the The Labor & Working Class Studies Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Haven's Center. Graves said the eyes of all have been opened to how little corporations pay in taxes, and how they have shaped the divisive budget debate in Wisconsin and elsewhere.
Cheesehead hats have never been so chic. The foam wedges could be spotted on the heads of people gathered in crowds throughout the U.S. yesterday, as protesters in all 50 states rallied in support of Wisconsin workers. The events were organized by MoveOn.org. Here's a brief roundup of some of the action from across the nation:
In his attack on workers' right to bargain collectively, Scott Walker is diametrically opposing the legacy of former President Ronald Reagan -- the same conservative figure Walker idolized in his prank phone call with a blogger posing as "David Koch."
Reagan understood the importance of unions intimately. He served seven terms as president of a labor union -- the Screen Actors Guild -- during tumultuous years from 1947 to 1952, and again from 1959-1960. Under his tenure, the union became one of the first to require a loyalty oath from its members. As president of SAG, Reagan fought for and won many payment rights for actors during at the time when the popularity of big-screen movies waned due to the advent of television. Under Reagan's presidency, SAG members also won pension and health plans.
Governor Scott Walker's budget repair bill effectively dismantles over 50 years of public sector collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin. While bill supporters have obscured the reasons that hundreds of thousands have been protesting (acting as if the controversy is really about pension and healthcare contributions rather than union-busting, and claiming the fiscal gaps exacerbated by Walker's tax cuts leave the state with no choice but to crush unions), others recognize the attack on collective bargaining rights but nonetheless support it as applied to taxpayer-funded public servants. Should public sector workers be allowed to organize?
It is both ironic and symbolic that Wisconsin's governor is the most visible one leading the way to dismantle workers' rights in the U.S. Wisconsin has been a pioneer in achieving workers's right in America, making Governor Scott Walker's efforts in this state particularly poignant.
In 1959, Wisconsin became the first state in the union to guarantee collective bargaining rights for public employees by enacting a law that protects municipal workers from being fired or otherwise discriminated against for engaging in union-related activities. That law was further strengthened in 1963 to give either the union or the employer the right to call in a "fact finder" to help resolve bargaining disputes. In 1965, Wisconsin's state employees won a limited right to bargain collectively, and those rights were further broadened over the next six years.
In the report Scott Walker Runs on Koch Money, the Center for Media and Democracy's Executive Director Lisa Graves pointed out how the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity helped elect Scott Walker as Wisconsin governor, and how his attack on public sector unions looks like a return on the Kochs' investment. While suppressing workplace democracy will certainly benefit corporate interests by allowing business managers to focus exclusively on increasing shareholder returns (and not getting distracted by employee demands for safe and productive working conditions), attacks on unions will also eliminate barriers to absolute corporate control of our political democracy.
Op-Ed by Steve Horn, Madison, Wisconsin -- This is a story about Scott Walker and Biddy Martin's efforts to dismantle the University of Wisconsin-Madison. To complete the corporatization of the public's university is an important piece of what is happening both in Madison and nationwide. This story must be told before it is too late to save the university that belongs to the people of Wisconsin, and while democratic momentum is still on our side at the University, in Madison, and in the state of Wisconsin. Although seemingly specific to the UW, this is a case study about the future of public college education nationwide.
As Congressional Republicans seek ways to starve the new health care reform law of necessary funding -- and Democrats try to keep that from happening -- it's easy to lose sight of the reasons why reform was pursued in the first place.
For a reminder, lawmakers might want to spend a few hours in Nashville this weekend. I'm betting they would behave differently when they got back to Washington on Monday.
If they arrived in Nashville by Friday afternoon, those legislators would see an ever-growing line of cars and trucks outside a locked gate at McGavock High School. At midnight, the gate will be opened, enabling the occupants of those cars and trucks to camp out in the parking lot for hours, maybe even days. Many of these folks will have driven hundreds of miles to receive care from doctors and nurses and other caregivers volunteering their time to treat as many people as possible before they all pack up and go home Sunday evening.