I had to take a rather long hiatus from posting here over the last couple of days thanks to the increasingly hectic nature of the school term. Here are a backlog of links and stories in no particular order:
At the New York Times Paul Krugman makes a compelling case about the Wisconsin legislation being a case of shock and awe that hides some disturbing trends regarding privatization. One of Krugman’s salient points is that the legislation and Walker’s handling of it suggests the cronyism and mismanagement that’s to come.
Rick Ungar writes has a post at Forbes covering how public employee pensions work in Wisconsin. The short version is that Walker and his supporters are being disingenuous in how they’re presenting the issue. Ungar does a good job walking through the issue and I highly recommend taking a look at the post.
Via Boing Boing: An infographic following the Koch Brother’s contributions to Scott Walker’s campaign for governor and the potential payoff for their support.
Huffington Post reports on a similar situation in Indiana where Democratic State Senators fled the state. TPM reports on Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels pulling back on the anti-union legislation later in the day.
Rachel Maddow makes a case for how the dots connect in Wisconsin and nationally.
As events escalate in Wisconsin it’s becoming clearer and clearer that Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to do away with collective bargaining rights for state workers is a blatant attempt at union busting. It’s different than much of the union busting that I study in the literary and historical work surrounding my dissertation. Nevertheless it amounts to the same thing. Even his briefing of the National Guard harkens back to the days when state governors called in the Guard all the time to quell labor unrest.
My work has led me to a number of conclusions about labor unions in the United States. Unions do not always work. They do not always win. Nor do they necessarily fully represent the views of all their members. That’s the nature of any representative organization (including our political system). What is important in the presence of unions in a democratic society though is the right to bargain and the right to debate. However, what is happening with Walker’s proposal in Wisconsin is not bargaining or debate. It is the legislating away of the right to organize whole cloth. When the government refuses to debate and negotiate in good faith with its own citizens in the form of labor unions we stand on a very deep and disturbing precipice. Walker has steered his state directly to that precipice this week by refusing to acknowledge or enter dialogue with Wisconsin’s public labor unions.
Mother Jones, agitator for the United Mine Workers and famously labeled “the most dangerous woman in America,” famously said “pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.” Since I began studying labor and labor literature I’ve taken it as a constant reminder of why I focus on labor literature and why it has lasting ramifications and importance for our society today. Looking deeply into the work of authors and agitators of the 19th and early 20th century leaves one aware not only of their sacrifices, but of the vast gains made to our society and our national standard of living through the right to collective act and negotiate with employers. Let me be unambiguous in this: people have died for the right to organize in unions. Many people in this nation have faced oppression in the form of crippling poverty, unsafe and exploitative work environments, and outright violence from employers and government officials on both the state and federal level. The right to organize has been built on sacrifice. It’s a history that is bitter in its numerous setbacks and perhaps overreaching at times in its more radical strains. Yet the legacy of labor organizations in the United States has helped improve the living conditions of millions of Americans. More often than not the conflicts, sacrifices and work that have gone into making these improvements is overlooked or forgotten in our popular conscious until it strikes home or until it grabs our attention as a nation as the protests in Madison have begun to.
So, Mother Jones: pray for the dead, fight like hell for the living. What’s happening in Wisconsin has deep ramifications not only for the workers in that state, but for the rest of the country as well. For these reasons and many more, I stand in solidarity with Wisconsin workers who are fighting for their rights.
NPR reports on the upcoming split of the Mine Safety and Health Administration district that includes the Upper Big Branch Mine that was the site of an explosion that killed 29 miners in 2010. The split will come as a means to help safety enforcement by decreasing the relative size being administered. The split will happen later this year, but NPR raises some important questions about the delay of this action until 2011.
Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has recently proposed taking away all collective bargaining rights for state workers (exempting law enforcement and fire employees.) I first came across the story at Talking Points Memo here. More recently I saw this item reporting that Walker has stated that he hasn’t called up the national guard, but he’s briefed them in preparation for any disruption of state services. Maybe I’ve been reading about too many labor strikes during the 19th and early 20th century lately, but then again, maybe Walker has too. I mean, it’s never too early to call in the troops when those unruly workers get uppity and agitating. It’s not like teachers (for instance) deserve the right to bargain for retirement benefits.
To be fair to Walker, the article specifically mentions staffing prisons in regards to the guard. That said, Walker’s given a draconian proposition here and Wisconsin will be worth watching in the days to come.