Unions were started in the late 1800s and became most popular in regards to the issues of child labor and 8 hour work days. Labor unions went on to demand safe work environments, fair wages and livable work conditions for American workers. We ALL – union members or not – have labor unions to thank for these basic rights we all take for granted. Weekends, holidays, sick days, overtime, pay raises…so many things the average American worker overlooks as part of their daily expectations. And expect these we should. But we may not have them if it hadn’t been for the courageous organizers those many years ago.
Throughout the past couple days I have read many opinions on the topic of this union killing bill being introduced and pushed into law by Governor Scott Walker. The bill is suppose to help bring Wisconsin out from under such harsh debt. Governor Walker believes that stripping the state union employees of their bargaining rights will save Wisconsin a considerable amount of money. He wants to make it so that state unions cannot negotiate on issues such as pay and benefits. He wants to appoint some unknown entity to make these decisions which will effect thousands of families almost immediately. Pay and benefits will be cut for employees whom are already making modest at best incomes. But this is not what this fight is about.
I have been hearing about how the teachers – one of the largest public sector unions in the state – are overpaid and have “Cadillac” benefits. People are very resentful and angry that some teachers may pay a lower copay at the Doctor’s office. People seem to be of the belief that teachers live the lives of luxury on their dime. Most teachers I have known have had to hold second jobs to supplement their low wages during the school year. They use their own money and resources to buy supplies for their classrooms. They spend their own time and energy on school work while off the clock. They put their lives and health in danger with increasingly violent students. They have to deal with deadbeat and obstinate parents on a daily basis. Teachers not only do NOT live the lives of luxury but they stay in a thankless world with the basic desire to make a difference and improve our society. But STILL…this is NOT what this is about.
In the past few days I have heard Union Members referred to as goons, lazy, slugs and many other labels which spew from the mouths of the empty headed. Apparently there are many people in this state who believe that these workers do very little for a whole hell of a lot. Why should they be entitled to more than their non-union neighbor? Answer: They shouldn’t. No one really believes they should. And if you think otherwise, how about having a conversation with an actual active union member. When one chooses their employment, they do so knowing whether or not it is a union supported position. Sometimes union workers make more and have better benefits because they have representation to help them receive the best they can for their families. What the hell is wrong with that??!! There are also many non union jobs in which provide its workers with extremely high wages and extraordinary benefits. I don’t want to take their healthcare away just because we have a higher deductible. Nonetheless people are very angry with unions and their members and I am not really sure why. These people fight for everything they have. Sure some take advantage. There are always bad eggs which spoil the whole goddamn carton…but most mature adults can come to the realization that this is a scenario in any and every circumstance. Not every priest is a molester. Not every cop is corrupt. Come on people. Use logic.
Even still. This is not what this protest is about. It isn’t about one group wanting to make more than another, more than they deserve, more than they work for. This isn’t about Union “Thugs” getting their way or demanding that which is unreasonable. This isn’t about greedy teachers who are refusing to pay a higher copay. And this CERTAINLY isn’t about balancing the state budget.
The State Fiscal Bureau has found that the state is expecting a SURPLUS, not a deficit and certainly not one in the amounts Walker would have you believe. This has come from an unbiased state organization which is similar to the Congressional Budget Office. Walker has inflated the budget fears in order to perpetuate and propagate his followers belief that these actions need to be taken to “save our state”. In all actuality he has done this for his own political gain and appetite for power.
It is no secret that Walker and his cronies are out to destroy unions in their entirety. He is starting at the public sector by eliminating their bargaining rights. But this is only the beginning. He is using the financial worries of his constituents to further his political gain by union busting and financially raping the families of Wisconsin. His loyalties are to CEOs, lobbyists and corporations. And that is all he will ever consider. Have no illusions otherwise. Walker didn’t go after all public sector unions. Nope. He left alone the Fire Fighters and Police. Guess what? Those were the two unions which supported his campaign and election. Hmmm. Coincidence? In his dictator mentality he is sitting on his imaginary thrown deciding with whom to cut off next. Next time, it could be you.
And I have to mention that the most moving of all the experiences I shared today was witnessing the support of the Fire Fighter and Police Unions. In the early afternoon, a parade of police union members made their way through the Capitol rotunda. The people parted like the Red Sea ushering them forward. They came with arms full of sandwiches, chips and bottles of water. Once they made their way to the middle of the floor, I started to notice sandwiches and chips being tossed like footballs to random protestors all over the room. They passed out massive amounts of food and drink and simply left. I was in tears.
Later in the afternoon, while looking down from flights above, I heard the faint arrival of bag pipes. Slowly, a proud line of fire fighter union members also made their way through the vast crowd of applauding protestors. Adorning signs showing their support EVEN THOUGH their rights are not currently at risk while making their way through the hundreds of people…left me breathless. My respect to these men and women have no bounds.
So this fight isn’t to give teachers more money. Hell, they even say they will take concessions and negotiate. They just want to have that opportunity. This fight isn’t to save billions to put Wisconsin in the black. This fight IS to stand up for our rights as citizens, workers and voters – union or not!! Can you not see that labor unions help workers in all fields and sectors? While one painter may not be unionized, the ones that are keep the playing field competitive which keeps the wages up for all painters. While one cashier may not be a union member, because of labor protections, that worker will not be forced to work 14 hour days. Wings of a butterfly, people. We are all linked. We are all moved by the motions of another. When one group stands up for something they believe in – even if it is self motivated – the results affect more than just that one group.
This fight is for our rights. Our rights as citizens and workers. That’s it. That’s all. Union, non-union. Rich, poor. Public, private. This effects us all. Because once a step is taken down a road of destruction, sometimes it is much too easy to fall further faster. First it is the bargaining rights of public sector workers. Next it will be the complete elimination of state unions. Then it will be on to private unions. And pretty soon everyone will be working harder for less and not a goddamn thing they’ll be able to do about it.
Today the Democrats did something I never expected. Something I never even knew was possible. Something that has people calling them cowards, wimps and babies. They did something that has this bitch impressed and proud. They risked being arrested and censured by leaving the state to avoid having this reprehensible bill passed, knowing how detrimental it would be to their constituents. I heard one Republican Representative say how he was so surprised that not one democrat showed up to the vote, that not even one would be moderate enough to stay in the Capitol. Well guess what fella….THAT IS SOLIDARITY!!! That is what made this country what it is and what keeps it going every single day. It is the sum of our powers which keeps our heads above water and they were not going to let the power of one man hold our heads under.
Without a Dem in the house, they legally could not vote on the bill. So these senators had one last resort option and that was to leave the state. Governor Walker enlisted the State Troopers to find the Dems and return them to the Capitol. They refused. It was said that he then ordered the National Guard to do the job. I do not know what their response to that was, but by then it was already known that they were “on the lam” in Illinois.
I have been pretty disappointed by the seemingly ball lacking democrats as of late. But they sure as shit made it up to me today. Those were some heafty balls they suddenly grew and proudful tears welled up in my eyes. They may not be able to defeat this bill when it is all said and done. But we will know that they did everything they could to stop it.
Governor Walker and his GOP supporters have been refusing to negotiate this bill. They have refused to debate it on both sides of the aisle. Perhaps, MAYBE, now they will see that the people are demanding to be heard. And even if it was just for a few hours today…there were three additional voices echoing in that rotunda. And I am proud to say that they came from my family.
- Is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Right About the Unions? (usnews.com)
- 40% Of Madison Teachers Call In Sick To Join Austerity Protest At The Wisconsin State Building (businessinsider.com)
- Wisconsin May Destroy State Labor Unions… Today! (news.change.org)
- Obama: Wisconsin Pinch on Public Workers Looks Like ‘Assault on Unions’ (politicsdaily.com)