Wisconsin, where in 1959 was the first state to introduce collective bargaining for public employees, and was the birthplace of the national union representing all non-federal public employees, has again become the battleground for labor versus capital. And I could spell that Capitol for that is where over 70,000 firemen, policemen, teachers, paramedics, and all other supporters of labor and our long fought battle for collective bargaining are rallying to protest our new Republican governor's budget bill that smacks of at best union busting and at worst arrogant dictatorship.
Rallies are also being held all over the state and schools are closing and one parent is objecting for her favorite baby sitters are not there for her today. That public employees need to pay for some of their pensions and health care, I have no argument. But to take away the right of teachers, firemen, and other public workers the right to collective bargaining is downright wrong. I am a former teacher and we fought hard for smaller size classes, for a preparation time during the school day so that we could help students that needed extra help or make-up tests, for sick days and comp time, for lunch time away from supervising students-- not only money matters--through collective bargaining. That battle was fought long ago and won as one of our basic freedoms in this country. How can the governor take it away in one fell swoop of ill use of power! Then he says if they will not accept this, he will cut 10,000 public service jobs--policemen, firemen, teachers, paramedics, ambulances etc.
The rush to push it through in five days gave no time for adequate debate or discussion. Telephone calls and e-mails have flooded the state house. That the Democrats had to leave the state to delay the vote was a last resort. Don't the Republicans hear their constituents outside their doors and windows? On the one hand, the governor tells the Democrats to come back and they will discuss the bill. The bill was to be voted on yesterday! The next interview he says he will not retract any phase of the bill. He speaks with a forked tongue. Or, as some have ventured to say, this is pay back time to all the big corporations who put him in office--to bust the unions.
He is targeting the middle class and that is the strength of America. They have already been hit in many directions already so we will have essentially only the very rich and the very poor.
The state is in debt and out of money. We know that. But does this one group have to take the brunt of the economic downturn? Have them pay for some of their pensions, and for some of their health insurance, but leave the right to collective bargaining alone.