February 2011, Week 3


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Portside Labor <[log in to unmask]>
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Wed, 16 Feb 2011 20:23:16 -0500
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After Proposing Draconian Anti-Union Laws, Wis. Gov.
Walker Invokes National Guard
Feb 15, 2011
11:10 am
By Roger Bybee

From his first day in office, new Wisconsin Republican
Gov. Scott Walker has been aggressively applying huge
jolts of what Shock Doctrine author Naomi Klein called
"shock therapy"--forcing the acceptance of unpopular
policies upon a disoriented and demobilized population.

Walker has skillfully played off of the wave of
concessions extorted by profitable private-sector
corporations like Harley-Davidson and the Kohler Corp.
He has continually highlighted these pay cuts as a
rationale for removing almost all union rights from
public-sector workers, whom he has branded as the
pampered "haves" victimizing "have-not" taxpayers of

Walker has been proclaiming that he will enact huge
layoffs of state 
workers if the legislature fails to enact his bill
eradicating union rights and ramming through massive
concessions. In an interview with host Ed Schultz on
"The Ed Show" Monday night on MSNBC, two married
teachers, Brad and Heather Lutes of Sun Prairie, Wis.,
estimated that Walker's demands would cost their family
$8,000 to $12,000 annually. 

But apparently Walker thinks the threat of layoffs was
proving insufficiently intimidating. On Friday, he
revealed that he's ready to call the National Guard if
public workers (specifically, prison guards) stay home
in protest of what may be the most draconian anti-union
legislation ever offered in the United States.

The Wisconsin National Guard's history in labor disputes
most memorably includes the notorious massacre of seven
workers and supporters (including a 12-year-old boy)
during a May 1886 strike in Milwaukee for the 8-hour
day. Gov. Jeremiah Rusk infamously justified his role in
calling out the Guard in these terms: "I seen my duty
and I done it."

Walker's linkage of the National Guard to his
legislative package should raise suspicions about its
legitimacy, Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt
explained during the lengthy segment about Wisconsin on
The Ed Show Monday night. "If you have to mention
bringing in the National Guard in connection with
getting legislation passed, maybe it's time to wonder
what the legislation contains," Neuenfeldt stated. 

Walker is using the state's budget crunch to stage a
major power 
grab and to disenfranchise working people, his critics
have charged.

Although this stunningly radical move is being cloaked
as a budget necessity, it is a cruel hoax because
Governor Walker and the legislature have full authority
to balance the state budget without attacking the
fundamental rights of workers," said Robert Kraig,
executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

"In reality this is a naked power grab by the large
corporate interests that back Scott Walker and who seek
unfettered control over Wisconsin politics."

Despite Walker's efforts to depict government workers as
Wisconsin's public workers actually earn 14.2% an hour
less than their private counterparts, according to a new
study by the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive
think-tank based in Washington, D.C.

Despite this inconvenient fact, Walker has placed the
anti-public worker provisions within a bill purportedly
aimed at fixing the state's immediate budget deficit of 
$136.7 million. However, Walker has betrayed the
hollowness of this rationale, handing out $140 million
in tax breaks to corporations and the rich since taking
office January 7.

Clearly, Walker's legislation has little to do with
budget repairs--and everything to do with stripping
public workers of their rights.

In the words of labor historian Stephen Meyer of
UW-Milwaukee, "It goes further than anything since the
Taft-Hartley Act of 1947," which 
allowed states to adopt "right-to-work" laws which ban
the union shop 
yet mandates unions to undertake the cost and
responsibility of 
representing members and non-members alike. 

"In fact, Walker's plan is worse than the 'right-to-work
laws because it requires that unions get certified by
their members yearly, at the same time that the unions
are prevented from accomplishing anything for their
members,"  Meyer points out.

Among the features of the Walker plan:

Public-employee unions would be restricted to bargaining

over wages, with working conditions and benefits
Public-employee contracts would be restricted to a
length of 
one year, thus vastly increasing the cost of
negotiations which 
typically cover two years for state employees and three
years for 
local public employees and teachers.
As noted, each year, the unions would need to hold an 
election to be re-certified annually as the bargaining 
representative of the workers. Annual organizing drives
would add 
significantly to the cost of union administration.
Unions would no longer be allowed to collect dues via
checkoff, nor could they assess non-members  "agency 
fees" for the 
costs of representing them in both collective bargaining
individual grievance and disciplinary disputes.
Wage increases for local units of public workers (e.g., 
teachers, sanitation workers, etc.) would be limited to
the rate of 
Wage increases could be granted only with the passage of

local referendum, thereby requiring vast political
outlays by unions
to positively influence the referenda outcomes.
State and local public employees would pay 12.6% of
health costs, a doubling of their present share.
Pension payments for public employees would rise to 5.6%
Limited-term employees would lose all healthcare
University of Wisconsin faculty, granted collective
bargaining rights for the 
first time in 2009, would again be deprived of any union
Graduate teaching and research students would be
to pay about 20% of their income to cover healthcare
estimated UW-Milwaukee philosophy Prof. Bob Schwartz.
The punitive and anti-union character of the bill is
obvious, as this summary of the bill by the state's
Legislative Research Bureau indicates:

This bill authorizes a state agency to discharge any
state employee who fails to report to work as scheduled
for any three unexcused working days during a state of
emergency, or who participates in a strike, work
stoppage, sit


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