At approximately 4pm yesterday, March 9th, notice was given of an impending “special committee” hearing, by Republican Senators in Madison, of a bill to separate state worker collective bargaining rights from budget issues. A budget issue needs a 2/3 quorum where non fiscal issues only require a majority in the Wisconsin senate. The 19 Republicans met at 6pm, and by 6.45 the vote had been taken, eighteen to one, to approve the ‘plan’.
I called Dennis, a Madison Pagan and state employee, and AFT union steward, for his thoughts.
What is your reaction to tonight’s Republican action eliminating collective bargaining for State workers?
” The Republicans admitted tonight that was their goal. They clothed real intent in their budget repair bill, but it is pretty obvious what they were after from the beginning. I can’t say I am surprised. I am surprised it took them this long to do something. They were using the budget bill to provide themselves with cover, but it was pretty transparent. ”
What do you think will happen going forward?
” There are 2000 (supporters, 200 tractors) tractors lined up to come to town. Family Farm Defenders is organizing that. They realize that there are a lot of farmers that are on Badgercare (Wisconsin Health Program), and Walkers budget is going to decimate that. A lot of farmers are depending on this health care and don’t have anything else. It is not just about the unions, its never been just about the unions. There was so much bad policy in that budget repair bill, you hate to even call it that. It is just a phrase. Koch industries, one of their biggest things is energy, and the Governor has the authority under that bill to accept a no bid contract from anyone. I am not saying it is going to be Koch… but ya know… We aren’t talking just big power plants, there are a lot of state facilities, like prisons, that generate their electricity. Some of the big UW campuses have their own power plants. Twenty or thirty of them, they are all small, but hey, if you can tap a vein. The billionaire vampires have a clear path to suck more for themselves. Sucking off the body politic.”
Do the unions workers have a specific response plan?
” I know that in southern Wi. the AFL-CIO has put out some word about a general strike. I don’t know what that means. My current contract says I cannot strike. We have is a contract extension that put all the existing contract terms, extended into the future. We signed that with Doyle. We bargained for a new contract. I was on the bargaining committee. I tell ya, you know which side has power, the side which looks at you and says, “I think your asking too much”, not interested at this time”. “not interested” to every proposal. We had 18 months of that shit. Anyone who says that unions are big powerful entities is just plain wrong. We have been without a contract since July of 2009, and working out of continuing contract extensions. Last month Walker sent notice the extensions would no longer be honored after March 13th. The unfortunate thing for him is there is provision in state and federal law, the ‘evergreen’ clause, that should apply here, mandating a continuing contract. Well unless he somehow abolished that in the budget repair bill, too.”
“There are sixteen recalls going on, for both Democrats and Republicans. In fact the ones for the Democrats started first. There is a lot of energy focusing on them, by those that want to recall Republican right now. A group out of Utah has started all the petitions against the democrats. They are a group that is against immigrant rights. (The group filed electronically with the GAB between Feb. 18 and 21, calling itself the American Recall Coalition. It lists the founding organization as Americans Against Immigration Amnesty. ) ”
Why this acceleration in conflict right now?
” Over $600,000 dollars was dumped in the Green Bay area for advertising just before the budget came out, its funded in part from that Americans for Prosperity, the Koch front group. It’s not just in Wisconsin, its in Idaho, Indiana, Ohio. They are all trying to pull collective bargaining rights. This is the ‘big guys’ saying, ‘It is time. We just don’t want to screw around with this democracy thing anymore. We’ll just get rid of it, and then it will just be us’. ”
” I’m a state employee, so I can’t go on strike. One of the things in Walker’s bill is if you go out on strike, then you get fired. But, I can go on a long vacation, damn it. I’m just so irritated with those Republicans. Doesn’t that just sound so Wisconsin? There was a little old Norwegian looking woman down at the State Capitol on Saturday. Her little eight and a half by eleven sign just said, ‘I’m a little upset’. ”
When Wisconsinites get ” a little upset”, you know it is serious!
Later today, interviews with more Pagan State employees …..
* Note: Conditions are changing rapidly at the Madison Capitol. Protesters swarmed into the Capitol as the bill was passed last night, Shouting for a “General Strike!” and ‘Shame!” . They remained overnight in defiance of court order. CNN currently reports protesters are being forcibly removed from the area of the Capitol Assembly hall area, where this measure will be voted on by the State Assembly, shortly. Democratic Senators are meeting to consider a ‘open meeting law’ violation lawsuit over yesterdays vote. The building is on ‘lockdown’ , allowing no one to enter or leave. A Democratic Senator and Jesse Jackson have been denied access.
Some resources to track events in WI
TheWheelerReport.com links to relevant documents, press releases, and resources.
AFT WI. Recall, rally, and busing information
AFT – Outstate links to outstate events and schedules
EVENT: Speakout at Barrymore – 7pm Saturday – a Speak out for worker’s rights
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