Wisconsin’s attack against the working class, and the role of the Koch brothers

The weirdness is apparently continuing in Wisconsin. From what I can tell, the public employee unions have indicated a willingness to negotiate pay and benefit cuts. The Governor, however, has refused to take them up on the offer, choosing instead to pursue the elimination of their right to bargain collectively. So, if there are still any of you out there who thought that this was about balancing the budget, now you know. It was never about balancing the budget. It was about breaking the union. And the Republican majority is doing everything it can do to push through their anti-union budget bill, even going so far as to lie to Wisconsin Democrats as to when voting relating to said bill will take place. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’d encourage you to watch footage of the Democrats entering the Wisconsin State Assembly on Friday, to find that the Republicans had already voted. My hope is that kids around the country are watching it in Civics class… if they even teach that in the public school system any more. (It gets interesting around the five minute mark.) Or, if you don’t have the time to watch things unfold in real time, I’d encourage you to watch this video of Wisconsin State Representative Gordon Hintz reacting to the clearly illegal maneuver.

At the risk of inflaming the conspiracy theorists in the audience, I should probably mention that Hintz was recently arrested as part of a prostitution sting conducted at Appleton’s Heavenly Touch Massage Parlor a few weeks ago. Some, as you might imagine, find it curious that Hintz was arrested after this footage hit YouTube, as the incident that he’s charged with happened a few weeks ago. It’s also worth noting that the video of Hintz has been repeatedly pulled from YouTube at the request of WisconsinEye, the purportedly non-partsian organization that initially broadcast the rant. WisconsinEye’s board of directors is chaired by Former Lieutenant Governor Margaret Farrow (R), a supporter of Scott Walker’s and a member of the “Palin Truth Squad”.

Speaking of unconventional methods for maintaining control, it was also reported by CNN today that a pro-union website was being blocked in the Wisconsin Capital building. Sounds vaguely familiar, doesn’t it?

Oh, yeah, and the fingerprints of the infamous Koch brothers are becoming evident in Wisconsin. Here, with more on that, is a clip from the Center for American Progress’s Progress Report:

…Any question of whether Walker’s attack on unions is politically motivated can be answered by the fact that he exempted the police and firefighter unions from this power grab — two groups that supported his candidacy. Certainly, Walker’s anti-union policies didn’t arise in a vacuum but were orchestrated and buttressed by notorious right-wing political players including Koch Industries and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation — “a $460 million conservative honey pot dedicated to crushing the labor movement.” Indeed, the Bradley Foundation’s CEO, former state GOP chairman Michele Grebe, headed Walker’s campaign and transition. What’s more, media and astroturf organizations ginning up support for Walker’s power grab include the MacIver Institute (which produced a series of videos attacking anti-Walker protesters) the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (which funded polls, policy pieces, and attack videos against Walker’s opposition) and Americans for Prosperity (which not only helped elect Walker but bused in Tea Party supporters to hold a pro-Walker demonstration Saturday). All of these groups receive funding from the Bradley Foundation. As the New York Times’ Paul Krugman notes, “billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; [and] they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views.” Given this political reality, unions “are among the most important” of the institutions “that can act as counterweights to the power of big money.” Nancy MacLean, a labor historian at Duke University, said “eliminating unions would do to the Democratic Party what getting rid of socially conservative churches would do to Republicans.” “It’s a stunning partisan calculation on the governor’s part,” she said, “and really ugly”…

Currently, 16 states are “now weighing, or expected to weigh, laws to trim unions powers or benefits” including New Jersey, Michigan, Tennessee, Idaho, Indiana, and Florida. This tidal wave of contempt that Republican controlled states hold against unions marks more than a blind power grab, and more than “a violent break with a bipartisan consensus about government workers that has operated unquestioned for four decades”…

And here, if you still want more, is footage of Think Progress’s Lee Fang talking with MSNBC’s Cenk Uygur about the role of the Koch brothers in what we’re seeing play out in Wisconsin.

I think that most of you already know this, but we need to fight this as hard as we’ve ever fought anything in our lives. Once we’ve lost our right to unionize, it will take us decades to get it back, if not longer, and a lot of good men and women will lose their lives in the process. We need to honor the sacrifices of those who won this right for us in the first place, and do our part to safeguard it for the next generation.

At the risk of confusing things even more, and hopelessly intertwining memes, tonight I’m wondering why we’re building a statue of RoboCop in Detroit instead of one of UAW leader Walter Reuther, who survived two assassination attempts to make the union what it was in the 1940s. It seems odd to me that he’s got a statue in Wheeling, West Virginia, but not here. But, maybe that’s a discussion for another time.

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21 Comments

  1. You=None
    Posted February 22, 2011 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    I’m a long time union member and organizer. We have made ourselves weaker by becoming, in essence, separate public interest groups. Consider EMU. A union for faculty, lecturers, administrative staff, secretarial staff, and on down the line. Each played against the other. Each lobbying for self interest.

    If this is what unions have become — segregated self interest groups — then we deserve to fail. We’ve made ourselves small fish looking down a small barrel.

    EMU, among many others, could set a national standard by truly bargaining as a collective.

    If we go it alone, we all lose.

  2. Glen S.
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    “I think that most of you already know this, but we need to fight this as hard as we’ve ever fought anything in our lives.”

    I want to echo Mark’s sentiment here, and just say this: All of us — even those who’ve never been in a union, or may be ambivalent about the role of unions — need to do everything we can to stop what is happening in Wisconsin, and what will likely be happening soon in other states, including Michigan.

    This is not just another skirmish between a cash-strapped state and its workers over pay and benefits, and really, it is not even about “unions.” Instead, this is “ground-zero” for an sophisticated, coordinated and well-funded plan to undo generations of hard-won social, economic and democratic rights that many of us, unfortunately, take for granted.

    Trust me, if this plan succeeds, in a few years the proposals and tactics evident in the video above will seem quaint by comparison.

  3. Knox
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    You’ve got to hand it to the Republicans. They don’t ever give up. I thought, when Obama won, that they’d slink off and lick their wounds for a while, but they just popped right back up and kept going, like the supernatural serial killer in the Halloween series.

  4. Glen S.
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    @ Knox

    Why would the Republicans “slink off” after Obama’s election, since the major theme of his presidency has been attempting to appease their every crazy whim?

    If Obama were a *real* Democrat, he’d travel to Madison to rally the troops. Instead, it seems he, like a lot of other establishment Dems, are simply waiting for this all to “blow over.”

    Or is it that many of them are actually complicit — useful foils in the Dem/Rep “Punch and Judy” show our democracy is becoming?

  5. Edward
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I just posted this another thread, but I think it belongs here as well.

    I turned on the news this morning, hoping to hear an update about what was going on in Wisconsin. Instead, I saw a feature about Justin Bieber’s new haircut, and a segment on what to do about overweight pets. Thankfully we have PBS and NPR as an option. We should be giving them more funding, not less. Unfortunately, having an educated citizenry isn’t in everyone’s best interests, though.

  6. Tommy
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Read this somewhere (would give a direct reference / link if I could remember the source) and it struck me as spot on: why is it when one group of concerned citizens (the Tea Party) holds a big protest that it is considered ‘patriotic’ and when another group of concerned citizens (Union Members in Wisconsin) hold a big protest it is ‘a step closer to anarchy and a threat to America’? The media is clearly not on the side of the protesters and this will be a very hard obstacle to overcome. In the words of a famous dude – “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Power to the people (unless you are very rich – if you are, fuck off)

  7. TeacherPatti
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    I am just continually baffled by the way the majority of people in this country have been hoodwinked to believe that the economic problems are caused by unionized workers and middle class Americans. Much as I dislike Michael Moore, he did say something that made sense and it was something along of the lines of that normal people don’t hate the rich and don’t want to tax them because we all believe that Horatio Alger bullshit that one day we will BECOME rich. Well news flash friends–you won’t. I won’t either, but at least I’ve accepted that fact.
    It’s almost like how kids who are abused by their mother turn against their father for not protecting them or how battered women stick up for their abusers…we’re always on the side of the wrong person/group.
    Look, whether you want to admit it or not, 98% of us are the working class and we are the ones about to get f’d in the A. I know we all thought we’d grow up to have a 10,000 square foot mansion in Georgetown, driving a BMW, hobnobbing with the VIPs on Capital Hill in our super law job (okay, that’s what I thought anyway) but it didn’t happen and it’s not going to. Get over it, enjoy your life and pick the right people to fight against–in this case, the uber rich and their bought and paid for politicians.
    (And please spare me the “I know some very generous rich people who give tons to charity!” Good for them. I have a sticker they can wear if they want.)

  8. Steph's Dad
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    A list of Wisconsin solidarity rallies across the US.

    http://www.pfaw.org/issues/wisconsin-solidarity-rallies

  9. Stephen
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Today’s Progress Report is also good.

    The Main Street Movement
    Earlier this month, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) “sent shockwaves across the state” when he unveiled a budgetary bill that would strip most of the state’s public workers of collective bargaining rights, essentially devastating state government employees’ ability to negotiate for fair wages, benefits, and working conditions. At the time, many local news observers thought the bill would easily pass. After all, Republicans won commanding majorities in the legislature during the last election and stood united in support of the bill. Yet on the eve of the bill’s certain passage, all 14 state Senate Democrats fled the state, denying the Senate the quorum needed to proceed and freezing the anti-labor bill in its tracks. Tens of thousands of Wisconsinites then took to the streets in support of the “Wisconsin 14,” invigorating a nascent progressive movement. And all around the country, Americans inspired by Wisconsin’s example are taking action and battling attempts by conservative-led state governments to attack organized labor, slash education and environmental funding, and to make America a country where only the privileged and well-connected can prosper. While conservatives may believe that the last election gave them a wide mandate to decimate the social safety net and enact policies that will make us an even more unequal country, it appears that Americans disagree. By trying to enact their radical agenda, conservatives have stirred America’s Main Street into action. The progressive protests that are sweeping the country are defending the American Dream itself, the idea that anyone, no matter what their socioeconomic background, can succeed and prosper.

    ASSAULT ON THE MIDDLE CLASS: While Walker’s assault on his state’s public employees’ labor rights is the most visible assault on the middle class, conservative governments across the country are waging similar campaigns. In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich (R) is backing legislation similar to Wisconsin’s in that would gut the organizing rights of public employees. Kasich has already killed his state’s federally-funded high-speed rail project, which will cost Ohio $400 million in infrastructure investment and thousands of jobs. While he justifies these moves by claiming he’s tackling his state’s deficit, he also is championing a slew of tax cuts that could actually double the state’s deficit. New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie (R), who previously vetoed progressive efforts to raise taxes on his state’s millionaires, is trying to ram through steep cuts to education funding and municipal assistance. In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal (R) has unveiled cuts to the state’s treasured subsidized college tuition program, HOPE, which would lead to hundreds of thousands of college students paying thousands of more dollars out-of-pocket in order to be able to get a higher education. Deal is also cutting overall education spending by seven percent, and he simultaneously plans to dramatically reduce the corporate income tax rate, further reducing the state’s revenue coffers. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) has dismissed tax increases while simultaneously slashing funding for K-12 education, because, he argued, “That’s where the money is.” Michigan’s Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has unveiled a spending plan that includes “$1.2 billion in cuts to schools, universities, local governments and other areas while asking public employees for $180 million in concessions” while at the same time giving $1.8 billion in tax cuts to businesses.

    WORKING AMERICA FIGHTS BACK: To the chagrin of right wingers like Walker, Americans have decided that they don’t want to live in a country where their labor rights are destroyed and their children grow up in the most unequal era since the 1920s. All over the country, ordinary Americans are fighting back, because they understand that if you want a strong middle class you need organized labor and important social services. Yesterday, Indiana House Democrats inspired by Wisconsin’s example fled the state to prevent the passage of a bill that would enact “right-to-work” policies that would cripple the right to organize in the state. After the departure of the House Democrats, hundreds of unionized workers and students marched into the state capitol and began a sit-in in solidarity with the state’s labor unions. Meanwhile, as many as 10,000 union workers and other Ohioans demonstrated both inside and outside the state house in Columbus, as former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) joined the rally to show their support for the protests. So many people showed up that the Ohio Highway Patrol was ordered to lock the doors of the state capitol to stop more demonstrators from getting into the building. At least 2,000 demonstrators rallied in Olympia, WA, against state budget cuts and in solidarity with the Wisconsin protests. In Montana, hundreds of “conservationists, sportsmen, firefighters, teachers, correctional officers and others” gathered at the state capitol to defend the state’s environmental laws and protest budget cuts. Hundreds of teachers in Idaho marched against legislation that would layoff 700 teachers and leave schools severely understaffed. Emboldened, the South Central Federation of Labor, a Wisconsin union federation consisting of 97 unions and representing 45,000 workers, voted on Monday to endorse a general strike if the state’s anti-union law is passed by the legislature. Although the strike would be restricted by federal law thanks to the 1947 anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act, it represents a courageous act of civil disobedience and solidarity.

    CONSERVATIVES BACKING DOWN: There is evidence that the massive groundswell of legislative disobedience and grassroots protests that have erupted all over the country have started to succeed in forcing conservative governments to back down. Despite the passage of Indiana’s right-to-work bill out of a House committee, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) “signaled [yesterday] afternoon that Republicans should drop the…bill that has brought the Indiana House to a standstill for two days and imperiled other measures.” Conservative Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) refused to endorse Walker’s anti-union bill for his own state, saying, “My belief is as long as people know what they’re doing, collective bargaining is fine.” Right-wing Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) also said he has no plans to enact a Wisconsin-style law. Although in Michigan, Gov. Snyder does plan to take aim at public worker compensation, he so far has said he’s “not interested in making Michigan a right-to-work state, or going wholesale after the bargaining rights of unionized workers.” One reason these conservatives may be backing down is because they realize Main Street America is against their anti-middle class agenda. A USA Today/Gallup poll found that 61 percent of Americans oppose a Wisconsin-style anti-labor law and only 33 percent favor such a law.

    DEFENDING THE AMERICAN DREAM: As CAP Senior Fellow Van Jones writes, this new Main Street progressive movement seeks to “renew and redeem the American Dream.” “It’s time to draw a line in the sand — nationally,” he writes. “Someone has to stand up for common sense and fairness.” A coalition of progressive groups and organizations is taking up this call to “Save the American Dream” by announcing rallies at every single statehouse in the country on Saturday at noon. The groups, led by Moveon.org, are calling for Americans to “[d]emand an end to the attacks on workers’ rights and public services across the country. Demand investment, to create decent jobs for the millions of people who desperately want to work. And demand that the rich and powerful pay their fair share.” It is up to Americans to ensure that states do not balance their budgets by gutting important services and attacking public workers in order to deal with the effects of a recession caused by Wall Street’s misdeeds — not those of policemen, firefighters, teachers, students, and other hard-working middle class Americans.

  10. donna
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    here’s a great report by rachael maddow that shows that it’s not just about the unions…. it’s about dismantling the democratic party. i think she’s on to something.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7e4bj5rrd8

  11. Glen S.
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Hmmm … I wonder if any of this could possibly have anything to do with the following:

    http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/02/income-inequality-in-america-chart-graph

  12. John Galt
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    All we need to do is call it the Union Preservation Act, and then the chicken-o-crats won’t be afraid to vote for it.

  13. Paw
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    I rented a Kock Brothers movie once. There was a scene where they were trapped in a room with all kinds of antique porcelain doll heads and a case of Vaseline. It was intense.

  14. Andrew Jason Clock
    Posted February 24, 2011 at 12:09 am | Permalink

    More proof that Walker is a Koch whore:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBnSv3a6Nh4&feature=related

  15. TeacherPatti
    Posted February 25, 2011 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    John Galt = brilliant.

  16. TaterSalad
    Posted February 25, 2011 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Find out the real facts on Islam and its hate and what is happening in the world without the left wing spin :

    http://www.Loganswarning.com

    http://www.CreepingSharia.com

    http://www.Barenakedislam.wordpress.com

    http://www.Sheikyermami.com

    http://www.anti-CAIR-net.org

    http://www.ActforAmerica.com

    http://www.DangersofAllah.com

    http://www.TheReligionofPeace.com

    http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/

    http://www.stopshariahnow.org/

  17. TaterSalad
    Posted February 25, 2011 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Public Sector Unions to the American Taxpayers:

    Sorry you have to pay out of your own wages each week for your “own retirement” (401k), but brother, could you dig a little deeper in your wallet and keep funding my pension also. I have a second home that needs some work done on it before I retire at 55 years of age! Keep up the good fight and support your local Public Union Worker…..and his benefits!

    How can a Union member get his Union dues refund?

    http://www.unionrefund.org/

    Right to Work states statistics:
    http://www.nrtw.org/en/blog/wall-street-journal-more-states-consider-02032111

  18. Andrew Jason Clock
    Posted February 25, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Tater, let me be the first to call you a racist scumbag and a a brainwashed dolt.

  19. Walker=Koch Whore
    Posted February 25, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-vines/the-least-funny-prank-cal_b_827501.html

  20. John Galt
    Posted February 25, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Thank GOD, I felt so alone here since EOS and Dedicate Republican peed their pants and went running into the woods screaming. Welcome, Taters. Now let’s start showing them what real patriots are made of. You fight the Islamofascist lovers school teachers, and I’ll take the queers and the vegetarians. Are you ready?

  21. Meta
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    From Think Progress.

    Scott Walker Gives $81,500 Government Job To Top Donor’s 26-Year-Old College Dropout Son

    Since taking office in January, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has stripped public workers of their collective bargaining rights, proposed wage cuts to local government employees, and insisted that his “state is broke” and that its public workers are overpaid. But Walker applies a different standard to himself.

    Today, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reveals that Walker is using state funds to pay more than $81,500 a year to the 26-year-old son of a major campaign donor with no college degree and two drunken-driving convictions.

    Despite having almost no management experience, UW Madison college dropout Brian Deschane now oversees state environmental and regulatory issues and manages dozens of Commerce Department employees. After only two months on the job, Deschane has already received a 26 percent pay raise and a promotion.

    http://thinkprogress.org/2011/04/04/scott-walker-hires-dropout/

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