|Human Parasite--Make This Guy Obsolete!|
While the mainstream unions continue to claim that it is not about wages and benefits, even offering to concede all monetary issues to Gov. Walker of Wisconsin (and in other states, too), most workers find it obscenely unfair that they are being asked to bail out their states and accept deteriorating living conditions and declining social services, while the rich continue to enjoy tax cuts, business subsidies, and essentially get off without any pain. In Wisconsin, Walker’s cuts come in the wake of over $100 million worth of tax breaks for the state’s wealthiest residents. Increasingly, the protesters there are carrying signs and making statements critical of the wealthy and demanding that they pay for the budget deficit, not workers.
Walker is demanding $1.5 billion in cuts, including $900 million from education ($500 per student), which will likely result in school closings, further cuts in wages and benefits, and loss of academic programs and services. 2,000 teachers have already received pink slips. The governor is unconcerned with the effects on K-12 public education, calling for increases in privatization and charter school takeovers. He is also slashing $500 million from Medicaid and $250 million from the University of Wisconsin, which will force 17,000 people out of work and increase tuition by 26%. Under Walker’s plan, UW would be run by a Board Trustees, with 11 corporate members appointed by the governor, and employees stripped of collective bargaining rights. The benefits concessions that public workers unions have already made in hopes of saving collective bargaining amount to a de facto pay cut of up to 20%, drawing into question the entire reason for having collective bargaining. If it exists only to give the illusion that the workers have a voice or power, then it is purely symbolic and worthless to workers.
Despite all this gloom and doom, there are several glimmers of hope. Earlier this week, police withdrew orders for protesters to leave the capital building in Madison, which was filled with more than 600 protesters, all willing to risk arrest in their attempt to force Walker to back down. These “die-hards” included kindergarten teachers, students, police and fire fighters. In another small victory, Republican state senator Dale Schultz has defected and is now planning to vote against Gov. Walker’s “budget repair” bill. Meanwhile, the demonstrations continued throughout the week, with Wisconsin seeing its biggest protest ever, with at least 100,000 people in the streets.
Nationally, people are getting fed up with the attacks on public sector workers. A New York Times poll taken last week found that by 60% of Americans opposed restricting collective bargaining for public employees. Interestingly, a similar percentage overall (and more than half of Republicans) said the salaries and benefits of most public employees were “about right” or “too low.” By a 2-1 margin, Americans support raising taxes to cutting social services, despite the propaganda of the rich (who have tried to convince the rest of us that lower taxes for them somehow is a benefit to us). And the support for the public sector is not just manifesting itself in surveys. In a show of support for Madison’s protesters, people from across the country have been sending in pizzas to those occupying the capital building in Madison.
Contrary to the fantasies of the ruling elite and their lackeys in government, the public overwhelmingly supports the rights of workers. After all, the vast majority of us are workers and most have had some bad experiences with bosses or low wages at some time during our lifetimes. People across American can relate to the plight of public sector workers because it is their plight, too, either immediately or potentially. Furthermore, people recognize that the cuts to public sector workers’ rights and benefits means deteriorating public services for everyone and their children.
The important thing right now for workers across the U.S. is to not only recognize the connections between the attacks on public sector workers and their own plights, but to start mobilizing to resist the attacks. Declining wages in one sector almost always translates to declining wages for everyone. Furthermore, we must not allow the union bosses to dictate the terms of our resistance. Contrary to their claims, it is about wages, benefits and living conditions, not just for public sector workers, but for ALL workers. Rather than allowing the ruling elite to divide us and conquer us more completely, instead of attacking some workers who are lucky enough to still have decent wages or jobs, we need to fight together so that everyone has the good things in life.