Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Even if you aren't currently living in Wisconsin, have never been to Wisconsin, or couldn't even name the states surrounding us, you've probably seen some mention of what's going on in Madison this week.
Right up front - I fully support the unions. I come from a strong union family, and I have many
friends and family who work for both public and private unions. I've also been spending the last week educating myself about both sides of the issue, looking into how we can be fiscally responsible without trampling on worker's rights.

What has been the most troubling to me through all of this has been the outright attacks on working people, especially teachers. These are people who put themselves through graduate school, and are working for a substantially lower salary in order to use their education and talents for the public, instead of just for themselves. Same for the the corrections officers, mental health care professionals, county workers, and nurses also included in the removeal of collective bargaining rights in this proposed Budget Repair Bill. Most of them are highly educated, dedicated employees, and they are being called thugs, leeches, freeloaders, bums, and many, many other derogetory terms that I find inappropriate to post here.

The teachers, nurses, social workers and public servants I know personally are none of those things. They don't have any agenda beyond retaining their rights to negotiate with their employers. They have agreed to take cuts in pay and benefits in the coming fiscal years to help us all, and still, they are under threat.

But then there is this :

Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill Protest from Matt Wisniewski on Vimeo.

Wisconsin "Budget Repair Bill" Protest Pt 2 from Matt Wisniewski on Vimeo.

This is what's really going on in Madison. Things that come to mind as I watch this, and Ben's footage of the demonstrations last weekend-

Peace, Civility, Respect, Encouragement, Rationality, Inspiration. Kind people asking for kindness. Power without greed or selfishness. Dedication to the common good. True solidarity for your fellow man.


T.D. McFrost said...

In my country of Trinidad, in the Caribbean, there is a union protest almost every week. They usually ask for higher wages to negate the rising cost of living - things may get heated, but never do the corporate heads or the government belittle them in any way.

I was stunned when I read the words being used to describe these union members. That just should not be. Teachers, especially, deserve more than they make, and if they want a little more, then give them.

I don't know much about American unions, but this made me curious to know.

Thanks for posting.

Lily Cate said...

American unions have been under attack for the last 30 years or so by corporate interests that don't want to spend much for their labor costs.

Unions are also the biggest contributor to the democratic party here, which is another reason they are a big target of the republican party.

We do have a certain amount of corruption in our union system, and that needs to be addressed. But just chucking out the unions altoghether isn't a good solution.

In Wisconsin, my state, right now the unions aren't protesting for higher wages. In fact, they are willing to take cuts to their pay and benefits to help our budget problems. Our governor seems to have no interest in negotiating. Instead, he seems to want to eradicate the unions entirely, which is outrageous to me.

And his supporters are busy hurling instults at our hard working teachers, which I find disgraceful.

T.D. McFrost said...

You can't be serious?! That's outrageous. Why would anyone want to disband a union?

Now I'm actually furious.

Is there anything we can do to help?

Lily Cate said...

Yes, sadly, I am serious.
The Budget Repair Bill SB11 for the state of Wisconsin includes a section that would end collective bargaining agreements for state workers, i.e. end unions for public employees, which includes teachers, nurses, corrections officers, all city and county workers, mental health care professionals, and many others.

In the US, we have a terrible habit of shouting rhetoric instead of sitting down to a rational discussion, but if I can postulate on several reasons why.
Corporations don't want to negotiate with employees. They want total control over pay, working conditions, benefits, everything, really. There has been so much union propaganda spewed in the media over the last few decades that a large segment of the US actually thinks that unions are contributing to our budget problems, and not a host of other economic factors.

But here's the best summary I can find.

To be honest, Maddow's show has a strong left slant, but she gets much of the facts correct.

How can you help? Just spread the word. There are 14 state senators in Wisconsin standing up against the dismantling of workers' rights in this country.
Write to the 14 state senators of Wisconsin, and send your encouragement and support.

T.D. McFrost said...

You have my word, I will write to them. Hopefully, if they see a young man from another country concerned about this matter, they might show leniency, or even reform.

Thank you so much for schooling me on this issue.