While North Africans are shaking off the dictatorships of Ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi, Americans are losing their hard-won rights at home. You may have seen the bumper sticker “The Labor Movement: From the Folks who brought you the Weekend.” Well, this very movement is now being imperiled by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who is seeking to ban collective bargaining by public-employee unions.
Scarily enough, Walker is encouraging other Republicans to follow his lead in trampling workers’ rights. Jay Bookman quotes Walker in his article “Where Wisconsin Leads, Few are Following”:
“There’s a lot of us new governors that got elected to do something big…This is our moment.” If by “big” you mean drag workers back to the early twentieth-century, congratulations Governor Walker.
Bookman’s argument that “few are following” Wisconsin’s example seems specious in light of the fact that one state, Nevada, has already outlawed collective bargaining for state employees. Moreover, the Republican Governors Association is trying to drum up statements in support for Walker via a “Stand with Scott” website. So far, four Republican governors — Rick Perry of Texas, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Bob McDonnell of Virginia — have posted general statements of support.
Moreover, Deputy Attorney General Jeff Cox (who is now, thankfully, ex-Deputy Attorney General), went as far as to advocate for the use of force against protesters. As he told a Mother Jones reporter on Twitter, the use of “live ammunition” would be acceptable against protestors in Madison, Wisconsin. “You’re damned right I advocate deadly force,” he said. It boggles the mind to imagine how this guy was able to achieve his position in the first place.
In somewhat more optimistic news, according to BoingBoing, “Ian’s, a pizzeria near the Wisconsin state capitol that is sympathetic to the demonstrators, had been facilitating the process of supporters around the world who want to send pizza to the protest. They’ve fielded an order from Egypt — now that’s solidarity.” Delicious, delicious solidarity.
As the late Howard Zinn noted two years ago, “It will take a reinvigorated labor movement to have a great social upheaval in this country that can turn things around.”
When we have a governor who wants to ban collective bargaining, an (albeit former) attorney general who advocates the use of force and a workforce that is 90 percent non-unionized, it seems a little social upheaval is necessary. Or at least a pizza party.