Scott Walker: Bad for Teachers and Other Living Things
Wisconsin is open for Business! So says Scott Walker in his campaign ads and in response to criticism to his increasingly criticized proposals. So far as one can tell, it is open for business, but only if you swear to cling to a fossil-fuel economy, reject proven, efficient technologies, and want to turn back the clock on worker’s rights about 100 years.
All this week in Madison, tens of thousands have been protesting Walker’s “budget repair bill.” You have likely heard that this proposal will increase the amount state employees must pay towards their pensions and healthcare, and this is what many on the right have made all the fuss out to be over. However, the bill would also strip these workers of their collective bargaining rights. You remember collective bargaining, right? That little thing that brought us the weekend and a decent wage?
The events of this week in Madison have played out in extraordinary sequence. A brief timeline to summarize:
Friday, 11th February, 2011: Walker introduces his Budget Repair Bill
The plan calls for cuts to 175,000 state employees, including teachers, nurses, and prison guards… but not Police or Fire personnel (who supported him heavily in elections…).
Walker also announces he has alerted the Wisconsin National Guard, and that they are “prepared to respond wherever is necessary.” He declares that he has every confidence that state employees will continue to show up for work and do their jobs. But he says he’s been working on contingency plans for months just in case they don’t.
Walker says he’s not anticipating any problems…
Sunday, 13th: Protests begin in Horicon.
Monday, 14th: Students and Teachers begin protests state-wide. 400 Gather at capitol for nightime vigil.
Tuesday, 15th: Teachers hold a sick-out. 40% (~1040) of Madison area teachers and staff call out and schools are closed. Teachers and students protest. 3,000 fill the capitol rotunda and an additional 10,000 fill the capitol square. Hundreds testify during 17 hours of public hearings.
Wednesday, 16th: Crowds swell to a reported 30,000. Schools remain closed.
Thursday, 17th: All fourteen Democratic senators walk-out, leaving the senate without a quorum and unable to place a vote on the bill, stalling it. Walker’s attempts to round them up with the State Highway Patrol are foiled when it’s later discovered they’ve left the state entirely. Walker declares he will not concede on collective bargaining.
Friday, 18th: Obama called Walker’s bill “an assault on unions.” Walker tells Obama to mind his own business, saying on Fox News Friday morning, “It would be wise for the president and others in Washington to focus on balancing their budget, which they are a long ways from doing.”
Many here feel this to be a historic moment. Not only because protests of this magnitude have not been seen here in some thirty years, but also because of the unity they represent. Many have joined the protests to support those who cannot go themselves for fear of reprimand or loss of their job. Parents, children, friends. All have come to engage in a clear demonstration of direct Democratic process, which Walker and other state Republicans continue to condescendingly refer to as “disappointing” and “disrespectful,” pointing out how they of course responsibly “showed up for work today” while so many others couldn’t be bothered. Last we checked, Walker’s healthcare was pretty secure, and he probably doesn’t need to worry too much about his bargaining rights.
Walker calls to Democrats to return to session “Out of respect for the institution of the Legislature and the democratic process” yet it is the Democratic process he and his cronies seek to destroy. His threats to use the National Guard to put down rebellion are particularly distasteful, in light of past clashes in this country.
Robin Eckstein, a former Wisconsin National Guard member, Iraq War Veteran from Appleton, WI says: “Maybe the new governor doesn’t understand yet – but the National Guard is not his own personal intimidation force to be mobilized to quash political dissent. The Guard is to be used in case of true emergencies and disasters, to help the people of Wisconsin, not to bully political opponents. Considering many veterans and Guard members are union members, it’s even more inappropriate to use the Guard in this way. This is a very dangerous line the Governor is about to cross.”
We must also asks ourselves, as one protester’s sign does, “Can the National Guard teach Organic Chemistry?”