Thursday, February 17, 2011

Viva La Cheese Heads!

Wisconsin's post-election walk of shame has been pretty painful to watch. Have you heard about what's going down in our dairy state today? Of course you have. But if not, TPM has been doing some great coverage.

And all you really need to know is this:

Unlike true austerity measures -- service rollbacks, furloughs, and other temporary measures that cause pain but save money -- rolling back worker's bargaining rights by itself saves almost nothing on its own. But Walker's doing it anyhow, to knock down a barrier and allow him to cut state employee benefits immediately.

Furthermore, this broadside comes less than a month after the state's fiscal bureau -- the Wisconsin equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office -- concluded that Wisconsin isn't even in need of austerity measures, and could conclude the fiscal year with a surplus. In fact, they say that the current budget shortfall is a direct result of tax cut policies Walker enacted in his first days in office.

That's right folks, it's "union busting for the sake of union busting" time. Someone is eying a national spotlight, methinks. Luckily for us, Wisconsin is so. not. having. it.

Naturally, Governor Walker seems to be okay with some unions, like the police union, which is pretty hilarious, because the only reason he's okay with it is because the police union* is insanely powerful and would destroy him if he tried - which means this is probably the union you should be focusing on if you want to frame unions as wasteful and abusive. I challenge you to find any example of abuse in the teacher's union that even comes close to absurdities such as this.

I have hopes that given the coverage, this ends up working out in the union worker's favor. And it very well could, these protests are doing the thing that corporate shills fear the most - matching up human faces with the term "union". We like to pretend that unions are some sort of monolithic evil, that they are somehow separate entities from the people that they support - it's much easier to hate on the "teacher's union" then it is to hate on your kids' 5th grade teacher, for example. Oh, it's not that I hate teachers, I just hate the teacher's union.

Once it's pointed out that these are actually people, the people that teach your kids, plow your streets, collect your garbage, and treat your ailments - public opinion starts to change. Back in 2005, for example, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger attempted the same thing - attacking unions as wasteful in the name of "fiscal responsibility". However, the nurses union fought back with a brilliant campaign - as Arnold was rambling about the need to cut off "special interests" like unions, the nurses union made their case to the public that "He's not fighting special interests, he's fighting us". Schwarzenegger lost that battle, because once the human stories were identified with what Schwarzenegger labeled as some obtuse, evil, special interest group, the public realized that, hey, they actually kind of like nurses.

So best of luck to the folks in Wisconsin - not only are you fighting a good fight, you are also my neighbors, and although I reserve the right that every Minnesotan has to mess with you relentlessly, when it comes down to it, I'm quite happy you're my neighbor (let's go grab a beer at the bar and talk some major shit about the Dakotas, shall we?).

And more seriously, labor really needs to win this one, guys. If they don't win, this is going to set a very dangerous precedent in this country in regards to worker's rights. I suppose the libertarian in me knows that there is an argument to be made against them. But the liberal in me never wants to live in that country where those arguments work.

Also too, this:

See, I knew I liked you, Wisconsin.

* In all fairness, the local Wisconsin police and firefighters unions (also exempt from Walker's bill) have been amazing at supporting their fellow union members in Wisconsin. It's rumored that the brats actually came from the police union. So I'll forgive you for your unmarked cars at the border this one time, I guess.

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