HANGING: TOGETHER OR SEPARATELY
By Dave Obey
Governor Scott Walker’s assault on workers' rights, under the pretense of budget concerns, is nothing less than an assault on the moral underpinnings of democracy and enlightened capitalism.
It is an attack on Wisconsin’s long and much admired tradition of social responsibility that has defined this state since the turn of the last century. That was when Robert La Follette wrested control of state government from insider domination by the railroads, mining companies, and timber giants and gave average working people a seat at the table where their future was being decided.
In the wake of the Great Depression in the 1930s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt put the nation on the road to economic recovery and stability by taking government actions that enabled working class families to get a bigger piece of the American dream. But today, in the wake of the Bush recession, Republican throwbacks like Governor Walker are pushing to shrink the middle class’s fair share of that dream.
In the 1930s and ‘40s, Roosevelt used the tools of government to strengthen wages, improve working conditions, and weave a retirement safety net by creating Social Security and guarantying that workers would have a seat at the bargaining table. But today, Walker and his powerful and immensely wealthy backers want to weaken that safety net and shift an even larger share of national income into the hands of the economic elite.
Policies that Walker would have us pursue are clearly designed to put “uppity” workers back in their place in the back of the economic bus, and some workers who have been pounded by bad times are getting sucked into following him.
Last week, I saw a woman quoted in the press saying, “I can see the point of unions in past days but today they aren’t needed. We’ve got our rights and there are laws to protect them.”
It is that kind of thinking that is a menace to every working family in the country. How does she think workers got those rights? How does she think those rights will be protected if politicians like Walker are able to crush organized workers because the only tools to defend themselves are taken away? Is she willing to rely on the courage of politicians and the good heartedness of giant corporations to guarantee those rights? Good luck on that front.
If we take away the bargaining rights of public employees today, do we really believe private sector workers won’t become the target tomorrow?
This is not the time for workers to allow themselves to be divided. There is an old saying that in unity there is strength. Ben Franklin put it a little bit differently when he warned our founding fathers that if they did not “hang together, they would all hang separately.”
This is not the time for workers to run out on each other. It is time to stand up for your neighbor’s rights today to protect your own rights tomorrow.
Virtually every pressure in today’s economy is pushing workers’ wages downward. The only pressure pushing in the opposite direction is the ability of workers to stand together at the bargaining table.
Over the last three decades we have seen the largest transfer of income up the income scale in the history of the universe. Isn’t that enough to satisfy the Walkers of this world? Shouldn’t we finally draw the line and say, “Enough is enough! I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to swallow it anymore!”
For the good of every hard working middle class family in Wisconsin please stand with the Wisconsin 14. They are standing with you.
And one more thing: For the past 10 days the governor has said he would not talk with the state Senate Democrats to negotiate anything except their surrender, but he had 20 minutes to talk with someone who he thought was his corporate sponsor, one of the Brothers Koch.
The Koch family has poured a huge amount of money into the governor’s campaign. Let me tell you a little about them. According to Forbes magazine, the Koch brothers run the second largest private company in the United States. Their conglomerate, based in Wichita, Kansas, apparently brings in $1 billion dollars a year. They own oil refiners in Alaska, Texas, Minnesota, and they control about 4,000 miles of pipeline. They also own many other products; Brawny Paper Towels, Dixie Cups, Georgia Pacific Lumber, Stainmaster, and Lycra.
In the 1990s, the U.S. Justice Department filed two lawsuits against Koch Industries, Inc., claiming that it was responsible for more than 300 oil spills which had released three million gallons of oil into lakes and rivers. Koch Industries, Inc. settled for a record $30 million civil fine.
In 1999, a jury found Koch Industries, Inc. guilty of negligence and malice in the death of two Texas teenagers in an explosion that resulted from an underground leaking butane pipeline. The Justice Department also levied a 97-count indictment against the company for covering up the discharge of tons of benzene, a carcinogen, from its refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas. The company was liable for $350 million dollars in fines and four Koch employees faced up to 35 years in prison.
It has been reported that Koch Industries, Inc. spent $900,000 to support the candidacy of George W. Bush and other Republicans during the 2000 elections. Those reports reveal that the brothers have spent more $50 million lobbying the government in the last decade and have given more than $100 million to dozens of seemingly independent organizations through several charitable foundations they control.
Charles Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity, recently said, “The Koch Brothers are on a whole different level. There is no one else who had spent this much money….They have a pattern of law breaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation. I’ve been in Washington since Watergate, and I have never seen anything like it.”
They also poured more than $1 million into one front group –- Americans for Prosperity -- which in turn is pouring efforts into Wisconsin to determine the outcome of this fight between Governor Walker and the middle-class workers. Does anyone believe that the Koch Brothers would be doing that if they did not believe they would get their money’s worth out of Walker and the other politicians who follow their lead?
This is a time for choosing. Which vision of Wisconsin do we think is in the interest of Wisconsin working families: the vision of Bob La Follette and Gaylord Nelson, who signed into law the workers’ rights provision that Governor Walker is trying to gut, or the Darwinism vision pursued by Koch Industries and its corporate allies?
There is a world of difference between those two visions. The La Follette tradition calls for a strong balance between individual responsibility and social responsibility. The Koch-Walker vision is utterly devoid of social responsibility. It seeks to govern by dividing rather uniting. It is foreign to the public ethic that has always made Wisconsin a special place. That ethic cannot be abandoned.
February 27, 2011
Rep. Nick Milroy posted this letter on his facebook page at 11:00pm Friday night. It is written by a prison guard, and addressed to the Republican Reps. who voted FOR the Budget Repair Bill passed by the Assembly. PROFOUND.
Friday, February 25, 2011 at 10:59pm
"Good Afternoon All,
I just wanted to voice my extreme displeasure to all who voted for Walker's Budget Repair bill!!!!! Do any of you know who is affected and what they really do for a living and what they make? I know that you all can't possibly believe in your hearts that this is the best thing for the state of Wisconsin!! Why then are you all following like little lambs??? I just don't get it!!
By the way, I am a 46 year old lifelong conservative Republican and I'm a Corrections Officer. I worked hard to get this position via testing (aptitude and psych), lie detector tests or LVA, several interviews, etc. The process took almost a year to get into Corrections. After that, it was 4 weeks at the academy and 8 weeks training on the floor, then a year of Probation.
You use the word entitled very loosely and I'm not one who feels entitled, but I definitely feel that I earn the great benefits that have been associated with the Public Sector! I brush shoulders daily with some of the most dangerous criminals including local and Federal prisoners. Many of these have been incarcerated for some time and many have some type of disease such as HEP A, B, or C or worse yet, HIV. All it would take is for them to spit on me and get it in my eye or mouth and it will change my life forever!!! Did you know that inmates like to save their urine and feces so that they can throw it at Officers. Sounds like fun doesn't it and I do it proudly to protect the Public outside the facility and the very same individuals I just spoke of. I work a 4 on 2 off schedule which means that I only get a 'weekend' once every six weeks and I work most Holidays. Yes, I get paid for working the Holiday, but the fact is we are there 24/7/365. By the way, I work a 2pm - 10pm shift and when a third shifter calls in, sometimes when I'm ready to go home after a stressful shift, I'm told that I need to stay another 8 hours until 6am to fill out third shift and I do it. Again, yes, I get paid overtime, but you try working 16 hours straight and then hang with criminals.
Walker excluded Police and Firefighters because they are Public Safety workers. WHAT THE HELL DO YOU CALL MY JOB???? I don't think I get paid a grotesque wage at $40k/yr. It's not the private sector that has complained about my pay or benefits.
It's Walker and you Republicans that have tried to create this division within our state's people. Why????
To all you Democratic lawmakers, I apologize for voting nothing but Republican all these years. They are not who I thought they were!! Don't you Republicans see the protests throughout the state? Hey, I'm a taxpayer too!! Don't tell me that you're protecting the taxpayers. This is simply a way to attack some of the finest middle class workers and I for one am considering moving out of Wisconsin as I am so distraught at the lack of honest wholesome government.
Again, why are you Republicans following Walker so blindly? An independent nationwide poll said that 61% of people do not su pport taking away collective bargaining. Even just Republicans only support this attack on CB with a number somewhere around 54%. These are facts! Why then do near 100% of our Republican lawmakers vote for this horrible bill. By the way, thank you to the 4 that voted against it. You are the only ones with balls!!!! Why don't you stand up and tell him it's just not right. Go ahead and take my money that was promised in the way of pension and health care. I'll give you that, but knock off the attack on my collective bargaining rights. Do you have any idea how we as employees will be steamrolled without representation? You don't do you. You buy this crap by Walker about being protected by the Civil Rights laws in this state. That's crap. Have you noticed that the other Governors in Indiana and Florida have pulled back on the push to attack collective bargaining?? Why do you think this is? Because it was wrong from the start. Do you know how many states have budget problems worse than Wisconsin, but have no Public Service collective bargaining? Do you know how many states have less budge problems and still have public sector collective bargaining. Do you really know about Walker's record in Milwaukee? Yes, I still thought he was the best choice too and voted for him, but I don't believe any longer. Do you know about the Milwaukee workers that were fired illegally and Mr. Walker brought in out of state workers to fill the positions. Now Milwaukee is still having to pay these Milwaukee workers because it was illegal.
I know you already blindly voted this in, but you need to take a breath of fresh air and exhale the Walker air for a moment and work to undo the damage you've helped to cause.
I never believed in unions all these years because I thought they asked too much in bad times, but now I see that we are all adults and my union AFSCME has been very reasonable in it's negotiations on new contracts. I just don't understand how all of a sudden people like me are the problem. Have you done fiscal impact studies to determine the trickle down effect on charities, retail sales, etc.?
Please stop with the union busting and remember, people like me are simply your friends and neighbors.
In my opinion, I truly believe the Senators who left for Illinois were forced to do what they did and I personally hope they can hold out for months to prove a point. I would gladly take money out of my pocket to help buy them food and clothing.
By the way Republicans, I truly believe you've sealed your political fate. Most of my friends are conservatives and none of them work in the public sector, but all are appalled by this move by Walker. Keep pushing and you'll push your way right out of office if you haven't already. You have lit a fire under people like me that normally just voted the way they feel the best.
I will now be very involved in my community and others if possible to drive you out because you simply don't belong. I truly believe the Republican party in Wisconsin has become corrupt. There has got to be another way! I've given up on Walker because he is simply loving the limelight he's in. He wants to be a rock star. I strongly urge you Republicans that really know best to be heard and forget about the blind following the blind.
Thanks to the Democrats for fighting for people like us and truly understanding the far reaching implications of this union busting bill on good workers."
Author's name not provided, from Representative, Nick Milroy