Monday, February 28, 2011

Wisconsin - the world is watching

Whilst the focus of the world in recent weeks has been on the Middle East and North Africa, and the great democratic revolt shaking regimes in that region, events in Madison, Wisconsin have also come into prominence.

The State’s Republican Governor Walker is trying to push through a “Budget repair” Bill that will make public sector workers carry the burden of the State’s economic woes. Some public sector unions have already agreed to pay more towards their pension and health care funds.

However, none are prepared to give away their right to collective bargaining over wages and conditions, which is also part of the Walker package.

When public sector unions called for rallies outside the State Capitol (parliament), tens of thousands responded. They included teachers who do not have the right to strike in Wisconsin, but who phoned in sick over four successive days, effectively closing down the public school system. Huge numbers of students walked out of schools to join the protest. Heaps of amateur videos have been put up on YouTube recording this.

Walker’s reaction was to threaten use of the National Guard to arrest any public employee deemed to be “on strike”.

His problems were compounded when the State legislature’s Democratic Party representatives boycotted proceedings in the House, denying Walker the quorum he needed to get his Bill through.

To prevent themselves being seized by State Police and forcibly returned to the legislature, the whole group fled interstate, effectively going into exile while protest numbers mounted outside the Capitol.

And not only outside the Capitol. The good citizens of Wisconsin claimed the House as their own and set up sleep-ins and occupations.

On the Saturday before last, a crowd estimated at anywhere between 70,000 and 100,000 claimed the centre of Wisconsin, dubbing it “the new Cairo” and calling for “Governor Walker Mubarak” to stand down. Signs went up calling for the “overthrow of the Pharaoh”.

With protests showing no signs of dissipating, Walker was sprung discussing the possibility of planting agents provocateurs amongst the protesters to create disturbances that would provide an excuse and a PR cover for the police to smash the rallies.
According to Madison's mayor and police chief Thursday called on Gov. Scott Walker to explain statements he made in a secretly recorded phone conversation that he "thought about" planting troublemakers among the thousands of demonstrators at the Capitol.
"Someone in his inner circle raised seriously the possibility of hiring people to come in and apparently create violence in my city," Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said. "I find it appalling, and I want to know who that was."
Last Saturday, an even larger crowd than the previous week’s gathered outside the occupied Capitol. Walker’s response was to get his police to lock down the building, denying access to it from the outside and locking inside those who were occupying it.

This is the most recent (Monday February 28) report from the Wisconsin State Journal:
Protesters have filled the Capitol for two weeks, turning the historic building into a sort of protest village, complete with first aid centers, scheduled events and family centers. Capitol police started on Friday enforcing a new set of rules for the rotunda, most of them aimed at ending the situation.
On Sunday, Capitol police attempted to peacefully remove the remaining protesters. An ardent group refused to go and was still inside the building Monday. Most have complied with the new rules, including staying on the ground floor. A few have not, which has led to the standoff.
“My grandfather helped build this building,” said LaVorn Dvorak, a retired social worker from Brooklyn, who was stuck outside for two hours in below-freezing temperatures. “I expect to be able to get in. Now they’re telling us we can’t get in to our own statehouse.”
As Dvorak spoke, chants arose including “Let us in — please.” And “Whose house?” “Our house!”
Meanwhile, the man who is organizing a recall effort against the governor filed a hand-written request for an injunction in U.S. District Court in Madison Monday seeking to reopen the Capitol. In it, Jeremy Ryan of Defending Wisconsin PAC is seeking $10 million to be paid to the protesters for the alleged violation of their civil rights.
All power to the people of Wisconsin!

Smash Walker’s union busting!

Defend the right to collective bargaining!

The whole world is watching.

PS - See this online timeline full of interesting links:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Collective bargaining rights of Wisconsin state sector workers have now been abolished in Corporate State America.
As in Australia most workers are not unionized, but a large sector of government workers are.
While working people ,government workers are not productive of surplus value for capital. But unproductive of wealth workers providing services for the state and to the people as necessary for the functioning and reproduction of the system, all paid for out of state revenues and taxes.
Teachers for example, training future generations of suitably conditioned working people. Others are issuing drivers licences ,collecting traffic fines ,courthouse workers , working in government offices and stores, lawyers issuing contracts for highway construction Etc. Others are simply enforcers of state laws judges, sheriffs foreclosing on housing debts ,armed enforcers include police prison guards ,warders etc.
Ultimately all in the interest of the capitalist class.

In the good times government had to compete with the private sector on pensions providing healthcare insurance and other benefits. Healthcare insurance is not universal in the US but is related to having actual employment .
Many US states and counties are weighed down by past debts from financing expenditures by issuing bonds and have under funded workers pension schemes ,some billions of dollars short of what benefits they have promised their workers.
They now seek to reneg on these obligations.

In the private sector there is already massive unemployment and many wages concessions have been made by the remaining workers in an attempt to keep their jobs.
In order to continue with that squeeze in the private sector, from US capitals point of view ,it can no longer tolerate its own highly paid labour aristocracy government workers keeping their job security and privileges .In order to get the government sector workers to compete in the market with the already weakened workers in the private sector.

Divide and rule is the game and indeed there is a material basis for dividing the working people . In the private sector many have lost their jobs and healthcare benefits, tens of millions exist on food stamp “charity” . Envy exists.
And the under-employed working people are fed the line that the cause of the crisis is not nice capitalism ,but excessive ‘big” government spending on government worker benefits, that they claim have bankrupted America.
This is part of an overall process of demanding “Austerity” from all working people so that the US government can continue socializing the past losses of capital and with its deficit financed bailouts for the finance sector.
America the UK and indeed all the first world imperialist powers are in the grip of a deep financial debt crisis. Government commercial and private, they all have impossible levels of debt .But as they say ,debts that cannot be repaid will never be repaid.
So, the US government is wildly ‘counterfeiting” money with the privately owned Central bank openly “buying” Government Treasury bonds.

It is necessary to understand the way these imperialist countries economies have changed in recent years.
America and before that the UK were once great industrial manufacturing powers . Most PROFITABLE manufacturing is now in the cheaper labour Third word ,not in the high waged west.
The American workers ,pre crisis, on the whole were not exploited for surplus value as a class With after tax corporate profits only about equal to foreign capital invested in the US.
In recent decades these imperialist economies have functioned as giant Ponzi economies under the US $ oil priced Dollar hegemony system, sucking up wealth from the T.W.

The US printed paper in exchange for real commodities ,the dollar profits of the third world were re-invested back in the US by the third world elites in Treasury and dud US property bonds.
The UK as middleman managing the funds of nearly every tin pot dictator on earth.