Friday, February 18, 2011

The Republican attack on unions in Wisconsin is directed by Koch Industries

Governor Walker of Wisconsin has been selling his effort to eliminate state employee unions as necessary in order to balance the Wisconsin budget. That is the budget that was going to produce a surplus until Walker was sworn in and the Republican legislature passed laws eliminating most taxes for corporations and the wealthy. So the Republicans gave away the state revenue and now are demanding that the state employees make up what was given away.

But it is much more than that. It is a complete union-busting exercise by Walker and the Republicans. Here is Ezra Klein's description of what is happening:
Walker proposes that the right to collectively bargain be taken away from most -- but not all -- state and local workers. Who's left out? "Local law enforcement and fire employees, and state troopers and inspectors would be exempt from these changes." As Harold Meyerson notes, these are also the unions that happened to be more supportive of Walker in the last election. Funny, that.

Walker tries to sell the change in collective bargaining as modest. "State and local employees could continue to bargain for base pay, they would not be able to bargain over other compensation measures." But that's not really true. Read down a bit further and you'll find that "total wage increases could not exceed a cap based on the consumer price index (CPI) unless approved by referendum." In other words, they couldn't bargain for wages to rise faster than inflation. So, in reality, they can't bargain for wages and they can't bargain over other forms of compensation. They just can't bargain.

The proposal doesn't stop there, though. "Contracts would be limited to one year and wages would be frozen until the new contract is settled. Collective bargaining units are required to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union. Employers would be prohibited from collecting union dues and members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues." These rules have nothing to do with pension costs or even bargaining. They're just about weakening unions: They make it harder for unions to collect dues from members, to negotiate stable contracts or to survive a bad year.

The best way to understand Walker's proposal is as a multi-part attack on the state's labor unions. In part one, their ability to bargain benefits for their members is reduced. In part two, their ability to collect dues, and thus spend money organizing members or lobbying the legislature, is undercut. And in part three, workers have to vote the union back into existence every single year. Put it all together and it looks like this: Wisconsin's unions can't deliver value to their members, they're deprived of the resources to change the rules so they can start delivering value to their members again, and because of that, their members eventually give in to employer pressure and shut the union down in one of the annual certification elections.
If this survives and goes into effect it will mean the same kind of treatment to every union in the United States.

I wonder if the media will realize what is happening and start actually reporting on it instead of jut transcribing the Republican propaganda.

Addendum 4:27 PM

This is from Lee Fang at Think Progress:
Wisconsin’s newly elected Republican Gov. Scott Walker is facing a growing backlash over his attempt to cut pay and eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees in his state. Although Walker is claiming his power grab is an attempt to close a budget gap, the budget “crisis” was engineered by Walker as soon as he got into office. As Brian Beutler reported, half of the budget shortfall comes from Walker’s own tax cuts for businesses and other business giveaways enacted in January.

A number of the big business interests standing with Walker are beneficiaries of his administration’s tax giveaways. But the greatest ally to Walker is the dirty energy company Koch Industries. In response to the growing protests in Madison, Koch fronts are busing in Tea Party protesters to support Walker and his union-busting campaign. Last night, MSNBC’s Ed Schultz reported on the involvement of Club for Growth and the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity in the pro-Walker protest scheduled tomorrow.
Nothing good can come from the Koch Industries involvement.

Addendum II 5:13 PM

Here, from Alternet, is some more on the background behind Wisconsin governor Walker's effort to destroy the unions:
Walker is carrying out the wishes of his corporate master, David Koch, who calls the tune these days for Wisconsin Republicans. Walker is just one among many Wisconsin Republicans supported by Koch Industries -- run by David Koch and his brother, Charles -- and Americans For Prosperity, the astroturf group founded and funded by David Koch. The Koch brothers are hell-bent on destroying the labor movement once and for all.

During his election campaign, Walker received the maximum $15,000 contribution from Koch Industries, according to Think Progress, and support worth untold hundreds of thousands from the Koch-funded astroturf group, Americans For Prosperity. AlterNet recently reported the role of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Americans For Prosperity in a vote-caging scheme apparently designed to suppress the votes of African-Americans and college students in Milwaukee. In 2008, Walker served as emcee for an awards ceremony held by Americans For Prosperity. There, he conferred the "Defender of the American Dream" award on Rep. Paul Ryan, now chairman of the House Budget Committee.

On Monday, AlterNet reported on the gaggle of Koch-sponsored politicians who individually graced the podium at last weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference (including several from Wisconsin: Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Ron Johnson). Rep. Michele Bachmann, also a Koch favorite from next-door Minnesota, kicked off the conference.
Since the Koch brothers are also funding the Tea Party Express and are spending as much as they can based on the Citizens United Supreme Court decision so that they can overthrow America's democracy, it is no surprise that one of the Koch Industry's candidates (Walker) is doing what he can to destroy the unions in Wisconsin. From there they will move to other states and destroy the right to unionize there.

Addendum 2/19/2011 2:00 PM
Ezra Klein and Naomi Klein discuss the practice of the "Shock Doctrine."

The Shock Doctrine is what Gov. Walker is practicing. He manufactured a crisis, then he is using that crisis to destroy the unions which have no connection to the crisis he manufactured.

[This is the Wikipedia article that summarizes Naomi Klein's book "The Shock Doctrine." It describes the tactic Walker is using to a "T."]

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