Back to the Future: Union Survival Strategies in Open Shop America

by Steve Early and Rand Wilson
 
The rupture of labor-management relationships that may have been “comfortable” in the past, plus the accompanying loss of legal rights in a growing number of states, have triggered membership-mobilization activity reminiscent of the original struggles for collective bargaining. In Wisconsin and elsewhere, labor’s recent defensive battles demonstrate that a new model of union functioning is not only possible but necessary for survival. As a first step in this process of union transformation under duress, workers must definitely shed their past role as “clients” or passive consumers of union services. In workplaces without a union or agency shop and collective bargaining as practiced for many decades, they must take ownership of their own organizations and return them to their workplace roots, drawing on the experiences of public workers in the South whose practice of public-sector unionism has, by necessity, been very different for the last half century.
 
When the history of mid-western de-unionization is written, its sad chroniclers will begin their story in Indiana. That is where Governor Mitch Daniels paved the way, in 2005, for copycat attacks on public-sector bargaining in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan — and for a successful assault on privatesector union security in his own state earlier this year.

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1 Million Signatures Submitted to Recall Walker

by Tula Connell

Working people hit one right out of Miller Park: Moments ago, they submitted 1 million signatures supporting a recall election of Gov. Scott Walker (R), exceeding the total number of signatures required by 460,000. Walker last year pushed to abolish the rights of public employees to collectively bargain for a middle-class life. Overall, Walker’s policies are killing 18,000 jobs a year in Wisconsin, according to a recent report and more than 27,000 jobs have been lost since he signed the budget last year.

Interestingly, Walker received 1,128,159 votes in his 2010 election.

Working families also turned in 123 percent of the required signatures against Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who was thought one of the more challenging leaders to recall.

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Wisconsin Republicans Have Done Progressives a Huge Favor

By Don Taylor

Photo by Mark Riechers

I stood outside the capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin Wednesday night. Late in the afternoon, I had been alerted via Facebook that senate Republicans were readying a sudden legislative maneuver to ram through the evisceration of workers’ rights that had previously been attached to a “budget repair bill.”

As thousands converged on the capitol, the vast majority were barred from entering the public building. The crowd swelled, chanting “Shame!” and “Our House!” as fire trucks arrived, sirens blaring to respond to the burning of democracy.

The Republicans separated the anti-labor provisions from the budget bill, creating a “non-fiscal” bill with lower quorum requirements. They then passed that “non-fiscal” bill, 18-1, with no Democrats present. The next day, the state Assembly passed the bill 53-42.

In doing so, they have done the Wisconsin democracy movement a huge favor.
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Thank You Governor Walker?

By Amy Dean

Amy B. Dean

With 20 years in the labor movement under my belt, I looked at the actions taken last night by Wisconsin’s Republican legislature and Governor Scott Walker and had an unusual response.  It wasn’t despair or anger. Though once the shock wears off from seeing tens of thousands of workers stripped of their rights, I am sure those feelings will overwhelm me. No. Weirdly, among my first reactions was hope and gratitude.

I wanted to thank the governor. So I wrote him a note.

Since I am simply one of many fighting for working Americans, and not a billionaire financier, he is unlikely to take the time to read a personal note from me. So I decided to share it with all of you in the hope that someone could pass it on.

Dear Governor Walker,

Thank you for making a world where once there were only a few thousand people who would stand up to prevent the oppression of middle class workers and now there will be hundreds of thousands. You have breathed new life into the worker’s rights movement and given us a national stage for our struggle.

Thank you for showing the whole world just how far you and other conservatives are willing to go to serve your ideology instead of your constituents. This stark example of your rhetoric being contradicted by your actions was a wakeup call that we all needed to keep motivated and focused on our goal of creating a fair economy in our country.

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The Wisconsin Uprising

by Mark Engler

Step one: Create your own budget crisis by giving out tax cuts to the privileged.

Step two: “Solve” your crisis by attacking teachers and other public servants.

That’s how Republicans do it these days, folks. Certainly, that’s the play being called by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, whose attempts to push forward sweeping anti-union legislation in his state have become infamous in the past week.

The single most important idea to keep in mind about the situation is that this is not about balancing budgets. It is a power grab.

Walker’s move is part of a calculated effort to undermine what’s left of the most significant institutional counterbalance to the ever-weightier power of corporations: organized labor. Other newly minted Republican governors are making similar moves, with at least a half dozen attempting to pass so-called “right to work” legislation. But I don’t think any have been quite as audacious or disingenuous as Walker.

 

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Fix Economic Crisis: Tax the Rich!

By Paul Krehbiel

Paul Krehbiel

The US government budget deficit is now $1.5 trillion, and most states are running out of money too. Political leaders are wringing their hands and crying in unison: “There’s just no money.” Led by Republicans, the only solution, they say, is to cut, cut, cut. They’re on a slash and burn rampage, pushing draconian cuts in education, health care, pensions, public workers, Social Security, Medicare and nearly every other needed social program and social service job.

Currently, Republicans have launched an all-out attack on unions – the one social group that has had the clout to achieve and protect these social programs. Wisconsin public workers are on the front lines in this battle. Scott Walker, recently elected Republican and Tea Party Governor, is out to crush public sector unions in Wisconsin, claiming their pensions are breaking the bank. Workers’ pensions are not the cause of the economic crisis hitting Wisconsin, nor are they in 44 other states.

Fortunately, Wisconsin’s unions and the public have responded with huge demonstrations at the state capitol in Madison, and Democratic lawmakers have left the state as of this writing to prevent the anti-people legislation from being voted on. But this is just the beginning. Republicans in Ohio, New Jersey and a host of other states are readying similar anti-labor legislation for their state houses.

How can there not be enough money in the richest country in the world for needed social services when practically every other industrialized country funds them? Actually, there’s tons of money. Billions and trillions of dollars. The problem is that it isn’t in government bank accounts because the giant corporations and the rich have taken it. The sales pitch from the Republicans and their financiers have turned this reality upside-down.

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