Defying weeks of overwhelming protests, the Wisconsin Senate yesterday dropped the other shoe and voted to kill collective bargaining for public employees. Opposition to this has been united among the left. How have various parts of the progressive mosaic represented the news? Below are some highlights.
First, the story from last night:
The extraordinary turn of events late Wednesday set up a perfunctory vote Thursday morning in the Assembly on the measure that would strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from most public workers. Once the bill passes the Assembly, it heads to Republican Gov. Scott Walker for his signature. [...]
The bill had been stymied after all 14 Senate Democrats fled to Illinois nearly three weeks ago, preventing the chamber from having enough members present to pass it. Walker introduced it to plug a $137 million budget shortfall.
The Senate requires a quorum of 20 to take up any measures that spend money. But a special committee of lawmakers from the Senate and Assembly voted late Wednesday afternoon to take all the spending measures out of the legislation and the Senate approved it minutes later, 18-1.
United Wisconsin has a “Pledge for Recall” site, where, if you’re a resident of Wisconsin, you can sign your promise to vote to recall Scott Walker in the Fall, and also donate to the cause. Non-residents of Wisconsin may also donate. Wisconsin residents who pledge to support the recall effort will be contacted when the time comes for actual petitions to circulate.
At the World Socialist Web Site, Tom Eley explains two important things about the vote: First, in stripping the legislation of its budgetary provisions (which had to be done to overcome the quorum matter), the legislation was no longer about the budget–supercharging the argument that Walker’s crusade against public unions had nothing to do with the budget in the first place. Second, the vote violated state law:
Republicans claimed legal grounds for the move by temporarily removing from the so-called “budget repair bill” its fiscal components. By doing so, Republicans said that the legislation was no longer a finance bill, and therefore not subject to the quorum requirement. It was a moment of baldfaced lying for Walker and Senate Republican leaders, who in every public statement have declared that the attack on collective bargaining rights was a fiscal matter.
The bill was passed without discussion or debate at about 6:30 p.m. by a hastily-convened special conference committee, which normally convenes to sort out differences in competing bills.
“Tonight, the Senate will be passing the items in the Budget Repair Bill that we can with the 19 members [present],” said Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, the chamber’s Republican majority leader, in a statement announcing the move.
The vote was in evident violation of the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law, which requires that public notice of a meeting be made “24 hours prior to the commencement of such meeting unless for good cause such notice is impossible or impractical.”
Shortly after 8 p.m., hundreds of protesters gathered outside the locked King Street entrance to the Capitol, chanting “Break down the door!” and “General strike!”
Moments later, police ceded control of the State Street doors and allowed the crowd to surge inside. The area outside the Assembly, which is scheduled to take the bill up at 11 a.m. Thursday, was jammed with protesters who chanted, “We’re not leaving. Not this time.”
Some union leaders interviewed Wednesday night at the Madison Labor Temple indicated that strikes — which are illegal in Wisconsin for public-employee unions — are possible.
“Senate Republicans have exercised the nuclear option to ram through their bill attacking Wisconsin’s working families in the dark of night,” said Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO. “Tonight’s events have demonstrated they will do or say anything to pass their extreme agenda that attacks Wisconsin’s working families.”
Moderate Democrats at Daily Kos, of course, oppose the call for a strike. Other authors at the site are at least asking the question, if not providing any answers in the form of a call to action. But the real problem with Kos‘s perspective, regardless of the concrete actions their authors do or do not support, is epitomized by Laura Clawson’s article there this morning: For the Kos readership and diarists, this is really all about whether what’s happening in Wisconsin will help or hurt President Obama. This distorted perspective allows Kos authors to take statements like that of Wisconsin State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who factually pointed out that weakened public unions mean less money to donate to the President’s reelection campaign, and turn them into absolute, primary teleological causes. Of course, Obama has stayed as far away from Madison as he could do and still be in the country. But his stalwart supporters in the blogosphere will make the connection for him.
This is not to say that all Democratic Party-oriented reactions are as milquetoast as those at Daily Kos. Act Blue is soliciting funding for the recall effort. Dennis Kucinich is calling on the President to make good on his pro-worker rhetoric. A lost cause, in our opinion, but noble nevertheless.
A couple of Facebook events are worth noting: Wisconsin Employees Against Walker’s Attacks On Workers’ Rights is calling for a rally at the state capitol on Saturday–a rally which would have taken place with or without the Facebook page, but the effort is still noteworthy. Much more noteworthy, however, is the call for a national high school student walk-out:
High school students in Madison, Wisconsin will walk out of class this Friday, March 11th at 2:00 PM CT to hold a 3:00 CT teach-in on Library Mall in downtown Madison regarding the effects of collective bargaining elimination on public education, as well as the proposed education cuts in the Biennial Budget.
We are asking all students in the United States to walk out at 2:00 PM local time in solidarity with Wisconsin and to organize teach-ins on the attacks on public education and working families where you live.
Wisconsin Students in Solidarity
Readers should certainly spread this call far and wide. Any action by students outside of Wisconsin would be tremendous–nearly without contemporary historical precedent here in the United States.
We call on students, workers and all who are opposed to this decision to converge on Madison tomorrow to protest. We support the resolution passed by the South Central Federation of Labor (Wisconsin) that calls for a general strike of all workers in the region. We support the immediate formation of strike committees by all union and non-union workers in the state. We support all acts of civil disobedience and non-compliance to protest and reverse this Bill.
Workers and students shut down Wisconsin! As popular movements throughout the world claim their democratic rights, Walker and the Republicans have trampled on workers in Wisconsin. By building on the spirit of Tahrir Square, Madison can be the site where a new militant worker’s movement is built. Our democracy is not contained within the Assembly Houses and State Capitols; we build it in the streets!
The last three sentences are the most astute, and inspiring, of any we’ve seen in the wake of Walker’s assault on the working class.
Honorable mention for important analysis about Walker’s union-busting goes to this short piece by Lauri Lebo at Religious Dispatches, who points out that Walker’s crusade is thoroughly God-Squad-inspired.
Meanwhile… Walker defended the bill in the Wall Street Journal (surprise surprise) before the state senate passed the stripped-away version last night … “Dropping all pretenses” is the day’s mematic phraseology. Robert Schlesinger at USNWR‘s blog reviews the now-long list of Walker’s lies concerning the bill:
To review: Walker–having created a budget crisis by enacting a huge tax cut–proposed a bill to “fix” the “crisis” by not only sharply cutting the compensation of public employees, but also by stripping public unions of their collective bargaining rights. This was, Walker claimed, what he campaigned on, a declaration which PolitiFact termed “false.” It was not, Walker insisted, about breaking Wisconsin’s public unions but rather about fixing the budget. This lie was made transparent when the public unions’ offer to accept the compensation cuts in exchange for keeping their collective bargaining rights and Walker refused to budge.
How to break the impasse? Simple: Drop the pretense that this was about the budget. They stripped out all the actual fiscal items from the law and hastily passed a bill that simply went after the unions.
Finally, unemployment in Wisconsin has decreased, further exposing the dishonesty of Walker’s fiscal narrative.