Ironically, Anti-Union Republicans Need Unions

 

by Walter Brasch

 

            There are a lot of ironies in the Wisconsin fight between the Republican-dominated legislature and the working class.

            On Tuesday, Feb. 22, the State Senate unanimously passed a resolution to honor the Green Bay Packers for winning the Super Bowl. Every one of the players is a member of a union.

            Of course, only the 19 Republicans in the chamber voted for the resolution; the 14 Democratic senators, co-sponsors of the resolution, were in Illinois. They were in the neighboring state because newly-elected Gov. Scott Walker, supported by Big Business, the Tea Party, and far-right conservatives, had ordered the unionized state police to bring every Democratic senator into the capitol in order to assure a quorum. Needing one more member, the Senate couldn't pass any fiscal legislation.

            Walker and the legislature thought they could ram through a union-busting measure, disguising it under a cloak of balancing the state budget. All they needed were 20 senators—19 Republicans and, for that elusive quorum, one Democrat, even if he or she voted against the bill. The only reason the state had a deficit, they lied, was because of union wages and benefits.

            The unions had already said they would accept what amounts to an 8 percent cut. But, Walker, acting more like a caricature of a Fat Cat Boss, refused to negotiate. His demands, if put into law, would essentially "gut" public worker unions.

            For two weeks, beginning Feb. 14, thousands of government workers and their supporters came to Madison to defend unions and collective bargaining. At its peak, more than 70,000 were in the streets of the state's larger cities. One of those protestors was all-pro cornerback Charles Woodson, the Packers' co-captain, one of those honored by the Legislature. Woodson, strong in his condemnation of the governor and Legislature, said he was honored "to stand together with working families of Wisconsin and organized labor [who were] under an unprecedented attack to take away their basic rights to have a voice and collectively bargain at work."

            There are more ironies.

            Thousands of anti-union voices have cried out that they don't need unions. However, even the most rabid anti-union reactionary has benefitted from labor's push for a 40 hour work week, overtime, better working conditions, the enactment of rigorous child labor laws, and basic benefits, including vacation time and sick leave.

            Unions also led the push to create the National Labor Relations Board, which gives further worker protections, while restricting excesses, both by unions and employers; and the Davis–Bacon Act, which requires all private contractors on federal projects to pay wages equivalent to what union workers would earn, even if their own companies are not unionized. The "prevailing doctrine" has led to better wages and employee training in the construction industry, according to labor historian Rosemary Brasch.

            Unions were primarily responsible for creating the rise of the middle class, thus elevating the poor, marginalized, and disenfranchised. With weaker unions, says economist Richard Freeman, "the U.S. will be slower in developing policies to help the disadvantaged and poor . . . and to protect consumers, workers, and shareholders from business crime and dishonesty." All social programs, according to writer/activist Harvey Wasserman "can trace their roots to union activism, as can the protection of our civil liberties." Strong labor unions generally have higher productivity, according to independent research done by Harley Shalen of the University of California, because there is "less turnover, better worker communication, better working conditions, and a better-educated workforce."  Further, merely the threat of unionization at a company usually leads to improved work conditions as employers, using extraordinary means to impose anti-union bias into their companies, nevertheless, will improve the lives of their workers solely to avoid collective bargaining and union benefits.

            Anti-union rhetoric also leads people to believe that the generous health benefits that governments give to unionized workers has led to the current financial problems, all of which are absorbed by the taxpayers. But, the truth reveals another irony. Better health benefits actually result in lower costs to the taxpayers. Most of the 50 million uninsured are members of working families, and have lower incomes, making them eligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), funded by taxpayers. Unable to pay even the co-insurance costs, low-income workers usually use medical facilities only when there are critical problems, thus jeopardizing their own health, and resulting in less productivity and more long term care, all paid by public programs. Uninsured patients also pay more for health care, and are more likely to stay impoverished because of health costs, according to recent studies by the Kaiser Foundation on Medicaid and the Uninsured. Medicaid payments in 2008 were about $204 billion.

            And in the ultimate irony, Rush Limbaugh, who called union workers "bottom-feeding freeloaders," Glenn Beck, who miraculously linked trade unionism with Communists, socialists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the United Nations, and numerous other conservative commentators are all members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), an AFL-CIO union.

 

[Next Week: Lies and the truth in Wisconsin. Walter Brasch, an award-winning journalist, is author of 16 books, including With Just Cause: Unionization of the American Journalist. He has been a member of several unions, including The Newspaper Guild, Communications Workers of America, International Association of Machinists, the United Auto Workers, the Association of State College and University Faculty, and three in the entertainment industry. You may contact Dr. Brasch at walterbrasch@gmail.com]

 

 

Assembly of GOP Cowards

Wow.  After 60 plus hours of debate that seemed to have a few hours to go, the Wisconsin Assembly GOP passed Governor Walker's budget "repair" bill in what is -- more graciously than deserved -- being called a "surprise" vote.  TPM:

[...] at about 1 AM Speaker Pro Tempore Bill Kramer (R) announced that he would hear a voice vote for a roll call on final passage. Immediately, the majority Republicans shouted their ayes, and the Democrats were booing, as they tried to be recognized to demand a separate motion to cut off debate.

Then Kramer called the vote. Within seconds, the digital vote system on the wall announced 51 ayes and 17 nays, and voting was suddenly closed. With a total of 96 members, that got to a majority for the bill but left 28 members who hadn't had a chance yet to vote.

The cowardly GOP Assembly, sans four Republicans voting against, couldn't pick up their brief cases and exit fast enough, as the house exploded with outraged Democrats and protestors shouting "Shame!" Watch (h/t Bob Brigham):

Not a done deal, the budget bill moves on to the Senate still missing 14 Democrats, but a clear sign that the Wisconsin GOP is willing to sink or swim with Walker and the du Pont Koch agenda.

Gov. Cheesehead is as Smooth as a Double-Cream Muenster

If you’re a liberal who screamed bloody murder about ACORN or a conservative who thought using faux pimps as extras in second-rate video was A-OK – and you now feel obliged to jump to the other side of the fence or yank funding from someone – go Googlize yourself now, because this post isn’t for you.

Dude! You’ve been punked!

Wisconsin Governor Scott “Cheesehead™” Walker has run afoul of a liberal newspaper editor running a reverse ACORNization on him. The Big Cheese™ believed he was speaking with conservative gajillionaire/amateur tea brewer David Koch. And judging from the conversation, he poured out his heart to Koch as though channeling Ayn Rand.

Much of what transpired isn’t particularly surprising nor unusual in the political arena – purely standard playbook stuff really. Possibly planting trouble stirrer uppers in the crowd? Meh. Saying the current hoopla is all about Wisconsin’s budget? If so, he’s also hoping the anti-union movement will spread across the country. or, in Chester Cheetos’ words, “Yep, this is our moment.” Imagine that! Two birds with one brick of cheddar!

And his idea of bipartisanship? Well, lure recalcitrant Democrats back to the Capitol and then pass the bill while they’re still in talks. And if you’re a Dem patting yourself on the back about how smooth the Cheese Dems are, remember this: The old “living at a secret undisclosed location” ploy was pioneered by Texas state Repubs and endorsed by Ex-Hammer and soon to be present Prisoner No. BR-549, Tom “Dancin’ as Fast as He Can With Bum Ankles” Delay.

Card Carrying Member of the Cult of St. Ronnie of Reagan

But other things? Other things were, um… Well Gov, perhaps you should have your people call their people at the Mendota Mental Health Institute. Oops, Mendota is a union shop they might be on strike or something. You should call ahead..providing the union switchboard operator at the capitol isn’t out on strike.

It seems Gov. Cheeseburglar is also a huge devotee of the Cult of St. Ronnie of Reagan. According to Scottie, Ronnie’s firing of the air traffic controllers was, “the first crack in the Berlin Wall and led to the fall of the Soviets.”

Um Gov? Ronnie was responsible for lots of things (though contrary to popular belief, not single-handedly bringing down the Evil Empire), but legally firing union workers who had no collective bargain nor strike rights? That he did, according to the letter of the law. He didn’t gut an already legal union. He fired workers conducting an illegal strike by simply following the existing law.

Richer Than a Double-Cream Muenster
Oh, and word to the deunionization hotheads…by firing almost all controllers at the same time we still suffer cyclical  problems with ATC staffing as nearly the entire workforce turns over every 20 years or so. And BTW, almost none of the non-monetary issues – which for many controllers were as important as the money – have been looked at since. The air traffic system is still circa 1981 which was already circa 1941.

It also seems Gov Extra Sharp has a nascent anger management problem. He promised to never give in, preferring the liberal application of “a slugger with my name on it” to get his own way.

Is he misleading the public lying? It would be charitable to answer yes, but so do most politicians. Is he crazy? Perhaps not in the clinical sense, but certainly in that curious way true ideologues are. Do I really think he’d tee up a Dem’s head for an out of the park HR? No, but I bet it gives him morning wood. Hey! Maybe THAT’s the “slugger” he’s talking about!

The false-flagged Koch asked,  “I’ll tell you what, Scott, once you crush these bastards, I’ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.”

“All right, that would be outstanding,” Walker said. It’s “all about getting our freedoms back.”

Now that’s richer than a double-cream Muenster.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

 

Weekly Pulse: The Republicans’ War On Women

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

The entire federal government might shut down over birth control. Yes, birth control. This special edition of the Pulse is about the ongoing war against women being waged in Congress and in state legislatures nationwide.

Cutting birth control

Last Friday, the House voted to amend the continuing resolution to fund the federal government to defund the $317 million Title X Family Planning Program, a major beneficiary of which is Planned Parenthood. None of this money funds abortions. Instead, it goes to birth control, cancer screenings, and other reproductive health services for 5 million low-income Americans.

This kind of preventive care is highly cost-effective. Every federal family planning dollar saves an estimated $4 tax dollars on unintended pregnancy costs alone. Saving money by de-funding contraception is like “saving money” by not paying your rent. It’s not savings if you end up staying in a hotel that costs even more.

As Nick Baumann reports for Mother Jones, Senate Democrats are confident that they can defeat the measure. However, if that happens and the House Republicans won’t pass an acceptable alternative, the federal government will run out of money and shut down until the impasse is resolved.

Julianne Hing, blogging at TAPPED, wrote of last Friday’s House vote to de-fund Planned Parenthood:

I find it difficult to summon the energy to be angered or even shocked by the news anymore. I wouldn’t describe my reaction on Friday as either of those two. It felt like something much deeper — like an attack on women and women’s access to health care. I took it personally.

The vote was just the latest assault on women’s health care by House Republicans. H.R. 3 initially proposed to redefine rape as “forcible rape.” That provision was withdrawn amid public outcry, but the bill would still effectively eliminate private health insurance coverage for abortion. H.R. 358 would give hospitals a loophole to not refer women for abortion, even if their lives are in danger.

The miscarriage mafia

Georgia state Rep. Bobbie Franklin (R) has introduced a bill that would investigate unsupervised miscarriages as potential murders, Robin Marty reports for Care2.

Here’s the relevant text of the bill, H.B.1:

When a spontaneous fetal death required to be reported by this Code section occurs without medical attendance at or immediately after the delivery or when inquiry is required by Article 2 of Chapter 16 of Title 45, the ‘Georgia Death Investigation Act,’ the proper investigating official shall investigate the cause of fetal death and shall prepare and file the report within 30 days[.]

The bill opens with the familiar anti-choice tactic of defining a fetus as a person and declaring abortion to be murder. Even fervent anti-choicers may regard this as something of an overreach on Franklin’s part. Historically, anti-choicers have sought to pass discrete “personhood amendments” while maintaining the polite fiction that these laws have nothing to do with restricting abortion. Franklin is not a fan of the incremental approach. He is seeking to redefine a fetus as a person and abortion as murder in a single piece of legislation.

As Marty notes, one third of all pregnancies end in miscarriages. In early miscarriages, the woman may never even know she was pregnant. So, Franklin essentially wants to criminalize unauthorized vaginal bleeding in Georgia. Setting aside the basic human rights of women, as Franklin is only too happy to do, his miscarriage bill is about as practical as his bid to make Georgians pay their state taxes in gold and silver coins.

State legislatures all over the country are weighing ever more draconian restrictions on abortion. Republican lawmakers in Ohio have proposed legislation to ban abortion of any fetus with a heartbeat, Daniel Tencer of Raw Story reports. South Dakota Republicans were forced to back off a proposed law that appeared to legalize the murder of abortion providers.

Scott Walker’s anti-abortion crusade

You probably know Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as the Tea Party favorite who wants to take collective bargaining rights away from the state’s public employees. You may not know that Walker is also a longtime anti-abortion crusader. Andy Kroll of Mother Jones reports that Walker, a former president of his college’s chapter of Students for Life, has a long history of campaigning against abortion, contraception, and sex ed. As a gubernatorial candidate, Walker won the endorsement of the hardline Pro-Life Wisconsin, which even opposes abortion to save the life of the woman.

As I reported in RH Reality Check, Walker’s anti-union “budget repair” bill also contains an all-out attack on a popular and successful Medicaid program to provide birth control to Wisconsinites whose incomes would qualify them for Medicaid if they became pregnant. The program saves Wisconsin an estimated $45 million a year in maternal and infant health costs alone and brings in 9 federal dollars for every on dollar spent by the state.

The Republicans swept to power with promises of limited government and fiscal conservatism. Now that they’re in office, their true agenda appears to be restricting women’s freedom at taxpayers’ expense.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Walker Isolated

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), today:

I'm not sending the state police after anybody. I'm not gonna divert a single trooper from their job of protection the Indiana public. I trust that people's consciences will bring them back to work. ... For reasons I've explained more than once I thought there was a better time and place to have this very important and legitimate issue raised.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), today:

My belief is as long as people know what they’re doing, collective bargaining is fine.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), tonight's "fireside":

The missing Senate Democrats must know that their failure to come to work will lead to dire consequences very soon.   Failure to act on this budget repair bill means (at least) 15 hundred state employees will be laid off before the end of June.  If there is no agreement by July 1st, another 5-6 thousand state workers -- as well as 5-6 thousand local government employees would be also laid off.

Tone.  Deaf.  Someone has been giving Walker some very bad PR advice.  The real fight at this point is whether Republicans in the legislature will do the walking back, letting Walker save face, or if they'll let him shoulder the over-reach alone.  Walker, legislative Republicans or Democrats, someone has to back down, and momentum is behind the state Democrats standing their ground.  And the longer the fight continues, the more discussion around Walker's proposal -- designed as a reactionary, quick, "crisis" driven move, not ready for prime time scrutiny -- the better the position for unions and Democratic lawmakers.

Public support for union bargaining rights nationwide is high, the unions have agreed to the financial concessions, and rally's from Colorado to New Jersey to Montana in support of Wisconsin workers have drawn headlines.  Walker's only hope here is that the toxicity the battle he and state Republicans have chosen doesn't hang with them for the next four years.

But here's hoping it does.

Diaries

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