Seems a ton of scary (and some very good) stuff happening now around the globe – and little we can do about it. But there’s always something if you care about people and how we treat each other. I stand with the Dalai Lama – my religion is kindness. So I say let’s treat each other with kindness. Hopefully people will be happy.
Makes sense to stand up for union’s right to bargain right now while Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker, supported by the Tea Party and the brothers Koch, is challenging the basic tenents of union organizing – workers rights. Just bosses, just governments have rights? Thought government is to serve the people, not the reverse.
Why should we care? Because our country seems to do better – to be happier campers – when we have a strong middle class. That happens when there is job security and reliable health care. What Walker and his buddies propose is a throwback to earlier times when Big Business (and in this case Big Government) could just plunder its resources – cheap and powerless labor – to make big bucks for themselves. Plunder is a good word. But we’ve come a long way baby, and Wisconsin historically had a lot to do with that.
Very much liked Rachel Maddow’s (MSNBC) reflections on this impass. Wisconsin, she said, brought us the WEEKEND and the 8 hour work day. Want to toss that off and go back to the ways of English lords in Charles Dickens time? Child labor OK and property rights rule? Not kind.
John Carroll in the SF Chronicle brought up the railroad strikes of 1885. Hours to be worked per day decided by the boss, period. Child labor common, workplace conditions appalling and job security didn’t exist! “The labor situation was the dark side of the Industrial Revolution,” says Carroll. Yup. And much of that is in the future for workers in not only Wisconsin but many other states if extreme conservatives have their way. Outsourcing of jobs is a right of the bosses? Let’s just get rid of long-time public employees and hire more telemarketers from India? Don’t see how that brings us joy. Maybe for guys and gals in India.
Carroll goes on: “The only power that the impoverished millions had against the powerful few was collective action.” If the railroads don’t run no one makes money.
So with all this running around my brain, I drove (past Dale Axelrod who was holding a sign, starting up a Petaluma rally) to Sonoma Saturday to join friends in support of worker’s rights to collective bargaining.
Beautiful day to join friends in Sonoma plaza. Ben Boyce, former director, Living Wage Coalition, Mike Smith, nurse, former Chicago 7 Vietnam War protester, nurse’s union organizer. Good people. Robbie Leeds, who worked with Ceasar Chavez and the United Farm Workers (UFW), Sharon Boyce, driver for Meals on Wheels, delivering food to people without and working overtime to make sure the food is healthy and reliable. New people who share friends with me -Ted and Ellen, spoke of their band which just played at Aqus Cafe, of the Love Choir and local food. Old home week even with new friends.
Hand out at the rally was Paul Krugman’s Shock Doctrine, U.S.A. column, reprinted in today’s Press Democrat. Like Carroll, like my brain, Krugman sees similarities between actions underway in Wisconsin and bad acting we perpetrated abroad; Krugman cites Baghdad when the Bush administration put Iraq under the rule of “appointees obsessed with imposing a conservative ideological vision,” whose top priorities were to “corporatize and privatize state-owned enterprises”.
OUCH! All this, of course, became the core of Naomi Klein’s best-selling book, The Shock Doctrine, wherein she traces a history of right-wing ideologies imposing a vision of a “harsher, more unequal, less democratic society” in several other countries. Lovely.
Governor Walker doesn’t just want to take back a few bucks from pensions; the bill he sent through would also make way for sweeping cuts to health coverage for low-income families and make it legal for the Governor to sell Wisconsin-owned heating and power plants to whosoever he wants to – without bidding. Set up for cronyism and profiteering? Yes.
There is the sweeter side to this dark tale of union-busting. An upsurge of public outcry is being heard across the country, slowing the process Walker set in motion. The rush to pass new laws at the expense of working people is slowed by the Democrat Senators holding out for a better deal.
Still, Krugman points out, “union busting and privatization remain G.O.P. priorities, and the party will continue its efforts to smuggle those priorities through in the name of balanced budgets.”