How to Stop an Oligarchy, v2: Madison, Wisconsin

What the hell is going on in Wisconsin, huh?

Tom Morello - Rage Against the Machine guitarist

"Mubarak of the Midwest" is the name Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello - who will play as part of a concert for the protestors - has given Wisconsin Gov. Walker.

Democratic Senators fleeing the state en masse, 40,000 people, as of Friday, taking to the streets to protest, and the tea party shipping in good conservative souls from all points to counter.

It almost sounds like the Middle East, with one glaring exception: we have the constitutional right to gather and make our voices heard without repercussions.

Apparently some of the protestors have signs decreeing non-violence. Let’s hope it sticks.

Because the fact is, these public employees have a just cause that goes well beyond the land of cheddar.

Straight and simple, the budget cuts the state is trying to vote on, which would cut health and pension benefits, are not the core issue.

Included in the vote is something that is very important to anyone currently holding, or hoping someday to again hold, a job. Let’s cut the bullshit and call it what it is:

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is union busting.

Proof?

“Public employees have agreed to Governor Walker’s pension and health care concessions, which he says will solve the budget challenge,” said Mary Bell, the president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, in the New York Times. [emphasis mine]

Meaning, money’s not the issue. It’s politics, pure and simple.

“Unions are useless, bloated and do little more than kowtow to the party line and big money,” you say?

True. In many ways, they’re a pale knockoff of what they once were.

But the actual unions aside, if the vote succeeds, it will take public employees’ right to collectively bargain, i.e. come together as a whole to decide what they will and will not give away as far as pay, benefits, and all the other things that make working tolerable.

If your rights were suddenly stripped away, and the company you work for could suddenly do whatever it wanted, without repercussions, what do you think would happen?

Some of you might be okay, but for anyone working for a large corporation, you’d be working 18 hour days with no breaks, little pay and no health insurance. Your children would be working, too – before unions child labor was the norm.

That’s what’s on the line: the rights our forebears fought, and in some cases died, to give all workers, and the right – signed into law by FDR – for any and all workers to unionize.

The rights we as citizens and workers have as a result of being able to unionize and stand up for ourselves are as important as freedom itself.

Have you ever taken a sick day? If you’ve ever been pregnant, have you taken time off to give birth? Can you feel certain that your pay will not suddenly drop in half?

Then you have benefited from unionizing.

Even if you don’t belong to a union, the rights and regulations you currently work under would not be possible without the rights of the collective to come together to say, “Hell no, we’re not your slaves. We are human beings.”

When my great-grandfather toiled in the coal mines of western Pa., he was owned by the mine company. He didn’t get paid, he got a slip that he could use only at the company-owned store, at hugely inflated prices.

He didn’t own his home – he lived in a mine-owned shack.

When he was sick, he went to work. When he was dying, he went to work. When he was dead, his family was left with nothing.

Pundits and politicians are laughing right now at the thought that the loss of collective bargaining would bring such draconian workplaces.

Sorry, but history repeats itself. Do you really think you can trust them?

In fact, the entire issue of public employees and collective bargaining is politics and payback, pure and simple. Why? Because the unions that supported Gov. Walker – namely fire and police – are not subject to the same collective bargaining cuts.

So, when Walker, a Republican, was voted in last November, he decided to do the modern-day version of raping and pillaging. There is no other reason to cut workers’ rights, especially only the ones who didn’t back you.

He says he won’t back down. Why? Because politicians feel they are above the will of the populace and can slash and burn at will. For the most part, they are right.

But if the Middle East has shown us anything, it’s that people do have all the power, and making those in government bend to their will is simply a matter of never giving up.

In fact, not even hunger will stop them. According to Politico, hundreds of people from around the world, including our Egyptian brothers and sisters, have paid for pizzas, courtesy of a local pizza shop, for protestors.

Because this isn’t just a matter of balancing a budget. Walker’s proved that.

It’s a power play designed to break down those who have already come together in support of workers’ – and, by extension, peoples’ – rights.

Personally, I’m with the people 100 percent. Why? Because today it’s Madison, tomorrow, your town, your life, your job.

We all need to remind those in government who they work for.

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