If you live in Wisconsin, you've heard about Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal bill and public objection to it. The most appalling part of it, the part that makes me spit bile and shoot flames from my eyeballs, (if I may be so frank), is the proposal to strip nearly all state workers of their collective bargaining rights (all but the firefighters, police and state troopers) and then require them to contribute more to their health insurance and pension plans. Walker wants to push this bill through later in the week with very little deliberation.
Walker, a Republican, claims that bargaining with unions takes too long and that he wants public employee benefits to reflect those in the private sector. This is a load of shit. He really wants to take collective bargaining rights away from state employees so that he can cut their pay and benefits however he pleases. State employees already had mandatory unpaid furloughs under the previous governor last year because of budget problems.
I used to be a state employee. The first five years I was in graduate school, before I got knocked up and had to drop back to part-time status, I held teaching and project assistantships and thus worked under a contract that was negotiated by the bargaining team of the TAA (Teaching Assistants' Association) at the UW. Because of our collective bargaining rights, we had some nice benefits, notably tuition remission (which is HUGELY important for recruitment) and affordable health insurance (there used to be a free option, but alas, no longer). When your take-home pay is a few hundred dollars a month, those things matter a lot.
Now Walker wants to strip away workers' rights and then cut their pay. 1,000 students and professors marched on the Capitol today, but I understand the big demonstrations are Tuesday and Wednesday, where state union workers will be turning out in droves to speak their collective mind. I plan to be there with my kids to physically show my support for the people who are the backbone of this state.
I'm so angry about this I can't even write coherently. It's not this bill alone that has me so distressed. It's the general notion that collective power is something to be feared, that individual rights in the workplace have no meaning and deserve no respect. The worst thing is that no matter how many thousands of people show up to protest, the bill will probably get passed because the state leg is Republican-controlled, and we all know how they feel about unions.
Look what just happened in Egypt. They overturned a 30-year dictatorship in massive peaceful demonstrations. Surely we can preserve workers' rights in the state of Wisconsin.
Si se puede
Teachers' pay will be cut 10%
Student protests at the Capitol
Photos from the rally