Joe Hill where are you when we need you. Welcome to Wisconsin – a state that is sinking faster than the Titanic. Our iceberg is Gov. Walker, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, and the Koch Brothers. Together they have turned Wisconsin into Fitzwalkerstan and handed over the public sector to their corporate donors.
6/14/11 will remain as a day in infamy in Wisconsin - the end of collective bargaining rights for public unions, a day that marks the dismantling of 60 plus years of labor gains. The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled 4-3 against Judge Sumis ruling that barred implication of the union-busting bill. No matter what the court ruled – the Republican controlled Senate and House were going to ram through the bill tonight or tomorrow in an extraordinary session that equated an extraordinary assault on workers rights and democracy. Gov. Walker, who from here out should only be called Mother F*cker, was determined to crush public unions and we (the vast majority of Wisconsinites) must collectively admit that we lost this battle, but not the war. This is all out class war and we need to be more vigilant in the weeks, months, and years to come.
I, and many others, have been very critical of union leadership in this struggle. I believed that the focus on recalls and electoral politics was suicidal and attention should have been placed on escalation, civil disobedience, and strikes back in March when the movement had momentum and 150,000 people plus in the streets of Madison.
Hopefully, this defeat will serve as a lesson to non-union workers and union workers alike that movements need to embrace a host of tactics and we should demand democracy in our unions as much as democracy in the Capital. That said, a union is family – a dysfunctional family – but family nonetheless. Organized labor matters and many of the successes, not simply the shortfalls, of the Wisconsin Uprising can be attributed to the work of the many public and private unions that organized to defeat Walker. I was particularly appreciative of the incredible alliance that arose between the AFL-CIO and Voces de la Frontera for the immigrant rights May Day march in Milwaukee.
These bridges and the on-the-ground work of the recall movements have made a difference. Wisconsinites now see Walker for what he is – a corporate stooge and a darling of right-wing radio – and hopefully in a year he will find himself kicked out of office. The damage that he will inflict will take years, if not decades, to un-do and we should be vigilant to not simply return Wisconsin to 2010 conditions when many of us lived in poverty with broken schools and social services. In short the working people of Wisconsin need to articulate a vision of what true democracy will look like, one that exists far outside the boundaries of electoral politics.
In the meantime, people should not hang their heads down low. Feeling defeated will accomplish nothing. If anything, it will enable Walker to inflict more damage. Already, Walker is opening up Wisconsin to mining interests and we must remember that the heroic struggle to defeat the proposed Crandon Mine was a 27-year campaign.
Walker’s budget bill (which will pass tomorrow or the next day unless a miracle happens) is going to spell disaster for the state. Dissent and resistance needs to be the motto from here on out. Tomorrow is a new day and a new fight.