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Battleground Wisconsin: Corporate Power v. Worker Rights

by Stephen Lendman Sunday, Mar. 13, 2011 at 8:52 AM

worker struggles

Battleground Wisconsin: Corporate Power v. Worker Rights - by Stephen Lendman

The issue in Wisconsin and across America is simple and straightforward - a corporate-financed offensive to crush unions, returning workers to 19th century harshness with no rights whatever.

As a result, well-funded union busting organizations want collective bargaining rights abolished, social benefits ended, wages kept low as possible, and corporations allowed to exploit workers freely, unimpeded by legal protections and rights.

A previous article discussed right-wing think tanks infesting America's landscape, accessed through the following link:

Generously funded, they include the Koch Family Foundations (established by David, Charles and Claude R. Lambe), several Scaife ones, John M. Olin Foundation, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, various others, and George Soros' Open Society Foundations, pretending to be liberal, when, in fact, he supports everything smelling money.

Their agenda includes marketplace sovereignty, deregulation, privatization of government services, ending popular entitlements, social spending, and affirmative action, prioritizing business friendly policies, waging class war, controlling electoral politics and supportive media backing everything on their wish list.

Among many others, their beneficiaries include the American Enterprise Institute, Cato Institute, Federalist Society, Heritage Foundation, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, and Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, founded in 1919 by Herbert Hoover, best known for inaction while America sank into depression while he was president.

Less known ones include:

American Crossroads

Founded by Karl Rove, it's "dedicated to renewing America's commitment to individual liberty, limited government, free enterprise, and a strong national defense," entirely benefitting business at the expense of workers.

Americans for Job Security

An anti-labor insurance industry front group backing unrestricted free enterprise, tax cuts for the rich, job-killing trade agreements, and worker rights ended for greater profits.

The Club for Growth

A neofascist organization wanting Medicare and Medicaid abolished, Social Security privatized, unions eliminated, and business given unimpeded power to plunder and exploit freely.

Americans for Prosperity

A virulently anti-labor group backing all of the above and more, including the right to destroy US jobs by offshoring them freely to the world's lowest wage locations.

Freedom Works

Led by former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey, it conducts aggressive campaigns against worker rights nationally.

Center for Union Facts

Led by pro-business lobbyist Richard Berman, it focuses on anti-union propaganda, destroying worker rights, obstructing organizing efforts, and promoting other anti-union initiatives.

National Right to Work Foundation and Committee

America's oldest anti-union organization, it bogusly claims pro-worker credentials. In fact, it's extremely hostile to high wages, essential benefits, job safety, and favorable working conditions, considered impediments to profits.

Public Service Research Foundation and Public Service Research Council

Composed of small organizations nationwide, they oppose collective bargaining rights for teachers and other public sector workers. In 1981, PSRF led the campaign to fire PATCO strikers, a watershed event weakening organized labor overall.

For-Profit Unionbusters

Describing themselves as "union avoidance firms," "management consultants," or "labor consultants," they use lawyers and other credentialed professionals to manipulate labor laws to subvert organizing efforts and worker rights overall.

These and other groups have full-time staffs, lawyers, and other credentialed professionals conducting media campaigns, seminars, workshops, lobbying efforts, and other initiatives to subvert organized labor for business. Nothing unethical is avoided to accomplish ends they'll go to any extreme to achieve, within or outside the law they freely exploit advantageously, flush with cash to do it.

Annually, they spend tens of millions of dollars for anti-union initiatives, allied with the US Chamber of Commerce - "the world's largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations."

Although most of its members are small enterprises, it overwhelmingly represents giant ones and their campaign for unimpeded free enterprise at the expense of worker rights and small competitors. As a result, it spends millions of dollars annually opposing them.

Wisconsin - Ground Zero Outside the Beltway

A previous article explained March 9 Wisconsin Senate maneuvers described as a corporate coup d'etat, accessed through the following link:

In violation of Wisconsin's open meetings law, requiring "24 hours prior to the commencement of (special sessions) unless for good cause such notice is impossible or impractical," Republican senators passed Gov. Walker's union busting bill with no Democrat members present.

On March 10, Milwaukee Sentinel Journal (SJ) writers Jason Stein, Patrick Marley and Lee Bergquist headlined, "Collective bargaining bill passes; courts, recalls next," saying:

The epic battle ended along party lines after Wisconsin's State Assembly past Walker's anti-union bill 53 - 42, "but only after police carried demonstrators out of the Assembly antechamber." Going forward, "a wider war now remains for both sides, one expected to be fought in the courts and through recall efforts against 16 state senators."

After three hours, legislators cut off debate, refusing to recognize Democrats wanting to speak. They were ignored. Angry worker responses inside followed to no avail. Others there the night before were forced out of the Capitol. On the morning of the vote, they and Democrats were kept out, Rep. David Cullen saying he and others had to climb through a ground floor window to enter.

On March 10, the SJ's editorial headlined, 'Defining Moment," saying:

"Republicans were right to demand more of government workers (but) were wrong to demand this much." In fact, "(r)eason (took) a holiday in Wisconsin politics. Civility along with it....Republicans got what they wanted Thursday: a flawed and divisive bill," destroying hard-won collective bargaining rights and more. "Gov. Scott Walker (and his) party may now reap the whirlwind."

"This is a war of attrition now - one that has been nationalized because of the implications for a key Democratic constituency in a key battleground state with a presidential election coming."

Indeed so, and it might help congressional Democrats solidify control in both Houses and give a failed anti-populist president a second term by default, fearing a worse alternative when, in fact, there's not a dime's worth of difference between either party, especially on major issues.

On Thursday night, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama understands state budget problems but opposes "denigrat(ing) or vilify(ing) public sector employees." Noticeably, however, he said nothing publicly to support them, expressing silent approval for destroying their rights, a policy his administration endorses.

On March 11, Washington Post writer Karen Tumulty headlined, "Wisconsin governor wins his battle with unions on collective bargaining," saying:

The epic battle ended along party lines after Wisconsin's State Assembly past Walker's anti-union bill 53 - 42, "but only after police carried demonstrators out of the Assembly antechamber." Going forward, "a wider war now remains for both sides, one expected to be fought in the courts and through recall efforts against 16 state senators."

Despite winning legislatively, "the political battle over public employees and their rights to bargain is likely to continue - not only in Madison." Fervor is resonating among workers signaling "it's not over." In fact, the struggle just began with strong public support against Republican thuggishness.

On March 11, Murdoch's Wall Street Journal editorialized, "Taxpayers Win in Wisconsin," saying:

"Congratulations to Wisconsin Republicans, who held together this week to pass their government union reforms....maybe there's hope for taxpayers after all. (Walker's) reforms change the balance of negotiating power in ways that give taxpayers more protection."

In fact, over 200,000 Wisconsin public workers pay taxes, less of them ahead as their wages are cut, ranks thinned, and other rights lost, affecting them and their families, unimportant people for Murdoch's Journal, one-sidedly pro-business like the boss.

According to Democrat pollster Mark Mellman, Walker is "winning the battle through pure, uncompromising force, but he's losing the war."

Unless reversed, however, state workers are losing their rights. Besides collective bargaining, their healthcare and pension contributions will double, resulting in pay cuts ranging from 8 - 20% ahead of more planned reductions coming. Moreover, the measure reads:

"This bill authorizes a state agency to discharge any state employee who fails to report to work as scheduled for any three unexcused working days during a state emergency or who participates in a strike, work stoppage, sit-down, stay-in, slowdown, or other concerted activities to interrupt the operations or services of state government, including specifically purported mass resignations or sick calls. Under the bill, engaging in any of these actions constitutes just cause for discharge."

In addition, the governor may unilaterally declare "state of emergency" authority to fire striking workers, and under the section titled, "Discharge of State Employees," stating:

"The Governor may issue an executive order declaring a state of emergency for the state or any portion of the state if he or she determines that an emergency resulting from a disaster or imminent threat of a disaster exists."

In other words, he can unilaterally seize dictatorial power and do what he wishes, especially regarding public worker rights and job security. They're gone unless resurrected by a sustained, mobilized, united, and committed mass action statewide shutdown for rights too important to lose.

Nonetheless, Democrats and union bosses oppose it, focusing instead on recall campaigns and lawsuit challenges when, in fact, shutting down the whole state is essential and perhaps the only way to achieve justice.

However, in a March 9 conference call, Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) president Mary Bell, representing 98,000 public education employees, told teachers "to be at work tomorrow as we determine the next step to have the voices of Wisconsin's workers to be heard."

Wisconsin Public Employees Union president Marty Beil said "peaceful demonstrations" and recall campaigns are the only way to "change the face of government" when doing so will take months and may fail.

Democrats were just as submissive, supporting every anti-worker provision except ending collective bargaining, and they were willing to compromise on that. So was Jesse Jackson. Ahead of the Assembly vote, he gave the official prayer, asking for Republican - Democrat unity, not joining protesters outside demanding justice. Instead, he urged them to "honor (Martin Luther King's) legacy" by voting for Democrats who betrayed them.

Planned Mass Actions

On Sunday, March 13, mass protests are being organized across the state, involving teachers, students, police, firefighters, small business men and women, farmers, unemployed men and women, lawyers, engineers and other professionals, community leaders, seniors, and others for worker justice.

Wisconsin says:

"Forward! Not Backward! We won't pay for their crisis! We stand united as never before around a common sense of human dignity. Today we exercise our freedoms of speech and assembly to defend the Wisconsin that we love, its people, and its lands and waters. We call on" everyone to challenge government and "narrow corporate interests that are hijacking our democracy."

It calls for a "Wisconsin Wave of Resistance against corporatization and austerity and for democracy and shared prosperity." It wants all Wisconsinites involved in a common struggle affecting every working person in the state. Taking aim at corporate giants, it says:

"(W)e will not stand by and watch you destroy Wisconsin democracy, Wisconsin's economy, Wisconsin's schools, and Wisconsin's communities. We will not pay for your crisis. We will organize. We will march. We will nonviolently resist your policies and overcome your agenda."

So will courageous supporters, joined by private sector workers, united in a common struggle for justice. They're on their own knowing it's up to them to do what union bosses and Democrats won't - shutting down the entire state proactively. In Wisconsin and across America, nothing less can work. Battle lines are drawn to regain rights too important to lose, never without a fight!

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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