Wisconsin unions left in political tundra

James Klentzman

Contributing Writer

President Barack Obama, in reference to the controversial bill proposed by Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, said that it “seemed more like an assault on unions.” The bill would cut state employee’s salaries to cover pension costs and health care premiums (along with weakening collective bargaining rights).

The president is accurate in his remarks. The bill is a direct attack on state employees and the unions that represent them.

Protesters in Wisconsin, along with Democrats in the state legislature, have argued that they are more than willing to accept the budget cuts, but the problem lies with being unable to bargain for their wages and benefits. This is, without a doubt, a huge step backward from all that unions have worked for since they were founded and a terrible outcome for the people who need union support.

Additionally, Gov. Walker has made it abundantly clear that he simply does not care about the livelihood of other people. He is looking out for his own interests, no matter the costs to the state of Wisconsin.

In a prank phone call made by Ian Murphy, editor of the satirical website Buffalo Beast, Walker said that he was thinking about planting “troublemakers” in the protesting crowds, pretending to negotiate with the Democrats in order to get them back to Madison, and even joked about taking a baseball bat to the unions and Democrats in the State Legislature.

Walker claimed in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that these were things he said all along and didn’t pretend to cover up. Any politician who thinks about sabotaging their political opposition with “troublemakers” and is without remorse should not be governor. After these comments, Walker should not be trusted at all.

At least Walker and state Republicans have been completely honest in their intentions. The same cannot be said for the Democrats who, instead of participating in the democratic system to which they were elected, decided to unnecessarily and hopelessly flee the state to stall the bill. This is not an acceptable tactic and does not serve the people of Wisconsin.

If the Democrats in the state legislature meant to truly serve the people of Wisconsin instead of politically grandstanding, they would have stayed and fought against the bill tooth and nail. It’s obvious that this tactic won’t work, and what’s worse, if the Democrats manage to block the bill or regain the majority in the state legislature, what’s stopping the Republicans from doing the exact same thing?

Political strategy is a slippery slope, and the best reason to do something shady and underhanded is if your opponent did the exact same thing.

The bottom line is that the people that do the essential services in our society are being left out in the cold. The argument is not against the budget cuts; state employees understand that in tough economic times cuts need to be made. What every opponent of the bill is against is the power the governor is giving himself against unions. Worst of all, promises are not being kept – not by state politicians, not by the governor and not by the president.

During his presidential campaign, President Obama said “if American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself, I’ll walk on that picket line with you as President of the United States of America. Because workers deserve to know that somebody is standing in their corner.”

Mr. President, start walking. Wisconsin Democrats, walk with him.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply