News & Politics

Workers' Uprising: Two Dozen Protests Launched Across Wisconsin, TV Talk Show Blackout of Union Reps

Here's a run-down on events and key analysis on the fast-moving events in Wisconsin's state capitol -- and nationwide.

As the drama unfolding in Wisconsin continues, a large coalition of progressive groups has issued an Emergency Call to Action and are planning to offer a massive show of solidarity with the workers of Wisconsin and protest the right's plan to slash vital services in the name of balancing the budget. 

The groups are planning “Save the American Dream” rallies in all 50 state capitals for Saturday at noon (local time). You can find out more about the rallies here.

Update (by AlterNet staff):

A DailyKos diarist has drawn an interesting connection between the Koch brothers' business interests in Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's bill:

One of the hidden provisions in Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s union busting bill concerns state-owned heating, cooling, and power plants. The emphasis in the stories I’ve read has been on the sale of those power plants, but read a little more carefully:

“[the department] may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state.”

...The Kochs funneled millions into Walker’s campaign. They’re right around the corner from the governor. They specialize in energy industries. How can they possibly claim this:

“We have no interest in purchasing any of the state owned power plants in Wisconsin and any allegations to the contrary are completely false.” Source

The diarist speculates: "What they want is a contract for the operation of the plants, which the governor will be authorized to draw up and sign with no oversight, no public announcement, and no limit on the amount Wisconsin taxpayers like me will pay to the Koch brothers."

Update (by AlterNet staff):

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that there two dozen protests have been carried out across Wisconsin on Thursday: "About 200 people marched from Milwaukee Area Technical College to City Hall on Thursday, chanting slogans and waving signs to protest legislation that would sharply curtail public-sector workers' bargaining rights. It was just one of two dozen such rallies across the state, as union forces kept up their assault on Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair bill. In Milwaukee County alone, more protests were planned Thursday afternoon..."

Update (by AlterNet staff):

Amanda Terkel from the Huffington Post reports that the TV talk shows are showing little interest in bringing on union officials:

A union official told The Huffington Post that when none of the Sunday shows' producers reached out to them to book a labor representative this week, several unions started to pitch the shows with affected workers and local and national leaders who they felt could discuss the protests. The official said the response from the shows was essentially "thanks, but no thanks."

"If you're a Sunday show and there are labor fights going on for two weeks, if you can just book ... Chris Christie, why would you actually go out and get somebody who is actually involved in this? That would be work!" snarked the official, adding, "Everybody's been pushing, and everybody's been shut down."

The Huffington Post reached out to officials at Fox News, NBC, ABC, CNN and CBS. NBC News spokesperson Erika Masonhall said the lineup for this weekend's "Meet the Press" will not be final until Friday and "will highlight a number of topics and include a variety of guests and opinions." An official at another network said their show's guest roster had likewise not been set and a labor representative could still be included. Additionally, there's a chance that not every show will cover the protests this week -- and would therefore be unlikely to have on a labor official -- just as not every show covered the topic last week.

Update (by AlterNet staff):

Madison Police Chief wants Scott Walker to explain his 'troubling' comments. From Raw Story, Chief Noble Wray said, "I spent a good deal of time overnight thinking about Governor Walker's response, during his news conference yesterday, to the suggestion that his administration 'thought about' planting troublemakers among those who are peacefully protesting his bill," Wray said in a statement. "I would like to hear more of an explanation from Governor Walker as to what exactly was being considered, and to what degree it was discussed by his cabinet members."

Update (by AlterNet staff):

The Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader's wife could be among the threatened layoffs. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "The Hustisford [Town] School Board approved giving preliminary layoff notices to all 34 members of its teachers union, including the wife of state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, superintendent Jeremy Biehl confirmed Thursday. The board took the action in advance of Gov. Scott Walker's release of the state budget and the statutory deadline for issuing such notices "to give themselves complete flexibility," Biehl said. Hustisford administrators had recommended issuing the notices to five staff members."

Update (by AlterNet staff):

Politifact reviews Gov. Scott Walker's claim that he had campaigned on curtailing collective bargaining for two years. Politifact's Conclusion? False.

Update:

Talking Points Memo dug into the story, which we reported earlier this week, of the provision in Walker's union-busting bill that would allow the state to sell-off its power plants to the private sector in a no-bid process. The no-bid part of that is obviously a big red flag, but it turns out that the measure isn't quite the give-away to his corporate backers that it appeared at first blush. That's because the state's plants are antiquated and need significant investment to conform with environmental regs.

It seems that the provision is about Walker believing, on ideological grounds, that the free market fairies will come in and shower Wisconsin with cash for these antiquated plants, and then fix them up because government is bad.

Details here.

Update:

Yesterday's big story was the "prank call" made by a blogger posing as oily right-wing billionaire David Koch to Scott Walker. It revealed the right-wing governor's hostility toward working people and the lengths to which he would go to strip them of their rights. And it was amusing -- the phony Koch sounded like an exaggerated parody of fat-cat, right-wing funder, yet Walker never even became suspicious. The hard-right is difficult to parody.

But as Mary Bottari reports today on the front page, the exchange was "no laughing matter." It may have exposed Walker to some legal problems in the future -- especially his threat to lay-off 5,000-6,000 workers as political payback to the Democratic senators who fled the state last week.

...the Governor also explains how he is going to layoff thousands of Wisconsin workers as a tactic to get the Democrats to cooperate:  “So, we’re trying about four or five different angles. Each day we crank up a little bit more pressure. The other thing is I’ve got layoff notices ready, we put out the at-risk notices, we’ll announce Thursday, they’ll go out early next week and we’ll probably get five to six thousand state workers will get at-risk notices for layoffs. We might
ratchet that up a little bit too.”

The move has been called “despicable” and “ruthless “ and “sickening.” But most importantly, if he is choosing to lay off workers as a political tactic when he wasn’t’ otherwise planning to do so then it is not just morally repugnant but legally questionable. State and federal contract and labor law has protections against this type of abusive behavior and inappropriate quid pro quo.

This morning the Capital Times quotes the state’s former Attorney General: “There clearly are potential ethics violations, and there are potential election-law violations and there are a lot of what look to me like labor-law violations,” said Peg Lautenschlager, a Democrat who served as Wisconsin’s Attorney General after serving for many years as a U.S. Attorney. The head of the state teacher's association, Mary Bell, reminds us: “he literally planned to use five to six thousand hardworking Wisconsin taxpayers as political pawns in his political game. He actually thought through a strategy to lay people off – deny them the ability to feed their families – and use it as leverage for his political goals."

 

Bottari notes that Wisconsin has "the toughest ethics law in the nation."  

Update (by AlterNet staff): Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) has called on Obama to join the protesters in Wisconsin. Ellison went on MSNBC last night, and said that he would "like to hear more from President Obama" and that the President should "should come to Wisconsin and stand with the workers.” 

Update (by AlterNet staff):The AP is reporting that the Wisconsin state Assembly has reached a deal that will force a vote on Gov. Scott Walker's union-busting legislation. After some 43 hours of deliberation, state Democrats agreed "to limit the number of remaining amendments and time spent on each in order to reach a vote on the union rights bill sometime later in the day." So the vote is coming up later in the day, but the state's lawmakers have to track down the 14 senators who defected from the state last week in protest of Walker's union-busting bill. As we mentioned earlier, state troopers have been deployed to the senators' homes. According to the AP, "The lawmakers can't be arrested, but Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he hoped the move would pressure them to return. He would not say how many Democrats were being targeted, but said it was more than one." As of Thursday, the defecting senators continued to refuse to return until Gov. Walker compromised on his bill. "It's not so much the Democrats holding things up, it's really a matter of Gov. Walker holding things up," said Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach, who fled to the Chicago area.

Update (by AlterNet staff): Yesterday, Gov. Scott Walker admitted to plotting to trick the missing Democratic lawmakers into returning to the Capitol. Walker said he'd draw Democrats back by pretending to want to talk, then make use of a loophole that would let Republicans hold a quorum without the Democrats present. (Walker admitted this to liberal blogger Ian Murphy from the Buffalo Beast, who posed as right-wing billionaire David Koch in a hilarious prank). His plan exposed, the Governor has resorted to a different strategy: sending state patrol officers to the homes of the missing Democrats to put pressure on them to return, the AP reports.

The Democrats are holding strong though. According to the AP, "Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach says all 14 [of the missing Democrats] are out of state and won't be returning Thursday."

Update (by AlterNet staff):Wisconsin could lose $46 million in federal funds thanks to Walker's anti-union bill, explains Joan McCarter from DailyKos: "His budget and transportation officials have informed him that he'd could be forfeiting millions in transportation funding from the federal government if his anti-union legislation is signed into law."

Update (by AlterNet staff): Cops called on unwelcome Tea Party activist hunting for Wisconsin Dems at hotel in Harvard, Illinois.

Update (by AlterNet staff):Milwaukee police are sending a unit to Madison -- From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

A "Major Incident Response Team" from the Milwaukee Police Department will be sent to Madison to help maintain order at the state Capitol, the department announced Wednesday.

The 37-member unit will be deployed in response to a mutual aid request from the state Department of Administration, according to a police department news release.

The Capitol has been the scene of massive demonstrations by opponents of Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair bill.

"Our officers will assist in insuring that the rights of all parties in this debate are respected and protected," said Milwaukee Police Chief Edward A. Flynn.

Update:

Just as they've done in Wisconsin and Indiana, as an Illinois state rep Abe Lincoln once fled the state house -- exiting out a window -- to prevent a vote on a controversial bill. But all week, conservatives -- as well as a few confused pseudo-liberals -- have been advancing the argument that when a minority in a legislature uses parliamentary procedures it's some kind of assault on democracy. There's even an effort underway to recall the 14 Wisconsin senators who left the state last week.

Today, Think Progress reports that not all conservatives have bought into this argument.

Yesterday, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) defended his state’s vanished senators, saying their fleeing is “perfectly legitimate“:

Daniels, a Republican, said earlier Tuesday he supported the Democrats’ right to deny Republicans a quorum to do business and the rights of labor unions to protest at the Statehouse.

“The activities of today are perfectly legitimate part of the process,” he said. “Even the smallest minority, and that’s what we’ve heard from in the last couple days, has every right to express the strength of its views and I salute those who did.”

Today, appearing on conservative radio host Laura Igraham’s show, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) — who has been one of Walker’s most reliable defenders and whom Walker says he talks to “everyday” — refused to condmen the senators’ actions or Daniels’ comments, saying to a displeased Ingraham, “If you were there, you might end up walking out the chamber too!”

Update:

In Michigan, the House passed the Republicans' "emergency measure" (see below), which will now be taken up in the state senate.

Update:

Earlier, we brought you the story of a far-right deputy attorney general in Indiana who urged Wisconsin cops to use live ammo on protesters. Today, he was fired. Good riddance.

Update:

Michigan's right-wing governor hasn't introduced a bill to break his state's unions, but local law-makers are warily eyeing another "emergency measure" being sold as an answer to the state's fiscal problems. The proposal on the table would allow "emergency financial managers" appointed by the state to simply nullify union contracts. 

Democratic lawmakers aren't pleased.  And, as the Michigan Political Reportnotes, "Detroit has strong and vocal unions that won't take kindly to a state appointee tearing up their contracts." "I think the push back that you see in Wisconsin will look like a tea party compared to what you'll see in Detroit with our strong union representation marching on Lansing -- if the intent is to break union contracts," Detroit City Councilman Gary Brown told a local radio show on Monday.

CBS reports that "hundreds of Detroiters converged on the state capital to protest pending legislation, including a bill that would broaden the powers of emergency financial managers."

Update (by AlterNet staff): Ethics watchdog CREWis requesting an investigation into Scott Walker's use of the Wisconsin State Patrol by ordering the (WSP) to the home of Democratic Senate Leader Matt Miller: 

“Governor Walker has many tools at his disposal to fight the state’s public employees, but using troopers to track down a political opponent crosses the line,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. Sloan continued, “The governor’s conduct is especially egregious in light of a Wisconsin law specifically barring troopers from taking part in any dispute between an employer and employee over wages, hours, labor, or working conditions -- the subject of the governor’s bill.”

Update (by AlterNet staff):

Gov. Walker issues new ultimatum. Wisconsin Journal Sentinel: "Walker also said that if Senate Democrats do not return to the Capitol to debate his budget-repair bill by the end of the week, layoff notices will go out to 1,500 state employees, and additional state jobs could be on the line."

Update (by AlterNet staff):

House Dem Keith Ellison compares Gov. Scott Walker to a "dictator." Via Raw Story, "Ellison accused Walker of having 'a vision of America that's similar to somewhere like Nigeria or Pakistan,' saying he's 'been extreme, radical, reckless… and he's going to fail.'

Update (by AlterNet staff):

Buffalo Beast's Ian Murphy does an interview with Salon about his widely-reported prank call with Gov. Scott Walker pretending to be Tea Party sugar daddy David Koch (see AlterNet's coverage of the call):

"I wasn't expecting to actually get through. I was wildly unprepared," Murphy says.

Murphy simply called Walker's office, saying he was Koch, and was ultimately connected with Walker's chief of staff, Keith Gilkes. "The most ridiculous thing to me is when I get on line with the chief of staff and he wanted to take my number down, and I said I couldn't give it to him because my maid Maria had thrown my phone into the washing machine," Murphy says.

Update:

Solidarity rallies are being held across the country. In Boston, the local NPR station reports that "union members and Tea Party supporters clashed over the stalemate 1,200 miles away, between teachers and the governor of Wisconsin."

According to the Washington Times, "Dozens of leaders of the tea party movement have come out in support of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in his standoff with Democrats and public-sector unions over the state’s budget deficit." 
 
That sentence is telling. The battle is not, in fact, "over the state's budget deficit," as those confused tea partiers have been led to believe; among other things, it gives the governor the power to sell off state-owned infrastructure -- possibly to his well-heeled patrons -- in a no-bid process. As we reported below, government watch-dogs call that a major "red flag." It also contains a provision that centralizes power over the state's public health programs iwith a measure that the legislature's legal analyst warns may be a violation of the separation of powers doctrine. 
 
So, these folks who believe in transparency and "cleaning up" the state house are being sold on a "deficit reduction" bill, but they're in fact fighting for a bill that would be ripe for Big Government corruption and what may be an un-Constitutional centralization of power. Telling.

Update:

Big news out of Indiana, as the Indianapolis Star reports that GOP lawmakers have pulled their controversial right-to-work-for-lower-wages bill. They'll send it to a committee for further study. But the Dems who fled the state will not return yet "because they have additional issues they want resolved."

Last night they issued a statement saying they had concerns about 11 bills, including other labor-related bills, education reforms and the proposed next state budget. They singled out two in particular: the right-to-work bill and one which lets state tax dollars pay for private school tuition for some families. 

Update:

Over at the National Journal, Tim Fernholz has a nice run-down of why Scott Walker's union-busting bill offers a classic example of bait-and-switch:  

While Walker argues that his budget-repair legislation must be passed soon to avoid job cuts, the most controversial parts of his bill would have no immediate effect.

The state’s entire budget shortfall for this year -- the reason that Walker has said he must push through immediate cuts -- would be covered by the governor's relatively uncontroversial proposal to restructure the state’s debt...

The bill includes a provision that would allow the state to sell or contract out the operation of heating, cooling, and power plants without a bidding process and without consulting the state’s independent utility regulator. Democratic legislators worried aloud that the process would attract abuse, and Jon Peacock, Director of the Wisconsin Budget Project, called the no-bid approach a “red flag.”

The bill also employs “emergency” powers that would allow the governor’s appointed Secretary of Health to redefine the foundations of the state’s Medicaid program, Badgercare, ranging from eligibility to premiums, with only passive legislative review. The attorney in the legislature’s non-partisan reference bureau who prepared the bill warned that a court could invalidate the statute for violating separation of powers doctrine.

The legislation, the lawyer wrote in a “Drafter’s Note” about the bill, would allow the State Department of Health Services to “change any Medical Assistance law, for any reason, at any time, and potentially without notice or public hearing … in addition to eliminating notice and publication requirements, [the changes] would leave the emergency rules in effect without any requirement to make permanent rules and without any time limit.”

 

Update:

Yesterday, we told you about the Gallup poll which found that 61 percent of respondents opposed stripping workers of their right to bargain collectively. Media Matters caught Fox "News" simply reversing the results of the poll.

 

Click for larger version
(click for larger version)

 

This wasn't just an "error" in their graphics, by the way.  Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade also made the claim on-air. No wonder protesters are shouting "Fox Lies" this week.

Update:

 

TPM reports that a conservative deputy attorney general in Indiana took to Twitter and called for Madison police to use live ammunition to end the protests in the capitol.  "[A]gainst thugs physically threatening legally-elected state legislators & governor?" he tweeted in an exchange with a Mother Joneseditor. "You're damn right I advocate deadly force."

He's not alone. A rally to show solidarity with the protesters in Wisconsin is being held at 4 pm today today at the Gold Dome in Atlanta, and the Journal-Constitutionpoints to another threat of right-wing intimidation posted on the hard-right Free Republic.

Members of the various Tea Party, 9/12, and other freedom-oriented folks in the Atlanta area will be ... providing balance to the ravings of the passengers aboard the SEIU Thugbus, which is scheduled to vomit forth its stooges at that same place and time.

If you are within three hours drive of ATL, come join us.

Dan and others from RTC will be there, with the usual accoutrements. As always, each participant is responsible for compliance with all applicable local laws.

[...]

There appears to be some regulations re armed protests on the Washington Street side of the Capitol, so attendees are requested to be flexible in your attire. We will attempt (but no promises) to get some additional clarity regarding the situation and post it here prior to the show.

Jay Bookman of theConstitution explains, "'RTC' is an acronym for 'Right to Carry' firearms. The advice that 'attendees are requested to be flexible in your attire' is apparently a suggestion to keep firearms concealed. 

Update (by AlterNet staff):"Existential struggle"

A New York Times editorial calls the protests in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio an "existential struggle" between organized labor and conservatives trying to decimate a major force behind Democratic victories and a hindrance to the right-wing agenda.

The piece points out that in the past, conservative politicians in states with strong unions have generally left them alone, but that "changed this year after wealthy conservatives poured tens of millions of dollars into the election campaigns of hard-right candidates like Mr. Kasich and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin." These include the right-wing billionaire Koch brothers, as Adele Stan reported on AlterNet.

If the stand-off were really about the states' budget woes, the piece points out, Gov. Scott Walker would have agreed to negotiate by now -- union leaders have offered a ton of concessions, including using up more of workers' wages for pension costs and upping their health insurance payments. But Walker refuses to negotiate. The NYT concludes:

His true priority is stripping workers of collective-bargaining rights and reducing their unions to a shell. The unions would no longer be able to raise money to oppose him, as they did in last year’s election, easing the way for future Republicans as well.

The game is up when unionized state workers demonstrate a sense of shared sacrifice but Republican lawmakers won’t even allow them a seat at the table. For unions and Democrats in the Midwest, this is an existential struggle, and it is one worth waging.

Update (by AlterNet staff):Speaking of right-wing billionaires trying to destroy organized labor ... Americans for Prosperity, the right-wing group founded and partly funded by the Koch brothers, is blanketing Wisconsin airwaves with a new ad demonizing teachers and other public employees and slamming Democratic lawmakers who left the state to block a quorum on the anti-union legislation. The AFP blog brags that the group spent $342,200 on the ad buy; it will run both on network and cable TV.

Update:Alex Pareene sums up our own feelings at Salon:

Tonight, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker had a "fireside chat" to dismiss the claims of protesting Wisconsin public employees and the millions of Americans who sympathize with them in their fight to retain collective-bargaining rights.

Walker warned that outside agitators were being shipped in from Nevada and Chicago. He claimed that his union-busting bill was aimed purely at deficit reduction, and not intended as a "battle with unions." If he'd meant to cripple unions, he said, "we would have eliminated collective bargaining entirely or we would have gone after the private-sector unions."

"Our bill is about protecting the hardworking taxpayer," he said. "Unless the taxpayer is a teacher," he didn't add. "It’s about Wisconsin families trying to make ends meet and help their children," he said. "Although I have no idea how any specific family will be helped by depriving state employees of the right to negotiate for benefits," he also didn't add.

Update:

Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, spent three hours greeting workers and union members who gathered in 26 degree temperatures around the Ohio State Capitol to protect their right to organize. He called it, "a defining moment in the history of our state that will determine the rights of workers for years to come."

“The hundreds of workers who I personally spoke to feel betrayed. The federal government has no hesitation to hand out billions to Wall Street, but when it comes to workers there is an effort in Ohio and other states to destroy the right to bargain collectively,” said Kucinich.

“This is the beginning of a long and drawn out battle between state government’s corporate philosophy and the workers,” added Kucinich. “I am proud to stand on the side of the workers.” 

Update:

Economist Dean Baker destroys WaPo columnist (and former Bush speechwriter) Michael Gerson's anti-union spin:

On the Washington Post opinion pages you can make up anything you like as long as you are using it in an argument against working people. Therefore we get columnist Michael Gerson telling readers that:

"...public employee unions have the unique power to help pick pliant negotiating partners - by using compulsory dues to elect friendly politicians."

Nope, that is not true in this country. Unions are prohibited from using dues to pay for campaign contributions. (If Mr. Gerson knows of any violations of the law, I'm sure that there are many ambitious prosecutors who would be happy to hear his evidence.) Unions do make contributions to political campaigns, but these are from voluntary contributions that workers make to their union's PAC. They are not from their union dues.

As Barry Goldwater once said, "making things up in the service of the wealthy is no vice," or something like that.

 

Update:

Emily Loftus at Mother Jones reports that Indiana's GOP-dominated state senate passed a measure stripping teachers of their right to bargain collectively. As is the case in Wisconsin, Democratic lawmakers in the House have fled the state to deny Republicans a quorum to vote on the matter -- are in an "indefinite" caucus meeting.

Update:

The billionaire Koch brothers -- major funders of the Tea Parties, Scott Walker's campaign and much of the Right's infrastructure -- have "quietly" opened a lobbying shop in downtown Madison, according to The Capital Times.

Update:

Scott Walker is pushing a hard-right agenda, and the one thing he's said that is accurate is that this should come as no surprise to anyone who paid attention during his campaign.

David Dayen at Firedoglake noted this today:

I got a sense from Sen. Chris Larson and some others in Wisconsin that the Governor and his Republican allies had run amok in the Capitol before attention was paid to their machinations due to the assault on public workers. But I didn’t realize how bad it was until I saw this come across the transom:

Madison – Today, Governor Scott Walker signed Special Session Assembly Bill 5 which requires a 2/3s vote to pass tax rate increases on the income, sales or franchise taxes.

“I went to work today, met with my cabinet, and signed legislation that will help government operate within its means,” Governor Scott Walker said. 

These proposals, which I wrote about in November, allow a minority to hold state legislatures hostage. Law-makers can't raise taxes when necessary, so they are forced to cut -- it's a method of entrenching conservative policies and making elections moot.

In other words, Walker has already destroyed Wisconsin state government for a generation to come. We learned that the hard way here in California.

Update:

According to a new USA Today/ Gallup poll, 61 percent of respondents oppose limits on union bargaining power.

Update:

CNN estimates 10-15,000 protesters in Columbus, Ohio. There are reportedly 1,500 at a protest in Canton.

Via Twitter, Matt Stoller sends this pic of a demo he describes as a "Fairly large block-long Cheesehead rally outside Fox News" headquarters in New York:

 

FOX

 

Update:

Let's talk numbers. The National Institute for Retirement Security conducted a study (PDF) using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and came up with this finding:

Benefits make up a slightly larger share of compensation for the state and local sector. But even after accounting for the value of retirement, healthcare, and other benefits, state and local employees earn less than private sector counterparts. On average, total compensation is 6.8% lower for state employees and 7.4% lower for local employees than for comparable private sector employees.

The Economic Policy Institute put out a fact-sheet last week (PDF) that noted that wages in the public sector has grown more slowly than it has for comparable workers in the private:

The total growth of inflation-adjusted wages for high school educated workers in the private sector between 1989 and 2010 was 4.8%, slightly faster than the 2.6% wage growth for comparable public employees. This means that inflation-adjusted wages have been essentially flat for two decades for high school educated workers regardless of sector. In contrast, productivity growth, reflecting the increase in the economy’s overall gains, grew 62.5% in the 1989-2010 period. 

For those with a bachelor’s degree (but no further education), inflation-adjusted wages grew by 19.5% in the private sector from 1989 to 2010, far more than the 9.5% growth seen by state employees. 

Update:

A common refrain from people wishing to destroy public employees' unions is that their workers are 'demanding more from the tax-payers.' It's a testament to how confused the Right is about the role of government.

Public employees are not demanding anything from "the taxpayer." They are workers demanding fair wages from their bosses.

We live in a democracy, and tax-payers get to participate by voting. If, for example, one doesn't like our public education system, one can vote for a representative who shares his or her view on the subject.

However, a sizable majority of Americans do want a decent public school system. It's a democracy, so we'll have public schools. That's the end of the role of the tax-payer in this story.

Now, our schools need to hire teachers, and those teachers are workers, and our school system is their employer. They're not making any demands on the tax-payer -- the tax-payers role was deciding to have public education in the first place. And the same can be said of garbage collection, law enforcement or anything else the public sector does.

Update:

Nationwide protests are scheduled for this Saturday to fight back against balancing the budget on the backs of working people while corporate America shelters hundreds of billions in potential tax revenues. Find out more at US Uncut.

Over at the HuffPo, Van Jones argues that we may be seeing the emergence of a new movement centered on social and economic justice.  

Reinvigorated by the idealism and fighting spirit on display right now in America's heartland, the movement for "hope and change" has a rare, second chance. It can renew itself and become again a national force with which to be reckoned.

Over the next hours and days, all who love this country need to do everything possible to spread the "spirit of Madison" to all 50 states. This does not mean we need to occupy 50 state capitol buildings; things elsewhere are not yet that dire. But this weekend, the best of America should rally on the steps of every statehouse in the union.

Moveon.org and others have issued just this kind of call to action; everyone should prioritize responding and turning out in large numbers.

On Saturday, the powers-that-be (in both parties) should see a rainbow force coming together: organized workers, business leaders, veterans, students and youth, faith leaders, civil rights fighters, women's rights champions, immigrant rights defenders, LGBTQ stalwarts, environmentalists, academics, artists, celebrities, community activists, elected officials and more -- all standing up for what's right.

Update:

Here's The Uptake on Scott Walker threatening layoffs if he doesn't get his way today:

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said today if his proposal to eliminate collective bargaining on all issues but pay does not become law, Wisconsin will need to layoff 1,500 state employees. As Walker spoke to the media, thousands of protesters converged on the Capitol, eventually becoming so loud that they could be heard where the Governor was.

Walker said there was “no room for compromise” on the collective bargaining issue. “We’re broke”, said Walker.

Read on to see how mendacious this claim really is -- the state isn't broke and stripping workers of their right to negotiate would result in insignificant savings for the state budget.

 

Update:

The United States' last general strike -- with workers from different industries all walking out at once -- occurred in 1934. They're illegal under the Taft-Hartley Act enacted in the 1940s.

But last night, the Madison AFL-CIO local issued a press release raising that possibility:

Motion 1: The SCFL endorses a general strike, possibly for the day Walker signs his “budget repair bill,” and requests the Education Committee immediately begin educating affiliates and members on the organization and function of a general strike.

Motion 2:  The SCFL goes on record as opposing all provisions contained in Walker’s “budget repair bill,” including but not limited to, curtailed bargaining rights and reduced wages, benefits, pensions, funding for public education, changes to medical assistance programs, and politicization of state government agencies. 

Mike Elk notes that because of Taft-Hartley, "the key word is the phrase 'begin educating affiliates and members on the organization and function of a general strike'.

Many private sector unions would not go out on a general strike out of fear of being of sued by their employers. However, local labor observers say many public sector unions and some of the construction unions would go out on a strike. Threatening a general strike creates even more pressure for Scott Walker in the business community.  

Update:

A major protest is being organized in Columbus, Ohio this afternoon. Ohio Dems:

Now is the time. If ever there was a time to show up, stand up and let our voices be heard, it is now. The fate of Ohio’s middle class is on the line at the Ohio Statehouse.

[Today,] the legislature is scheduled to move on Senate Bill 5, a bill that would strip away collective bargaining rights, hurt the middle class, kill jobs and destroy communities. I want to invite you to come to the Statehouse in Columbus on Tuesday to voice your opposition to this bill. Please click here and let us know that you can attend.

Update:

It's day 2 of labor's show-down against "right to work for lower wages" legislation in Indiana. As they have in Wisconsin, Democratic lawmakers have left the state to prevent a vote. According to the Indianapolis Star-Tribune, Democrats are headed to Illinois, though it was possible some also might go to Kentucky.

They need to go to a state with a Democratic governor to avoid being taken into police custody and returned to Indiana.

The House was came into session this morning, with only two of the 40 Democrats present. Those two were needed to make a motion, and a seconding motion, for any procedural steps Democrats would want to take to ensure Republicans don’t do anything official without quorum.

Hundreds of workers are reportedly staging a sit-in outside the capitol building.

Update:

Wisconsin Dems say Walker has cut off internet access to opposition websites in the capitol building. Maybe calling him "Hosni Walker" isn't so uncivil after all. 

Update:

The more we learn about Scott Walker and his proposal, the clearer it becomes that this has little, if anything, to do with balancing Wisconsin's budget.

We reported earlier that Walker single-handedly killed high-speed rail between Milwaukee and Madison, and is trying to establish regulations that would make wind-farms very difficult to set up in Wisconsin. But there's more to this story, as Dave Johnson reported yesterday for PRWatch. Tucked into Walker's bill is a provision which allows the sale of "any state−owned heating, cooling, and power plant ... with or without solicitation of bids." 

And just who is the likely recipient of no-bid state sales of publicly-owned heating, cooling and power facilities? That would most likely be companies controlled by the brothersDavid and Charles Koch, owners of Koch Industries, and big financial supporters of Governor Scott Walker. The Koch brothers have also funded groups that are attempting to create a crisis atmosphere over the state's budget, leading up to the attempt to pass this bill that could result in the low-cost transfer of state assets to their company.

In addition to the Koch brothers being backers and big financial supporters of Governor Walker, they are also primary funders of the Tea Party via their general financial support for Americans for Prosperity, which David Koch Chairs.

So, largely un-reported is this stealthy provision that allows no-bid privatization of state-owned energy infrastructure. And Walker has a history --not a good one -- privatizing state agencies. As Mother Jones reported, "as Milwaukee County executive, Walker fought to fire the county's unionized prison guards and replace them with private contractors."

Walker's initial attempt to sweep out unionized prison guards was blocked by the Milwaukee County board. But in March 2010, he unilaterally rammed through the measure under the guise of a budget crisis, a power grab that angered officials in Milwaukee County. To replace the union workers Walker hired Wackenhut, a controversy-riddled British contractor. (It was employees of a Wackenhut subsidiary at the heart of the Kabul embassy scandal, where, asMother Jones first reported, contractors were revealed to be a crew of drunken, debaucherous hooligans that hazed other contractors and partied like out-of-control frat brothers. Think vodka butt shots.) In another controversy, Wackenhut security guards were videotaped sleeping on the job at a nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania, revelations that shook the industry and resulted in a heap of criticism for the company. 

How did it work out in the end? As privatization for its own sakeoften does, it ended in a (costly) disaster.

Walker's hiring of Wackenhut quickly became a nightmare. After ramming through the proposal, an arbiter said Walker overreached, and repealed the firing of the unionized prison guards. That arbiter ordered Milwaukee County to rehire the union workers and repay them for the wages they lost, costing the county upwards of $500,000.

Update (by AlterNet Staff):

Yesterday Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker vowed to continue hisfight against public employee unions for the sake of the "taxpayers of the state." But a new poll suggests that Walker is losing public support in his stand-off with Wisconsin's teachers and other state workers. Here's a breakdown of a new GQR Research poll by Talking Points Memo:

Sixty-two percent of respondents to the poll said they view public employees favorably, while just 11% said they had an unfavorable view of the workers whose benefits packages Walker says are breaking the state budget.

Meanwhile, just 39% of respondents had a favorable view of Walker, while 49% had an unfavorable view of the freshman Republican governor. Voters are split on his job performance, with 51% saying they disapprove of the job Walker has done.

"Since the protests began, Governor Walker has seen real erosion in his standing," the GQR pollsters write in their analysis, "with a majority expressing disapproval of his job performance and disagreement with his agenda."

The poll was sponsored by the AFL-CIO, so there's a possibility of bias. But as Josh Marshall points out, the polling company is respected.

Update: 

All of the focus this week has been on Scott Walker's antipathy towards labor. But at Mother Jones' Andy Kroll reports, "Walker has a history of striking hard-line positions, and nowhere is that more true than on the most controversial social issue of them all: abortion."

Walker's nearly nine-year record in the Wisconsin Assembly, the legislature's lower house, reads like a pro-life handbook, an all-out assault on abortion rights. What's more, the many anti-abortion initiatives he backed are perfectly in sync with the assault on reproductive rights now unfolding on the national level, where House Republicans recently gutted fundingfor Planned Parenthood and controversially tried to redefine "rape" to limit the long-standing exceptions to the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or to save a mother's life.

Update: 

Last Friday, Walker told a Milwaukee radio station that his state's public employees right to bargain collectively would be "fully intact" under his proposal. It took some nerve to make the claim, prompting the Journal-Sentinel's fact-checkers to rate Walker's claim as a "pants on fire" falsehood.    

Many state, local government and public school employees -- including those represented by the largest state workers union -- have said they would be willing to pay more for pensions and health insurance, as called for in a budget-repair bill introduced by Walker.

But the workers continue to protest provisions in the bill that would restrict most public employee unions to bargaining only over wages, and then only within caps.

It’s the central issue in the protests, which have drawn national attention.

Update: 

Walker has announced that he will address Wisconsinites in a "fireside chat," at 6pm on Tuesday evening.

Update:

Folks in the Badger State sure love their Packers, and several have come out in support of the protesters. Sports writer Philip Bondy:

Last week, seven current and former Packers - Brady Poppinga, Jason Spitz, Curtis Fuller, Chris Jacke, Charles Jordan, Bob Long and Steve Okoniewski - also expressed support for the public employees. Maybe that doesn't sound like a revolution, but among athletes this is a considerable step forward in understanding that community extends beyond the goal line. We've learned long ago that stars such as Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods would film a thousand commercials before they'd even consider taking a meaningful stand on any social issue.

The sad truth is that politicians are more likely to be swayed by the popularity and fame of professional athletes than they are of any mere worker. The Packers have considerable clout as an institution, even more so now with a Super Bowl trophy in hand. This is a public-owned franchise. Viewed in that light, the Packer players are state employees, not so terribly unlike those picketing along State Street and Capitol Square.

Today, Charles Woodson lent his support to the state's public workers, prompting former NFL Players' Association head (and Madison resident) Ed Garvey to note, "Woodson is in a fight with Walker-like NFL owners. He needs his union, we need ours! Thank you, Charles Woodson."

 

Update:

More on the governor's broader far-right agenda from the Milwaukee Examiner's Amy Lou Jenkins.

Wisconsin imports all its coal and oil, yet has the potential to produce all its energy using renewable resources. Scott Walker continues to chase away cleaner energy options. Firmly entrenched in the paradigms of fossil-fuel based automotive tran

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