Monday, February 28, 2011

Walker’s War – Walker’s Layoffs

Even the powerful handlers in Washington pulling the strings of their puppet, Scott Walker, must be recalibrating at this point.  Despite weeks of lying, anti-union propaganda in the right-wing media, national polls show that the public overwhelmingly supports collective bargaining rights for public employees.  A state poll finds that, if the election were held today, Walker would lose to Milwaukee mayor and all-round good guy Tom Barrett.  And, in a shocking development, Walker seems to have lost, at least for one day, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The Journal Sentinel, which has been kissing Walker’s ass since the day they made the unfortunate mistake of endorsing the guy in last year’s election cycle and has gotten nearly everything wrong during Walker’s War on public employees, suddenly lurches into the realm of common sense on Tuesday’s editorial page.  After weeks of calling the brave Senate Democrats who dared to deny the imperial Republicans their quorum every name in the book, the Kings of State Street now think passing the union-busting bell might not be such a great idea.  “We support the governor's aim to rein in labor costs but cannot support this bill as written.” Well, now they tell us. Do they realize the only reason this suddenly unsupportable bill isn’t yet law is because the Dems took off to where Walker’s (Storm) Troopers – led, appropriately, by Daddy Fitzgerald – couldn’t find them? 

Better late than never, I suppose, but it would also be nice if the newspaper and other opinion leaders made it clear whose fault it will be if the layoffs Walker threatens take place if the Senate Dems don’t return this week (which they won’t – they’re winning, why the hell would they?).  Leaving aside the fact that Walker’s threat is probably idle – just another lie in his campaign of lies – he will have no one but himself to blame if the layoffs materialize.  He’s had a deal in-hand for two weeks now – the public employees have agreed to what amounts for most to an 8 percent take-home pay cut in the form of pension and health insurance contributions, but insist on retaining their other bargaining rights that have nothing to do with the deficit. 

Walker’s handlers have rejected it – they didn’t buy this little twit to get half a loaf.  Besides, they don’t give a shit about the deficit – the deficit is just an excuse to drive through otherwise-impossible radical Republican wet-dreams like busting public sector unions.  That’s why Walker and his echo-chamber sycophants on talk radio and in the paper’s own pages have to lie about the impact of bargaining working conditions.  Ask them about why that kind of bargaining has to be eliminated and they stray into discussions of benefits which, the union leaders have already agreed, are off the table now and in the future.  They refuse to engage in a discussion of the other things unions bargain for to improve the workplace.  They refuse to admit that what they are really trying to do is to destroy the unions by making them useless.

Another one of the talking points they have been feeding into Walker’s head lately is that municipalities and school boards all over state have been racing to settle contracts before the draconian bill is passed.  The contracts do not include the pension and health insurance contributions in the governor’s dictate.  “See',” he says, “all they care about is the money.”  But the reason they are moving on the contracts is because both sides are used to working within the contract and don’t want to lose that positive way of doing business with each other. 

One thing (of many) that is not well known about Walker’s bill is that it is a massive state power-grab of things that have always been under local control.  Say you live in a community that might want to maintain the comfortable structure of the union contract and want to continue to bargain working conditions.  Under the bill, if municipality or school board did so choose, even on non-economic issues, they would lose all state funding.  The governor laughably talks about how the bill is drafted the way it is to give local units of government more flexibility.  Instead, it puts them in a straightjacket.  They will live in the world designed by the Koch Brothers and the right-wing ideologues in Washington who designed all this. Or else.

So, make no mistake – the insistence of Walker and the Republicans on driving through a radical right-wing agenda to end public employee unions is the only reason we are here today.  They, and they alone own whatever layoffs may come.  When Walker steps to the podium for his budget speech, Democrats should pick up where they left off when they were last on the floor of the Assembly last week, when Republicans called a quick vote in the dead of the night.  They should point to Walker and the other Republicans who have dragged this state through this Unnecessary Crisis, solely because of their petty ideological campaign, and pick up the chant:


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Journal Sentinel: Not a Word on the Assembly Outrage

A day or so ago, it looked like the Journal Sentinel had finally found a moderate voice in kind-of opposition to the radical effort by its endorsed governor and his goose-stepping legislature to bust public employee unions and otherwise grab imperial powers to privatize state resources and rewrite Medicaid eligibility without administrative review. 

After its silly PolitiFact project applied a string of False and even one Pants-on-Fire “rulings” to Walker’s various lies in his ideological drive to remake Wisconsin in the Koch Brothers’ image, the Kings of State Street actually took some mild shots at Walker in two editorials on Friday.  Two weeks after the bill was available to read, they suddenly discovered that Walker was trying to grab control over Medicaid eligibility rules to boot as many people off the rolls of the insured as possible.  It also suddenly dawned on the paper’s inner conscious that he was trying to sell off state-owned power plants without bids, probably to the Koch brothers or other of his rich contributors who are standing in the governor’s mansion (no room at the Capitol these days) with their hands out and their pants unzipped. 

In a separate editorial, they also expressed as much disgust as they could gather for Walker’s bromance phone call with the guy pretending to be right-wing pig David Koch.  After pronouncing the revealing stunt “good for a laugh”, the paper goes on to describe things that are decidedly not funny and concludes that Walker’s parting “thanks a million” was the most revealing comment of all. 

Although somewhat critical in both editorials, the paper continues its pattern of treating Walker with kid gloves, as if he’ll break if they go after him the way he so badly deserves to be gone after.  It doesn’t call for Walker to kill the Medicaid and power plant power-grabs; it says the provisions “should be stripped from the bill and debated separately”, as if the result would be any different with a Republican majority that dictates and does not debate.  They continue to treat the governor and legislature as reasonable, rational people rather than knuckle-dragging ideologues. But, still, it looked for a minute there like you might be able to see some daylight between the Journal Sentinel’s nose and Scott Walker’s ass.

Well, that didn’t last long.  A day after Republicans in the Assembly made a mockery of the legislative process by shutting down debate without notice and giving members mere seconds to vote in the middle of the night, the paper completely ignores the most outrageous behavior in Wisconsin legislative history in Saturday’s paper.  Instead, the paper, yet again, goes after the bravely-absent Senate Democrats for the umpteenth time.  They sniff that the brilliant and completely legal and necessary Bus Filibuster is “unethical and constitutes dereliction of duty.”  They want Walker to “offer an olive branch” to the Dems by, once again, stripping out the non-budget policy items and considering them “separately”. 

Has the Journal Sentinel been paying any attention to how Walker and the radical Republicans have been behaving?  Did they watch how the Republicans in the Assembly tried to ram through a vote a week ago? Did they see them sit on their hands while the impassioned Democrats brought up very reasonable amendments for 61 hours, just waiting for their moment to pounce by calling for the quick vote and slinking out of the room like a bunch of cowards?  Did they hear Walker tell fake-Koch that one of his plots to lure the Democrats back to the Capitol was to pretend to have a conversation with them?

Seeing how the Assembly Democrats were treated, why would any self-respecting Democrat go the the floor of the Senate to be subjected to the same abuse?  Why would the Journal Sentinel want them to?  Besides, the Senate Republicans have already eliminated the possibility for any amendment and debate on the union-busting, Medicaid-destroying, power-plant giveaway bill.  The Republicans have no right to a quorum.  The way Republicans throughout the Capitol have been acting, they don’t have a right to anything.

For two weeks now, the Journal Sentinel has refused to hold Walker or the Republicans to the same standard of cooperation, comity and common decency that it would expect from anyone else.  The paper pretends that the Republicans come to the table in good faith to solve the state’s problems.  They ignore all evidence that the Republicans are a radical bunch of ideological movement right-wingers, driving a national agenda born in the corporate offices of the Koch brothers and the conservative think-tanks of Washington. 

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has lost its soul on the floor of the Republican Assembly and Senate and the governor’s office, where democracy has gone to die.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Breaking News: Clarke’s Deputies Clearing Capitol Tonight?

Funny what you pick up around the Courthouse on a Friday.

Word all around the Courthouse today was that 50 to 60 Milwaukee County Sheriff’s deputies are getting on a bus at 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning.  It is the understanding of the deputies who volunteered that they are going to Madison to clear the State Capitol of protesters that have camped out in the building since Scott Walker’s radical power-grab created the Wisconsin Crisis two weeks ago.
This seems to conflict with an announcement by the Capitol Police this afternoon, that would have the building vacated (supposedly for cleaning and maintenance) at 4 p.m. Sunday and reopened at 8 a.m. Monday; an arrangement the protesters have agreed to follow voluntarily. No show of force will be necessary.

Perhaps Walker’s ideological and power-mad soul mate, Sheriff David Clarke, didn’t get the memo – the bus was still scheduled by the time I left the Courthouse late this afternoon.  Knowing his megalomaniacal disposition and his penchant for publicity, he may have been too busy polishing the buttons on his coat and grooming his horse for the Glorious Ride To The Rescue he imagines in his own head to check his e-mail today.

Or, perhaps, he’s planning to go anyway.  If so, Clarke might face an interesting situation once he gets there.  Members of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association announced during the day that they wanted the People’s House to remain open and that their members will camping out with the protesters, beginning tonight.  “Er, Officer, we’re here to clear the place in the middle of the night, could you please…never mind.”  While his deputies are generally great men and women always do their jobs admirably (while rolling their eyes at their boss and his hilarious lieutenant the whole time), Clarke himself would pussy-out in a minute if faced with real resistance. 

Or it could be that the announcement by the Capitol Police of the Sunday closing has put the kibosh on Clarke’s dream of a Darkness at Dawn raid on sleeping protesters.  He’ll have to find another way to try to get his Boy Governor out of the political, moral and ethical hole he has dug for himself.  That’s fine – as long as he makes sure his deputies get the overtime they earn by following their grandstanding leader on the Road to Nowhere.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Why We Fight

Even since the lines were clearly drawn over a week ago, Scott Walker and the other Republicans trying to destroy public employee unions in Wisconsin as part of a national campaign by their Koch-corporate overlords have been deliberately telling lies about what the collective bargaining of working conditions means and the supposed protections provided by Wisconsin’s civil service system.  Both concepts – bargaining over working conditions and the civil service “protections” – can be a bit nebulous and the lack of knowledge about either is used by those who would use their various right-wing propaganda outlets to mislead and misinform the general public about what both mean.

When Walker’s beady eyes stared into the Teleprompter Tuesday night in yet another effort to pull the wool over the eyes of a state and national audience that is just not buying it, he read the same script he has been on for a week.  Part of that script is designed to mislead his listeners that the bargaining that union leaders and Democrats insist on maintaining relate to benefits with a financial impact, such as including WEA Trust as the preferred health insurance provider for teacher locals.  The WEA Trust talking-point is a bald-faced lie – it is the local school boards that contract with WEA Trust to be included in their health insurance options, not the unions themselves. Besides that inconvenient truth, Walker completely ignores the fact that, for good or ill, the unions have already rolled over on all bargaining related to pension, health insurance, any wage increase over the cost of living and any other wage and benefit issue with a financial impact. 

Regardless of whether Walker and his various lackeys on talk-radio and the legislature want to admit it, the real issue comes down to the elimination of non-financial bargaining.  These issues are included in standard, previously uncontroversial language in public employee contracts.  As the most familiar example (to me), I will use the current contract of the union I helped to organize and service as a staff rep for the WFT (now AFT-Wisconsin) – that of the great Wisconsin Professional Employees Council (WPEC), a diverse group of professional state employees.  The following is just an example of some of the subjects would be removed from any future bargaining or enforcement under the bill.  It is also interesting to see how the language of a contract compares with supposed protections in the civil service statutes:

  • Layoffs are to be conducted by seniority, within a classification within an employing unit (a smaller functional division of the work of an agency).  LTEs, project employees and probationary employees have to go before any permanent employees get the ax.  Employees have the right to transfer or demote to avoid layoff.  Those laid off retain the right to be restored, with the most senior restored first if the jobs come back.
    • The statutes only require that “the order of layoff of such employees may be determined by seniority or performance or a combination thereof or by other factors.” In the administrative code, the layoff rules generally follow a seniority pattern, but allow agency administrators to protect 20 percent of less senior employees from the layoff group.  This is (or should be) known as the “suck up” exemption and is not possible under a union contract.
  • The Hours of Work language of the WPEC contract includes language relating to the earning and use of professional time and comp time, the scheduling of vacation, telecommuting and other issues that come up often as busy professionals in state service perform their various duties.
    • There is no language in the statutes or administrative rules that even recognize the existence of comp time or professional time to account for hours worked over 40 hours a week (those employees designated as “professional” are not required to get overtime by federal law).  This is an example how individual contracts for different groups of employees can help make adjustments that best suits their (and the employer’s) interests.
  • Grievances – defined as alleged violations of the union contract, everything from discipline to workplace safety.  If not resolved in the agency, the grievance is ultimately heard by an independent arbitrator who decides the matter. 
    • Under the civil service rules, some forms of discipline are not grievable (a written reprimand, a bad performance evaluation; or “the evaluation methodology used by an employer to determine
      a discretionary pay award, or the amount of the award”) and those that are end up in the Personnel Commission – hardly an independent arbiter. 

….and so on.  Regardless of the financial aspects (the parameters of which have always been dictated by the state before bargaining started anyway) life is different without a contract, as WPEC members know all too well.  The group now represented by WPEC worked without a contract for most of their careers, until they won the representation election in 1994.  They were a skeptical bunch during the organizing campaign, but ultimately built themselves into a strong representative for their members, making a positive difference in many lives in many ways.

Now, the radical Republicans are trying to pull the rug out from under them and the other public employee unions by destroying them with absurd bargaining restrictions, an onerous annual recertification requirement and the elimination of dues deductions from paychecks.  If the day arrives when the “budget repair bill” passes in anything like its current form, the Republicans will politely shake hands and pat each other’s backs in public over their grand march towards fiscal integrity.  But, once they get behind closed doors, the champagne will flow and the cigars will be lit in the back rooms and the country clubs to celebrate the end of public employee unions in Wisconsin.

This is Why We Fight.

Governor Me And Other Thoughts


  • Remember when the Journal Sentinel used to have in-house editorial cartoonists, rather than running the “work” right-wing freaks like Michael Ramirez?  In preparation for tonight’s “fireside chat” by the desperate Incredible Shrinking Governor, I offer this, sent to me directly from Stuart Carlson, one of the great editorial cartoonists no longer employed at the paper. 
  • This blog was pretty harsh on the public safety employees carved out for special treatment in Gov. Walker’s historically-divisive union-busting bill. “Law enforcement and fire fighter groups have always been the whiniest bunch of crybabies in the labor movement, and, now that they think they are going to get to keep their ball, they are going to take it and go home,” I wrote. Yeah, well, er, officer, what I meant to say is…The fact is that many of the public employees benefiting from the carve-out – especially the firefighters and the State Troopers – have stuck their neck out in solidarity for their brothers and sisters in the labor movement.  The State Troopers have actually come out and announced regret for their endorsement of Walker last fall. The Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin sent me an e-mail, making sure I knew about their opposition to the union-busting aspects of the bill.  So, all hail to the brave men and women of the state organizations.  As far as I know, the Milwaukee firefighters and police haven’t announced regret for their endorsements or shown any support for anyone other than themselves.  If this is not the case, someone let me know and I’ll update.
  • Speaking of regrettable endorsements, the Journal Sentinel editorial board continues to carry Walker’s dirty water.  In an outrageous editorial today, the paper continues to foist the phony premises of Walker’s union-busting, declaring the state’s deficit (half of what it was a couple of years ago) a “fiscal emergency” while using tired right-wing rhetoric, like calling union leaders “bosses” to drive the governor’s radical-right agenda.  The paper again refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the Bus Filibuster by Senate Democrats – the Republicans have no right to a quorum and they are working harder right now than any of the stonewalling Republicans – and makes a preemptive strike against recall efforts to come against supposedly pro-labor Republicans like Van Wanggaard and Dan Kapanke, both of whom wrote pathetic and pathetically similar explanations for why they stood ready to vote to destroy the public employee unions.  Worst of all, the Journal Sentinel refuses to tell Walker to take the deal that is on the table – accept the increase in pension and health insurance contributions while leaving work place collective bargaining in place.  In fact, the editorial doesn’t mention the attack on non-financial bargaining at all, unless its statement that “benefits should not be on the bargaining table at all” is a reference to that – again, accepting the Walker spin confusing non-economic bargaining with “benefits”.  In the meantime, the editorial calls the obvious union-busting intent of the bill “not necessary” and identifies certain aspects as intended to “cripple unions”, without saying that is necessarily a bad thing.  The Journal Sentinel continues to take the side of the Koch-driven union-busters over the public employee. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Scott Walker: Water Boy for the Koch Brothers

I watched a live Scott Walker press conference for the first time Friday evening and I was amazed by the utter message discipline of the Boy Governor as he used his office to forward the Koch Brothers campaign to destroy public-sector unions. 

He’s been saying the same thing in the same way for a week. I heard Ohio’s freshly-minted Koch puppet-governor John Kasich spout the same talking-points on the radio the same night.  “We want to give municipalities and school boards the same flexibility…” Same crap.  Same script.  The only difference is that Kasich has a discernable personality, honed during his part-time gig as a Fox News stooge a few years back.  On the other hand, Walker behind a podium looks like a high school forensics contestant doomed to a B. 

Since his self-inflicted Wisconsin Crisis has gone national and viral, Walker has shrunken into a defensive crouch.  The press, especially the Journal Sentinel, has rolled over, challenging none of his utter bullshit, to his face or anywhere else. I’m sure he’ll do fine on Fox News Sunday, trading knowing smirks with former journalist ands fellow right-wing traveller Chris Wallace. 

Ever since Marty Beil and the other union leaders confirmed and the brave exiled Democratic senators of the WI 14 agreed that the increase in pension and health insurance contributions was a dead issue and all the governor had to do was agree to drop his non-economic union-busting provisions to end the stand-off, Walker and the other lackeys of the Koch agenda have refused to directly address the core issue.  It really is all about not just limiting bargaining to just a small sliver of wages – it is solely about killing off the unions themselves. 

A few provisions of the bill that haven’t gotten enough attention make that intent perfectly clear. 

  • A prohibition against paycheck deductions for union dues.  Forget (for a moment – then remember again) the elimination of fair-share, whereby those who reap the benefits of the union’s bargaining but choose not to be a member of the union itself have to pay a high percentage of the regular union dues to support the union’s activities on their behalf.  The biggest financial impact on unions (as long as they exist) in the bill is the fact that, for the first time – ever, anywhere – union members would have to send monthly checks to the union rather than have the employer take it out of their checks, at their request.  Walker and his handlers at Koch Industries know that this creates an impossible and expensive bookkeeping and collection nightmare for the union.  It is by far the biggest, most obvious union-busting f*ck-you in the bill, and the Republicans know it.
  • A requirement that each union conduct a recertification election every year.  The union, each year, would have to win 51 percent (not 50-plus-1) of all those employed in the unit – not just those voting.  After the union loses all rights to bargain anything but a cost-of-living wage increase, who in their right mind would vote to continue with this charade year-after-year?  Most unions are not enough of a social club to maintain that kind of solidarity for solidarity’s sake.  The Koch Republicans know that any union that somehow manages to survive the first such annual election will never survive the second. 

These two stick-it-to-em provisions have nothing to do with the budget, certainly, and even less to do with the other severe restrictions on bargaining in the bill.  And the miserable thing is that no one can get any Republican in the Assembly, the Senate or the governor himself backed up against a wall so they have to answer the question: Why is that there? 

It certainly won’t be the Journal Sentinel, even on its editorial page.  In Sunday’s paper, there is not an editorial urging Walker and the Republicans to take YES for an answer on the financials and take out the union-busting provisions of the bill.  Instead, they are moving on the larger budget, laughably encouraging Walker to exercise “ideological restraint” with “fairness and compassion” in the proposal he is not delivering on Tuesday.  Are they kidding?  If there is anything they should have learned this week, it is that such restraint and fairness cannot be expected from the white-hot radical Republicans in the Capitol. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Public Against Walker 2-to-1; Journal Sentinel Buries It

If you dig deep enough on the impossible-to-navigate Journal Sentinel website, you will find something that should be front-page news.  The fact that it’s not tells you all you need to know about the newspaper, its editors and the paper’s continued slide into irrelevance.

Dan Bice – a decent reporter once he was separated from Cary Spivak, who is always front-paged when he is making a Democrat look bad – has some crucial information on the lack of public support for the Republicans’ radical union-busting agenda.  By a margin of 2-to-1, the poll commissioned by Building a Stronger Wisconsin, Wisconsinites oppose Gov. Walker’s effort to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees and strangle the unions. Bice’s post flags the poll in the headline as being done by a “liberal group” – an identification that would never be attached for a right-wing poll until deep in the story – but the poll itself seems fairly straightforward and is probably a good indication of where things stood mid-week.

But, knowing the contorted twisting of the newspaper this week as it tries to avoid the real issues in Walker’s mad power-grab, we know a couple of things, don’t we?

  • If a similar poll, even by a blatantly nut-right front-group like Club for Growth had come out with a poll showing support for the governor’s union-busting, it would be trumpeted on the front page of the paper and used by the paper and its corporate brothers on right-wing radio to bludgeon the Democrats and unions into submission.
  • The rich right-wing “think tanks” have conducted similar polls this week, got similar results and buried it.

In defending his indefensible attack on public employees this week, Walker has said repeatedly that the “majority of Wisconsin voters” are behind him.  He knows from his own internal and external polling that this is not true.  The Journal Sentinel has the information, written up, nice and pretty, by its own reporter and buried it. 

A more interesting poll at this point would be, now that you’ve had a month-and-a-half of his maniacal  driving of the state off a radical-right cliff, if the election was held today, would you vote for Scott Walker for governor?  Even with the continued campaign of support on talk radio and in all pages of the Journal Sentinel, would he even get to 40 percent?  And, if he didn’t, do you think the Journal Sentinel would report it?

Senate Democrats: The Bus Filibuster Heroes

The brave, selfless action of the Senate Democrats, exercising the only power they have by refusing a runaway, radical Republican Senate a quorum, was the best news of this long, gloomy week.  It was a brilliant move, the equivalent of a tactic used every day by Republicans in Washington – a filibuster by bus. 

I wish I could have seen the face on Scott Walker when one of the Fitzgerald boys slunk into his office to give him the news.  Naturally, they went with the first impulse of power-mad thugs everywhere – calling for the police to arrest the wayward Dems and drag them in handcuffs to the Senate chamber.  Of course, it helped to have the Fitzgeralds’ father running the State Patrol to send out the orders.  It didn’t matter that the Democrats were already out of the state by the time the APB went out – no self-respecting trooper was going to pay it any mind, anyway.

Around the Courthouse this week, many of those most affected by the union-busting treachery of Walker and the lock-stepping Republicans had already resigned themselves to a 8% cut in their take-home pay and an end to all their hard-bargained job protections and work rules.  As I have discussed before, Walker’s claims that those in the classified service have sufficient job protections are a joke because the broad language of the statutes and its enforcement through the management-friendly Personnel Commission are not nearly as effective as the same protections under a union-enforced contract.  But the assistant district attorneys and the public defender staff attorneys I work with everyday are not even in the classified service – they would have nothing to protect them under the bill’s draconian measures.  But, on Thursday afternoon, they and the hundreds of thousands of other public employees in the state breathed a sigh of relief knowing that someone had stuck a stick in the spokes, however temporarily, of the radical Republican steamroller.

Meanwhile, over at the mostly-vacant Journal Sentinel building, the Kings of State Street continued their week of utter cluelessness.  Continuing in its news pages to repeat Walker spin about the bill being about the budget rather than the undisguised union-busting everyone else has recognized since at least Monday, the paper tried and failed to keep up with unfolding events in Madison.  The hapless PolitiFact team churned out two “rulings” a day, finding – as always – Democrats  saying totally legitimate things with their Pants-on-Fire (Walker certainly did threaten to call out the Guard if things didn’t quite go his way) and Walker and other Republicans telling far more obvious lies that were only False.

On the editorial page, the paper had a strong message of support for Walker and his partisan tactics.  Saying that Walker had “picked the right fight” and was moving toward “fiscal integrity”, the editorial board largely ignored the union-busting elephant in the room.  The paper also loaded-up on supportive op-eds from what passes as the right-wing intelligentsia in town, reaching out to voices as undiverse as Rick Esenberg, Christian Schneider, Alberta Darling and their own ridiculous Patrick McIlheran (twice), without hardly any voice in opposition (Pimentel doesn’t count – boy, does he ever not count).

So it comes as no surprise that the Journal Sentinel would scold rather than celebrate the Senate Democrats’ Bus Filibuster and the sick-out of various teachers across the state.  Calling the Dems’ action belittling terms like “tantrum”, “prank” and “snit”,  the editorial mimics the familiar talk-radio talking-points of their corporate brothers at WTMJ and other right-wing media outlets.  “Both Senate Democrats and teachers should get over their snits and get back to work,” sniffs the newspaper in a snit of its own, apparently unable to stomach the exercise of the only power the Democrats in the legislature have.

Although the Journal Sentinel has never harshly criticized the Republicans  for their unprecedented use of the Permanent Filibuster in Washington and never miss an opportunity to berate President Obama for not being sufficiently bipartisan, the paper refuses to hold the radical Republicans in its own state to any standard whatsoever.   The paper has never implored the new Republican leaders in Madison to use their new unchecked power in the spirit of compromise or consensus, or to reach across the aisle try to work together to solve the state’s serious problems.  They have nothing to say about the governor whose focus is supposedly all about “jobs, jobs, jobs” creating an extremely divisive diversion from that agenda by stripping public employees of their collective bargaining rights and deliberately destroying their unions.  They have no criticism for the fact that Walker had absolutely no conversations with any union or Democratic leader about the supposed gravity of the state’s “crisis” and his proposed solutions before dropping the nuclear bomb he dropped on public employees a week ago. 

Well, they have to talk now, don’t they?  How long the Senate Democrats remain in exile is entirely dependent on the Republicans and whether they come to the table (or, at least, the cell phone) and talk and compromise about the details of their radical agenda.  In the meantime, the radical Republicans can do no more harm.  And the Senate Democrats are the heroes of the hour.   

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Wolf In Wolf’s Clothing

The thing about Republicans is that they never engage on the real issue.  Unable to prevail if they would just tell people what they are doing or want to do, they craft their actions in intricate, strategic dodges that divert voters from their real intent.  Once it is discovered what they are really up to, they hide behind chats with their pliant sycophants on talk radio and Fox News, where it looks like they are talking about things, but they really aren’t. 

If dragged into a discussion with real journalists, which they avoid like the plague, they maintain extreme message discipline, staying on their poll-tested talking points until they get what they want or the storm passes. Then, it’s on to the next deceptive campaign of lies designed to achieve another goal that would never be accepted by the public if it was ever discussed out in the open.

In Washington, the party that ran up record deficits under Reagan and Junior Bush complains about debt not because they give a damn about debt, but to starve the beast and prevent a Democratic administration from doing anything that might help anyone other than their corporate handlers.  The invasion and occupation of Iraq was framed as a war of necessity over WMDs, those hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and thousands of our own soldiers died and were maimed for the maniacal geopolitical schemes of Dick Cheney and the neocons and petty revenge for the perceived weakness of Bush Senior.

Through it all, Republicans refuse to discuss why they are really doing what they are doing.  Given truth serum, they would admit that they do most of what they do because their strings are being pulled by wealthy corporations who have too much to lose from regulation, fair taxation and control on the pollution and poison spewing from their plants and products.  The rest of what they do is simple nepotism, providing jobs for themselves and the sons and daughters of their contributors, propagating the herd to spawn the next generation of government functionaries whose only mission is to destroy government.

This sadly-effective Republican strategy is being played out with a vengeance in Wisconsin right now, as an out-of-control governor and legislature rapidly destroys state government on behalf of their corporate masters who have hired the GOP stooges to make sure they will never again be adequately taxed, regulated or sued. 

Under the guise of job promotion, they ram through a decimation of the law of personal injury.  The law creates not one job. But it does ensure that the deadly calculations used by soulless corporations for whom the injuries and death predictably caused by their products are just a cost of doing business are just that much easier to take.  Reducing the available punitive damage awards to pocket change, Smithers? Exxcelllent…

Another “jobs” bill that allows the unchallenged destruction of a small wetlands area in Green Bay has nothing to do with jobs (especially after Bass Pro Shops said they wanted nothing to do with destroying the environment) and everything to do with paying off a wealthy contributor for his help during the campaign. The pending Photo ID bill has nothing to do with voter fraud that doesn’t exist and everything to do with suppressing the vote of thousands of legitimate voters in Democratic strongholds.

And so it is with the union-busting effort being rushed through the legislature this week under the by-now laughable pretense of a “budget repair bill”.  I was talking to a Republican yesterday and asked him how he could justify the deliberate destruction of collective bargaining for state employees.  “Well, the budget has to be fixed…”  I stopped him mid-talking point.  It’s not about the budget and you know it, I said.  If you want to bust the unions, why don’t you just come out and say it and we can fight through that discussion on the merits?  So he came out and said, sure, union-busting is just fine with him.  So there we have it.  I won’t say who it is – I wouldn’t want him drummed out of his Republican circles for telling the truth.

Scott Walker would have lost the election if he would have described his radical intentions for the destruction of state government.  If he came out during the campaign and presented the union-busting language of the bill, which – no doubt, was drafted and fully-formed by the WMC before the election – Walker would have been defeated not only by an energized union movement, but by moderate and independent voters who do not want to see such a radial change in the public employer-employee dynamic. 

But, instead of being honest about his intentions, he hid behind vague notions of fiscal responsibility and job creation through the magical private sector.  He and his corporate handlers knew his plans and those of the drooling Neanderthals in the legislature should they get their hands on the government they seek to destroy.  This was their plan all along. That’s why Republicans in the legislature this week are hiding in their offices, ignoring the impassioned e-mails of their constituents, turning off their phones and sitting mutely at the pro-forma Joint Finance Committee hearing, like Clarence Thomas at Supreme Court arguments.  If they engage, they lose, and they know it.    They are waiting for the storm to pass so they can rubber-stamp the bill and move on to the next outrage they didn’t tell us about.

Of course, it would help if the few remaining local media outlets that employ real journalists would dig through the bullshit – it’s not that hard to figure out – and broadcast what is actually going on.  Instead, we get the Journal Sentinel, praising Walker for picking “the right fight” as a move toward “fiscal integrity”.  They offer mild criticism of moves that only “smack” of union busting rather than the real thing.  They let charter members of the local Republican echo chamber like Patrick McIlheran and Rick Esenberg, blather on about how great Walker’s union-busting moves are, while progressives are stuck with the mealy-mouthed O. Ricardo Pimentel, whose one-the-one-hand-then-the other equivocation and I’m-sure-they-mean-well disposition does nothing to counter the GOP message discipline of the paper’s omnipresent right-wing columnists.

No, we’ll have to figure it out on our own, as the Republican jihad continues.  I guess I’ll just have to, as a major local politician encouraged me on my voice-mail yesterday,  keep writing.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Lies, Damn Lies and the Personnel Commission

When Gov. Scott Walker introduced his radical union-busting language last Friday, it was deliberately hidden behind a diversionary and, ultimately, uncontroversial increase in public employee contributions to their pension and health insurance costs.  Called, laughably, a “budget repair bill”, gullible news organizations like the Journal Sentinel and even the New York Times headlined the “cuts or layoffs” spin of the Republicans, while treating the decimation of collective bargaining rights as an annoying sidelight.

As Walker spent his whole day Monday taking advantage (as he did every day of the campaign) of the free advertising for his agenda offered by right-wing talk radio, all he talked about – and, of course, all he was asked about by the obedient script-reading wing-nuts – was the pension and health insurance changes and how state employees have to bear part of the burden and blah blah blah.  But hijacking the collective bargaining system on those issues, while offensive enough, is not anywhere near the worst of it, and Walker knows it.  That’s why he keeps talking about the money, because his destruction of the collective bargaining framework on other issues is indefensible.

But, in the rapidly-moving story about the speeding steamroller about to flatten public employees with a vote on the legislature scheduled for Thursday, it is possible the real issues are coming into sharper focus.  The Journal Sentinel news page finally gets off the Walker talking points in the Tuesday paper, with a front-page, above-the-fold headline that says “Rights, not benefits, at issue”. Both labor leaders and workers are quoted saying they could live with the cost increases.  But they want their bargaining rights on other issues retained.  "This is about busting unions and there is no nicer way to put it," union lawyer Willie Haus tells the paper.  "It's not about money. This is a hate crime."

After highlighting the real issue of Walker's draconian evisceration of collective bargaining on the front page, the Journal Sentinel again wimps-out on the editorial page today. "The state Legislature should take a thoughtful look at Gov. Scott Walker's attempt to neuter state public employee unions," says the issue-straddling clueless editorial board, as if the lawmakers just need to look both ways before crossing the union-busting street. "Walker's proposals overreach in some respects." Whoa -- slow down there, pal.  You wouldn't want to be accused of actually saying anything against your endorsed Boy Governor with the Mubarak complex. 

The editorial blathers on: "Other provisions that would require unions to take an annual vote to maintain their status or ban public employers from collecting union dues smack of union-busting." "Smack of?"  No, they are union-busting.  The legislature "should be wary of some of Walker's more radical ideas." What a pathetic abdication of the Journal Sentinel's obligation to take a stand in the midst of madness.  Well, I think what I'm going to do, as a thoughtful former subscriber, is be wary about ever overreaching and spending another dime dollar on that increasingly lousy excuse for a newspaper.
When asked about the end of union-bargained contract language relating to job protection, layoffs, hours, sick leave, working conditions, discrimination and other important aspects of public employment, Walker told the swooning radio hosts and a press conference with (mostly) real journalists on Monday something to the effect that Wisconsin has “the strongest civil service system in the nation” and that gives them “all the protection they need”.

But that system only exists for state employees.  Teachers and municipal employees can go pound sand if they have a conflict with their bosses. This is also true for the unclassified service in state employment, which includes TAs and RAs in the UW system; assistant district attorneys and, as I know all too well, assistant state public defenders.  Those employees will end up with absolutely no job or any other kind of protection.

My friends in the various district attorney offices across the state have always had a contract and now all their job protections would be gone.  The staff attorneys in the public defenders office have only had the right to bargain since 1998 and have only been working under a contract (the first of which I help bargain with them as a staff rep for WFT) since 1999.  Before they were represented, some staff attorneys (who shall remain nameless)were treated like shit by a temporarily oppressive administration trying to make a point about how they can treat people like shit.  After the contract, that kind of treatment was no longer possible. 

And, even for state employees in the classified service, the enforcement of their limited rights through their various agencies and, ultimately, the toothless Personnel Commission, is a joke.  As an organizer for the Wisconsin Professional Employees Council (WPEC), the AFT-affiliated group that organized a diverse group of professional state employees, I represented some of the members of the unit before they had a contract, under the statutory civil service rules, before the Personnel Commission.  The difference between that experience and grievance-handling in the workplace and before an arbitrator under a contract was like night and day. 

In addition, employees are on their own before the Personnel Commision to hire their own lawyers at great expense or represent themselves.  Removing union stewards and staff reps from the grievance process in the workplace and at the commission would create a messy, unsatisfactory process that pleases no one.

The Personnel Commission was and, I assume, is now a thinly-veiled prop, with only the interests of management at heart. Anyone (Walker) who says the enforcement of the civil service rules there is just as good as enforcement of similar rights under a labor contract is playing you for a fool.

A final thought:

Sec. 111.80 of the Wisconsin Statutes is the “declaration of policy” of the state as it relates to its own employees.  That section includes the following language:
“…there are 3 major interests involved: that of the public, that of the employee and that of the employer. These 3 interests are to a considerable extent interrelated. It is the policy of this state to protect and promote each of these interests with due regard to the situation and to the rights of the others.”
“Orderly and constructive employment relations for employees and the efficient administration of state government are promotive of all these interests. They are largely dependent upon the maintenance of fair, friendly and mutually satisfactory employee management relations in state employment, and the availability of suitable machinery for fair and peaceful adjustment of whatever controversies may arise.”
“…negotiations of terms and conditions of state employment should result from voluntary agreement between the state and its agents as employer, and its employees. For that purpose an employee may, if the employee desires, associate with others in organizing and in bargaining collectively through representatives of the employee's own choosing without intimidations or coercion from any source.”
“It is the policy of this state…to encourage the practices and procedures of collective bargaining in state employment…by establishing standards of fair conduct in state employment relations and by providing a convenient, expeditious and impartial tribunal in which these interests may have their respective rights determined.”
Wow.  That is a quite laudable statement of goals and ways to promote peaceful, productive relations between the state as an employer and its employees.  Who could possibly disagree?

From the “budget repair bill”, page 86:
111.80 of the statutes is repealed.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

J.T. Harris: Public Safety Carve-Out Is Temporary

So, what’s it going to be, police, firefighters and state troopers?  Are you going to stand with your brothers and sisters in the union movement who fought and died for your right to collectively bargain in the first place?  Are you going to fight for the rights of your fellow public employees to have the same collective bargaining rights you are supposedly going to retain, that have served you better than any other group through the years?

The answer, so far, is: no f*ing way.  Law enforcement and fire fighter groups have always been the whiniest bunch of crybabies in the labor movement, and, now that they think they are going to get to keep their ball, they are going to take it and go home. You’ve just lost all your collective bargaining rights?  Aw, poor babies.  Can I get you a tissue?  I got mine.  Get yours back, if you can, but don’t look to us big strong (mostly) men for help.  Losers.

According to an AP story, “Both the police and firefighters' statewide unions as well as the Wisconsin Troopers' Association issued statements praising Walker for recognizing their members' jobs are important and unique.”  Yes, aren’t they special?

Dave Seager, president of the Milwaukee Professional Firefighters Association, denied the exemption was a quid pro quo in any way, saying it simply shows Walker respects local public safety workers. Seager said it wasn't his job to decide whether the exemption was fair.

No, it’s not your job to decide what is fair, you jerk.  But it is your job to fight for what is fair stand with others beyond your self-interested little clique, especially when the entire concept of the right to collective bargaining for public employees is hanging by a thread. 

Here’s a wake-up call for all those selfish pricks in uniform: your goose is as cooked as anyone else’s in public employment.  Just ask one of the governor’s brown-nosing talk-radio buddies.  As we have discussed before, James T. Harris is an embarrassing caricature of a part-time radio wing-nut, who nevertheless has managed in recent years to squeeze himself onto alternate reality programs on Fox News and even mainstream TV shows as a predictable regurgitater of right-wing talking points.  This Sunday afternoon, I caught about five minutes of his drivel while driving around and discovered something quite interesting – which is certainly a first for a Harris program.  It seems – dear, saintly cops, firefighter and troopers – that your special dispensation, despite your efforts to buy permanent special treatment, is going to be quite short-lived.

According to Harris, he had a conversation with the governor.  By the way, he calls “Scott” – all the talk-radio Republicans call him “Scott”.  Could you imagine if anybody else on the radio referring to President Obama as “Barack” or Gov. Doyle as “Jim”? But I digress…  Harris supposedly asked the governor,about the carve-out for the cops and firefighters because it “didn’t smell right”.  The governor (Scott, Scooter, whatever) told Harris that his law-and-fire reward to the only unions stupid enough to endorse him is only temporary.

From the podcast of Harris’ show (yes, they waste server space for this clown), about 55% in:

But I can tell you what was conveyed to me from the governor…They’re on the bubble.  It’s coming. But the reason is, my understanding is that Scott, er, Gov. Walker lets them out of this is because they’re – the union is threatening walkouts.  And they’re going to need the National Guard, they’re going to need police and fire to be available. And so, he said that they have enough people to cover it, in case they even take that action.  But that was part of why he did not include them in the initial cuts…This was the rationale behind it.

Now, there may be other things going on here other than what Harris thinks is going on.  It is entirely possible that Walker told Harris that because he knew he was stupid enough to believe it and it would end what must have been a tedious conversation with him.  It doesn’t make sense to wait just because the cops might stage a walkout – what, is the National Guard busy cleaning their guns or something? 

It may also be that Harris is telling tales out of school and he isn’t supposed to be squawking the governor’s devious plans to his 7 radio listeners. If that’s the case, he’ll be dropped by the Walker-loving WTMJ management before you even finish reading this post.

Either way, are you willing to take that chance, coppers?  Who is going to stand with you when the other shoe drops in the next few months (which is the timeframe Harris claimed)?  When that time comes, you may well find yourself out on your own, without the support of the broader labor movement you should now be supporting.  How’s that famous quote go?  Part of it is “Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out--because I was not a trade unionist…Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak out for me.”  You know the rest (and who Niemoller was talking about), don’t you?

Good luck when that happens.  You have to decide which side you are on now.  Tomorrow is, quite literally, too late.

The Iron Fist of Governor Mubarak

Well, it’s the weekend and time to look in the old mailbox. Two of these letters are from actual comments on my last post.  See if you can guess which ones.

Dear Mondo Media:  I realize there are laws dictating the options available to public unions, e.g. disallowance of strike, but would not Mr. Walker's unilateral disemboweling of union protections lift those legal constraints? – jimspice

Dear jimspice: Well, you’d think that employees who made the compromise of working under a no-strike statute in exchange for standard and previously uncontroversial collective bargaining rights would then retain the rights of other free humans once their right to bargain is eviscerated in a “budget repair bill” that has nothing to do with the budget.  You would be wrong. Besides threatening to sic the National Guard on misbehaving state employees and leaving untouched the prohibition on strikes, the  “budget” bill, amends the statues to allow for the firing of those who take just three days off, slows down, makes a face…well, let’s let the governor’s bill-drafters at the WMC take it from there:

“during a state of emergency declared by the governor under s. 323.10, an appointing authority may discharge any employee who does any of the following: a. Fails to report to work as scheduled for any 3 working days during the state of emergency and the employee’s absences from work are not approved leaves of absence. b. 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 participation in purported mass resignations or sick calls.”

Get it, state employees planning to take a personal day this week, when rallies have been scheduled for the State Capitol?  You can also look forward to a threatening reminder in your inbox on Monday morning, reminding you about the prohibition against personal use of e-mail in the workplace (or imposing a prohibition if one is not in place), along with the governor’s “emergency” declaration.  Planning to wear red to work in solidarity with the protest?  Better be ready to defend that to the incredibly weak Personnel Commission after you get disciplined.  Most amusing is the prohibition against “mass resignations”.  You can’t even quit.  Did someone get laughed at for saying something about slavery?

You would think, dear reader, that a party in total control of the government that is making radical changes to the very structure of its relationship with its employees would allow those employees to at least vent and work to affect the political environment under which they work for all the people of Wisconsin (not just those in power).  Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak would still be in charge if he had just allowed a modicum of pretend-democracy and a legitimate voice for the opposition.  Instead, he tried to bottle it up and outlaw dissent, leading to his demise just this week.  The only difference between Mubarak and Walker is that Mubarak has now learned his lesson and Walker has not.  Yet.

Dear Mondo Media:  I am on the editorial board for a major metropolitan newspaper with dwindling circulation.  Although our paper endorsed Scott Walker for governor, the majority of the editorial board has disagreed with many of his radical law changes and the destruction of state government disguised as “jobs” and “budget bills”.  This is not a surprise, since we disagreed with him on most issues during the campaign.  However, since we endorsed the guy, we find ourselves having to support many of the initiatives of the Republican jihad since it took power.  We offer grudging, weak criticism (“we wish he wouldn’t” disenfranchise thousands of voters through Photo ID; blowing up public employee bargaining is “not needed”) when we find, through an examination of our former principals, that we disagree.  After all – he’s our Boy.  However, with radical tea-party-talk-radio Republicans in control of both houses of the legislature walking in lock-step with the agenda emanating from the salons of Washington and the WMC, we are concerned that we might have to actually take a stronger stand against the regime, incurring the wrath of the more-powerful talk-radio side of our parent company.  In addition, what’s all this about the National Guard?  Do you think the tanks can find State Street on a map? – JS

Dear JS:  You are badly in need of an intervention.  Seek professional help immediately.  In the meantime, look at your lesser peers in the state media (for instance, the Cap Times) and try to figure out what they get that you don’t.  Remember – you are one of the last grown-ups still existing in a media environment ravaged by talk-radio, sensationalist children and empty-headed, transient TV personalities.  You have an obligation to everyone in the state to get off your defensive stance and rediscover your common sense roots.

Begin by repenting for your endorsement of Walker for governor.  Scott Walker is not doing anything as governor you could not have predicted from his years sniffing after Scooter Jensen in the legislature; his years of non-governing and political posturing as Milwaukee County Executive; and his five hours of talking on the phone to talk-radio hosts every day of the campaign.  You knew he was an empty suit with an agenda drafted in the right-wing “think-tanks” in Washington and the WMC when you endorsed him.  Alright, so maybe you didn’t know for sure that the legislature would turn from Dem to Rep and act as a goose-stepping rubber-stamp for his radical agenda.  But you chose to ignore that you mostly agreed with Tom Barrett and, instead, gave your valued imprimatur to Scott Walker.  Repent. Souls can be saved, or so I’ve heard.

After that, it should be easy to get on your high horse and scream about what the hell Walker and the Republicans are doing to destroy government in Wisconsin.  Such an acceptance of your failings will mean the end of the type of ludicrous editorial you posted today, praising Walker for unilaterally requiring public employees to make increased contributions to their pension and health care costs they would have bargained for anyway and ignoring the elephant in the room of the death of collective bargaining in Wisconsin.  “If the point is to balance the budget, these provisions are not needed.”. “Not needed”?? No.  “Not needed” would be something like eliminating wetlands protection for a parcel in Green Bay for a company that will not build on it, no matter what your rich contributor says.  Blowing up collective bargaining for public employees in Wisconsin is a radical, unprecedented power grab by an out-of-control ideologue who doesn’t care what you think.

Once you take this crucial step, JS, you will be well on your way to a happier existence and, unlike Republicans, you’ll sleep better at night, knowing that you are supporting good government in Wisconsin rather than destroying it. Staying on your current path can only lead to deeper sadness – both for you and the people of Wisconsin.

Dear Mondo Media: to jerk-off aka x*** grow up with your retarded comments, 70% of Wisconsinites support Walkers attempt to Make state union workers to pay a modest increase in there bloated benefits pkg. Walker is doing a great job. Mike go f**k yourself loser!

Always good to hear from what passes for a mainstream Republican these days.  Thanks for sharing and letting us all know what kind of reasonable people you really are. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Scott Walker To Public Employees: Drop Dead

Under the phony guise of a “budget repair bill”, radical right-wing Republican Gov. Scott Walker has proposed to blow up the business relationship that has existed for four decades with the state’s public employees.  If passed as-is by the goose-stepping Republican legislature, it means the death of collective bargaining in Wisconsin government.  For state, local government and public school employees, the bill would mean the end of any right they have to have a voice in the workplace, to address discipline and other grievances and to bargain anything but a laughable wage increase.

Although supposedly part of a short-term budget fix, the relatively small-potatoes $30 million estimated savings by the state government in this fiscal year is the molehill that is vaporized by this atomic bomb.  The 5.8 percent employee contribution to pensions and the (minimum) 12 percent  employee contribution towards the cost of health insurance – figures the Boy Governor has talked about throughout his campaign and beyond – could have and probably would have been successfully negotiated with the state employee unions without much difficulty in the normal course of good faith negotiations.  Walker never even tried.

Just like the evisceration of  personal injury law had nothing to do with job creation, the destruction of collective bargaining for public employees has nothing to do with the budget.  It is rather a mad power grab by a ruling elite that will change any rule to make sure they win.  It is also a continuation of the nationwide campaign by Republicans to destroy all what is left of the labor union movement on behalf of the wealthy corporations who pull their puppet strings and pay their bills.

The details of the bill as it relates to public sector collective bargaining are staggering in their implications and in their sheer fuckyouitude.  Besides dictating the by-now uncontroversial changes to pension and health insurance contributions, the draconian bill eliminates bargaining on every traditional subject of collective bargaining (except wages) and puts extraordinary roadblocks in the path of any labor union trying to do anything at all for its members.   Some of the disgusting details:

  • The bill allows for bargaining on wages – and nothing else.  That means union contracts will no longer have language on layoffs, discipline, workplace conditions, hours, vacation, sick leave or any other of the standard conditions of employment that have helped keep labor peace throughout the years.  All of those terms will be dictated by the employer.  Union contracts that often run hundreds of pages will now fit on a cocktail napkin – or on a couple of squares of toilet paper in the governor’s mansion.
  • Bargaining on wages – the only allowable subject of bargaining – will officially be a joke.  Pay raises will be limited to the rate of inflation.  Any unit of government that wants to treat its employees to better than the rate of inflation has to run a referendum with the relative electorate.  If the state ever fell into sane hands again, a state employee raise above the inflation rate would have to be approved in a statewide referendum.  Public employee unions will be like a bound-and-gagged prisoner who is supposed to be glad they get to wiggle their fingers under the handcuffs.
  • Public employee unions have to run a re-certification election every year in which they have to win the votes of 50 percent of all eligible employees (not just those voting) to avoid decertification.
  • Union dues cannot be deducted from public employee paychecks.  Members will have to send checks to the union by themselves.

Oh, and, by the way, all those cops and firefighters whose unions endorsed Walker?  None of this applies to you.  Thanks a million (or two).  We’ll see how the law enforcement and firefighters, who have benefited more than anyone else in the public sector from the right to collectively bargain, react to their brothers and sisters in the union movement being steamrolled by the Republican jihad in Madison.  It might be time for them to step up and think about someone other than themselves for a change.  I’m not holding my breath.

For everyone else who didn’t help Walker get elected, the bill means the end of collective bargaining for Wisconsin public employees.  It will be interesting to see how the union movement responds and to see if they can peel off enough Republicans in the legislature (the Fitzgerald brothers represent a lot of prison guards in Waupun – perhaps they can arrange a little carve-out of their own) to at least make some changes. 

But, unfortunately, union leaders have been so caricatured and marginalized over the years by the right-wing echo chamber, it may be hard for them to get any traction in the public arena.  It will be up to those of us who are not union members to speak up and fight for what is right and to protest Walker’s latest and (so far) most outrageous power grab. 

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Journal Sentinel Cheers For Citizen Hell

Boy, the Journal Sentinel’s increasingly ridiculous and apparently (sadly) permanent PolitiFact project really gave it to One Wisconsin Now for having the temerity to call out the radical Republican regime in Madison for adding “over $140 million in new special interest spending” to the state budget hole they keep whining about. 

Using the “Pants-on-Fire” scarlet letter that they reserve only for supposedly false claims from the Democrats or the left (right-wing politicians telling real fibs usually only manage a “Barely True” or, at worse, “False”), the paper declares that throwing money in the form of tax giveaways to the already-wealthy interests who clog the GOP money machine with gobs of thousand-dollar bills is not “spending” because, well, it isn’t.  Taking the word of highly-conflicted wing-nut enabler George Lightbourn (fresh from his star-turn with a Scott Walker puff-piece in Sunday’s Crossroads section), the J-S boldly determines that taking money everybody anticipated being in the treasury and scattering it among various GOP constituencies in the form of tax breaks is not “spending”, and anyone who says it is is a damn liar.

OK, government has a defined pot of money.  There are two ways to “spend” that pot.  One is by paying money out to attend to the needs of government programs; the other is to take tax revenue out of the base to encourage certain behavior (or, in Walker’s case, to reward the greedy Republican base).  In the national political parlance, throwing money out of the treasury to the overprivileged is always referred to as “spending money on tax cuts”.  There is nothing outrageous about One Wisconsin Now, Xoff, or anyone else calling gifts to the rich “spending”.  The paper even admits as such, conceding that even Scott Walker described Obama’s stimulus bill as “spending” although one-third of the cost was tax cuts. “But two-thirds was spending,” scolds PolitiFact. Oh, well then the one-third consisting of tax cuts could not have possibly also be called “spending”. He who controls the definition controls the argument.  Or, he who refuses to concede the legitimacy of a legitimate label – as even the right-partisan Lightbourn does – calls liar, liar, pants on fire. 

Meanwhile, Walker tells bald-faced lies about “survey after survey” showing that one of top concerns of businesses considering a move to the state is the “litigation climate” (they don’t, and he knows it), and the PolitiFact poo-bahs can only bring themselves to brand the deliberate lie “False”, rather than “Pants-on-Fire”.  Why?  It can only be because Walker is a Republican.

And, also, because such is the “coverage” of Gov. Walker in the Journal Sentinel.  Every bad bill greased through the rubber-stamp legislature is a “triumph” for the Boy Governor. The paper seems more interested in keeping track of Walker’s “victories” and whether he keeps all of his bad promises than examining the wisdom of, say, cutting loose the nursing home industry from the nuisance of effective lawsuits.  When the editorial board that foolishly endorsed Walker disagrees with the wildly misplaced priorities the unfettered Republicans have shown in their first month of tax cuts for the rich, the decimation of personal injury law (gee, hope something bad never happens to them) and efforts to destroy Wisconsin election law, the strongest they can come up with is “gosh, we wish you wouldn’t”. 

Editorializing on the Bergstrom Blow Job bill, the board politely suggests that Walker and the Boys “step back”.  “Let's have a debate”;  “let's not sidestep” the rules and blah de blah blah.  On the anti-democratic effort to install the most rigid Photo ID law in the country, the Journal Sentinel takes the “if rape is inevitable” route.  “If voter ID is going to happen, the Legislature should get it right,” wimps-out the editorial board.  No.  You can’t get the wrong right.  Trying to get any form of Photo ID – which will necessarily end up (as intended) disenfranchising thousands of legitimate voters – “right” is like trying get the invasion of Iraq “right”.  Wrong is wrong. It can’t be done.

But, that’s what happens when an editorial board reaches decisions by consensus and has a chartered member of the wing-nut establishment like Patrick McIlheran hanging around.  The editorial board needs take more and stronger stances as the Republicans run amok.  So what if Paddy Mac runs screaming from the room?  Otherwise, they have no right to complain about the results of the radical Walker Republicans they helped bring to power. 

One of the Republican’s Big Lies that they used to claw their way to power is that Wisconsin is a Tax Hell or Business Hell.  It has never been any such thing. However, by the time the Republicans get done with it, our formerly progressive state will be a Citizen Hell.  And there will be the Journal Sentinel, cheering each bad law as a “victory” for Walker, giving the Republicans unearned credit for good intentions, and trying to nudge the right-wing zealots towards “justice and moderation”, as it laughably does in reviewing Walker’s State of the State address.  If they really think bullshit like that is going to work, they obviously have no idea the kind of radical ideologues they are dealing with.