With sweeping Republican victories in the state legislature and the election of an anti- labor union Republican governor (who ran on improving the relationship between corporations and government) Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has triggered a defining moment in the nation’s historical labor movement. While he would like to disguise his assault on unions behind a budget repair bill, he’s been less successful in other attempts to hide his party’s efforts to manipulate policy and ultimately election results in Wisconsin.
A provision in Walker’s proposal eliminates collective bargaining by public employees, with the exception of firefighters, police and state troopers (3 unions which supported Walker’s 2010 gubernatorial election bid). It’s not politically safe to repeal rights for employees in those sectors. With expectations that Walker’s proposal shall eventually pass, the provision will leave unions with only the right to negotiate on salaries. The move also leaves unions even less attractive to join than what they’ve already become (as part of historical efforts to dissolve workers’ rights).
Both sides of the issue are appealing to the public to prevent their message from being drowned out by the other side. A fact which does hold true on both sides is that the impact of Walker’s efforts to restrict collective bargaining in Wisconsin will have far reaching effects throughout this country. During a time of economic misfortune, coupled with a gradual extinction of unions, garnering and maintaining public support will prove to be a challenge for union members and advocates. Quite frankly, many citizens have bought into the ‘I’m suffering. So, you should too.’ propaganda. At this point, the ideologues on the Right will utilize every wedge issue to ensure the defeat of President Obama’s reelection bid.
Republicans may not want to rest indefinitely on the misfortune of America’s economy and the election of a black president to strengthen their political muscle. It seems inevitable that the longer these demonstrations carry on, this movement will pick up steam. Already, faith leaders, members of the newly crowned Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers and even once supporters of Walker are joining in solidarity with the embattled protesters. Perhaps, this assault by Walker’s is the pivotal blow that compels the fighter with that final do-or-die thrust of urgency. It certainly seems to be the appropriate sentiment. At any rate, this battle will likely intensify before simmering down, which could very well mean serious voter efforts to recall the Governor.