The View from the Hudson
11 Agosto Ago 2011 1412 11 agosto 2011

In Order to Form a More Perfect Union

With all the riots and the other big global news, one could hardly be blamed for missing the latest news out of the state of Wisconsin.

You may recall that several month ago, there was a big showdown in that Midwestern state – the Republican governor, Scott Walker, decided that public unions should no longer have the guaranteed right to negotiate collectively. And collective bargaining is pretty much the point of a union, right? The struggle culminated with some Democrats hiding out in nearby Illinois so the vote (which they knew they would lose) would not come be brought up.

So this week, on Tuesday, 9 August, the state held a recall election, in which the Democratic party tried to regain control of the state’s congress. It didn’t go that well. Although they were successful is ousting two state senators, Republicans still run the show.

The good news is that they have the slimmest of majorities. That means that to pass additional draconian laws, the governor will have to have every single member or his party on his side, which is rare. It also could mean that momentum is building to recall Governor Walker himself.

Why do I care so much? First of all, both my parents were public servants, school teachers. I remember the days when my father, may his memory be for a blessing, would leave home armed with a bullhorn to organize the picket lines. Because of collective bargaining, even though I grew up in lean times, with a family constantly watching its budget, my mother has had a comfortable retirement.

We just observed the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, known to be the birth of the union movement. Immigrants holding Yiddish and Italian signs helped found a movement that changed this country and the world.

Michael Moore has described, better than I could here, what unions have meant to the American way of life. But it’s clear that what happened in Wisconsin could happen nearly anywhere in the country.

The demolition of worker’s rights doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Can I blame the London riots on the Conservative party’s outlook on unions? Who know why they are happening, but I do think back to the days of the Sex Pistols declaring “There Ain’t No Future” and the hooliganism of the late 70s and early 80s in the UK. All that took place right about the same time as Thatcher left the coal miners out in the cold. In short, when there seems to be no hope, no jobs, people get angry.

It’s not rocket science. The austerity measures, the union busting, the budget cuts in order to meet an arbitrary debt ceiling … They all have their affect. Can riots here be far off?

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