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Wisconsin unions; plus Obama and Wall Street
February 26, 2011 10:52 AM   Subscribe

SEIU past leader speaks on Wisconsin The battle is for the future our our country, the middle class, and public ownership of public goods
posted by KathyBraid (32 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
SI, SE PUEDE!
posted by louche mustachio at 10:54 AM on February 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


This situation is pretty awful. I'm deeply worried that there has been a serious fracture of polity which will result in bad bad things. Walker is risking an actual political revolution. Where is russ Feingold.
posted by humanfont at 11:08 AM on February 26, 2011


We grew up, to speak in Marxist terms, in a world with a lot more class struggle. And there still obviously are differences between people, but it’s not viewed through that light anymore.

This is something I've been thinking about a lot. Especially in the last thirty years, there's been an increasing stratification between the rich and poor, and the middle class seems to be eroding, but it's been obfuscated by political spin and the profusion of cheap goods. People who should be fighting are either too complacent or too mired in hopelessness to do so, and a lot of the people who are have been fighting the wrong battles. They've been turned against their neighbors, against those poorer than themselves, against environmentalists, against education, and against unions - against those who would be their allies. And it's worked better than sicking the Pinkerton Guards on 'em.

I would say that Republicans have been very successful. There are three things Americans don’t like: Big unions, big government, and big corporations. So Republicans go after big government and big unions, and only talk about small businesses. And it’s worked.

Except when Republicans talk about "small businesses" they really mean "big corporations." And It isn't just Republicans. A lot of people have internalized the fantasy of the "trickle down" narrative; but the Republicans really own it.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:20 AM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Senator Barack Obama. November 3, 2007. Spartanburg, NC:
And if American workers are being denied their right to organize when I'm in the White House, I will put on a comfortable pair of shoes and I will walk on that picket line with you as President of the United States.
Sure is taking a while to pick out those shoes.
posted by anarch at 11:58 AM on February 26, 2011 [29 favorites]


Wisconsin isn't exactly a picket line. But maybe we should send him some shoes.

Maybe we should send him a lot, so he's got more than one pair to choose from.
posted by weston at 12:16 PM on February 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Unions could have done a little better fighting for all middle class people, and not just their members. Many were insular and provincial, the hierarchies themselves distracted and distant even from the workers they represent. They didn't make the case that the country benefits from having skilled workers, responsive management, and more consumers.
posted by john wilkins at 12:23 PM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yesterday, police entered the State house under orders to clear it out, and instead joined the protest.
posted by dry white toast at 1:31 PM on February 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


Wisconsin isn't exactly a picket line.

Not at the moment, but there's a chance of picket lines being general all over WI.
posted by kenko at 1:53 PM on February 26, 2011


This is such an important issue. What's happening in Wisconsin, I fear are the actions of a predator who mistook passivity and sluggishness from the unions for weakness and instead has roused a bear in hibernation, and hopefully everything works out, but Walker was not completely off on his instincts when he saw a weakened entity.

The unions have become arrogant, and unresponsive. Especially the city worker unions. Because a truly dynamic aware union would have fought harder, MUCH HARDER against Walker, his deep anti-union sentiments are all there in his past record.

There definitely needs to be a renewal. The reawakening has happened. Unions need to grow into all industries again.

But for now, the battle has become an existential one that's going to make or break them.
posted by Skygazer at 1:57 PM on February 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


There are three things Americans don’t like: Big unions, big government, and big corporations.

There is one thing Americans do understand: Big unions and big government are corporate interests just like Monsanto and Microsoft. Unions and government aren't morally privileged. Self-interst is self-interest. Public employee unions, however, are something else altogether. They're like the Somali pirates, an instructive caricature of the whole system.
posted by Faze at 2:03 PM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


So unions attack other entities, and hold them hostage and demand a huge ransom for the life of the hostages?

Sounds more like an anti-union far right corporatist whore / opportunist like Scott Walker to me.
posted by Skygazer at 2:09 PM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Unions could have done a little better fighting for all middle class people, and not just their members. Many were insular and provincial, the hierarchies themselves distracted and distant even from the workers they represent.

This is unfortunately true. But I think we are arriving at a point where even the most out-of-touch union bureaucrats realize that what they've been doing isn't working anymore—for them, for their members, or for the working class. Of course, that's not the same thing as knowing what they should be doing instead.

Labor Notes is an excellent source of news on the labor movement from a point of view that is firmly pro-labor but that isn't at all blind to the faults of unions as they currently exist.
posted by enn at 2:40 PM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is way past the threat stage. The only way unions regain a toehold in any conversations going forward in this country is a big, determined and serious general strike. The only way the uberrich and their conservative toadies can be shown to be vulnerable is to shut their fucking programs down.

I truly think if the unions blink here, they're toast.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:00 PM on February 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


This is the easiest political capital Obama could ever hope to be handed. You want to win in 2012? Go to Wisconsin. Go fucking lead.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:52 PM on February 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


I totally agree with Benny Andajetz. If we could schedule a date to do it, even a nation wide sick-out for two days would create a giant shitstorm that couldn't be ignored. I'm willing. I can call in sick for two days.

Why a sick out? People still get paid. Not a huge sacrifice. If that doesn't work, we can go into a longer strike sacrificing pay and showing our, the people's will. Nation wide solidarity.

For too long we in the U.S. have been voting our conscious, choosing the lesser evil. This is a nation wide opportunity to change our course, to regain our voice and influence. Let's force our representative politicians to do our will.

(I feel kinda silly about writing that, it's a little grandiose for me, but dammit, never pass up an opportunity.)
posted by snsranch at 4:12 PM on February 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


It has to happen eventually, snsranch. Hopefully not before things get much worse.
posted by anarch at 4:20 PM on February 26, 2011


This is the easiest political capital Obama could ever hope to be handed. You want to win in 2012? Go to Wisconsin. Go fucking lead.

If I were a republican, especially the breed of late that is screaming about independence and the ability to not have (as they frame it) government intervening where it isn't wanted, that would be gold.

He hasn't even done anything notable and didn't they (republicans) already say he was butting in? being big brother?

I'm sure I'm not the first one to say this.

If it seems like an obvious thing to do, something easy, something that isn't the result of strategic thinking - then maybe there's something to be said for why it hasn't been done.

This is the same thing (to me) regarding the patriot act and guantanamo, etc. Obama has been incredibly we-are-the-world and they are painting him like he is an evil big government power abusing black muslim kenan devil hell bent on destroying america.

Sure, let's have the president stroll in there. Republicans wouldn't pounce on the striking, now angry black man abusing his power as president? Shiiiiit.
posted by cashman at 4:32 PM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


cashman, you are ignoring the fact that the public supports the right of public employees to organize by a margin of 2 to 1.

You are making the same excuse that is always made for Democratic party, with the same incorrect logic. And look where it's gotten them, by the way.
posted by anarch at 4:54 PM on February 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


One demonstrative poll.
posted by anarch at 4:55 PM on February 26, 2011


I love Obama, love that he's the first Black American president. I'm not really looking to him for guidance or leadership though.
posted by snsranch at 5:13 PM on February 26, 2011


I don't love Obama, don't love that the first black US president seemingly has only two tools at his disposal: Vacuous pleasing rhetoric for the masses, and constant deference to his corporate advisors when decisions are actually made.

Don't understand the need to defend Obama and the D party when they (reliably) tack toward the imaginary center. Apologists: You do realize the only result is a continuing and steady drift toward the right, right?
posted by anarch at 5:28 PM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Except when Republicans talk about "small businesses" they really mean "big corporations."

How are you defining small business? I ask because I know entrepreneurs who are trying to get off the ground, who are or have been or could be menaced by big corporations and who are still die hard Republican anyone can make it in America types. Their main bitch is Obama care (their term) which makes the creating the business plan tougher than it might be.

So unions attack other entities, and hold them hostage and demand a huge ransom for the life of the hostages?


I suppose you could say they hold cities hostage and since it is easier to pay off than stand up against, yeah, figuratively, sure, why not?

the public supports the right of public employees to organize by a margin of 2 to 1.


Put it that way, who's going to say no?

Let's also note the note the distinction between private and public sector unions. Few of the former, plenty the latter, partially because private sectors can offshore or go under in ways government does not. Also government tends not to fight back as hard, especially Democratic government. Unions are biggest single campaign donors, and if that doesn't scream conflict of interest, well, head back to logic 101. (In my more reactionary moments, I've sometimes thought that anyone accepting any kind of government check ought to be precluded from voting. But that's an outrage for another time.)

The good works of the unions past is clear enough, but as with any power base, it's going to go to excesses. Now we're in post recessionary times, all those good people people who put decades into into private sector jobs only to see their pensions disappear and who are looking at a retirement working as a greeter at Walmart while their gummint worker neighbors retired with full pension and medical after thirty years maybe want a little more shared pain than they are seeing, or a little less self righteous griping. What they see is their taxes going up and the golden futures going down and public sector workers looking just a little too self absorbed.

Myself, not a public sector worker, but plenty of friends and relatives in public sector, in private sector, entrepreneurial, big business paychecks and unemployed, and let's just say that there are some topics that don't get raised when the different sorts get together.

One more thing- I live in a high tax state with some pretty dark financial obligation storm clouds on the horizon. I rent, I've thought about buying, but I don't want to be here when the shit hits the fan, so - not buying. And I'm not alone. How long can states and cities keep this kind of thing up is anyone's guess, but there's a bunch of reasons some states are adding population and some states losing, and not a little of it comes does to all but uncontested public service union demands. You ever see a town go bankrupt? I have. Not pretty.

I love Obama, love that he's the first Black American president. I'm not really looking to him for guidance or leadership though.


Would you have loved Alan Keyes had he made it, or does his blackness not matter? Me, neither of them does it for me. Insofar as the race thing matters, I'm a Cory Booker man.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:37 PM on February 26, 2011


Yea, you guys are right. I love the IDEA of Obama, what he could be standing for and what he could be doing. While his presidency barely matters, he's done very little to do anything, I still love the idea.

anarch and IndigoJones, I don't see either of you supporting a sick-out or general strike. It doesn't even matter if you're U.S. citizens or not...if you believe in real change you can support it and spread the idea.
posted by snsranch at 5:51 PM on February 26, 2011


How long can states and cities keep this kind of thing up is anyone's guess, but there's a bunch of reasons some states are adding population and some states losing, and not a little of it comes does to all but uncontested public service union demands.

There are problems with unions, just as there are problems with corporations, but to specifically address the issue of Wisconsin, the unions already agreed to what amounts to a 12% pay cut for them. How is a 12% pay cut an uncontested demand?
posted by drezdn at 5:52 PM on February 26, 2011


You are making the same excuse that is always made for Democratic party, with the same incorrect logic. And look where it's gotten them, by the way.

Who's president. John McCain or Barack Obama? Exactly.

you are ignoring the fact that the public supports the right of public employees to organize by a margin of 2 to 1.

It won't matter an iota when voters go to the booth under the rantings of "ANGRY DARKY OBAMA IS OUT TO CONTROL YOUR SOULS" with them pointing to their craze-o version of the events. At the very least at least conceive of these factors instead of being breathlessly critical of Obama not bounding in there "on a horse", shirtless.

Don't understand the need to defend Obama and the D party when they (reliably) tack toward the imaginary center. Apologists: You do realize the only result is a continuing and steady drift toward the right, right?

I'm not an apologist but I'll answer this one - You should really think out the scenario you are envisioned and have since Obama has been in office.

I'm guessing you would have liked him to sweep in and just remake everything, on top of all the progress he's made. Take no prisoners, go APEshit doing things that would make Metafilter go wild? Single payer healthcare - boom! Right?

That would be it. No non-white person would stand a chance at being elected for decades. No black man would be president the rest of the fucking century. Maybe you live in a contextless world where opposition can just be run roughshod over and there are no long-lasting results. However, Obama's kumbayaness makes perfect sense to me.

I don't think anyone on here with an iota of sense would say Barack is stupid. Most people think he's pretty smart. He seems to me to be. As that classic graphic says - chill out, he's got this.

And besides, the real wins come from US organizing and doing things. He didn't win because we sat on our asses, he won because people did things.

I don't think people truly realize how close we were to having John McCain & Sarah freaking Palin in charge of this country, and what a different path we would be on right now.

We knew this was coming - this is the great last stand of the bigots, the racists, and the power hungry good old boys. Obama is not, nor is any one person is going to save us. We're going to have to do it ourselves.
posted by cashman at 7:18 PM on February 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Unions don't want Obama to follow through with this particular campaign promise. They are getting independent support for the first time in my political lifetime and making it the regular us versus them would remind them that they aren't normally us.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:22 PM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oops 'don't' above should read 'shouldn't' as I have no idea what unions do or don't want.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:25 PM on February 26, 2011


Lyndon Johnson said, "Anyone who ain't willing to settle for half a loaf has never been hungry." Don't make this about Obama. This is about the Gov. of Wisconsin in a showdown. Obama is doing what the Union leadership has asked.
I personally think a general strike would be a wakeup call for the Republicans. It would show some real muscle. Not just a strike of Union workers either, or just wisconsin. I think if it could be organized via Facebook or other means a nationwide, day of rage demanding new taxes on billionaires before we cut education, the cdc, and heatlhcare would be a nice change.
posted by humanfont at 8:35 PM on February 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Agreed humanfront, that would be great.

However, as my Uncle Noam always likes to say, no single day of rage or protest event will ever be enough. What we really lost during the waves of red scares of the previous century was the center of consciousness at the heart of true little-d democratic activism: The groups of people (mainly from the Communist Party) that understood that this is a long process, i.e. a class war, not a class battle. They understood that it wasn't going to be won today, tomorrow, etc. That dangerous idea was obliterated here.

If Facebook Rage Day can be the beginning of a new front in the war, fuck yeah, I'm all for it.

Also, if you couldn't guess by the nickname, I'm not one to expect nor depend on heroic actions by presidents. But if you say something to get elected, you'd better be willing to stand by it or suffer the consequences.

Oh, one more thing:
You are making the same excuse that is always made for Democratic party, with the same incorrect logic. And look where it's gotten them, by the way.

Who's president. John McCain or Barack Obama? Exactly.


You're right, and you made my point. We can now occasionally elect D presidents whose policies would have fit solidly into the R party 40 years ago, or absolute extremist corporate R candidates. When D keeps tacking to that imaginary center, the spectrum continues to get narrow just like this, and the center keeps moving to the right. Thanks for clearing that up.
posted by anarch at 12:40 AM on February 27, 2011


There are problems with unions, just as there are problems with corporations, but to specifically address the issue of Wisconsin, the unions already agreed to what amounts to a 12% pay cut for them. How is a 12% pay cut an uncontested demand?

I said all but uncontested and I was not talking about Wisconsin, I was talking in general. My only point was that we are in the seven lean years and no one should imagine themselves immune from that fact.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:38 AM on February 27, 2011


I said all but uncontested and I was not talking about Wisconsin, I was talking in general. My only point was that we are in the seven lean years and no one should imagine themselves immune from that fact.

In reality, though, plenty of people are immune. Profits are up. Compensation in the financial sector is at record levels. For all the talk of "shared sacrifice," it seems like the sacrifices are being made, as usual, largely by the working class.
posted by enn at 8:44 AM on February 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Walker Welding Capitol Windows NOW to Keep Workers from Passing Food to Those Inside
posted by scalefree at 12:19 PM on February 28, 2011


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