I've been following the Wisconsin story these past few days, and I am just amazed. Scott Walker seems intent upon stripping unions of any power. The Democrats, known as "The Wisconsin 14," have fled the state to prevent a final vote on this, and Walker is sending out state troopers to see if he can fish at least one of 'em back.
I think that he's not getting it. He's telling a faux-Koch -- the radio prankster who managed to get him to admit that he pretty much will not negotiate and that he's going to bust the unions - that his plan all along has been to cripple the unions. He actually said he "thought about" bringing in outside agitators. He also said that he'd talked with other lawmakers about this. Sorry, but this is union busting, a textbook plan to bust a union. He's not willing to negotiate. It's his way or the highway. They elected him (and I'm not sure why) as GOVERNOR, and not God. From the faux-Koch interview, it clearly seems like Walker has a plan - nay, a plot. It's much more subversive than a "plan" because he's wanting to rip out the bedrock of Wisconsin and the entire Rust Belt. I hope to heaven that someone acts on that phone call.
And he also said, which I find incomprehensible given the recent coverage, that "[all the protestors] were from out of state and the people of Wisconsin were getting tired of all the disruption." Really? He thinks they're all on his side? The teachers protesting; the state employees protesting; the average WI citizens protesting? They don't look like they like his idea much at all.
The talking heads on Fox are calling for violence. But if you've seen the coverage so far, the demonstrations are bringing out the best in people; they've been peaceful. Loud, yes. But that's the point, seeing as the governor can't quite hear what they're saying since he's decided that the decision is his alone. The talking heads, if they have you in their snare, turned a Gallup poll on its head. The recent poll said that 63% of Americans were behind the Wisconsin union members. But blatantly in Fox News' reports, they say, "A full 63% of Americans do not support the unions in Wisconsin." Really? I know how to read a pie chart. And it didn't look like that to me. I've got lots of education and I can tell when there's a majority opinion about something. And Gallup isn't exactly new at this. But there you have it. Spin this enough and up is down. The sky is sideways. Inside is outside.
Use your brains, people! Unions brought you regulations that have made your lives easier: the 5-day work week; vacations; basic workplace standards that keep workers safe. And you know what else they did? Unions brought you worker standards. Yes, worker standards are those things that tell you that when you hire a plumber, he or she has knowledge of the trade; he or she has been trained as an apprentice; he or she has put time into learning the trade. And he or she won't screw up your plumbing! What's that worth to you? It's worth plenty to me, since one son is in the trades, and I'd kind of like to see him in a safe environment when he's working. And I'd like him to make a living wage and be able to not work in a sweatshop.
In full disclosure, my dad and grandpa were in the union. My father-in-law was a union man as well. My youngest son is thisclose to being a teacher (will graduate in May) and I have friends who are teachers who are also in a union. My mother was part of the union when she worked, and her very tiny pension comes from that membership.
So I think that Walker isn't getting the message. He's not seeing the Democrat walk-out for what it is. They're making the point that the government, which is supposedly for the people, is not listening - at least in Wisconsin AND in Indiana now - to what the people want. And someone ought to remind Walker that he's not supposed to use the State Troopers to fish back the Democrats. The State Troopers can't be used in "labor disputes" nor in "political issues." This is so clearly a political issue - it's all Kabuki theatre in Wisconsin, and he is, in my opinion, violating the trust of the citizens of Wisconsin. He's sending Troopers out to get the Dems, but there are people who need the resources of the Troopers - to solve crimes and help them. Don't you think? Let them do their jobs, and keep them out of your farcical political games.
The thing is this: teachers do not make $100,000+ a year. When you see this figure, you just see lots of zeros. What you don't see is that the basic salary of a teacher is about $50,ooo and the benefits are tacked on. Just like my salary: I make about $44,000 a year, but since I work at a university, I do get a tuition benefit. On paper, if you just look at the bottom line, I make about $68,000. But if you take out that tuition benefit, my actual salary is much less.
At that, that $50,000 is not a lot of money when you think of what a teacher does. As my kids were growing up, we often found that teachers supplemented their salaries by coaching teams, and they often had to provide basic classroom supplies out of their own pockets. My son has 2 interviews scheduled. His base salary will be in the range of $30,000 per year. That's less than the 2009 median income, according to the US Census. Check out the data at the following site: http://www.census.gov/ and see for yourself. The 2009 median income for a male wage-earner is $47,127.
The more education he gets, the better that salary will be. I paid for his BA. He's on his own for his MA and beyond. And let me tell you, the cost per credit hour for a Master's degree can be $700+ and each class is 3 credit hours. So let's just estimate: you're looking at $2,100 per class. There are 39 hours required for a basic Master's program. So, $2,100 x 39 = $81,900. For a degree. He's not going to get that for free. He's got to pay for that.
And while paying for that, he's got to work. Teaching kids.
I'm listening to a radio program, and one of the Wisconsin Democrats is speaking. He's saying that the protestors are mothers and fathers, teachers, social workers, working people. Those Democrats who've walked out - they're paying for their expenses out of their own pockets. And Walker says that he's going to hold their paychecks.
If Walker succeeds in busting the union here, it'll flow outward through the entire Rust Belt. It's not always about balancing the budget. He's not willing to discuss any of this with the Democrats. No negotiations. If he balances the budget, it doesn't mean that he must bust the union. It's just that busting the unions is a Republican agenda item. Unions traditionally support Democrats.
So how best to turn the 2012 elections? Cut off the best source of funding to the Democrats: the union folks.
The thing is, I think (and I'm praying) that this will fly back into Walker's face like bacon grease out of a hot pan. Unions built this country. Yes, there are corrupt unions. Like there aren't corrupt businesses funding the Republicans?? Please. The unions haven't asked for bail-outs, and as a matter of fact, the teachers in WI had already given back pay concessions and other concessions in the form of some of their benefits.
But Walker won't budge. It's his way: bust it up. No other way.
This should scare the rest of us in the Rust Belt. And it should make us mad. We can't contribute to the expenses of the Wisconsin 14. But we can participate in local solidarity events. We can donate to the campaign funds of the Wisconsin 14. We can write letters and make our own voices heard. I'm not in a union. But my father's union benefits provided medical, vision and dental care for 4 kids. My father's union benefits provided us decent wages for him, because at the time I was growing up, my mother worked as a school secretary for $1.75 per hour. Yeah, a buck-seventy-five. And no benefits. The union membership in her case didn't come till later, when she went to work for a community college and some administrative positions were covered under the teachers' union.
But you know what we really need? Someone in DC to come out and call this what it is. Obama or Biden must speak up, quickly. I absolutely realize that the right wing nut jobs on Fox or other stations will have a field day with that. But good grief: the man is President (or Vice President as the case may be) and Biden especially - he has campaigned on the fact that he was a "Regular Joe." So, Joe. Come on out to the Midwest. You've been a New England resident; our winter's not over, but it's not something that should freak you out.
I'm issuing an invitation: come out and support the people who got you elected. Before it's too late. I'm tellin' ya: 2012 is right around the corner. Come out now, while you're needed.