Union protests spread across the US
18 Feb, 2011 22:30
Over 20,000 angry union supporters gathered at the Wisconsin state capital expressing opposition to an anti-union bill and an end to Walker’s governorship. Now, pro-union protests have spread to other states proposing cutbacks.
Republican lawmakers are trying to secure quorum in Wisconsin to hold a vote on a measure to kill the collective bargaining rights of state union workers, however the Democratic law makers have refused to show up at the legislature and have fled the state to avoid being brought into the capital by state police. The Republican controlled Senate dispatched the state troopers to find the Democrats, but they were unsuccessful. A group of them have opted to stay in a hotel just on the other side of the state line in Illinois. Without quorum a vote cannot be held, effectively stalling the passage of the legislation. Gov. Walker has warned state employees may begin receiving layoff notices as early as next week if the bill is not passed soon.Opposition to cuts to workers and labor rights continue to be met with opposition, opposition which appears to be speeding across the country. The State legislature in Tennessee has also proposed a bill that will dissolve the collective bargaining rights of the state’s teachers and proposed police layoffs in Hartford, Connecticut were met with hundreds of police marching in the streets expressing their opposition. Teachers in Idaho took to the picket line across the state angry over proposals to layoff hundreds of teachers and restrict collective bargaining rights. In Michigan, union leaders are calling on supporters to lobby against proposals that would give emergency financial managers the power to remove elected officials and break labor contracts in schools and cities. In Ohio crowds of hundreds have descended on the state capitol to protest legislation that would strip all state employees of their collective bargaining rights.The series of protests is being called the largest set of protests the US has encountered in years.Widely seen as the boldest anti-union bill in the nation, the law has been engineered to combat the $3.6 billion state budget shortfall.If passed, the law would bring about a major political shift in Wisconsin. The state has been widely seen as progressive in the past, being the first state to pass comprehensive pro-union legislation in 1959.Over 40 percent of the 2,600 unionized teachers and staff called in sick in Madison, Wisconsin, forcing the State’s second largest school district to cancel school for the day.The state’s prisons are staffed by unionized guards. These guards would lose their bargaining rights under the new law. So far, the guards have not opted to protest or walk out. That may change.Under the proposed law, unions could not force employees to pay dues, but could choose to represent state workers. However, they could not seek pay increases above the listed maximum in the Consumer Price Index without approval from a public referendum.In exchange for the loss of their labor rights, the state government would promise not to engage in furloughs or layoffs. If the bill fails, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has threatened to lay-off 6,000 state workers.Walker plans to move forward, insisting he has the necessary votes in the state legislature to pass the bill.Support for the measure comes from the state’s Republicans who control the legislature. The state’s Democrats and union members adamantly oppose the proposed law. The Republicans claim they have the votes, despite public outcry, to pass the new law.Activists nevertheless are pushing for a ‘citizen’s filibuster’ to prevent the passage of the bill by forcing discussion into unsociable hours.While a number of other US states are considering bills which target labor rights, Wisconsin's is by far the most antagonistic anti-labor measure aimed at solving budgetary shortfalls.David Vines, a protestor and a student at the University of Wisconsin argued the Republican controlled state government is trying to bust up unions and is creating a culture war to drive poor people away from the polls.He explained the government was elected based on promises of jobs, but instead has opted to take on issues people see as less vital, such as voter ID rules and anti-union laws.“They are not concerned about jobs at all right now,” he said. “They come in here and they try and bust up unions and use these culture wars as a way to drive younger people and poorer people away from polls.”
Radio Host Alex Jones said this is a huge development, and the main driver behind the protests is the economy as a whole which has been driven down by the inflated dollar. Austerity and globalism are impacting the world, what began in Europe, and the Middle East is spreading to the US, he contended. “We’re seeing massive protests, riots. We’re seeing people get very angry,” Jones said. “We’ve seen the governor of Wisconsin threaten preemptively to call out the National Guard.”He added, “The question is will the people be victorious against this or will the offshore robber barons of the new world order be successful brining in their new world government?”Jones argued the protests have been coordinated and organized by international powers in order to create reasons to bring in a new global power structure and eventually a world government.