When I began this blog in April 2010 I said it would be about food, art, books, birds and whatever. Well this is one of those “whatever” posts and it’s going to be political and its going to be liberal and its going to be passionate. First a bit about me. I am a retired public librarian. I have been retired for almost a year and yes, I have a nice pension due to a well-managed retirement fund in the State of Wisconsin. In exchange for this retirement “bennie” I did not get a large salary. In 31 years, the most I made in any one year was $37,000. And that was because I worked regularly scheduled evenings and Saturdays, and rotating overtime on Sundays, so people in our community who worked during the week could get to the library on their day off or so kids could finish up their reports due Monday or that job seekers could continue searching by using our internet computers. I belonged to a union and I served as a union officer and I sat at the table and participated in collective bargaining. We didn’t get all we asked for and neither did management but we discussed and we compromised.
Wisconsin has been in the news for almost a month now. On February 11, 2011, the state experienced the first shot across its bow; Scott Walker, the newly elected governor of Wisconsin announced his “Budget Repair Bill.” This bill called for all public employees to now contribute more to their pensions and their health insurance. But the touch point of this bill was the removal of collective bargaining, except for salary but that would have caps. This would apply to all public employees except police and fire-fighters. Why? Because the governor says he can’t afford to endanger the public. I guess it’s harder to replace a fire-fighter than a teacher or a nurse. The unions have finally conceded to the pension and health proposals even though it will cost them a lot of money but the collective bargaining issue is what the excitement in our capitol is all about.
This video does a nice job of taking you through the days our people have tried to make their voice heard.
As you can see emotions have been high here. In support, the exempted fire-fighters marched into the rotunda playing their bagpipes. The exempted police have been polite and patient with the non-violent (but loud and determined) demonstrators. The crowds have been getting smaller during the week since people still have to work and can’t afford to lose their jobs but there are always some demonstrators on hand even though the numbers allowed inside the Capitol, the people’s Capitol, have been limited by a “one out – one in” policy and they have now been banned from spending the night in the building or sleeping on the capitol grounds. That doesn’t sit well, being banned from your capitol building. But weekends bring them all back. Songs are being sung, speeches are being made. This Les Miz flash mob performance was wonderful and inspiring.
Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of working men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!
And the signs! Creative and extremely to the point. The people at the blog Each Little World have been posting some of their amazing photos of the signage and the faces of the people. The faces of those “freeloaders of Wisconsin” and their families. Our governor keeps saying he is working for the taxpayers of Wisconsin…hello! I pay taxes and so do all of the workers in the public sector. Are you working for us? You won’t even talk to us.
This whole situation has not only brought out the sign-makers, the demonstrators and the rotunda campers. It has spurred some great writing. I have seen pieces in the Washington Post, the New York Times, even the Guardian, to name a few. All in support of the worker. Sure Fox News has weighed in and just can’t understand why teachers who earn an average of $75,000 a year aren’t damn grateful yet it’s interesting to note when Fox pundits discussed extending the Bush tax cuts they referred to people making $250,000 as being on the poverty line. And when O’Reilly showed “union thugs” in Wisconsin on his show, there were palm trees in the background. Those of you who do not hail from Wisconsin, take my word for it, we don’t have palm trees.
The sad thing is, the bottom line is not about the budget but about union busting. Wisconsin’s budget is in the red but we are not in a dire situation. Russell King, Wisconsin advocate and lobbyist, sums up our governor quite neatly in this article on his blog. Mr. King admits he is liberal and biased, but he backs up his points with reputable links. Probably learned that in school from his librarians and teachers.
If we thought the Budget Repair Bill was bad (now renamed the Budget Despair Bill by those clever sign-makers), the actual budget Mr. Walker released last week is even worse. Everything from women’s reproductive care to our farmers are getting hit hard. Mr Walker’s rich cronies, the Koch brothers will do just fine. By the way, the farmers may be joining the teachers, nurses and social workers in Madison this weekend. A Tractorcade is being organized and if it comes off it will be awesome.
For those of you who come to our blog for the food or the birds I am sorry politics got in the way this time but I can’t help but get emotional and indignant and militant when I see my beloved progressive state get torn apart by a man who believes he has all the answers and his word is law. Compromises will be made, our 14 Democrats will finally have to return so the senate can ram through the vote, but large wounds created by this governor will not heal soon. I apologize for all the links because sometimes it makes a post difficult to read, but I hope some of them give you a snapshot of what is happening here. If you only read one of my links, read this one, Fighting Fear in Wisconsin. It is by Kim E. Nielsen, a History and Women’s Studies Professor at UW Green Bay who eloquently says what I feel about Wisconsin.