Wisconsin, Labor, and the Future of America

Jerome Karabel Professor of Sociology at the University of California at Berkeley This is a watershed moment for the American labor movement. Drastically weakened by decades of a corporate offensive against workers in the private sector, the labor movement is now being frontally attacked at its last stronghold: public-sector unions. If the current assault on labor — now being spearheaded by Governor Scott Walker’s push to eliminate the bargaining rights of public-sector workers in Wisconsin — succeeds, it will leave the United States as the only wealthy democratic country with little more than a shadow of a union movement. In a recent statement, Governor Walker accurately, if somewhat grandiloquently, described the stakes: “This is our moment. This is our time to change the course of history.” Public employees, just 17 percent of union members nationwide in 1973, now comprise half of all union members in the United States. The rise of public-sector unions has coincided — and partially counter-balanced — a disastrous decline of private-sector unions, which now represent just 6.9 percent of all workers in the private sector, compared to 24 percent in 1973 and roughly one-third in 1960. In sharp contrast, public-employee unions now represent 36 percent of all public-sector workers — a figure that goes a long way towards explaining why the right wing has now targeted government workers in an attempt to destroy what is left of the labor movement. Even the rise of public-sector unions has not, however, been enough to arrest a massive long-term decline in the strength of organized labor. Representing one-third of all workers in the late 1950s, unionized workers had...

Wisconsin Gov. Walker Ginned Up Budget Shortfall To Undercut Worker Rights

Brian Beutler | February 17, 2011, 1:47PM Reprinted from TPMDC Wisconsin’s new Republican governor has framed his assault on public worker’s collective bargaining rights as a needed measure of fiscal austerity during tough times. The reality is radically different. Unlike true austerity measures — service rollbacks, furloughs, and other temporary measures that cause pain but save money — rolling back worker’s bargaining rights by itself saves almost nothing on its own. But Walker’s doing it anyhow, to knock down a barrier and allow him to cut state employee benefits immediately. Furthermore, this broadside comes less than a month after the state’s fiscal bureau — the Wisconsin equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office — concluded that Wisconsin isn’t even in need of austerity measures, and could conclude the fiscal year with a surplus. In fact, they say that the current budget shortfall is a direct result of tax cut policies Walker enacted in his first days in office. “Walker was not forced into a budget repair bill by circumstances beyond he control,” says Jack Norman, research director at the Institute for Wisconsin Future — a public interest think tank. “He wanted a budget repair bill and forced it by pushing through tax cuts… so he could rush through these other changes.” “The state of Wisconsin has not reached the point at which austerity measures are needed,” Norman adds. In a Wednesday op-ed, the Capitol Times of Madison picked up on this theme. In its Jan. 31 memo to legislators on the condition of the state’s budget, the Fiscal Bureau determined that the state will end the year with a balance...

Don’t Get Caught in a Bad Hotel

A flashmob infiltrates the Westin St. Francis hotel in San Francisco and performs an adaptation of Lady Gaga’s song “Bad Romance.” The event was organized to draw attention to a boycott called by the workers of the hotel who are fighting to win a fair contract and affordable healthcare. Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer activists put the song and dance together as a creative way to tell the hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people from all over the country coming to San Francsico in June for Pride to stay out of the boycotted hotels. To learn more about how to honor the boycott and support the workers visit: http://www.sleepwiththerightpeople.org http://www.hotelworkersrising.org/Hot… this event was organized by: San Francsico Pride at Work / HAVOQ http://www.sfprideatwork.org One Struggle One Fight http://tinyurl.com/OSOFfbpage The Brass Liberation Orchestra http://brassliberation.org Filmed by: Regan Brashear, Jeff Boyette, Kesh Singh, Hermez Flores and Jamie LeJeune Edited by: Jamie...

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