Rallies in support of Wisconsin’s struggle to preserve the unions’ collective bargaining rights will take place this week in a number of other states. So far as I know, there are no rallies planned in Missouri, although, make no mistake, unions are also under attack here – in spite of the fact that only about 10% of the state’s workforce is unionized. That fact has not stopped GOP pols from filing numerous anti-worker bills meant to render unions toothless and to chip away at hard-won union gains that benefit all Missouri workers. They are even, God forgive them, trying to roll back child labor laws. If Wisconsin’s Governor Walker prevails, you can bet efforts to dismantle unions in Missouri will intensify accordingly.
We all know that anti-union bias is part of the GOP’s DNA and their union busting activities go way back. Inciting violence to discredit unions has been a part of those efforts since the Hay-Market riots in 1886. Which is why it comes as no surprise that some members of the right flank of the GOP, a.k.a. the Tea Party, are planning to infiltrate pro-union rallies in order to discredit the hitherto civil protest. Here’s the former Tea Party Express chairman, Mark Williams (a charming gentleman who was forced to resign in the wake of some well-publicized racist comments):
… Here is what I am doing in Sacramento, where they are holding a 5:30 PM event this coming Tuesday: (1) I signed up as an organizer (2) with any luck they will contact me and I will have an “in” (3) in or not I will be there and am asking as many other people as can get there to come with, all of us in SEIU shirts (those who don’t have them we can possibly buy some from vendors likely to be there) (4) we are going to target the many TV cameras and reporters looking for comments from the members there (5) we will approach the cameras to make good pictures… signs under our shirts that say things like “screw the taxpayer!” and “you OWE me!” to be pulled out for the camera (timing is important because the signs will be taken away from us. […]
Our goal is to make the gathering look as greedy and goonish as we know that it is, ding their credibility with the media and exploit the lazy reporters who just want dramatic shots and outrageous quotes for headlines. Even if it becomes known that we are plants the quotes and pictures will linger as defacto truth.
So what is responsible for this anti-union venom? What could lead people to debase themselves in this fashion? There can be no doubt that the redoubled anti-union hysteria on the far right is a function of growing corporate control. It offers one more example of the way that the right wing has managed to conflate corporate welfare with Pavlovian trigger words like “economic freedom,” while stripping them of any relation to the economic security of ordinary citizen.
Although, in the best shock-doctrine fashion, Walker talks up his state’s fiscal crisis to cover his attack on unions, he has been unable to hide his real agenda. Paul Krugman gets the whole dynamic just right in his column today in the New York Times:
In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr. Walker). On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.
Given this reality, it’s important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions.
You don’t have to love unions, you don’t have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognize that they’re among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and working-class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy. Indeed, if America has become more oligarchic and less democratic over the last 30 years – which it has – that’s to an important extent due to the decline of private-sector unions.
And now Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to get rid of public-sector unions, too.
The link between corporate America’s muscle flexing and Walker’s push to emasculate unions is underlined by the list of his main supporters that has been provided by Think Progress:
So far, Walker has refused to compromise, even though Wisconsin labor leaders are already coming to the table with large concessions. How can Walker press on, even with public opinion beginning to turn against him? Much of Walker’s critical political support can be credited to a network of right-wing fronts and astroturf groups in Wisconsin supported largely by a single foundation in Milwaukee: the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, a $460 million conservative honey pot dedicated to crushing the labor movement.
What this means, of course, is that Wisconsin is the front line of a major struggle for the future of this country. You better believe, as Wisconsin goes, so goes the rest of the nation – including Missouri – and the corporate interests know it. Given the stakes, what’s a few dirty tricks to a confused and corrupt right wing and their addled Tea Party foot soldiers. It isn’t after all, as if the whole dirty tricks routine were anything new for the corporate proxies who run the Grand Old Party.
Photo by WxMom from Flickr Creative Commons