Hey, guys, it’s the weekend!

You can thank unions generally, and Wisconsin specifically, for that. Just sayin’.

Author: has written 5273 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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32 Responses

  1. Julie
    Julie February 18, 2011 at 9:14 pm |

    Weekends are nothing but a communist plot to destroy America! Get back to work, everyone!

  2. Wisconsin worker
    Wisconsin worker February 18, 2011 at 9:41 pm |

    Thanks for this! We appreciate it.

  3. Armagh444
    Armagh444 February 18, 2011 at 9:51 pm |

    As the daughter of a retired Wisconsin state employee, thank you for the shout-out.

  4. April
    April February 18, 2011 at 10:06 pm |

    Hooray, Wisconsin!

  5. Dominique
    Dominique February 19, 2011 at 12:44 am |

    Yes. Every time I hear someone rail against unions as promoting “laziness” and “too-high wages”, I always think “you would like not to be exploited, either, and btw you shouldn’t be”. Sometimes I get the chance to say it out loud :) I’ve had many battles with employers where others kept their heads down because they wanted to “get ahead”. Maybe that worked out for them. I know I lost a lot of references. But I also know that every time someone keeps their head down, it also keeps our standards and opportunities down. It keeps salaries low and employees disposable. Not everyone gets to benefit from clamming up and doing what they’re told.

  6. Mike
    Mike February 19, 2011 at 4:59 am |

    You might as well chalk up the assault on unions to the good old fashioned corporate-controlled American spirit at this point, but this particular assault on unions is especially telling, since Wisconsin had a budget surplus in 2007, despite decades of collective bargaining. Where did the deficit come from for which unions are now being asked to pay? Pro-business tax breaks of course!

    Here is the most ‘objective’ account of this little surplus-to-deficit phenomenon that I could find: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2011/02/unions_arent_to_blame_for_wisc.html

  7. Nahida
    Nahida February 19, 2011 at 9:46 am |

    This week was so awful that I’m nervous today about whether or not it’s really Saturday…

  8. Stoner with a Boner
    Stoner with a Boner February 19, 2011 at 2:17 pm |

    I wish every day was a three day weekend

  9. haley
    haley February 19, 2011 at 6:11 pm |

    I highly recommend “labor law for the rank and filer”. Its and excellent resource for every person who works, has worked, or someday hopes to! Its short, concise and written plainly so that every person can easily understand their labor rights and limits. It also provides a small history of the court cases that set precedent, how to understand legal jargon, and where to go to file a complaint (NLRB). Here is a link where you can download a free copy of the book. Like I said it is not very large, so don’t be afraid to check it out.http://zinelibrary.info/labor-law-rank-and-filer-building-solidarity-while-staying-clear-law

  10. Erica
    Erica February 19, 2011 at 6:15 pm |

    We’re fighting hard. Never been so proud of my state.

    If anyone is interested in up-to-date news on the proceedings from a non-partisan source, btw, you can check out the WisPolitics budget blog.

  11. JustDucky
    JustDucky February 19, 2011 at 6:47 pm |

    On that same note, anyone see this: http://blogs.forbes.com/rickungar/2011/02/18/koch-brothers-behind-wisconsin-effort-to-kill-public-unions/

    It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. I always wonder who’s pulling the puppet strings… I should’ve known.

  12. Linnaeus
    Linnaeus February 20, 2011 at 12:32 am |

    Third-generation union member here (in the same union, even!). Thank you.

    They’re going all out on all fronts: anti-union, anti-woman, anti-immigrant. It’s got to be stopped.

  13. Henry
    Henry February 20, 2011 at 11:42 am |

    Having a problem with public sector unions doesn’t make you “anti-union”. There’s a significant difference between public and private-sector unions, in that private-sector unions don’t get to help elect the people who negotiate their salaries. When public unions bargain collectively, they’re bargaining against the taxpayer, not some fat-cat executive. And as far as public workers being exploited, in this case “exploited” seems to mean “subject to the same economic forces as normal people”.

  14. Dina
    Dina February 20, 2011 at 12:39 pm |

    A piece on the recent attacks on Planned Parenthood and the dire need for us to protect it. Sign this petition now!

  15. FYouMudFlaps
    FYouMudFlaps February 20, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  16. lt
    lt February 20, 2011 at 8:03 pm |

    Henry, public employees are funded by taxpayers, it’s true, but they (or, full disclosure, we) earn less than our private sector colleagues and daily make sacrifices to perform all kinds of public services that directly benefit taxpayers as well. Nickel and diming middle class folks is not the way to help other middle class taxpayers and are not the reason states are having budget problems: more good background on that here: http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/479560/12_things_you_need_to_know_about_the_uprising_in_wisconsin/

  17. Henry
    Henry February 20, 2011 at 9:06 pm |

    “daily make sacrifices to perform all kinds of public services that directly benefit taxpayers as well.”

    Irrelevant cant. The moral justification for the existence of labor unions is that the profit motive can lead management to drive down wages and exploit workers in order to enrich themselves (which I agree with, btw). There is no incentive for politicians in general to hold down wages for public employees (even less so with benefits, since the costs aren’t immediate and more easily hidden from the public). On the contrary, they get tons of campaign money and manpower from public unions, helping them get re-elected, in exchange for increased cost to taxpayers. It’s basically legalized bribery. And on top of that, politicians get to talk about how they “support the little guy”. It’s a win-win. There is nothing in the article you quoted that addresses this fundamental structural problem.

    The fact that these protesters can say that they’re fighting for “democracy” with a straight face while attempting to shut down the elected government (and their supporters in the legislature flee the state to prevent a straight-up vote) is amazing to me. Everyone’s all respectful of democracy when they get their way; otherwise, not so much.

  18. Henry
    Henry February 20, 2011 at 9:12 pm |

    Also, this exit quotation from that article is the greatest thing ever:

    “The Right has made great political progress getting Americans to ask the question: ‘How come that guy’s getting what I don’t have?’ It’s the crux of the politics of grievance.”

    For a progressive website to say something like this shows a lack of self awareness that absolutely blows my mind.

  19. lt
    lt February 20, 2011 at 9:12 pm |

    Yes, organizations of workers fight for policies that they think are best, and try to elect candidates who support them. That’s part of democracy. And protesting policies you think are destructive – including witholding your labor is part of democracy. People who support the governor are free to voice their opinions as well.

    Democracy doesn’t mean shutting up as soon as you’ve voted.

  20. lt
    lt February 20, 2011 at 9:14 pm |

    @ 18: I think that quote is pretty right on. Care to explain why you find it so “un-self aware”?

  21. Henry
    Henry February 20, 2011 at 11:00 pm |

    Come on now, you honestly don’t understand how ironic it is for progressives to complain about “the politics of grievance”?

  22. haley
    haley February 21, 2011 at 12:55 am |

    I agree that taking issue with how unions are run or what is put in a contract doesn’t make you anti-union. But this is not about addressing the specific decisions within individual unions. What we have here is an attack against the right of people to assemble within the workplace and to bargain collectively. And this attack is not new, the employer class has been slowly chipping away at labor rights since The Norris-Laguardia act of 1932.

    I’m not a Democrat and I sympathize with Union members who don’t want their dues going towards the Democrats, who have in large part deserted the working class. But the stats are clear, and the data easily shows that private groups and corporations have far more political sway in terms of monetary donations then do the Unions combined.

    Concerning tax payer money going towards public employees, well yes… a functioning government is made up of people working. And I know their are factions in America that don’t want a functioning government. But most people think being able to call 911 when their house is burning down or when they need police is a pretty good thing. So its interesting that Walker exempted these Union workers from his plans.

    But what about public transit workers? I don’t know about everyone else, but I sure don’t want the guy operating the train I’m on being as disgruntled and underpaid as the guy handing me my food at Starbucks. The stakes are much higher no? The idea that’s its against the taxpayers interest to have well-paid public workers is sort of ridiculous.

  23. haley
    haley February 21, 2011 at 12:55 am |

    “And as far as public workers being exploited, in this case “exploited” seems to mean “subject to the same economic forces as normal people”. “”

    This is an interesting point and I would agree that Unionized Public Workers do have economic privileges over other members of the working class. But if we can agree that workers in the private sector are exploited or at the very least are facing bad economic conditions, then we should seek to unionize the private sector. Having solidarity with all Union members across the Industry is vital, not the undermining of collective bargaining. If we are jealous of what Public employees are earning, or the time they get off, then we should demand the same thing within our own workplace. And it should be noted that the economy is only bad for the bottom 90%

    http://www.stateofworkingamerica.org/pages/interactive#/?start=1970&end=2008.

    (move the arrows to show data from 1970-2008 or 2001-2008 or any data set in recent years).

  24. rae
    rae February 21, 2011 at 2:11 am |

    Thank you to the unions and the state of Wisconsin.

    @Linnaeus – It warms my heart to see someone promoting the rights of workers, women, and immigrants in the same sentence, as much as I loathe the direction politics has taken in this country. We’re stronger together than divided. So thank you as well.

  25. lt
    lt February 21, 2011 at 7:28 am |

    @23: very well said: Henry and others claim to support the rights of private sector workers, but politicians there’s been a concentrated political attack on them since Reagan that has left the vast majority of private sector workers unorganized, and then they say, well, they’re getting screwed by the market so public workers should too. Which is exactly the point of the quotation he objected to.

  26. lt
    lt February 21, 2011 at 7:35 am |

    @21: The human right of workers to have a say in the conditions of their employment, civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights: these are not the politics of “grievance.” None of the protesters are trying to take rights away from other workers. By contrast, the firefighters turned out to support other workers despite being exempt from the law. That’s the opposite of grievance – it’s solidarity.

    Now if you think workers, women or whoever having more rights is a threat to you, then it could look like the “politics of grievance.” Or perhaps you mean that progressives are guilty of this because we draw attention to the massive increase in power of the richest among us? In which case, sure, call that a grievance, but it’s also something in the collective interests of 95% or so of the U.S. population, rather than the pitting of one group of the middle class against another that the Republicans have perfected.

    (And I’m no great fan of all Democrats, so yes, there are Dems guilty of this, but that doesn’t mean every progressive writer who is likely also not a fan of every Dem is therefore hypocritical for pointing it out.)

  27. La Lubu
    La Lubu February 21, 2011 at 10:47 am |

    There is no incentive for politicians in general to hold down wages for public employees (even less so with benefits, since the costs aren’t immediate and more easily hidden from the public).

    What the hell are you smoking, Henry?! Of course there’s an incentive for politicians and their appointees that head the various divisions of state governments to both hold down wages and keep state employees in a state of fear over losing their jobs. There’s a limited amount of money in the state pot. It can be raised, but only by raising taxes or cutting services—which can lead to losing elections. So, the less money granted to workers means the more money available to shunt towards corporate interests—the same corporate interests that are going to hire the politicians and their cronies after they leave their term of public service. (the military pretty much operates the same way). “Fighting the unions” is a long-term career plan for politicians, as they get their greatest rewards after leaving office.

    The money donated to politicians from labor unions literally pales in comparison to the contributions from the corporate side. If you want to talk about legalized bribery, perhaps you should start with that.

    I’m a union member (IBEW) and a taxpayer (for clarity’s sake, “union member” is my identity; “taxpayer” is just something I do. I wipe my ass too, but my identity isn’t centered around it). I want healthy wages, benefits and pensions for my brothers and sisters who are public employees because that’s what creates healthy (in every sense of the term) communities. Low wages means a depleted tax base. A depleted tax base means crumbling infrastructure, resource-poor schools, closing firehouses (which is what my city is doing), more boarded-up storefronts due to less disposable income, more crumbling houses for the same reason, more health and dental problems due to lack of insurance (and inability to afford services without it), higher crime, more alcoholism and drug addiction…..

    Slippery slope? Man, that’s the story of the whole Rust Belt. It didn’t start with the public service workers, is all. It started with manufacturing. It moved on to construction (that’s me). Public service workers are merely the next target. The goal is neo-feudalism (while somehow trying to keep the technological advances of post-feudal society, which is a dubious proposition).

    Hey, I’m a fifth-generation union member. I’m all for critiquing the labor movement (my favorite critique? that the labor movement in the U.S. isn’t an international movement. there will be no labor movement in the future if it is not truly international—but how long you want this post to be?)….but let’s get real. Despite decades of propaganda, labor unions (of any stripe) did not create the fiscal crises inundating the globe. Put the blame where it belongs, and put the responsibility for ponying-up where it belongs.

    I could suggest an itinerary for your Rust Belt Tour of Illinois, if you’re interested in what low, low wages do to previously thriving communities.

    (P.S.: Ronald Reagan deserves to burn in one hundred thousand hells, simultaneously. Forever. Fuck that motherfucker.)

  28. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. February 21, 2011 at 11:07 am |

    La Lubu,

    Exactly. Have you seen how much private sector teachers make? Its ludacris to suggest that the public sector is subject to price pressures. Politicians get credit for cutting costs but don’t feel anyones wrath when schools are failing.

    Not to mention from the other side of the equation unions provide employers with a quality workforce. When I was in construction, I always ran union shops. My projects were in every case more profitable because I had a well trained team of experienced people who knew how to work together, train apprentices more effectively, and finish a quality job. Sqeezing workers is a short term cost cutting strategy that almost always backfires.

  29. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub February 21, 2011 at 11:13 am |

    Just agreeing with LaLubu, it and Linnaeus.

    This attack against the right to assemble, organize, and collectively bargain is nothing more than politics. It’s already been demonstrated that if the corporations the GOP cuddles up with had to pay their taxes and didn’t have so many loopholes, there wouldn’t be the budget shortfalls we’ve got now.

    Not to mention the fact that only certain unions have been targeted. Instead of getting angry with public workers having decent pay, protections, and benefits because they collectively organized and bargained for them, people would do well to push for unions in the private sector. Oh, I know! It will reduce production! People will start expecting a living wage! OH THE HUMANITY.

  30. cartooncoyote
    cartooncoyote February 22, 2011 at 5:00 am |

    Henry: [P]rivate-sector unions don’t get to help elect the people who negotiate their salaries.

    Oh, really? Private sector trade unions DON’T elect their bargaining committee members? Try again.

  31. Hirse
    Hirse February 22, 2011 at 2:13 pm |

    Great for you guys, that friday means a weekend. I, for one, haven’t had two continuous days off work since october. So please do think of those of us who don’t have that luxury. And no, I don’t get payed more on saturdays. Still eight bucks an hour.

  32. RD
    RD February 22, 2011 at 4:57 pm |

    Hirse: Great for you guys, that friday means a weekend. I, for one, haven’t had two continuous days off work since october. So please do think of those of us who don’t have that luxury. And no, I don’t get payed more on saturdays. Still eight bucks an hour.  

    A good argument for more unions. :/

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