Walker has introduced a bill that would strip public employees across the board — from teachers to snowplow drivers — of their right to collectively bargain for sick leave, vacation, even the hours they work. But absolutely nothing would change for local police, fire departments and the State Patrol.
The bill smacks of political favoritism for public safety unions that supported Walker's election bid last year and sets up new haves and have-nots in Wisconsin government, said Paul Secunda, a Marquette University professor who specializes in labor law.
It seems WI has traded one megalomaniac governor (justifiably hated Democrat Jim Doyle) for another.
While on the subject of WI political darknesses one might also mention U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, the tea-partier who beat Feingold. From Wiki:
Johnson opposed a Wisconsin bill that would have made it easier for child sex abuse victims to sue their abusers. The bill would have eliminated the time limit for future victims to bring a lawsuit, and would have opened a three year window to sue for past victims whose time limit had already expired. Johnson testified before the Wisconsin Senate in January 2010 on the financial aspects of the bill, and questioned whether it would be just for employers of perpetrators to be severely financially damaged or destroyed by such lawsuits. He added that the bill, if enacted, might have the undesirable effect of reducing the reporting of these crimes and increasing the number of child victims. At the time of his testimony he was on the Finance Council of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay and his argument supported the position of the Catholic Church.
Aside from protecting pedophile priests and the institutions that sheltered them, Johnson is also known for having donated $10k to Walker's campaign and paying the employees of his family business so little that most of them qualify for Badgercare.
One might also mention WI U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, who wants to raise taxes on the bottom 95% of the U.S. population, but we can leave him to Paul Krugman.
On the other hand:
I am reminded of a point I heard Žižek make in an interview (it was also on Democracy Now as I recall). Žižek noted that real Leftists should not see all of the demonstrations taking place throughout Europe as a rise in class consciousness. He pointed out that from Greece to Great Britain, most of the people doing the protesting were lower middle class folks (or the student children of middle class folks), many of them civil servants, who were fighting to protect their middle class interests. He then went on the mention several "typical" examples of low paid workers in Europe, particularly immigrants and the displaced (such as Eastern Europeans going to Ireland and Spain, etc.), and he noted that they were not in the streets.
I could not help but think of this when watching the above interview with the WI school "teacher" (why on earth a third grade gym class needs to be taught by someone with a masters degree is beyond me) whose family of four will go from 100k to 90k if Walker's dirty work goes through.
Sure, in principle, strong public unions make more space for strong unions in the private sector. And yes, singling out the police and firefighters unions for exemptions is a classic example of turning labor against itself. But there is a much bigger unspoken "division" of labor also going on here.
Most of the working class people I know, were they to watch that clip with the kindergarten gym teacher who makes 50k a year complaining about having to pay for things the working class folks I know already have to pay for (health care, pension), are really not going to sympathize with him much. They are going to think he has a cush job which he got with some cush degrees and it's about time he paid a little bit more for health and retirement as they have to pay a lot more for health insurance and get little in the way of matching funds if they bother to invest in that ridiculous company 401k fund someone with an aspartame addicted smile comes around once a year to tell them about - you know - the song and dance about how they are going to be able to retire in comfort if they put 15% of their 9 bucks an hour into the plan.
Grant you, this is the South, which is decidedly anti-union in ethos, but even among private sector non-union working class friends in WI and MN I have seen something of this sentiment (and most working class people in MN and WI are now non-union, private sector workers), albeit less pronounced.
Listening to this bit on NPR I think that as with Žižek's European Left, American liberalism, despite residual claims to represent the interests of "the worker," for the most part really only functions as a movement acting in the interests of mostly urban middle class folks in blue states. As we all know, it lost Kansas and it will not be getting it back anytime soon. Hedges notes that American liberalism purged itself of its radicals (something it did before, or at least no later than the 60s - notwithstanding the Right's successful attempts at portraying liberalism as still having radical connections by calling Obama a socialist or pointing to his sometime associations with Bill Ayers -- Obama is clearly committed to capitalism and Bill Ayers hasn't been a radical for decades). I think more damning than loosing Kansas or radicals (the associations between the Democratic Party and actual radicals have always been, at "best," loose) is that American liberalism has lost any strong connection to what Hedges calls the permanent underclass. Sure, the folks from Memphis ghettos who do vote will vote for a Democrat 19 out of 20 times, but most of them don't vote most of the time, and the ones that do lack a coordinated and coherent sense of class motivated political action - such as we saw with populist political movements in the late 19th century, the labor movements in the early 20th century, and important segments of the civil rights movement in the mid 20th century.
Thus liberalism has no rank and file to put on the streets, well, at least no rank and file that is either large in size or for whom something akin to the "traditional" motivations for mass mobilization are relevant. When American liberalism does go to the streets (or in this case, the WI state capital building in Madison), instead of having a bunch of people show up in WalMart vests, CNA scrubs, and fast food uniforms demanding living wages and health care and paid holidays, it instead offers a bunch of folks wearing L.L. Bean (or, I suppose Land's End in WI) who are pissed that the state is going to cut their household from 100 to 90k a year by making them pay $200 a month for health and 12% of their pension. That's not exactly a devastating narrative (there will no doubt be a small minority of token real working class people in Madison as there always is at these things, and some of them will be up front for "narrative" purposes, but you get my point).
My mother-in-law is an employee of the state of WI. She makes a few dollars less an hour than she would with her credentials and experience in the private sector (and she would have little problem moving to the private sector), which amounts to a significant percentage difference in potential pay, a lack which she believes the state benefits make up for. Depending on what happens to those benefits, she may stay, she may go. But she had an interesting observation about the folks at the facility she works with. She noted that the cooks and the lower end techs and the cleaning ladies who make barely more than minimum wage (perhaps half of the people who work at her facility) will also have to pay $200 a month for insurance if Walker gets his way, which will hurt them a whole lot more than it does the teacher interviewed on Democracy Now. I'm willing to bet that very, very few of the cooks at my mother-in-law's facility will make it to any of the protests . Many people think of contemporary political protest in America as imaged by the children of accountants who parade hipster chic alternative fashions to protest WTO meetings, but I think that may be the exception to the rule. From the recent One Nation march in DC to this week's activities in Madison, protesting in America these days is pretty much for people who wear clothes from Land's End, and not clothes from WalMart. Or if they do wear clothes from WalMart, that is usually of choice and not necessity. Protesting is largely the affair of middle class folks, and what remains of the labor aristocracy. Perhaps that is why liberalism in America is dead.
But then again, the liberal political project has always rested on the notion that they could have their capitalist cake and eat their social consciousness too. Not the best horse to bet on.