Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Statewide resistance to union busting

By Bryan G. Pfeifer
Madison and Milwaukee, Wis.

Across the state of Wisconsin the sweeping people’s rebellion continues every day. From all areas of the state poor and working people are in motion to defeat the union-busting bill Gov. Scott Walker signed March 11. The fightback now encompasses broader demands, as people are directly challenging the billions of dollars in budget cuts politicians like Walker have proposed at the behest of banks, corporations and the Pentagon.

The people’s mass resistance on numerous fronts won a temporary victory on March 18. Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi ordered a temporary injunction against the bill that was illegally rammed through the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate on March 9 and 10, respectively, and then signed by Walker.

Sumi evaluated a complaint filed by the Dane County District Attorney’s office arguing that Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature violated state open meetings requirements when they approved the law. The next court hearing on the complaint is scheduled for March 29. On March 21 the Wisconsin Attorney General appealed Sumi’s ruling to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, asking it to strike down the temporary injunction by March 25, the day the bill is to be published.

People are planning on packing the courts on all dates. Labor unions and other organizations are moving on both legal fronts and through direct action to overturn the illegal bill and to fight Walker’s 2011-13 budget, which cut billions of dollars from programs that service millions of poor and working people.

‘A class war’

Ed Childs, chief steward of UNITE HERE Local 26 in Boston and a member of the Bail Out the People Movement, was in Wisconsin March 15-20. He spoke in Milwaukee and Madison at labor, community and student meetings and often visited the student occupation at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He was usually accompanied by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 82 President Gilbert Johnson, members of Students for a Democratic Society, and members of BOPM from Detroit and North Carolina, who also came to Wisconsin to support the struggle.

“I spent three days in Milwaukee and a couple of days in Madison,” said Childs. “It’s amazing. The first thing that gets you is the mass atmosphere — similar to when you’re on strike — the statewide progressive consciousness. I’ve also seen such a mass-consciousness struggle in Belfast — a class war — and it’s spelled out very specifically here. It’s in the speeches at rallies but also in daily conversations.”

Added Childs: “Workers and students have to keep moving because it is a war, and we have an opponent that has trillions of dollars, and [that opponent is] going to do everything [it] possibly can to defeat us. Workers and students are learning every day what needs to be done and what can be done, and we are doing it. Workers and students want to move; they want to move drastically. They want to win.

“It’s great that the consciousness has risen, that the people are open to doing things. Now we have to get into more of the nitty-gritty tactics like the occupation of the Capitol and the art school at UW-Milwaukee. It’s the understanding within the labor movement, the community groups, students and workers in general that we have to learn strategies on how to win. Wisconsin is the ground zero for this struggle in the United States right now.”

On March 19, the eighth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, joint labor and anti-war actions took place in both Milwaukee and Madison, and individuals and organizations opposed the new U.S. war on Libya as well. In Milwaukee, Tom Burke of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression also spoke out against the government harassment of anti-war, solidarity and union activists.

Later that day in Madison, students of color marched to the Capitol, then spoke out against the government’s war on people of color. That war includes attacks on immigrants and ethnic studies. The students also proudly demonstrated their artwork and spirited cultural performances.

On March 21 a group of seniors marched on the Capitol to demand no cuts to SeniorCare and other programs they need.

A new day of resistance

The struggle against union busting and other major attacks against the people has become a daily part of life throughout Wisconsin. Pro-union buttons can be seen everywhere. Spirited discussions about the possibility of occupations, general strikes and other forms of direct action take place whenever people get together.

Students and workers are assembling placards and banners for the next protest action. Recall petitions are being printed and signed in the tens of thousands. Alliances and coalitions are being formed, new tactics and strategies of resistance are in operation, and communication systems such as Facebook are abuzz to organize resistance. Relationships of all kinds are building unity and solidarity by the minute. It’s a new day in Wisconsin: The people have stood up and are fighting back.

Lilia Banrevy is a student in art education who is beginning the fourth week of occupying the Art School at UW-Milwaukee. Says Banrevy, a member of UWM Occupied, “I strongly believe in people’s right to be heard and to form unions, and I believe that Scott Walker’s budget bill is union busting. As a future teacher, especially one in the arts, which are going to suffer the most cuts from this bill, I feel it’s my duty to be here for my future and the future of the kids who are going to suffer because of it.

“I think education should be the last place that we’re cutting from, especially in the arts. When kids are young, it’s important to harvest that creativity. The Milwaukee public schools especially can’t suffer cuts in any more fields at all. It would be devastating for the future of Wisconsin and the future of our kids.

“I’m planning on staying here until I’m dragged out.”
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