Revolution in America: Coming to a state near you

February 17, 2011

Inside the rotunda
Photo by Jessie Reeder, Madison Wisconsin
Across the nation, Republican governors have united to push an anti-immigrant, anti-middle class, anti-public employee, anti-public education, anti-union agenda. All this while they propose subsidies and huge tax cuts for large corporations. I guess they thought they would attack organized labor and the middle class without a fight. Guess again.

Take notice.  A revolution is bubbling up like a volcano that is ready to blow.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker led the assault with a bill aimed at destroying collective bargaining.  Similar legislation is promised to be introduced in other states led by Republican governors including Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Florida. 

Public servants and organized labor have united to protest union busting legislation that also targets their pension, healthcare and reduces their already meager salaries. The proposal excludes police, fire fighters and state troopers. It is estimated that public servants mostly teachers, will be hit with an estimated $10,000 loss in annual pay, a cut none of them can afford to take.

Religious leaders in Wisconsin and Illinois are offering sanctuary to Wisconsin's Democratic lawmakers who have left the state in protest. Their absence means the Senate is one short of a quorum.

Madison, Wisconsin is reeling from an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 angry protesters that have swarmed into the Capitol over the last few days. Teachers showed up in droves and districts have shut down schools across the state. The governor threatened to bring in the National Guard.

Protesters have gained support from unions across the nation, and even the White House. President Obama denounced the legislation as "an assault on unions", while House Speaker Boehner has backed it. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan urged Walker to work with the unions.

For three days Wisconsin public employees have slept at the state house in Madison, Wisconsin and jammed the chambers. An eye witness account on Daily Kos described the the scene with banners proclaiming "Michigan supports Wisconsin", "Boston supports Wisconsin", North Carolina, Texas...and on and on. Thousands of protesters are banging drums, chanting and calling for the removal of the governor.

The AFL-CIO (my parent union) and other unions are planning a national protest.

Political scientists are comparing the protest to the recent ones in Cairo.  From the Christian Science Monitor:
In a time when large and tense demonstrations have become increasingly rare in America, the Wisconsin protests could provide an Egypt-like moment, says Norman Ornstein, a fellow at the nonpartisan American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

"If there's a big tea party demonstration in Madison, we may see a direct clash, just as we had in the streets of Cairo," he says.

One protester's sign at the capitol said, "Impeach Scott Mubarak" – a direct reference to protests that led Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to resign last week.

As it gains momentum, the union protest movement is likely to draw in young social-justice activists, Obama supporters, and even religious groups who fight for the dispossessed, says Bruno.
What the Republican legislators and the governors have failed to consider is that if their assault is successful there are thousands of teachers and other public servants who will leave their jobs.


Anonymous said...

Your are correct, there is a revolution brewing...and the unions are going to lose.
The government controls the money it takes and takes and takes from taxpayers. They want to make sure that those folks are as comfortable as possible because...THEY are one of those people. It's the fox guarding the henhouse.
Why should'nt government employees take a hit like everyone else does? Why are they so priviliged? If they don't really like it can't they just get another job? People in the private sector do it all the time. News Flash... WE ARE BROKE!! I am not making this up and everyone seems to agree on this, even the Liberals.
And what are the folks in Wisconisn trying to avoid. Paying towards their retirement? What a unusual thought. I can't believe anyone in the private sector would do that.
And what about the cowardly Dems? This was hugely debated bill so when it comes time to vote...they run off. The Dems did this in Texas when re-districting came up. How can you have a democratic system (like the results or not) if you leaders won't show up for work. They are not heros, they are cowards and are disrepecting the office to which they were elected.
Just another reason whey the Repubs will sweep out even more Dems and the President in 2012

Anonymous said...

We can complain, march, and protest all we want, but we can't repeal the laws of supply and demand.

Public employees in the CNMI and the mainland alike are vastly overpaid, to an extent that is not sustainable.

Sure, let's give everyone a $100 per hour minimum wage. Sounds great, right? Well, the voters are smarter than that.

That is an extreme example, but it reflects what is happening nationwide. CNMI workers are less productive, and their pension plan more generous, compared to most public employees and their pensions. But the ultimate consequences are the same.

If the unions think they are right, why don't the people vote for "progressive" labor-union Democrats nationwide?

Because they know it won't help.

The model of France, with its ardent trade unionists and frequent strikes, has failed.

P.S. The Senate architect the federalization bill, Senator Bingaman, will retire at the end of his term.

See Felicia Fonseca, “NM's Bingaman becomes 3rd Dem senator to retire,” Associated Press, Friday, February 18, 2011, available at

Wendy said...

Anonymous 10:34 "Why should'nt government employees take a hit like everyone else does? Why are they so priviliged? If they don't really like it can't they just get another job? People in the private sector do it all the time." This isn't about fairly paid government employees taking a hit. It's about destroying collective bargaining. Do some research and see that teachers in the mainland are so poorly paid that some families have food stamps! I am a teacher in Florida, where we rank 47th in pay among 50 states. Teachers have ben scraping by for decades; most work two jobs to be able to afford a home.

You really do not know what you are talking about! Many teachers are trying to stay in a profession that they love, but they won't be able to if even more pay is gone. And that is the reality. I have watched highly qualified and dedicated teachers leave the profession for better paying jobs in the private sector for years.

The way these Republican governors and legislators are "cutting" budgets show that it's not about saving money. It's about destroying collective bargaining. If it was about fairly cutting budgets how can giving large corporation tax breaks be a part of the equation?

Former Ombudsman said...

Hi Wendy

I don't think you'll see too many other State governors or legislatures trying anything so blatantly stupid as what Walker has done to Wisconsin. Although union membership has steadily declined with the demise of industrial jobs in the U.S., most non-union, blue-collar workers and semi-professionals know that the unions paved the way for benefits we all take fro granted, from the 40-hour work week, to sick leave, paid vacations, health insurance, and anti-discrimination rules.

Those who doubt this should compare wages and benefits of workers in states with unions, against those in so-called "right to work" states.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 11:03

You claim, "Public employees in the CNMI and the mainland alike are vastly overpaid, to an extent that is not sustainable." Please do some research before you make such ridiculous statements. Public employees in the mainland make considerably less than those in comparable jobs in the private sector. They have stuck with the low pay because of a couple things - they love their professions and their benefits make the terrible pay more acceptable. Take away the collective bargaining rights, the pension, the healthcare and reduce the pay and they will have to find other jobs. That is why 40,000 people are protesting -to tell the lawmakers and governor what their consequences will reap.

Wendy said...

Hello Former Ombudsman:

You are very correct. The unions have paved the way for many workers to have fair benefits and work conditions, whether they have paid dues or not.

Unfortunately this is a strong movement by Republican governors. There are anti-immigrant bills, anti-union bills, and bills to cut pensions and healthcare benefits of public employees in states where Republican governors are keeping their scary campaign promises. In Florida, the exact bills are sitting in Tallahassee. If the bills pass, I will have to leave my teaching job. Co-workers who are eligible to retire are leaving at the end of the school year. Others are scrambling to get jobs in the private sector, some are returning to college to get additional education, and some are exploring jobs overseas. It's a horrible climate filled with rage. The lines are drawn and people will protest across the nation, and will remember at the polls.

Anonymous said...

The Republican governor is financed by the Tea Party Koch brothers:

Tea Party is ready to face the public employees in a duel protest tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Washington Post has it right.

Anonymous said...

Poor Democrats. The American people are tired of the bloated Federal Government and it's holy than now employees. The Feds need to slash their lazy workforce by 60%. Federal employees need to start paying for their own medical care. No more COLA. As our socialist President said 'spread the wealth'. I agree, slash those lazy Federal workers jobs in half and give us our money back.

Anonymous said...

5:42 What "lazy" federal workers are you talking about? I agree that members of the US Congress should pay their own medical insurance. But this post is about state workers. They are mostly underpaid teachers who can't afford a hit in pay. Today 70,000 marched in Wisconsin. Tea Party were outnumbered by "Democrats" and state workers and supporters by huge numbers.

A lazy but educated federal worker said...

Anon 5:42

I think you meant "holier than thou," not "holy than now." And "it's" is not the possessive form, but the contraction of "it is," so leave off the apostrophe the next time.

As for the substance of your comment, "nomina stultorum in parietibus videmus" says it all.

Anonymous said...

Without getting into this at this moment because I do not have enough information on exactly what the issues are here.
But, I am strongly apposed to Unions, even though I was forced to join some of them during my working years.
I wonder what it will take for the people to take to the streets to get rid of this Gov.
It will probably after it is past the point of no return. (which may be already.
Probably the time is now. If 5k or more workers were to take top the streets, that would get the CNMI on the map and be a step in a positive direction.
If the people got rid of this administration it may even be a prelude to getting more Fed help in many areas.
But these people are too scared of their Govt. jobs and the elected relatives.
That is why the NMI will never progress.

Anonymous said...

Wendy said:
"I have watched highly qualified and dedicated teachers leave the profession for better paying jobs in the private sector for years"
Really? Here is my idea. Let them leave. Let them walk out the door and find another job. There it is. Go. Go. Go find those better jobs that you talk about. Go. Private sector people have to leave jobs ALL THE TIME. Why can't teachers? Who will teach our kids? We'll figure it out. Go. Find those "other better job". Go.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, sounds good! Just go, and take all your training and experience with you. We'd rather have doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants, plumbers, carpenters, electricians and other workers with no experience, so we can pay them peanuts. What does it matter if our kid's appendicitis isn't correctly diagnosed, or if their dyslexia isn't spotted by a qualified teacher? Screw the little bastards! They have no future anyway; better we prepare them now for their future "Lord of the Flies" existence.

Anonymous said...

While I do respect the teaching profession, there is one thing that I have heard more than one teacher say: "You know, if I were working in the private sector I would be making twice as much money as I make now".
I think for some this might be true if they quit their job and spent ten years in that other job. I don't think they could quit and get that job tomorrow unless they were a new teacher just starting out and wanted to get into another job that paid more. Note: Wisconsin has 859 individuals that collect a combined $97.9 million a year, with an average annual salary of $114,000.
And these are administrators, part of the collective barganing. People are getting fed up and this is first salvo in a fight that won't have a good outcome for unions.

Note: Wisconsin has

Alabama said...

3:43 Administrators make money so hit the poor teachers with decreases in they pay ? Huh? Yes, teachers are leaving the profession to accept jobs where they are paid their worth. This includes teachers with 20 years of experience who walk into private sector jobs at higher pay than what they made working as teachers for 20 years. They are being replaced with unexperienced college graduates and substitutes with high school diplomas until teacher replacements can be filled. It's sad that the public think that teachers (not their well-paid administrators) should be paid so poorly.

11:06 We are leaving with heavy hearts because our own children have to come before our students. We need to pay our bills. We don't need your push.

Anonymous said...

See also Nancy Folbre, “His Recession, Becoming Hers,” The New York Times, Monday, March 7, 2011 (61 percent of local employees are women), available at