Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Thursday Thirteen 190: Unions

I don't usually go all political on this blog, but this week's topic is inspired by local current events.

1. UNION: an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as wages and better working conditions.

2. The union bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts (collective bargaining) with employers, which may include the negotiation of wages, work rules, complaint procedures, policies governing hiring, firing and promotion of workers, benefits, and workplace safety.

3. Thousands of Wisconsinites are rallying at the State Capitol in Madison this week in non-violent protests of a bill the Current Idiot in Charge, Gov. Scott Walker (whom I did NOT vote for!), is trying to ram through the legislature. The “budget repair bill” removes workers' collective bargaining rights, and mandates state employees pay significantly more for health care benefits and pensions.

4. This measure affects state employees on every level, including government (office workers, social workers, etc), teachers, nurses, prison workers—basically all unions in the public sector except local firefighters, local police and members of the Wisconsin State Patrol. Apparently even he isn’t dumb enough to go up against those unions.

5. The Idiot in Charge is trying to ram this bill through with little public notice and without negotiations between affected employees and unions. Knowing he has no bargaining leverage to get what he wants, Walker has instead decided to behave dictatorially and abolish unions altogether, much like a two-year-old throwing a tantrum when he can't get what he wants.

6. A special hearing of the Legislature convened at 10am Tuesday morning to hear public concerns. People could sign up to speak for two minutes. By noon there were over 200 people on the list, and many people slept in the Capitol rotunda last night for their chance to speak. The session finally ended at 3am Wednesday morning.

7. "It’s one thing to decide that he believes that public workers need to be able to give more money at the bargaining table with their benefits, but it’s another thing to decide that he’s going to eliminate any of our ability to bargain for any of our working conditions."
~ Rick Marx, Madison City employee and union steward

8. During the Legislative hearing, thousands descended upon the Capitol. It was estimated that there were 3,000 people inside the Capitol Tuesday afternoon, with another 10,000 outside. Though Walker claims fire and police are exempt from his axe, members of both unions, particularly fire, showed up in support of those affected.

9. Also on Tuesday, students in a number of local high schools organized walkouts and joined protests in support of teachers and schools. It is not only the workers under attack, but our schools as well, as Walker seeks to reduce funding where budgets are already straining at the seams. You cannot expect to better our education system by continually cutting school funding and reducing the number of teachers. That is not how you compete academically with other countries, such as China, where children receive 40% more schooling in an average year.

10. Tuesday night it was announced that Madison schools would be closed Wednesday, as 40% of teachers had already called in sick in order to attend rallies at the Capitol. Though the open hearing session officially ended at 3am, it did not deter even more protesters from turning out Wednesday. The crowd increased, spilling into streets radiating off of the Capitol Square. They are calling for more protests Thursday, but it had not yet been announced Wednesday evening if school would again be affected.

11. Unions can be traced back to the 18th century, especially gaining in popularity during the Industrial Revolution, when unskilled workers comprised heavily of farm laborers, women, children and immigrants flocked to cities to work in factories.

12. The Catholic Church endorsed unions towards the end of the 19th Century, when Pope Leo XIII spoke out against the atrocities workers faced and demanded they be granted certain rights and safety regulations.

13. Whether you are pro-union or not, the outcome here in Wisconsin could have far-reaching repercussions, affecting workers across the nation. If one governor successfully attacks unions, what is to stop other states from attacking employees in the public sector, from essentially assaulting the middle class? This definitely bears watching.

ETA: About 9pm Wed. evening, TV networks started scrolling area school closings for Thursday—basically all Madison schools and surrounding communities. Apparently, a text message was sent out to all WEAC (teachers) members, urging all those capable of doing so to rally again Thursday and Friday. While this bill does not solely affect teachers, they seem to be the most vocal and organized. It's also worth mentioning that there have been rumors of state prison officials rallying as well, which has prompted The Idiot in Charge to put the Wisconsin National Guard on alert, should they be needed to keep order.

LINKS TO OTHER THURSDAY THIRTEENS:(Please leave your link if this is your first visit!)
Alice Audrey * Kymelee * Shelley Munro * Xakara
Darla M Sands * Adelle Laudan * Savannah Chase
Kimberly Menozzi * Paige Tyler * Mary Quast
Maddy Barone * Jeanne St James * Jana * CountryDew
A. Catherine Noon * Jennifer Leeland * Bratty


Kymelee said...

Some people are so smart. Others... not so smart. Great read. If only the rest of the community stood up for their rights instead of leaving it for the teachers!

Alice Audrey said...

It's not terribly surprising that if he's going to try to get a bill like that passed, he'd try to ram it through. If it's slow enough for anyone to react, it'll bog down forever.

Shelley Munro said...

This makes for interesting reading. There always seems to be so much discussion when changes are suggested here in New Zealand. I think sometimes it swings the other way with too much discussion.

Xakara said...

Thank you so much for touching on this. I'm a Wisconsinite in the Southwest and watching from afar as he tries to railroad this through. I'm so proud of everyone standing up for their rights, but I'm deeply concerned at to whether or not it's going to be enough. Thanks so much again!


Darla M Sands said...

Best wishes to those affected! Thank you for sharing.

Adelle Laudan said...

I love to hear people taking an active stance for what they believe in. So many sit back and point fingers. I hope it all ends well.
Happy T13!

Savannah Chase said...

I learned some stuff I did not know....

Kimberly Menozzi said...

I can't start commenting on this subject because I'll never stop. But I will say this:

All of these cuts in education are going to have ramifications down the road which the "people in charge" simply can't comprehend or imagine. Why is education deemed so easy to sacrifice? Or is it a matter of "I got mine - tough luck to you"?

I don't know. I just hope and pray that people figure this out before it's too late and too much damage is done.

Paige Tyler said...

Interesting. I didn't know that much about unions.


My TT is at

Heather said...

Kymelee: This guy is definitely not so smart, and I still can't understand how he got elected. On the bright side, he keeps screwing up, he either won't make it his entire term, or will be out after his term is over.

Alice: No, not surprising, especially since the Legislature is currently controlled by republicans. But, it still has to go through the house and senate, and can be contested in court if it does manage to get through. I fear what will happen if it does pass, though. What will happen if teachers, nurses and prison guards walk out for months?? This is what he had not considered.

Heather said...

Shelley: Thanks. Change is one thing, but he is trying to completely take away peoples' rights to be heard and to negotiate an agreement. By busting the union, he can force them to take deep pay cuts while working longer hours, something most people affected cannot afford.

Xakara: I did not know you were a displaced Wisconsinite! Like you, I'm glad to see people standing against this bill, but do wonder if it will be enough.

Thanks, Darla! It looks like another day of gridlock around the Cap Square. I think the mild weather we've had this week (mid to upper 40s in Feb!) has aided in the cause.

Mary Quast said...

I'm impressed to see students getting involved to fight for their education. They are the leaders of tomorrow.

Heather said...

Adelle: Thanks, I hope it ends well, too.

Savannah: Any day you learn something new is a good day, right? *g*

Kimberly: I hear you, I really do! They keep cutting and cutting from school budgets, and then they wonder why the US has such a high illiteracy rate, such a high drop out rate, increases in teen pregnancy and drug and gang involvement.

And if the kids don't have someone at home and at school willing to help and push them to do what they are capable of, they are going to adopt the same cavelier attitude of "who cares, why should I bother?". And no, changes in the education sustem will not come cheap, but they are necessary.

Good grief, now I better stop. lol

Paige: I admit, I don't know a lot about unions myself, but am learning quite a bit this week.

Jana said...

Ugh. How much longer does this idiot have in office?? Hope this doesn't go through and I certainly hope he doesn't get re-elected.

Heather said...

Mary: Yes, I too am proud of the students taking a stand on this issue, though there are some jerks who believe the student protests are teacher led (which they are not). I think my friends and I would have been out there with them, had something like this happened while we were in HS.

Jana: Unfortauntely, he was just sworn in in January, so too long. Not a good precedent he has set, huh? And this isn't even the first act of stupidity in the one month he has been in office! :-\

CountryDew said...

Firefighters unions are good about supporting others. It is a shame that unions do not have the power they should in this country. Good for those in Wisconsin for standing up for their rights.

Jennifer Leeland said...

Good old Ahnold tried like hell to destroy the few state workers that were under a union contract.
Operating Engineers Local #3 had got round and round with him.
It's the usual routine at budget time. And Ahnold was extremely well funded with his campaign against those "over fed state workers".
It's been an ongoing tug of war. I hear you.

Maddy Barone said...

I hope every thing goes okay in Wisconsin. I was born in Wakesha and grew up in Milwaukee. My cousin was an iron worker. Lots of family are being affected by this.

Bratty said...

That's the way they operate, isn't it? That great way of thinking got the Patriot Act bill passed, as well as the Financial System (blatant red-handed stealers) bailout money.

Now, they are after unions to try to pinch pennies.

Nobody seems to get it. Next, they'll lower minimum wage to .19 an hour. Then nobody will be able to buy of their stupid made in China goods.


Heather said...

Anita: I am proud that people in my state are not taking this lying down. The latest news is that senate dems, in support of constituents, have fled the state. Senate needs one dem to show up in order to convene a vote.

If senate dems are in state, Capitol police could detain them and escort them to the Capitol where senate chambers would be locked until a vote is taken. Gov Idiot is outraged and claims it is "unprecedented," but it has been done before, in the 1990s in Texas.

I say good for them for being smart enough to outfox the Governor, and thank you Illinois (words I don't often speak, lol), for being only an hour away. Hehe... Will be interesting to see how long the standoff lasts.

Heather said...

Jennifer: Ah, you know our pain then. It makes absolutely no sense of governors to blame budget short falls on the working class. They're not the ones making the budgets and passing bills and laws; why should they be the ones to dig us out of the hole dug by the higher ups? Interesting that while Walker thinks everyone below him should take a pay cut, he has not volunteered to take one himself.

Maddy: Waukesha! I went to college there! *G* You may be happy to hear that the iron workers were heavily represented at the Capitol today. I saw a large group of them in news footage.

Heather said...

Bratty: Thankfully, it's getting harder for them to extend "key provisions" of the (un)Patriot Act. Hopefully we can get that abolished before Obama leaves office. As for the lowering of wages to .19 an hour, it feels like that is what it is coming down to, doesn't it? I'm having a hard time making ends meet right now myself. It's ridiculous how hard it is to find anything made in the USA these days.

A. Catherine Noon said...

Wowsers. Yeah, it's funny, I don't usually get political either anymore (I was an activist in my younger days), but wow. The teachers here (in Chicago) are talking about walking out to come support your people. AND, can you believe, they sent the police after the Dems that walked out?? Un-believeable.

Hang in there.

Heather said...

It's crazy, isn't it? We really seem to have started something here. People have been driving and busing in from all over the state and from as far away as Detroit, Baltimore, and Ohio.

A lot of people think it's only the teachers, but it's not. WEAC may have been the most vocal and most organized, but it's all nurses, sanitation workers, gov office workers--all these "little people" that essentially run the state who are affected and standing up against Walker.

Yesterday's crowd was estimated at 25,000. Today's was between 35,000 and 40,000 -- depending on the source. One local network had the lower total, but national news had the higher. I'm betting it will be even bigger over the weekend, especially with Monday being a pseudo-holiday. AND -- Jesse Jackson joined the fight today. How cool is that?

And yes, it is crazy that they sent Capitol Police and State Troopers out to look for the missing dems. I never thought I'd be grateful for Rockford before. LOL.