If you work for a living, what happened in Wisconsin is a good thing on lots of levels. There was report after report from Madison on the solidarity that was occurring among teachers, social workers, students and other union and non-union workers.
Even the police — who ultimately come from the ranks of everyday folks that work regular jobs for a living — were seen serving coffee, doughnuts and snacks to young people. These are some of the same young people who law enforcement is usually told is the enemy or accused of being disorderly for expressing an alternative viewpoint.
Of course, many haven’t seen these pictures of solidarity because the Kumbaya moments don’t sell as well nor do they fit the power structure’s agenda, which is to keep us workers divided by any means necessary. In fact, efforts to pit conservative workers against the union folks failed because there really isn’t as large of a movement by workers fighting against their own best interest as the conservatives and even the press would have us believe.
According to folks who were there the crowd swelled to as many as 80,000 last Saturday, and it dwarfed the Tea Party faction that could only muster about 2,000 misguided workers and other interlopers.
And workers were right to act in solidarity. In Governor Walker’s announcement to cut pensions, raise the workers’ share that they pay into health insurance and cut out collective bargaining, he didn’t differentiate between workers. The governor didn’t say that this was only going to affect the Latino/a or the Black workers or just the women. His proposal was aimed at all of the public sector workers in Wisconsin.
The effort to cut collective bargaining out of the workers’ contract in essence destroys the union. As anyone who has worked a job before knows that there are bosses who get out of line and try to get workers to do just about anything and sometimes pick out certain workers for abuse. Making sure that workers have a safe and fair environment to work in, as well as not being at the whim of the employer, is an important aspect of the union’s responsibility.
In other words, if there is no collective bargaining there is essentially no union.
People must never forget that the gains workers enjoy — even non-union workers — are the result of the efforts of unions. I clearly understand that unions have their warts. Some unions have even been guilty of racism and sexism, but it is up to those who are discriminated against to fight for their rights.
Folks should stay tuned and figure out ways to support the unions in their efforts, send letters of support or participate in solidarity events that may occur in the near future.
Make no mistake: While much of the protesting may seem to be out of the self-interest of the public sector workers, this fight is also our fight. Ultimately it’s not the public sector that benefits from all our hard work (for they are taxpayers as well) — it is the business class, the ruling class, the banks, the captains of industry and the banks that are the real enemy of the working class. While they wrest concessions from the little person, they are busy fighting for and receiving large tax cuts, government subsidies (welfare) and even bailouts in the billions.
This may be the last battleground. It’s probably more important than ever before to realize what side you are on and recognize your real allies. And make no mistake: While the Democrats appear to be the good guys in this fight, their interests still lie with the rulers and not the ruled.
I agree with a worker in Madison who said, “Protest produces outcomes” and “collective action against injustice is the only way to end it [injustice].”
While I may be a bit simplistic, my point is clear and the workers in Wisconsin figured it out: We are all in this together. And the sooner we figure that out, the sooner we will be able to work together to help everyone get their fair share in our society.
Mel Reeves welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.