**Update: AWDU’s two members on the Executive Board of our local proposed and were successful in securing a $500 donation for SLAC!
AFSCME is planning a solidarity rally in Sacramento this Tuesday, February 22nd. Vans or buses will hopefully be going from Berkeley in the afternoon, get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’re interested!
Amidst growing nationwide attempts to demonize public sector workers and their unions, Wisconsin has emerged this week as the first major battleground for the future of public sector unions. At least 30,000 workers and students have been out protesting in Madison for the last three days.
The newly elected Republican Governor revealed his radically aggressive attack on workers’ rights last week. His plan would increase pension contributions from workers to almost 6% of pay, increase the percentage of health care premiums that workers pay to 12.6%, and drastically limit collective bargaining rights so that unions can only bargain over wages (not benefits or rights), must renegotiate contracts every year and must seek recognition from their members every year, and would no longer be able to collect dues through payroll deductions. It’s not hard to see that these measures would effectively destroy public sector unions, whose operating budgets would hugely increase as their ability to protect workers hugely decreases.
Worse yet, faculty and staff at the University of Wisconsin would lose their rights to unionize completely–faculty just gained union recognition in 2009.
But if the Governor thought he could force this legislation through while public employees were stuck in a state of shock, he vastly miscalculated. Tens of thousands of public workers, including public school teachers, unionized graduate student assistants, faculty and students have been filling the streets of Madison and the Capitol building itself for three days now. They’ve gotten support from firefighters, whose benefits and collective bargaining rights were not threatened by the legislation. The teachers and faculty have the support of their students, who have been called the “soul of the protests.”
AWDU members will push for a statement of solidarity from our local for the UW grad students, who were the first local of academic student employees to become unionized in the country. We will also try to raise a donation for legal defense funds, in response to the appeal by SLAC. And we will work to find other ways to show our support as the situation unfolds.
The attacks on public workers and public sector unions are part of a concerted effort to direct attention away from the real and continued causes of the financial crisis in the US: the financial industry itself, the corporate lobby, and the state and federal government who protect the interests of the wealthy above the interests of working people. The “crisis” for the banks and CEOs never occurred, these individuals and corporations never stopped making record-breaking profits, while tens and hundreds of thousands of workers remain unemployed or on reduced hours. The pensions of teachers and public workers are not the enemy here, we know who is.
Here’s more reporting on the events unfolding in Wisconsin:
- The Chronicle of Higher Ed: “Fight Over Faculty Collective Bargaining Gathers Steam in Wisconsin”
- NY Times: “Wisconsin Bill in Limbo as GOP Seeks Quorum”
- Colorlines: “Who are all these evil public workers? Black People.”