Saturday, February 19, 2011

Taking It To the Street

The gloves are off in Wisconsin.  The naked ambition of the 'conservative' agenda is on full display and the Wisconsin hibernation season is abruptly ended.  People are massing in the streets - they sense the desperate moments are here.  

Soon, the TeaPartiers will be there, organizing against their own interests, unknowingly complicit in the attempted destruction of the American middle class.  Joe the Plumber will grab a mike and another 15 minutes of unwarranted fame to be the mouthpiece of hidden vultures who wouldn't let him in the back door, much less the front door, without a security screen and a background investigation. Another useful idiot who will do the dirty work of fronting for this generation's robber barons.  Mission accomplished. 

The Fox Network will crank the propaganda into overdrive until people's heads vibrate with a few well-chosen talking points repeated endlessly by their unfair and unbalanced talking heads as if it were apocalypse now (hello, Glen). In the process, teachers, nurses, secretaries, firefighters, police officers, road maintenance workers, sanitation workers, accounting clerks will be vilified as responsible for the imbalance in the economy.  You can almost hear the chattering class gearing up in the distance.

Confession:  I am a public employee.  I work with other public employees and have for decades.  As a management employee, I am not in a formal union now (but have been previously).  We are an informal collective bargaining group.  We function as a union and our representatives have many meetings to reach a memorandum of understanding on our working conditions.  It's called negotiating.  It means give and take.  It means reaching mutually agreeable settlement in light of current conditions.  It's not what is happening in Wisconsin.  What is happening there is a unilateral assault on unions and, by extension, the political party they historically support.

I've tried to write my way out of this, but words are failing me.  The bad apples in the public sector (see Bell, California) have most certainly tainted people's thoughts about public employees.  That lingering taint is the fertilizer for those who would blame unions and public pensions for the current economic meltdown.  Granted, times change and it's necessary to revisit wages and benefits in light of current realities.  That's what negotiations are expressly able to do.  But the scale of the Bell corruption does not compare to the ginormous ripoff of the credit default swap scam courtesy of Wall Street or the housing bubble or the cost of two wars that were never funded the old-fashioned way (with tax increases).

So, while the truly greedy continue unabated by any new regulation, picking on the dozing middle class appeared to be as easy as gathering the low hanging fruit.  At least that what's they thought until Wisconsin.  The intensity of this current political theater, with the teabag brigade approaching, will be compelling and tense.  The last act may dictate an historic sea change one way or the other in this country.  Stay tuned and stay safe.

PS - This year, after months of considering the current economic climate, my group took a 5% cut requested by upper management.  Our group chose the method of reduction - options included increased contributions to pension, increased contributions to health insurance costs, or pay cut.  That's called negotiating - a practice the governor of Wisconsin is not willing to even discuss. 

Photo Credit:  AP Photo - Racine, Wisconsin 
Tune:  Michael McDonald - a favorite from the Doobie era


  1. Doobie doobie doo, I love the Doobie brothers almost as much as I love you. My friend- you need to get in the papers - so much to say, with educated insights. I think you are a teacher without a classroom. Whenever I read you, I think this message should be sent out to the masses. Have you thought of letters to the editor of city papers? Just wondering..

  2. Cris is riding in on a blog carrying on in the tradition of Paul Revere - heed the warning - the neo-fascist are coming. They want your collective bargaining rights, your Social Security; to put women in there place and rescind the Civil Rights act.
    Wake-up and start fighting our best organizing tool are the Unions – for now.

  3. The neofascists have been coming for some time; they've been busy at work for over thirty years, and we're now all going to have to pay the price, or get off our educated, white-bread asses and organize.

    They don't want negotiation - this is like a card-game, where one player keeps a .38 in his belt in case the game's not going his way - when the Right begins to lose an argument to the forces of Reason and Logic, they pull that metaphorical .38 out of their back-belt and pump five rounds into Reason's chest.

    And that, dear reader, is how we're going to have to start playing the game.

    So far, we've been bringing knives to this running-gunfight. The results are ample proof of this.


  4. "Granted, times change and it's necessary to revisit wages and benefits in light of current realities. That's what negotiations are expressly able to do."

    THIS, to me, seems to be the point. The critical mass of bad decisions made by people in power (decisions supported by and known about by...well, HARDLY ANYONE IN THE CONSTITUENCY) have gotten the states and the federal government into the financial mess we find ourselves in. OK, so, as you say, Cris, let's sit down and figure out how to manage the massive task of getting solvent without raping every good thing the budget ever provided. Yes, it's called negotiating, bargaining, compromise. To simply cross one's arms without an inch of concern for the what the bludgeoning will do to the average Joe (and I don't mean the Plumber!) is simply myopic at best, corrupt at worst.

    The GOP has been smug about their gains after the midterms and like I said when Bush was elected to a second term, People, this is what you voted for. The pendulum-swinging, foot-stomping, "I guess the Democrats CAN'T do it after all!!" crowd turned quickly to vote in the slew of Republicans now in office and to some extent, they bear some responsibility for what is now happening and will continue to happen. Be careful what you ask for...we're seeing the answer to that play out all over the country. Very difficult to watch for those of us who believed there was another way, one that might've required a bit more patience and wisdom, but one that included much more compassion and bigger-tent philosophy.

    Great writing, my friend. No mincing. I like that. L.