Monday, February 21, 2011

Madison, Wisconsin City Council pulls off 'end run' on Governor Scott Walker's 'Demolition Bill'

The Madison, Wisconsin City Council has pulled off a sweet end run on extreme right wing Governor Scott Walker. Before the Republican majority at the State Legislature could pass the Governor's "Budget Repair Bill" - which would strip public employees of collective bargaining rights - the city has settled two year contracts with all their unions which will last until the end of 2012.

Here's City of Madison, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's blog post from last Thursday announcing Madison City Councils enlightened tactic.

Mayor Dave’s Blog

Special Meeting & a Special Walk
February 17, 2011 7:53 PM

It's just a question of simple fairness. The City of Madison has a dozen unions. Some have settled contracts to the end of 2011, some have contracts to the end of 2012 and others have not yet settled a contract at all. With Governor Walker's proposal to essentially wipe out any possibility of collective bargaining on the fast track, we had to act soon in order to treat all our unionized employees the same. If we wait until our next regularly scheduled Council meeting next Tuesday we might already be preempted from doing the right thing.

So, I've called a special Council meeting for tonight to settle all of our contracts through 2012. In addition, we'll try to help our non-represented employees as much as we can by eliminating a health insurance co-pay (they'll be forced to pay at least 12% of those premiums by the state anyway) and by trying to lock in the same modest pay increases that we'll give to our unionized employees over the next two years.

Because the Dane County Board has its meeting tonight in our usual chambers we had to relocate the Council meeting to the Overture Center where live video streaming is possible. Council members, union officials, leaders of non-represented employees and managers are invited to join me on the steps of the City County Building for some brief remarks. Then we'll walk together across the Capitol Square to the Overture Center for our meeting.

The point of that symbolic walk together is that labor and management are united on this. In fact, I'm not aware of a city in the state whose administration thinks that union busting is a good way to solve a budget problem. Collective bargaining has worked for better than four decades. My hope is that there's still some chance that sanity will reassert itself at the Capitol, but in case it doesn't we'll do our best to enforce Madison values in Madison.

The city is taking a risk - if Govenor Walkers bill is not defeated or amended the State Legislature will drastically reduce shared revenue transfers to Madison in 2012. (If the unthinkable happens - and at this point that seems VERY unlikely - this reporter would hazard a guess that the unions would remember the solidarity that this council is showing at this hour of need and agree to re-open the contracts.)

The Madison City Council move nicely highlights the conflict of visions between the radical right and everyone else: the extreme right wants to fix the recession by lowering peoples wages and laying off staff through service cuts - while everyone else thinks a Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Great Depression style New Deal stimulus and financial reform effort is the only way to get America and the world, out of this 'Great Recession'.

Wikipedia's article on the New Deal says it all in the first paragraph:

"The New Deal is a series of economic programs implemented in the United States between 1933 and 1936. They were passed by the U.S. Congress during the first term of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President of the United States, from 1933 to 1936. The programs were responses to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call the "3 Rs": relief, recovery, and reform. That is, relief for the unemployed and poor; recovery of the economy to normal levels; and reform of the financial system to prevent a repeat depression."

1)  Obama's stimulus spending is coming to an end, and the Republican dominated House has just passed a bill over to the Senate (which will not pass) that would cut $61 billion in discretionary spending.

2)  Unemployment is still trending up. If you take into account all the people who have stopped looking for work the official unemployment rate of 10% is  probably closer to 20%. The economy is not anywhere close to "normal".

3)  No effective reform of the financial system has been achieved through an Act poplarly known as the Banking Reform Bill - the official title of which is "An Act to promote the financial stability of the United States by improving accountability and transparency in the financial system, to end "too big to fail", to protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts, to protect consumers from abusive financial services practices, and for other purposes." I like the way Congress puts what we want to hear in the titles of bills (as that's all anyone reads), while the content of this bill leaves the toxic asset derivative vehicles in place, and Glass–Steagall (the 1930's bill to prevent economic instability) remains gutted.

The Great Depression of the 1930's had these same conservative voices that were willing to sacrifice the unemployed and the poor to fix the economy - people that thought giving more money and power to the institutions that caused the crisis in the first place was a good way to fix the crisis - vested interest, Pork Barrelers all.

It's amazing how fear makes people immediately go to their guilt impulse. I guess it's related to the hard winters our ancestors had to survive less than a hundred years ago - if you pigged out in autumn and over Christmas you might not live to see spring ( plus all the ads on TV today that play to those puritan values - the narrative goes: 'The recession is your fault because your greedy at the core of your nature [as you know], so buy this to make yourself feel better [because you're modern and know it's not real anyway]' ) - and while these are nice stories, they provide no real links to lessons learned in the history of economic crisis. They are ignorant knee jerk reactions that make good headlines and sound good coming out of talking heads mouths. They also represent the interests of the powerful and work against the interests of working people and the middle class.

Starving a recession leads to depression - that's the lesson of history - not the 'Little House on the Prairie' rhetoric that I hear coming from the corporate backed neo-con right.


The Capitol Times - Feb 17, 2011: "Laptop City Hall: "City Council approves all union contracts through 2012".

City of Madison - Mayor Dave's Blog - Feb 17, 2011: "Special Meeting & a Special Walk".

Bloomberg - Nov 18, 2010: "Prime U.S. Mortgage Foreclosures Hit Record as Unemployment Hurts Finances".

Wikipedia: "Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act"

Wikipedia: "New Deal"

Wikpedia: "Glass–Steagall Act"


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