As expected, Michael Moore, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka were in Madison, Wisconsin, to support and rally the workers in their fight against the union-busting governor and Republican-dominated state legislature.
But, so were union members Bradley Whitfield, Susan Sarandon, Tony Shaloub and dozens of musicians and singers, including Peter Yarrow who, as part of Peter, Paul and Mary, was at almost every major social protest for more than 40 years.
Which Side Are You On?” was the song during the painful 1930s when the working class decided they needed decent wages and hours during a work day.
Under the leadership of United Mine Workers President John L. Lewis and United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther, the labor movement made great strides. It was not easy. The strikers were brutally opposed by the entrenched companies that fought the unioners engaged in sit-down strikes. Thugs were hired to beat down the workers’ legitimate rights.
After the battles, a union card was a legitimate mark of respect. But many corporate leaders were unreconciled.
As Abraham Lincoln famously said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.” When you put enough dots in front of people sooner or later they will connect the dots. And Americans are connecting the dots.
Dots: Trade deals close factories, outsource jobs and pit workers against each other, then wages decline and unemployment is really high, while all the money goes to a few at the top. Then calls to cut the wages and benefits of the rest.
Dots: Unions squashed, then pensions disappear, then calls to get rid of public-employee unions because they have pensions.
Dots: Tax cuts for the rich, then panic over resulting deficits, then calls for cuts in the things government does for We, the People.
There are a lot of ironies in the Wisconsin fight between the Republican-dominated legislature and the working class.
On Tuesday, February 22, the State Senate unanimously passed a resolution to honor the Green Bay Packers for winning the Super Bowl. Every one of the players is a member of a union.
Of course, only the 19 Republicans in the chamber voted for the resolution; the 14 Democratic senators, co-sponsors of the resolution, were in Illinois. They were in the neighboring state because newly-elected Gov. Scott Walker, supported by Big Business, the Tea Party, and far-right conservatives, had ordered the unionized state police to bring every Democratic senator into the capitol in order to assure a quorum. Needing one more member, the Senate couldn’t pass any fiscal legislation.
In a post about Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s bid to strip public employee unions of collective bargaining — the most important and effective tool for protecting workers — Van Jones wrote:
“If a foreign power conspired to inflict this much damage on America’s first responders and essential infrastructure, we would see it as an act of war.”
It is an act of war, a now all-but-openly-declared war — and not just against unions, but against American workers and against the middle class.