I have a new piece up on Alternet reporting on the shift in energy from public protests to recall GOTV in Wisconsin:
Democracy Addicts blogger Ed Knutson said that activists “seem to be completely engulfed in working on the recalls,” but that the upcoming elections were “a direct result of the protest.” Ken Dundeck, communications director for the activist group Autonomous Solidarity Organization (ASO), said, “We can chant ‘This is what democracy looks like,’ but what democracy really looks like is us getting out in the field and talking to people at their doors.”
John Matthews, president of the union Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI), said he wants the “budget repair” bill overturned before the MTI’s current contract expires in 2013. He said that would require having enough politicians in both houses who either are “people of good conscience” or “people who are worried” that progressives could oust them. “We have to build that fear into them” with recalls, he said.
My reporting comes from interviews with a dozen activists and leaders for the piece. Check it out.
(I have another piece telling a different Wisconsin labor story that will be going live soon as well)
In the wake of Walker’s Wednesday maneuver, National Review‘s Daniel Foster mourned the extent to which Americans still (or maybe more so now) recognize union rights as democratic rights, or as any kind of right at all:
To hear all the talk of the “rights” — even “civil rights”(!) — that have been stripped from public sector workers in this bill by the “far right wing” is to see Stockholm Syndrome on a massive scale…The fact is that no individual human being lost a single right in Wisconsin tonight.
The right that Scott Walker and company are desperate to deny is this: the right of a worker to sit across the table from her boss as an equal, with the security of solidarity and the leverage of collective action, and say “No.” It’s the right to say safety rules are too weak or healthcare is too expensive and to exercise voice with strength rather than to exit in hopes of finding a charitable boss somewhere else. And with it goes the right – also attacked by Walker – to act together to move your boss.
There are no workers that conservatives believe should exercise these rights -unless, maybe, they’re in a history book. Either the job you do is too important to be subject to your needs (like TSA screeners), or the business you work for is too small (like a store), or your company is too generous already (like Starbucks), or you’re not really a worker (like domestic workers), or your job requires too much independent thinking (like graduate teachers), or your job should be done by a teenager and you should go to college (like fast food), or – like public workers in Wisconsin – you don’t need an organized voice on the job because you get to vote on who runs the government.
Was recently listening to the journalists on Slate’s Political Gabfest pondering why union density is so much higher amongst public sector workers than the private sector. None of them mentioned the most important difference: It’s harder for a government to get away with running a terror campaign against the union.
There’s more oversight and accountability to restrain public sector management from threatening workers for union activity, implying benefits to keeping out the union or danger with it, holding captive audience meetings against the union, or just firing union leaders. Only some of these tactics are even illegal. And bosses get away with those all the time. (Check out this reportfrom Human Rights Watch, or this one from Prof. Kate Bronfenbrenner). Consultants get very wealthy guiding companies on how to run fear campaigns against employees trying to organize. It’s a lot harder for the TSA to cut anti-union consultants a check than it is for Wal-Mart. When it comes to organizing, the fundamental difference between public sector and private sector workers is that public sector workers have a better chance at organizing free from fear. So lots and lots of public sector workers do.