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Reactions to the Rights-Stripping Bill in Wisconsin

Here’s a lazy post where I just throw up some statements about what happened last night in Wisconsin. I thought you might enjoy reading them.

Phil Neuenfeldt, President of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO

“Senate Republicans have exercised the nuclear option to ram through their bill attacking Wisconsin’s working families in the dark of night. Walker and the Republicans acted in violation of state open meetings laws, and tonight’s events have demonstrated they will do or say anything to pass their extreme agenda that attacks Wisconsin’s working families.

Tonight’s trampling of the democratic process in Wisconsin shows that Scott Walker and the Republicans have been lying throughout this entire process and we have been telling the truth – that NONE of the provisions that attacked workers’ rights had anything to do with the budget.

Losing badly in the court of public opinion and failing to break the Democratic Senators’ principled stand, Scott Walker and the GOP have eviscerated both the letter and the spirit of the law and our democratic process to ram through their payback to their deep-pocketed friends. In the most deplorable manner possible, Republicans rigged a vote that stripped
hundreds of thousands of hardworking teachers, nurses, EMTs and others of their rights.

Scott Walker and the Republicans’ ideological war on the middle class and working families is now indisputable, and their willingness to shred 50 years of labor peace, bipartisanship, and Wisconsin’s democratic process to pass a bill that 74% of Wisconsinites oppose is beyond reprehensible and possibly criminal.”

Gerald McEntee, AFSCME President:

“At a time when we should be pulling together to create jobs, Governor Walker and the legislators who back him are more interested in stripping nurses, teachers, correction officers, bus drivers and EMTs of their rights. This is a question of right and wrong. The governor is tearing Wisconsin apart when voters want real solutions to the problems they face.

“This is about more than Scott Walker’s arrogance. He is tossing aside basic American values. Public workers fought long and hard for the right to collective bargaining. Martin Luther King, Jr. died defending that right for AFSCME sanitation workers in Memphis. We are not going to allow a small group of radical politicians in Wisconsin destroy what Americans have fought generations to win.”

Mike Tate, Chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party:

“Using tactics that trample on the traditions of our Legislature, the Republican leadership has betrayed our state. Republicans have rubber-stamped the desire of the Koch Brothers and their godshead Scott Walker to cripple Wisconsin’s middle class and lower benefits and wages for every single wage-earner in our state. The vote does nothing to create jobs, does nothing to strengthen our state, and shows finally and utterly that this never was about anything but raw political power. We now put our total focus on recalling the eligible Republican senators who voted for this heinous bill. And we also begin counting the days remaining before Scott Walker is himself eligible for recall.”

Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller:

“In thirty minutes, 18 State Senators undid fifty years of civil rights in Wisconsin.

“Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten.

“Tonight, 18 Senate Republicans conspired to take government away from the people.

“We will join the people of Wisconsin in taking back their government.”

That one originally said “Tomorrow, we will join the people of Wisconsin in taking back their government,” but now all of a sudden the Fab 14 won’t return on Thursday.

Here’s the full statementfrom Thomas Bird of the newly-founded Autonomous Solidarity Organization (ASO). An excerpt:

The Autonomous Solidarity Organization was officially formed on Tuesday March 8, 2011. The roots of our organization date back to the early days of the original occupation of the Capitol. The bulk of our core membership were members of the drum circle and “people’s microphone” which kept spirits high and allowed the voice of the public to be heard in the rotunda for the 18 days of the occupation.

We worked in concert with unions, the Capitol staff, and the general public as these connections became available. We made every effort to maintain peace and order during the repeated provocations we were faced with. These roles were revisited on the night of March 9th. During the post-occupation period (after March 3rd) we decided to formally organize in order to continue the fight which we had already dedicated weeks of our life to. Our efforts, and our reach, will be much broader than the fight against SB 11 but for now that is a moot point.

The assembly will vote on the new version of the bill today, March 10th at 11am. If this occurs it will be an unspeakable crime against our democracy. Governor Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans have spent weeks promoting the provisions of the Budget Repair Bill as necessary to close the budget deficit. There was never a rational, intellectually honest argument that stripping collective bargaining from public employees, that putting an unelected official in direct control of Badgercare and Medicaid, that allowing no-bid sale of
power plants have anything to do with balancing the budget. However it has now been made even clearer. Explicitly financial portions of the bill were split into a separate bill and they are attempting to pass these provisions into law.

In the Legislative Financial Bureau’s memo on modifications to SB 11, page 16, there is a provision titled “Discharge of State Employees.” It states that under current law, “the Governor may issue an executive order declaring a state of emergency for the state or any portion of the state if he or she determines that an emergency resulting from a disaster or imminent threat of a disaster exists.” Remember that the Wisconsin Republicans have shown a disturbing penchant for complying with existing law in the most limited sense. In the event of a Governor declaring a state of emergency, the new SB 11 would allow an appointing authority to discharge any employee who fails to “(a) report to work for any three days during the state of emergency, (b) participates in a strike, work stoppage, sit- down, stay-in, slowdown, or other concerted activities to interrupt the operations or services of state government.” There is a clear coordination between the language used to vilify those exercising their 1st amendment rights and the language used to activate this provision. The Republicans very clearly are interested in giving Governor Walker the ability to wield unreasonable, unprecedented power.

The writing is on the wall. Every day we see more of their intentions and every day our resolve only grows stronger. As always, we will respond appropriately, peacefully, and effectively in Autonomous Solidarity.

More on that last part in my next post.

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David Dayen

David Dayen