This is a special hour of GRITtv on the workers rights crisis from Madison, Wisconsin. The UpTake helped produce this show along with GRITtv, Free Speech TV, and WORT FM in Madison.
“Unions realize that this is a threat to their very existence,” says Matt Rothschild, editor of The Progressive, of Scott Walker’s attempt to strip collective bargaining rights from public workers. And some of the usual suspects are behind Walker’s attack–from the Koch brothers to Republican ideologues. “These corporations want to get these people off the playing field,” says John Nichols, of The Nation. Matt and John discuss the history behind this week’s historic labor protests.
If Scott Walker is allowed to gut public employees’ right to collective bargaining, Sheila Cochran of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council points out, it will lower the floor for all Wisconsinites’ wages and benefits. The unions in the state have long helped keep wages high and benefits, including health care, good for all of the state’s workers, even as factories have closed and jobs gone overseas.
The public sector remains the last bastion of union workers around the country, and Sheila and Diane Palmer of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin discuss the impact the cuts will have on working families in Wisconsin and around the U.S.
“People understand this is a national struggle,” says Mary Bottari of the situation in Wisconsin right now, and Mark Pocan, Wisconsin State Assemblyman from the 78th District, says “This has to be the spot where we stop it nationally.” If Scott Walker manages to take away the workers’ right to collective bargaining, they point out, other states will do the same–Ohio and Indiana are already trying.
While the Assembly continues to hold nonstop hearings, letting the people of the state express their anger, the Democrats in the State Senate are meeting outside of Wisconsin to hold off a vote in that chamber, and Mary and others are investigating the connections to Karl Rove, the Club for Growth, and other groups pushing for union-busting laws. Mary and Mark take some time to tell Laura why Wisconsin matters for the entire country.
“When firefighters see an emergency, we respond,” says Mahlon Mitchell, the new president of the firefighters’ union in Wisconsin. Scott Walker left the firefighters and the police out of his drastic cuts to union employees’ rights, but the firefighters have been rallying in solidarity with the rest of the public employees all week. “It’s not a movement, it’s a way of life. It’s not just a union way of life, it’s letting them know that labor is important,” Mitchell notes.
Mitchell spoke with Oliver Dykstra from The Uptake inside the Capitol building this weekend.
“There’s nothing like learning about how you change something outrageous,” says Laura Dresser of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, who’s been at the protests in Madison all week with her nine-year-old son. It’s not just the kids who are learning from supporting their teachers’ union this week against Scott Walker’s cuts–Laura notes that she’s learned that even when the votes appear to be there in the legislature, there can be ways to stop a vote.
Laura joins our Laura Flanders to discuss what she’s learned this week–and what it appears that Scott Walker still hasn’t learned.
Thanks again to WORT Madison for the studio space, and for The Uptake and Free Speech TV for making this broadcast possible.