Rally for Wisconsion Workers

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Click above to see photos from the rally in Boston yesterday. Above: members of Iron Workers Local 7 atop the Robert Gould Shaw / 54th Regiment memorial.

In Boston, thousands gathered to join in support of Wisconsin workers and their collective bargaining rights. It was an inspiring moment. And despite my concerns with mass protests it was really, really good.

This blog is supposed to be sort of meta-activism, so I won’t go too much into the substance of the event itself. I did find it helpful that people are making the larger point about the events in Wisconsin — that this is about more than just the workers demands, but the right to organize. Governor Patrick, when he spoke, said that it was even bigger than that — this fight is about what kind of society we want to live in. I like it, but then, I always like it when people makie the bigger, broader, bolder point.

I always have a lot to criticize. (Why do I hear the same chants at every rally ever? How many rounds of “This is what democracy looks like!” and “Ain’t no power like the power of the people / cuz the power of the people don’t stop!” do I have to go through before we come up with something new?) I’m going to forgo those negative thoughts until another time. For now, it was just so wonderful to see people standing up for working folks. I hope that these and other rallies around the nation are heard in Wisconsin. I hope that people across our country can settle these kind of labor disputes — to steal Governor Patrick’s choice of workds — not by turning on one another, but by turning to one another. But when those in power do turn on working people, I hope labor unions continue to organize like their lives depend on it.

P.S. Shoutout to my new friend Warren who is the guy in the second photo with the two signs (“They Only Call it Class War When We Fight Back” and “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night”). By ‘new friend’  I mean that we talked for maybe 3 minutes while I took his photo with my camera phone, but he seems fairly spectacular.

February 23, 2011. Uncategorized. 3 comments.

Why are women and working folks under attack?

Let’s just make one thing perfectly clear. The attack on basic labor rights and the budgetary assault on women’s health is a coordinated and crass calculation of the American Right Wing.

The other night while grabbing drinks with some of my progressive friends, we were joking around that it feels like we have to fight the same fights that progressives did back in the early 1900s. Should workers be able to join together to bargain for basic wages and benefits? Do women, in fact, have a brain that they can use all on their own? Hell, the frequent assault on regulation reminds me of that old chestnut from The Onion Pure Food And Drug Act Will Limit Human-Thumb Levels Permitted In Meats which is probably now considered, you know, socialism or whatever. I feel like Obama is a little off when he talks about the fight being about Winning the Future — to me, we still haven’t even won the past.

In 2011, we should not have to ask ourselves whether or not we can join together to improve our quality of life. And in 2011, we should not have to ask ourselves whether women should be allowed any federal dollars to help prevent STDs, unwanted pregnancies, or get an abortion.

But we do. Why?

Simply put, because the GOP has absolutely, 100% NO plan to help create jobs or grow the economy. Reducing the deficit doesn’t create jobs. Attacking women’s rights does not create jobs. Redefining rape does not create jobs. Even eliminating unions doesn’t create jobs, or even if it did, it just creates crappy ones. Yet they won Congress because the economy hasn’t recovered fast enough, and they surely know that. But you know what their actions do? Stirs up the base. Distracts us from the fact that Obama and Democrats have put together some really innovative programs. Gets us riled up, fired up. When you can’t win the discussion, you change it. You know, that old chestnut.

The GOP calculates that they have to attack women and unions for 3 reasons:

(1) Women’s health and union rights are controversial. Republicans are banking on the fact that people feel icky about using any federal dollars for women’s health and American unions have become increasingly unpopular. It also fires up Democratic and Republican bases, and Republicans need a little fire in their belly. After all, 2012 is getting off to a slow start.

(2) It gets Democrats off newly minted centrist talking points, and if it doesn’t makes them look pretty squishy. This is a Whose Side Are You On moment, and moderates always feel uncomfortable in those moments. Obama has been trying to portray himself as a more centrist figure. Well, he’s gonna have to come home to his base — and OFA has been helping organize. And take a look at Democratic Senator Kohl’s anemic first statement on the topic when he wasn’t sure which way the wind was blowing. He followed it up with a second statement that was more supportive but called for “cooler heads,” and “bi-partisan solutions.” Compare that to the progressive ex-Senator Feingold who said, “This state is one of the originators of many of the workers’ rights and protections on child labor, unemployment compensation, and almost all kinds of workers’ rights. The fact that our governor is trying to destroy those rights is something worth fighting against.”

(3) It distracts us from productive conversations about the economy, like how to invest in it. Anybody here talking about high speed rail or investments in education and science? You know, the things that Obama highlighted in his State of the Union Address? No? Anybody? Anybody talking about Republican plans to grow the economy? No? Oh that’s right, they don’t have any.

Whenever there is a major controversy, ask yourself: what conversation are we not having right now? He who controls the topic of debate wins it, even if his opponent wins the argument.

Frankly, if I were a right-wing GOPer, this is what I’d do, too. Because Lord knows, they were elected to help fix the economy, but they don’t have a clue how to do that. But they sure do know how to pick a fight.

P.S. This great article from Stephanie Taylor about the historical use of the guard to break up strikes and how the Governor of WI threatened to bring it back should be required reading of everybody.

February 19, 2011. Uncategorized. 5 comments.