Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wisconsin- Revolt spreads from the Middle East to the Mid West







Protests in Wisconsin against anti-union bill

The unquenchable fire of revolution has recently spread all the way to the state of Wisconsin, where over a 100 thousand people have recently gathered to protest the recent passed bill by Governor Scott Walker, which strips unions of their bargaining rights.

The state of Wisconsin is currently facing a deficit of $137 million, and is expected to reach a predictive $13.6 billion by 2013. In order to combat this rapidly increasing deficit, Governor Scott Walker has proposed and successfully passed a bill which seeks to destroy the very fabric of unions, in a sort of chilling adulation to the most notorious anti-union and anti-democratic president the US has ever had, Ronald Reagan.

The two key points of the bill are the requirement for public workers to contribute more to their pensions and health insurance, and the stripping of their rights to collectively bargain benefits and working conditions. The contributions would increase by nearly 8%, essentially equating to a pay cut of the same magnitude; the second key point in the bill bars unions from bargaining over any issues other than base wage rate, such as working conditions, overtime rates, holiday pay, sick leave, wage rate increased based on seniority, or added work responsibilities.

The bill is nothing short of an attempt to destroy what so many workers in the United States have fought for generations upon generations, opening up the way for corporate-controlled privatization. From the times of the Industrial Revolution, where adults and children both worked side-by-side in subhuman and dangerous conditions, sometimes up to 12 hours a day with extremely low wages, workers have constantly been fighting and risking their lives for the ability to collectively bargain over issues of concern to the workers, in the form of unions. Let us not forget some of the many results of this struggle, including weekends, safe working conditions, and mandatory minimum wages, all as a means of preventing the exploitation of workers by their employers.

The recent turnout of peaceful protestors in Madison, notably in freezing weather conditions, reveals the tremendous level of solidarity that still exists in the United States. Despite the massive turnout, which is the largest since the days of the Vietnam War, media corporations have stuck to their status quo by giving slim to no coverage of the protests. CNN, proclaimed as a moderate news network in the ideological spectrum, covered the story very scantily, while the hawks at FOX news ignored the event entirely. This should help reinforce the notion that real news can be obtained from the internet, and that the major media outlets are nothing short of a farce.

The most remarkable unfolding of events during the past few days has been the siding of the police officers with the protestors. Hundreds of cops marched into the Wisconsin state capitol building to protest, side-by-side with workers, against the anti-union bill, receiving massive applause in the process. Currently, up to 600 people have occupied the building.

Despite Gov. Scott Walker ordering the police to kick out the occupants, the officers are refusing to do so. A police officer was quoted saying “We have been ordered by the legislature to kick you all out at 4:00 today. But we know what’s right from wrong. We will not be kicking anyone out, in fact, we will be sleeping here with you!”.

It seems that we are very much living in very revolutionary times, considering all the events unfolding elsewhere in the world as well. Let this be a reminder that the voice of the people will always be heard, and that the fire of revolution will never be extinguished.

Commentary- Sameer Matta, American in Auckland and supporter of S.A.

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