Moral Low Ground


Public Workers Rally in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan & Idaho; Wisconsin Protests Continue; Unions Plan Saturday Rallies in All 50 States

February 23, 2011 by Brett Wilkins in Labor, Protests with 7 Comments

Protests by state  public employee unions against conservative government attempts to rescind hard-won benefits and collective bargaining rights have spread like a prairie fire from Wisconsin to several nearby states and to Idaho. Thousands of pro-union demonstrators marched in Indianapolis, Indiana, Columbus, Ohio and Lansing, Michigan. Hundreds of people also rallied in Boise and ten other Idaho cities to protest a scheme by state education officials to sack hundreds of teachers and restrict collective bargaining rights.

In Indiana, almost every last Democratic member of the state House of Representatives fled to neighboring states rather than vote on anti-union legislation supported by Republican governor Mitch Daniels. Still, the state Senate passed a bill that would limit teachers’ unions’ collective bargaining rights to wages and wage-related benefits such as health insurance. The bill “effectively guts the ability to bargain in the true meaning of bargaining,” Senator Earline Rogers (D-Gary) told the Indianapolis Star.

In Ohio, Democrats would gain nothing by fleeing the state since Republicans had enough votes on their side for a quorum. Their version of the union-busting bills plaguing these states would effectively end collective bargaining for state employees and greatly reduce bargaining rights for local government workers such as police and firefighters. The proposed evisceration of union rights before Ohio lawmakers is even more draconian than what’s being proposed in Wisconsin. Thousands of pro-union protesters marched on the State House in Columbus, chanting “KILL THE BILL!” Ohio governor John R. Kasich, a Republican, says the purpose of the bill isn’t to destroy union power, as many have accused. “This is nothing more than an effort to reduce the cost of governance so we can start to create jobs,” his spokesman told the New York Times. “This is an effort to save the state, no agendas.”

In Michigan, around 800 firefighters rallied at the state Capitol in Lansing against the repeal of binding arbitration for police and firefighters, who are not permitted to strike under state law. This was one of several protests in Michigan against Republican governor Rick Snyder’s proposed cut-filled  budget and anti-union legislation. A small Tea Party contingent also staged a demonstration.

In Idaho, hundreds rallied in the capital city of Boise to protest a scheme by state education officials to sack hundreds of teachers and restrict collective bargaining rights. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna wants to lay off 750 teachers and strip others of their right to have a say in class sizes, teacher workloads and promotions. Collective bargaining would also be strictly limited. Idaho is facing a tax revenue shortfall of $90 million.

Meanwhile, back where it all began in Madison, Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker is standing firm and talking tough in the face of pro-union protests that have been going on since last week. Walker, a Republican, is threatening to lay off thousands of public employees if Democratic lawmakers, many of whom have fled the state in order to avoid a vote on rabidly anti-union legislation, don’t act on his budget repair bill.

But rather than backing down, unions and their supporters are poised to expand their protests to all fifty states. A coalition of prominent progressive groups and unions is planning to stage demonstrations in all 50 state capitals this Saturday in what many hope is just the beginning of a radical re-assessment of national priorities.

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  1. I Am Not a NumberFebruary 24, 2011 at 10:32 amReply

    Love the site. I received a link through a mailing list in the UK. I had no idea of these Union disputes in the US!? Strange how we don’t hear anything about that on the UK media, we hear plenty about the bloody Tea Party and the infantile rantings of Sarah Palin and Glen Beck but not a dicky bird about those fighting for an alternative vision of social justice. I’ll spread the word over this side of the pond. Love your work.

    • Moral Low GroundFebruary 24, 2011 at 10:43 amReplyAuthor

      Thank you! Many anti-union, pro-corporate forces here are actually pointing to the UK’s “successful” union-busting during the Thatcher era as an example of what must be done here. The problem is, rather than address the real cause of all these budget deficits (Wall Street and criminal corporate greed), the right-wing reactionaries want to blame “lazy” and “overpaid” union members. It’s laughable– who would ever accuse a teacher of being overpaid?– but it works. As does, of course, tarring the union members with the “socialist” label. That’s a dirty word around here. Thanks again for reading!

    • Moral Low GroundFebruary 24, 2011 at 10:44 amReplyAuthor

      … and thanks also for linking to our story. Adding your site to our blogroll!

  2. JNagaryaFebruary 24, 2011 at 8:38 pmReply

    Walker, a Republican, is threatening to lay off thousands of public employees

    Way to expand the number of protestors by converting Walker supporters to opponents. Apparently Walker is a closet pro-union “leftist”.

    So be it. Walker is gonna go the way of former IN Dep. AG Cox. Good riddance.

    • Moral Low GroundFebruary 28, 2011 at 1:11 pmReplyAuthor

      Good riddance indeed! Let’s see what happens to Walker come the next gubernatorial election… it seems as if the majority of the people support the union side.

  3. samuel a. helmFebruary 27, 2011 at 3:59 amReply

    Regarding the national media interview of Governor Daniels, let me rebut one by one his claims to what a wonderful job he has done. Corporate bargainers with private sector unions also are typically bargaining with other people’s money (the stockholders’ money), although both private sector and public sector bargainers are financially impacted typically in some limited ways. In addition, public union contracts and HR provisions in Indiana had provisions that permitted merit pay if it could be objectively substantiated. In addition, Indiana could move its copying machines as it pleased. Also, “management flexibility” was there for the using but not for the abusing under Indiana collective bargaining. What the Governor wanted was the power to reward Republicans and to punish any disagreement and to do so at their whim. Gov. Daniels’ arguments do not hold water. In addition, he balanced the budget largely by use of a somewhat modified version of “sell and lease back” of a toll road for about $1.5 billion. “Sell and lease back” types of ways to raise public funds do more to “privatize” public assets than to save money for equal services. In addition, the Governor has reduced public employee head count by turning the head count into indirect public employees working for government contractors. His “privatizing” projects have frequently turned into a mess, and the effect of his property tax cutting, while cuts are desirable; leave it remaining to be seen as we see government and education gutted in the coming years. Lastly, the capital costs of saving me ten minutes, if that, once a year to buy my license plates in Indiana is many many millions of dollars that I would have preferred to have seen spent on higher priorities. The Governor is a spin artist. That was much of his job at the Lilly Corp. and that is his great strength. About everything he does can be explained by his number one interest to use his position to weaken those who support the Democrats and strengthen those who support the Republicans. He practices a highly divisive partisan form of politics instead of a unifying and cooperative form. He seeks to win by turning us against each other one project at a time.

    • Moral Low GroundFebruary 28, 2011 at 1:10 pmReplyAuthor

      … and this is what the people of Indiana voted for last November?

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