Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pro-Democracy protests in USA too?


The fury among thousands of workers, students and union supporters rose to a boil on Thursday. Protesters blocked a door to the Senate chambers. They sat down, body against body, filling a corridor. They chanted “Freedom, democracy .....!"
 Over three days, protesters’ backpacks, sleeping bags, water bottles and homemade signs have come to jam the marble halls of this Capitol, and on Thursday evening the rallies grew. People screamed: “Shut it down! Shut it down!” Drums pounded. Students, some barefoot, danced. Extra law enforcement workers now pepper the building, trying to guide officials through the thick, chanting crowds.

Many among the protesters said that they had no plans to leave, and that they would wait, as long as it took.
From Newyork Times

The above news report is not about events from yet another Arab State ruled by a Dictator. This news item is about the pro-democracy mass protests taking place in Wisconsin,USA,the so called cradle of Democracy.

Mass agitation in Wisconsin

Citing Wisconsin’s gaping budget shortfall for this year and even larger ones expected in the years ahead, Gov. Scott Walker proposed a sweeping plan called the Budget repair Bill, last week to cut benefits for public employees in the state and  strip them of their collective bargaining rights. All public workers will get less pension and Health Insurance and will loose ability to ask for better benefits in the future even if the economy booms.
Mr. Walker made several proposals that will weaken not just unions’ ability to bargain contracts, but also their finances and political clout.

His proposal would make it harder for unions to collect dues because the state would stop collecting the money from employee paychecks.
He would further weaken union treasuries by giving members of public-sector unions the right not to pay dues. In an unusual move, he would require secret-ballot votes each year at every public-sector union to determine whether a majority of workers still want to be unionized.
He would require public-employee unions to negotiate new contracts every year, an often lengthy process.
The Bill invited wide spread protests  and it is growing day by day.

Mike Imbrogno, a cook at the University of Wisconsin in Madison  described the move as an “attack” on working people.

Molly Noble is a graduate student in sociology and project assistant at UW-Madison. The bill, she says, would hurt her tuition remission and health care coverage. “This is political, not economic. It’s an attack on workers and an attack on democracy.
Martha Fischhoff, a graduate student in gender and women’s studies at Madison said,
“I was hoping to stay in Madison and teach—I love Wisconsin.“But this bill would make it untenable for me to stay. I would not stay here to teach if this bill passes.”


President Obama supported the workers saying “Some of what I've heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you're just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally seems like more of an assault on unions,And I think it's very important for us to understand that public employees, they're our neighbors, they're our friends.”

The President said it is important “not to vilify” these employees, “or to suggest somehow all these budget problems are due to public employees.”

The two most striking features of the Wisconsin protests are their massive size and their palpable energy and anger. There were around 30,000 people present on Thursday—the largest demonstration in the city since the Vietnam War-era. . Gov. Walker’s bill has struck nerves in diverse groups of citizens.


 Read  what Mitchell Bard wrote in Huffington Post::
What I didn't realize on my way to the rally was the national implications of the Wisconsin protests. I admit that in my head, as I walked toward the Capitol, I expected to see a lot of students, teaching assistants, teachers and soccer moms.
Upon reaching the Capitol, I was shocked to see that the crowd was nothing like I had imagined. For starters, the Square was packed like I've never seen it before (even on the most beautiful summer day for the weekly Saturday farmers' market). The idea that I would be able to find my colleagues became instantly laughable (and, in fact, I never ran into a single person I knew). There were clearly students sprinkled throughout the crowd, but the vast majority seemed to be working-class and middle-class people: taxi drivers, construction workers, maintenance workers, prison guards etc



Then I saw members of the police union marching around the Square, and, later, a seemingly endless parade of firefighters went by, all expressing solidarity with the workers at the Capitol even though their collective bargaining rights were not at risk. When the crowd applauded, I got chills.

It was the appearance of the firefighters, in their matching shirts, that really triggered something in my head. This protest was way bigger than I had imagined.

Walker's "budget repair bill" isn't about deficits in Wisconsin. In fact, a nonpartisan commission found that the deficits are not severe and do not require any kind of austerity action. And what is the main cause of the current budget shortfall? Walker's own tax cuts. In other words, the new governor created this "problem," and now, conveniently, he is offering a solution.

Only, his solution has nothing to do with the alleged problem. Instead, it's an attack on state employee unions. Walker is using the concocted budget issue as a smokescreen to eliminate the collective bargaining rights of unions, a long-time item on the right-wing wish list. He is trying to eliminate five decades of collective bargaining rights in one week.


Noam Chomsky says in an interview to Demecracy Now
 there’s been a wave of propaganda over the last couple of months, which is pretty impressive to watch, trying to deflect attention away from those who actually created the economic crisis, like Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, their associates in the government who—Federal Reserve and others—let all this go on and helped it.

The CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, got a $12.5 million bonus, and his base pay was more than tripled. Well, that means he—the rules of corporate governments have been modified in the last 30 years by the U.S. government to allow the chief executive officer to pretty much set their own salaries. There’s various ways in which this has been done, but it’s government policy. And one of the effects of it is—people talk about inequality, but what’s a little less recognized is that although there is extreme inequality, it’s mostly because of the top tiny fraction of the population, so like a fraction of one percent of the population, their wealth has just shot through the stratosphere.



A proposal to end collective bargaining rights for public sector workers is not a serious policy recommendation to pull a state out of a fiscal crisis. Rather, it is an attempt to shift the debate on where blame for massive budget deficits and fiscal crises should lie. Instead of blaming massive Tax cuts for the rich and lax Federal Laws which allowed un restricted profit making in Wall Street, Public Workers like Teachers,Nurses,Fire fighters and Police are being blamed for the crisis..
 It will take a massive people's movement that includes all unions, private and public, as well as other sectors of the progressive movement to succesfully fight against the scapegoating of working people as the culprits of a crisis they had nothing to do with.

Links
Noam Chomsky interview
Huffington Post
Obama on Wisconsin protests

4 comments:

  1. I had no idea about this but after reading your post I too support the Public Workers. I think a Democracy needs constant working at - good to see that happening. We see such things happen in India also, but there is too much political involvement I feel.

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  2. By the way, loved the controversial blog post title on a very uncontroversial post:)

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  3. IHM, yes Democracy needs constant working over. Rights of every one including the Organised and Un organised workers should be respected.Respecting Workers rights is a political view point and only the Centrist and Left of center Political Parties will be ready for that.
    Was the blog title so controversial?

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  4. Maybe only I thought it was a controversial title, because I think of the US as the epitome of democracy... :)

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Comments are welcome especially if you do not think like me. But anonymous comments behind masks and those not relevant to the post are not encouraged.