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article imageUnions demand ‘American rights’ in Wisconsin demonstrations

By Carol Forsloff     Feb 17, 2011 in Politics
Madison - "I hope Paul Ryan takes this opportunity to offer up some concrete ideas that work to solve our economic crisis without heaping the tax burden on working families and endangering the retirement investments of millions of Americans."
This response to Paul Ryan’s ideas about reducing the Wisconsin budget by slashing pensions and benefits of union workers was an early salvo to the present crisis in Wisconsin. Union members now demonstrate in the streets. The introduction to the present fight came immediately before President Obama made his State of the Union address in a press release that spoke of times to come. Paul Ryan, you see, was said to represent the ideas of his Republican neighbor, the new Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, where union demonstrations are taking place.
The fight over the budget has heated up considerably. Wisconsin workers are demonstrating by the thousands in Madison, Wisconsin. In short, they say they are mad as hell and won’t take it anymore. The proposed bill by the Governor would reduce pension funds and eliminate collective bargaining.
Experts tell us there are two ways to solve a budget crisis. One is to slash spending and the other is to increase income. Government income is provided by taxes. When taxes aren’t increased, then the next step is to slash spending. What has happened, however, is that spending slashes proposed, as in Wisconsin, falls heavily on the unions and in many cases on the poor by Medicaid reductions and prison closures, as has occurred in Texas and Louisiana.
Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate quoted at the outset of this article went on to say before Paul Ryan’s rebuttal to the President Obama’s State of the Union Address."The radical proposals in Paul Ryan's "Roadmap to Ruin" stand in stark contrast to the goals President Obama will present for our nation. The vast majority of Americans support preserving social safety nets, expanding educational opportunities for our children to be successful in the growing global economy and ensuring access to affordable health care for all - none of which are offered in Ryan's "Roadmap."
In the meantime, Media Matters reflects on the responses to these demonstrations taking place in Wisconsin. This media outlet cites Glenn Beck’s pronouncements, made on February 16. on his Fox News Show where Beck compared protests in Wisconsin with those in the Middle East and Mexico, describing these as part of "evil spreading around the globe.
Labor history opens the door to what happened before unions developed. People worked for low wages in sweatshops, under harsh conditions. They worked from dawn to dusk. When the depression came, companies demanded more or let the workers go. This sent men by the thousands into the streets, where they wandered looking for jobs. It was, of course, mostly men those days, with women supporting the efforts. They met together, forming groups to challenge corporations. While history records corruption in some of these unions, historians tell us unionization meant a ticket to the middle class, if not for the worker than for his son or daughter he could eventually send to college.
The unions attained power but that power has declined in over the years. Do they still matter? History experts tell us it depends on one’s point of view. And what these union demonstrations bring to Wisconsin’s budget solutions will add another chapter in a history of changing elements and events that formed the unions. It also raises this question posed by that same writer of its history, “What role will unions play in getting us out of this mess (or in making us fall farther into it)?”
A political writer on Huffington Post also tells us these labor demonstrations will test again the strength and power of unions and to deny their right to organize is ‘un-American.’ Robert Creamer tells us this in his article about what he believes are essential worker rights:
The right to choose a union is not a Democratic value or a Republican value. It is an American value.
Abraham Lincoln once cautioned that if any man tells you he loves America, yet hates labor, he is a liar.
Republican President Dwight Eisenhower said that, "only a fool would try to deprive working men and working women of their right to join the union of their choice."
More about Governor Scott Walker, union demonstrations, Wisconsin labor movement, demonstrators in Wisconsin, Paul Ryan
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