Richard D. Kahlenberg, author of “Tough Liberal: Albert Shanker and the Battles Over Schools, Unions, Race, and Democracy,” wrote an interesting opinion piece in yesterday’s Washington Postlinking the union-bashing by Democrats to the current situation in Wisconsin. He also argues that collective bargaining needs to be further expanded so teachers can have a voice on a range of important educational questions that face the public school system.
But Rhee couldn’t have done it alone. Then-candidate Barack Obama endorsed Rhee in a 2008 debate as a “wonderful new superintendent” and later applauded the firing of every single unionized teacher at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island. (The teachers were later rehired.) Rhee’s agenda also received a big boost from liberal movie director Davis Guggenheim, whose film, “Waiting for ‘Superman,’ “ implies that teachers unions are to blame for the failures of urban education and that non-unionized charter schools are the solution. The movie includes no acknowledgment that the things teachers want for themselves – more resources devoted to education, smaller class sizes, policies that allow them to keep order in the classroom – are also good for kids.
LOS ANGELES – From driving up to the red carpet in hybrid cars to Michael Moore’s infamous anti-war outburst in 2003 (“Shame on you, Mr. Bush!”), the Oscars have always been center stage for political statements.
This year, two awards recipients thanked their union crew — in thinly-veiled shots at the Republican governor of Wisconsin, who has made headlines for trying to strip unionized civil servants of their collective bargaining rights.
“I think what’s going on in Wisconsin is kind of madness right now,” said Wally Pfister, who won a cinematography Oscar for “Inception,” during a press briefing backstage. Earlier, he thanked his “fantastic union crew.” More »
Update: Faced with over 1000 union supporters prepared to engage in non-violent civil disobedience, the move to arrest them has been halted.
From AFL-CIO blog, at 4:40 EST:
Police are expected to begin arrests in less than a half hour at the Wisconsin state capitol in Madison, following Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) order to clear the building. A group including clergy have pledged to take arrest peacefully rather than leave. Watch a live video stream here and follow breaking developments on Twitter. The AFL-CIO’s Eddie Vale on the ground in Madison says as the arrests take place Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final speech, in support of striking Memphis sanitation workers, will be playing.
Among the many heartening things about the workers fighting back in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere is the spotlight that is being thrown on the contemptuous attitude of the corporate elite and their handmaidens in government toward ordinary working Americans: police officers and firefighters, teachers, truck drivers, janitors, health care aides, and so on. These are the people who do the daily grunt work of America. How dare we treat them with contempt.
It would be a mistake to think that this fight is solely about the right of public employees to collectively bargain. As important as that issue is, it’s just one skirmish in what’s shaping up as a long, bitter campaign to keep ordinary workers, whether union members or not, from being completely overwhelmed by the forces of unrestrained greed in this society.
The predators at the top, billionaires and millionaires, are pitting ordinary workers against one another. So we’re left with the bizarre situation of unionized workers with a pension being resented by nonunion workers without one. The swells are in the background, having a good laugh.
This week has marked a new low for corporate charter advocates’ defense of draining tax money away from the neediest students and into the pockets of their already wealthy friends. In the case of New York, the policies that the New York Charter School Association supports could actually decrease financial resources for the charter schools they claim to support, since charter funding is based on the same district funding that Peter Murphy thinks deserves to be cut!
The New York Times editorializes against the union-busting in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and elsewhere. Take special note of the final paragraph.
Like a wind-whipped brush fire, the mass union protests that began in Madison, Wis., last week have spread to the capitals of Ohio and Indiana where Republican lawmakers also are trying to cripple the bargaining power of unions — and ultimately realize a cherished partisan dream of eradicating them. In each case, Republican talk of balancing budgets is cover for the real purpose of gutting the political force of middle-class state workers, who are steady supporters of Democrats and pose a threat to a growing conservative agenda.
In Ohio, Republican legislators, backed by Gov. John Kasich, have introduced a bill to end collective bargaining for state employees, in addition to imposing budgetary givebacks. Former Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat who was defeated by Mr. Kasich last year, has called the bill a “coordinated attack on the working middle class.” Thousands of union supporters showed up at the Capitol in Columbus on Tuesday, but the party appears to have the votes to pass the measure. More »
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has no time to talk to Democratic State Senators who left the state to bring his mad rush to pass union-busting legislation to a screeching halt, let alone a minute or two to share with Wisconsin unions, but he found quite a bit of free time to shoot the bull with a blogger who impersonated Tea Party billionaire David Koch. Here’s the entire conversation, in two parts.
What is remarkable is how freely Walker admits that the purpose of the “budget repair” bill is union-busting. The general tenor of the conversation was well-captured in this pithy selection:
“Koch”: Well, I tell you what, Scott: Once you crush these bastards, I’ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.
Walker: All right, that would be outstanding.
A little background on David Koch: he and his brother Charles Koch, billionaire owners of Koch Industries, were the target of a August 2010 New Yorker expose which revealed their central role in the funding of a far right political agenda, including a number of Tea Party projects. More »
Last week, in the face of protest demonstrations against Wisconsin’s new union-busting governor, Scott Walker — demonstrations that continued through the weekend, with huge crowds on Saturday — Representative Paul Ryan made an unintentionally apt comparison: “It’s like Cairo has moved to Madison.”
It wasn’t the smartest thing for Mr. Ryan to say, since he probably didn’t mean to compare Mr. Walker, a fellow Republican, to Hosni Mubarak. Or maybe he did — after all, quite a few prominent conservatives, including Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum, denounced the uprising in Egypt and insist that President Obama should have helped the Mubarak regime suppress it.
In any case, however, Mr. Ryan was more right than he knew. For what’s happening in Wisconsin isn’t about the state budget, despite Mr. Walker’s pretense that he’s just trying to be fiscally responsible. It is, instead, about power. What Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin — and eventually, America — less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy. And that’s why anyone who believes that we need some counterweight to the political power of big money should be on the demonstrators’ side.