While it’s not being widely discussed in the mainstream press, union activists in Wisconsin have begun mulling over the possibility of a general strike as their next move in the War On Taxpayers.
As Pat Schneider at the progressive Cap Times website reports, “both [Madison, Wisconsin] Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and past mayor and current candidate Paul Soglin talked about a general strike at a candidate forum Feb. 23 at the Warner Park Community and Recreation Center on the city’s north side.”
Cieslewicz said union leaders have told him they don’t want to call for a strike – aside from Democrat State Senators, of course – but ended by muttering darkly about how Wisconsin taxpayers were about to “throw away 40 years of labor peace” by restricting the collective bargaining privileges of wealthy public unions, and asking their members to chip in a little to pay for their lavish benefits. He can “almost guarantee” strikes at some time “in the next five to ten years” if Governor Scott Walker’s budget reforms are passed.
Schneider goes on to say that “Wisconsin’s South Central Federation of Labor endorsed a strike in concept last week, but union leaders here are very cautious talking about an action that would be against the law for state workers, and could be in violation of some private worker union contracts.” There’s a “General Strike In Wisconsin” Facebook page, which currently has 1,283 “likes,” and many posts from people the mainstream press have vigorously assured us do not exist and have absolutely nothing to do with unions in Wisconsin.
In an interview with Democracy Now!, Frank Emspak, founder of the Workers Independent News, mused that the South Central Federation of Labor vote made the “obvious implication that, sooner or later, there’s going to have to be some kind of direct action, statewide, by all workers, the largest extent possible.”
Emspak added, “When the international presidents, who actually have big unions, like President Hoffa and President Hill from the IBEW, came here, both of them were asked by us and others, ‘What do you think?’ And their response was, ‘Well, if that’s what has to happen, that’s what has to happen.’ And that’s an extraordinary thing to hear two international presidents effectively endorse a motion that everybody goes on strike.”
He dismissed the notion of public strikes being illegal by pointing out that “you couldn’t strike in Egypt either, and they’re striking… I think here, what you’re going to see is that people are forced to the wall, and if their rights are taken away, they will find ways to make that clear – legally, illegally, whatever, but from the grassroots. People do not need to be told that there’s a problem.”
Striking Wisconsin public employees could look to New Jersey for inspiration, where the Communications Workers of America staged a “sick-out” to attend a rally where Governor Chris Christie was compared to Moammar Qaddafi. Their little strike “forced the county to cancel bus rides for 174 developmentally disabled clients and pay for a bus service to get critically ill patients to dialysis treatments,” as reported in the Asbury Park Press. The union has not yet reprimanded the perpetrators, or denounced their action. Republican State Senator Kyrillos has called for them to be fired.
Most of this strike talk is just red meat to keep the union thugs pumped up, but the unions are running out of other options. Deadlines have arrived for the fugitive Wisconsin Democrats to return to duty, and even if they ignore these deadlines and make their state’s budget crisis worse, they’ll eventually have to come back to work, or be replaced. Their craven tactics may have already made massive layoffs inevitable. The ugly crowd of profane demonstrators ringing the Wisconsin state capitol can only up the ante further with hardcore physical violence.
Some kind of work stoppage is one of the few weapons left to public unions for compelling submission from taxpayers and their representatives. If they try it, we’ll see if Governor Walker gives them the same answer President Regan gave the PATCO air-traffic controllers, back in 1981.