Sunday, August 21, 2011

Issue #21- August 21, 2011, More Recall Analysis, News, Next Steps

What This Is…
Issue #21- August 21, 2011, More Reactions to the Recalls, News, Next Steps 

More Analysis of the Recalls…
As I've said before the analysis of the events in Wisconsin will need a historical perspective to be fully completed.  Even so, it is necessary to analyze recent events in order to effectively plan our future actions.  A few more thoughts: 

Mainstream media loses focus quickly- Without headline grabbing events our major media outlets don't keep attention on any issue for long.  Without continuing coverage of long term issues the general public loses track of what is happening and assumes things are resolved satisfactorily.  This is clearly demonstrated by the lack of coverage of the last recall elections on 8/16.    

Many "Independent Voters" feel they have been given an out- Many of our so called independents that I talked to when canvassing or phone banking spoke of being disenchanted with all the money spent on races, harsh rhetoric and the intrusion of politics in their daily lives.  As a result they felt vindicated for expressing disdain for the whole system.  I have no way of proving it, but I feel safe in assuming that many of these independents either didn't vote, or voted based on a last minute decision heavily impacted by advertising.  We have a large segment of our citizenry that is content to grouse about the system until it directly affects them.  One message we should all take from the past 6 months is that sometimes you wake up too late to prevent a disaster.  Then you are left with limited recourse and are fighting from behind.  These independent voters form a large bloc and have the potential to impact elections significantly.

Troubled times don't always give rise to greatness- To say our economy is hurting is an understatement.  Unfortunately, it seems that challenging circumstances can sometimes bring out the worst in people.  The idea that if one person is struggling then everyone should struggle has resulted in an electorate that is divided and actively seeks to bring down other groups.

That concept of fairness twists the labor slogan, "An injury to one is an injury to all."  That mantra speaks to looking out for each other and trying to get the best situation for everyone.   Instead of pulling people up there is a genuine movement to bring others down.  How many times have you heard about how tough it is for private sector workers and how the public sector needs to pay?  Why not put an emphasis on improving everyone's situation? 

Most importantly, the Democrats need leadership and a well articulated, organized response to the Walker agenda- Most successful movements have strong and charismatic leadership.  For example, it does little good to go through the recall process for Gov. Walker if there isn't a viable candidate to oppose him.  I was reminded of this by several readers and meant to include it in my earlier post.  Strong leaders provide a focal point for media attention and solidify public support for the cause.  There can be several leaders from different perspectives (as long as they are able to work together for a common purpose), but the need for leadership exists in any organization. 

There also needs to be a clearly defined, well organized, cohesive effort to keep momentum for a movement strong.  The leadership of any organization needs to articulate the goals and objectives so that the membership feels a sense of purpose and recognizes how their efforts help.  Wyatt Walker, executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the early 1960's, talked about three lessons they learned from protests that had failed earlier. 
These lessons were:
            *Protests need to be well planned and calculated for logistics and intent
            *Internal divisions should be minimized or proactively dealt with
            *Specific goals aid understanding of the protests' purpose and
              give participants a sense of success when any gains (even tiny ones)
              are made
All three of these points are just as important in our current labor movement as they were for the Civil Rights Movement.

New News…
A few items that I found interesting during the past week:

~This is why it takes real courage to vote for any type of progressive legislation.  The hateful nature of comments like this make compromise nearly impossible.  Great respect and praise for those NY GOP Senators who knew they would face comments like this when they voted on the bill.

~A great piece about the economy and why the Republican/Tea Party agenda is harmful to almost everyone.

~Money is truly corrupting our political system.

~It can't be stated often enough, voter fraud isn't the biggest threat to our electoral process.

~Maybe we should take this advice and really look at our tax laws and policies.

~Another strand in our efforts, the legal system. MTI, here is your lawsuit....I love the part where Sen. Fitzgerald is quoted!
From Facebook:  Hi MTI brethren. West Allis here. Wanted to put this out there for anyone who's looking to carry the torch eastward:

WEAC posted a plea a couple days ago to attend a Greenfield school board meeting on behalf of the district teachers. Apparently the Greenfield superintendent is adding 6 days to their schedule without compensation; is forbidding teachers to address concerns at school board meetings and has sent a message to all district employees stating there will be "significant changes" to healthcare benefits. Apparently there is no dialogue between the teaching staff and the school board/administration. The meeting takes place Monday, Aug. 22nd at 6:30pm @ 4850 S. 60th Street, Greenfield, WI.
~More news keeps coming out about ALEC…
~While in a small Illinois town this weekend I saw a sign offering personal loans for purchasing school supplies.  Very sad.
Teachers, families bear burden of school supplies - JSOnline

What's Next?…
Middle class uprisings are, by the very nature of the middle class, difficult to sustain.  Because people in this demographic have achieved some success and are usually pretty content (broad generalizations, I know) they typically are looking more for an equilibrium than a radical change.  As this summer of recall draws to a close I find many of my friends feeling a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of relief that, "Now we can just wait for the Walker recall." 

Nothing could be further from the truth.  If we become complacent and relax then the current situation will become our "normal".  Nearly everyone I know in the teaching profession has already looked at their family budget and accounted for the loss in pay.  It's been painful and in some cases traumatic, but after a few months we will adapt and change.  "We lost X amount of money and now we need to make these changes", is a refrain that will be heard in households across Wisconsin.  That is my greatest fear, not that we can't succeed in our efforts to undo the damage already done, but that we will not really put forth our best effort and will accept what has been done to us. 

Governor Walker has been talking about bi-partisanship and reaching out to other viewpoints.  Of course he has, he has nothing to lose by doing so.  Do we think that he will change the status of unions for the better in his next effort to repair our budget.  He has already gotten what he wanted.  He offers to pick us up and dust us off after he knocked us down and stole our lunch money. 

Politically he has everything to gain by looking more moderate.  Citizens not directly affected by his legislation will forget what the uproar was all about and will not support a recall.  Remember that it is very difficult to recall an elected official and this is even more true if he avoids significant controversy for the rest of the year.  He can even make Democrats look bad if they don't come to the table with him.

We must all do our part to not let the rest of Wisconsin forget what has been done to us.  We must work together and make changes that will protect and preserve our state and the values that we hold dear to us. 

What Does the Future Hold?…
A news article grabbed my attention today:

To be honest, I really don't know what to make of this event.  On one hand, It is exactly what I feared would happen in Wisconsin.  Union members will for many reasons choose to let their unions be decertified because of the loss of bargaining power. 

On the other hand, I read from some members of this union that they will continue to act collectively.  They just won't be state certified.  In a way it appears to be a protest of the restrictions on collective bargaining.  The members are saying, we don't need your approval, we'll just act on our own terms. 

My main concern with the loss of union status is that any group of people will lose cohesiveness unless faced with a threat to themselves.  Look at the public sector unions in Wisconsin as an example.  It seems safe to say that most union members were not incredibly active in their locals.  A relatively small number of names appear in the minutes of most union meetings and even fewer people have been willing to take on leadership roles in these organizations.  Suddenly that changes with the Budget Repair Bill and its aftermath. 

What if we didn't have unions and Walker had made his other draconian changes to education and public sector workers?  Would a group of individuals have been able to coordinate such an effective response so quickly? 

 I'm sure the TAA members have the best of intentions, and I sincerely hope that all goes as they plan.  Once again, we'll have to wait to see how it all plays out. 
In my mind it is still important to preserve the unions that we have.  The continuation of union activity rests on the shoulders of current members and current union leadership.

What Can I Do?…
In addition to any organized protests, writing letters and otherwise expressing dissatisfaction with the current situation there are additional actions that I feel are vital to our resistance efforts.  Each of us needs to begin networking and discussing ideas for activities and actions that can help our cause.  Find other citizens who think progressively.  Brainstorm ideas and then try to find ways to implement them.  In the same way that each of us was able to contribute to the recall efforts, every one of us has strengths that can be applied to improving the status of labor and all the other groups/issues under attack here.  It takes leaders to guide a movement, but it also takes many people working together to make things happen.  Deciding on our next steps needs to be a priority as we begin the school year.

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