Sunday, August 3, 2014

Issue #174 August 3, 2014- Act 10 Debunked

Act 10- Fact and Fiction. . .
Thursday was a dark day for Wisconsin, all of Wisconsin.  On Thursday the Wisconsin Supreme Court finally handed down its decision regarding Act 10’s Constitutionality along with a ruling on Voter ID and other decisions.  There are those who will cheer their decision and continue to trumpet their praise for Governor Walker and his supposed courage in the face of opposition from “Big Unions” and the “Radical Left.”  They will point to the savings for taxpayers and the restoration of “balance” between employees and employers in the public sector and claim that Wisconsin is now on the right path towards success. 

MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin Supreme Court has upheld the 2011 law that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers, sparked massive protests and led to Republican...|By Associated Press

Yet, there is a different, and much more sinister aspect to Act 10 and the debate that it has spawned in Wisconsin, and around the nation.  It is important that we begin to look at what Act 10 really was designed to do and what it means to our state as we move forward into a “Post Act 10 World.”  Over the next few months, as we prepare for what will be a heated and hotly contested November election, there will be a lot of rhetoric about standing with or for someone/something.  Those who stand with our current governor should take a close look at what his signature act is and isn’t.

It is incredibly divisive.  Read the message boards after any article involving public employees, Act 10 or unions and cringe at the hateful comments coming from all sides.  They are filled with anger and bitterness.  Act 10 and the official dialog around it have opened the floodgates and made it acceptable to vilify public educators and public employees.  While some will try and disguise their distrust and disgust of the employees themselves by aiming comments at the unions, the underlying message is clear, public employees are lesser citizens and certainly not of much value to our society. 

This negative dialog does several harmful things.  It creates a climate where political and economic payback become the norm.  Instead of governing for the improvement and benefit of all citizens we become engaged in a cycle of never ending retribution and conflict.  This leads to radical swings in politics, elimination of compromise and dialog and gridlock that causes harm to all of us.  It also divides our society and creates opposing camps that can no longer work together.  Any society that is successful and sustainable will have conflict, but that conflict will be directed towards improving conditions for all.  Act 10 is simply a direct attack on a single group of people.  No community can enjoy long term success when it is acceptable to tear down one group and seek to eliminate their ability to influence their social, political and economic situation.  A hateful society will not prosper, and Act 10 is all about seeing public employees “get theirs.”

It isn’t really about money or long term financial security for our state.  Remember in 2011 when the public sector unions agreed to the financial terms imposed by Act 10?  That willingness to compromise was ignored by the Republicans in power and Act 10 was forced into law in its entirety.  Governor Walker may claim that his legislation has saved money, but it is difficult to ignore his statements to Congress that contradict this assertion.  With any large system there is some waste and some inefficiency.  The claim that eliminating unions and collective bargaining will somehow resolve this is either incredibly naïve, or disingenuous.

It isn’t about freedom or Conservative values.  The claim is often made that Act 10, and any potential Right to Work legislation, is about freedom in the marketplace for employees.  Just ask any employee in an industry like retail or food service how much freedom they enjoy.  Eliminating the power of workers to organize creates an imbalance of power, especially in a time when many are struggling to make ends meet and find quality, family supporting jobs.  Employees, especially larger ones, hold significant advantages in the market, and Act 10 is another step towards cementing these advantages in place.

The Conservative message of smaller, less invasive government, is contradicted by Act 10.  A less invasive government doesn’t mandate the types of groups and interactions that citizens can have.  We don’t need much more evidence that the Walker administration isn’t really about limited government than the quotes from Attorney General Van Hollen during the debate about Act 10 in front of the Supreme Court.  When Justice Ann Walsh Bradley asked if the parties’ differing views about the right to free association was like two ships passing, Van Hollen’s response was, “I don’t believe we are two ships passing. We are two ships that collided. The state has a bigger ship and we will win.”

Act 10 sets the stage for even more extensive anti-labor legislation.  Public employees were one of the last strongholds for organized labor in Wisconsin, and eliminating the power of public employees to organize weakens the ability of labor to defend itself.  This reality shows us that Act 10 was more about a political takeover and paying off large corporate donors than about the health and well-being of Wisconsin’s economy.   

MADISON--Now that the legal challenges to Act 10 have run their course, many are wondering if the other shoe about to drop be for police and firefighters.<br />"Wherever I travel throughout the state and interact...

Supporters of Act 10 will claim that it restores balance to our public education system and gives the power to the families and students.  In some ways this aspect of the debate has little to do with Act 10 itself, and more to do with the ongoing efforts to discredit public educators and our public education system.  Many people have difficulty separating the financial aspects of collective bargaining from the other things that unions negotiate for their members.  Once again, the financial aspects of our public sector that Act 10 supposedly addresses are only a small piece of the puzzle, and one that is relatively easily dealt with.  The real difficulties that we face in our educational systems are the ongoing struggles in addressing inequities and Achievement Gaps.  Silencing educators and eliminating their ability to speak out on important issues doesn’t close any Gaps or help any students.  Disagreement and debate is healthy, especially when answers are not easy and/or obvious.  If the positions taken by education “reformers” were as strong as they claim, why won’t they engage in real debate and instead hide behind political power and strong-arm tactics.

You may agree, or disagree with these arguments, but the reality is that Act 10 is now the law of the land.  This means that public employees and supporters of public education must now turn their attention and hopes to other venues.  The most obvious is the political arena.  This is a difficult one for many of us because the simple fact of the matter is that the Democrats haven’t done much to support public schools or organized labor in recent days.  However, it is obvious that the current Republican platform is so anti-education and anti-labor that there is no real alternative.  What must happen is that Progressive voices must begin to control the discussion and move our society in a more socially just direction.

The end of an uneasy truce.

This movement away from divisive rhetoric, bumper sticker politics and knee-jerk responses doesn’t happen at a large scale level.  Our current state of affairs doesn’t have much room for rational and reasoned debate in large, public forums.  Instead, we must focus on the individual and small group level.  Talking to our neighbors, friends and family about these important issues, organizing like- minded people and empowering them to act and speak about their values and beliefs, and other similar actions can build a true grass-roots movement that will restore balance to our society. 

History is filled with examples of everyday citizens rising up to make a positive difference in the world.  These past few years have provided Wisconsinites with the opportunity to be beacons of hope for current a future generations.  Thursday’s ruling was a setback and a defeat, but it doesn't have to be a decisive one.  The choice about what happens next is up to each one of us. 

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .
The Good . . . Corporations that work hard to avoid paying taxes should not get tax breaks.

The president asked Congress to remove the tax advantages of inversion, in...|By Michael D. Shear

The Bad . . . Detaching from MMSD is one issue, but a middle class neighborhood seeking to detach while leaving a neighborhood of poverty out of the process doesn't seem equitable or reasonable. 

A group of her neighbors is going door-to-door with information about the district detachment process.

The Ugly . . . Just in time to try and confuse voters for the August primary and November election.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has upheld a requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls|By WISN

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said he is looking at all options to get a federal court ruling put on hold, so Wisconsin’s photo ID requirement can be in place for the November election.

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