Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Public employees….scapegoats of the right, are standing proud in WI

I am not a researcher.  Unlike some of the great detailed diaries here, this will be short, albeit not all that sweet.

Public employees of all stripes and persuasions are being targeted across this country.  They are the face of labor and their unions are arguably the “last standing strong.”   Teachers’ Unions are in particular under attack.  Public education itself is under attack.  Much of these attacks are based on lies and spin.



It is no secret here that I am a diehard union supporter, having grown up at a time when immigrant women were the last of the ones exploited in this country when it comes to labor.  Immigrant women, women of color, had the hardest time breaking into the union movement.  All ethnic minorities struggled in the union movement. I get that.  But what I have seen happen is the old “throw out the baby with the bath water.”  Yes, there were some unions infiltrated by the mafia.  But the union concept,  with hard work from the miners, the steel workers, the textile workers fought long and hard for things we all take for granted: child labor laws, weekends, paid vacation time, fair salaries, health care.  

So now teachers, fire fighters, police, state workers of all kinds under attack from the right.  Break these unions and the right has a free path to building their oligarchy.

I do not understand the lack of passion from many of our democratic leaders in this fight.  

Of course, I do not understand the leadership that is basically turning over public education to the “charter movement.”  Investors see dollars signs on the head of children.  They are not the answer.  And the stats on public education our spun and spun so that many progressives have bought in.

In the end, I believe this is a make or break moment for labor in this country.  I am discouraged that none of our leaders, from the president to Congress are speaking out on this. In WI, the tea party governor is blaming WI’s deficit on public employees.  Yet the real story of WI’s problems is about corporations who pay NO TAXES at all.  

Also I constantly hear, even from progressives, how public employees make more than private employees…but the fact is that the comparisons being used are often misleading.  

From the Economic Policy Institute( the comparisons. I have an MA +100 (credits above the MA).  Compared to private sector workers with the same education, I never made the same.  Not even close.

But when we compare apples to apples, we find that Wisconsin public employees earn 4.8% less in total compensation than comparable private sector workers.

As for public vs charter schools. UNFAIR playing field. I don’t care how one spins it, until and unless public schools can pick and choose their students, demand parents participate, it is a not going to convince me.  We don’t have an education problem, we have a POVERTY problem.  Test scores by Zip code tell the story.

I just needed to speak about this.  Don’t know how people feel here about the issue of labor. I believe it is critical to support labor and labor unions.  Citizens United, the Koch brothers, and the right wing are hell bent on an oligarchy.

Either we the people unite together, or we have no power.

I know it would be best if I had more links, more research, but the truth is this: for me the research is in the reality of what people like this governor of WI is trying to do (he is trying to take away the right of public employees to have collective bargaining).   Along with Rick Scott of FL, Chris Christie of NJ, and all the other nut cases on the right as seen at CPAC this weekend.  Labor, the middle class is under attack.  I do not get the lack of passion on this.

Call To Action:

(links collected from Jjc2008’s comment in thread)

NBC Nightly News: Let them know your thoughts.

CBS News: Click on email and demand in-depth coverage on the happenings in Wisconsin.

ABC News: Leave your comments on the deplorable bill in Wisconsin.

How about everyone taking some action?



  1. DTOzone


    I do not get the lack of passion on this.

    When Sanitation workers were getting the shaft by the Bloomberg Administration here in heavily-Democratic New York, the response from the public was “shutup and plow my fucking roads, you assholes”

    When a Republican Councilman said someone whom he refused to identify told them a few supervisors were purposely slowing down snow cleanup because they were angry at the mayor for screwing with then, Sanitation workers (despite the fact that said councilman blamed A FEW SUPERVISORS) were called Communists, told they should be fired, and even spit on by denizens of this city that votes over 75% Democratic.

    When voters in the state of Washington went to the polls last November and reelected all of their Democratic representatives in Congress, they also overwhelmingly rejected a tax hike on the rich)

    Why would a general go into battle without an army?  

  2. Private schools and charter schools pick and choose their students.  They don’t have to take all comers, and it is one of those issues that infuriates me, because ultimately, if the fight to give school vouchers out across the board, there will be a few token kids chosen from poorer families, and then the “scholastic merit” and “legacy” factors will slide in to eliminate spots to preserve the same population that uses those schools today.

    We had, when Clinton was in office, an education plan that did include charter schools to draw the best and brightest, as well as education goals that included a whole education approach that emphasized teams to track our kids better.  That went out the window with the shift to NCLB and other unfunded mandates that were designed to instead focus schools on tests–which cost good money–and limit the influence of the NEA and other organizations that wanted to focus not only on teacher development, but education approaches that worked on developing students in overlapping fields.  Application and real world skills, as well as learning skills that transfered across the curriculum.  Not just facts, but problem solving.

    It infuriates me, because these were not decisions about education, but about getting cash money from the system, and then using the drop in scores to justify further cuts and slashing of programs.  In a similar fashion, we see an artificial crisis in Wisconsin, that has been initiated by the Governor and his spending plans and glad handing, to justify a political agenda, as opposed to administrating his duties to his people.

    A recall might be in order.  

  3. spacemanspiff

    I do not get the lack of passion on this.

    But I do get yours!

    Investors see dollars signs on the head of children.  They are not the answer.  And the stats on public education our spun and spun so that many progressives have bought in.

    We don’t have an education problem, we have a POVERTY problem.

    Either we the people unite together, or we have no power.

    Well said!

    I’ve made a point to follow the Teachers Lounge over at Daily Kos.

    This group is for discussion of teaching and education at all levels, from elementary to university, from international to continuing education, and everything in between.

    I think you’d enjoy the vibe of the place.

    I really want to be very informed on the issues and this seems like a good start. It has really been your passion which has sparked an interest in this area. I feel I can’t add much to this discussion other than reaffirming my support for unions and my desire for this administration to rethink their support of charter schools. Highly rec’d and thank you!

  4. on the pro-labor side. I’m right there with you. I’m glad you wrote this diary. I was reading quite a bit on this earlier today. This is another battle in the war on unions that the right has been fighting ever since Reagan. What’s happening in Wisconsin right now is a taste of what’s coming. It’s going to get a lot worse over the next couple of years.

    I’ve got a lot more I want to say about this, but it’s going to have to wait until tomorrow.

  5. Shaun Appleby

    This is surreallistic:

    Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), who has proposed a budget that would remove key bargaining powers for public employee unions, now says that he and Republican legislators are considering some changes — but not so far as to change its principle.

    “We’re willing to (make changes), but we’re just not going to fundamentally undermine the principle of the proposal which is to let not only the state but local governments balance their budgets,” Walker told reporters, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports.

    Specifically, the proposed changes coming from state legislators — who have been deluged by protests over the past two days — would involve extending some civil service protections to local government workers, in exchange for the loss of most collective bargaining.

    Eric Kleefeld – Wis. Gov. Eyeing Changes To Anti-Union Budget Bill TPM 16 Feb 11

    Unbelievable, the slight seismic shock you are feeling is four generations of labour movement organisers and activists rolling in their collective graves.

  6. jsfox

     Obama voices strong support for Wisconsin public employees: With the standoff continuing to rage over Governor Scott Walker’s push to strip public employees of bargaining rights, Obama has now waded into the debate, denouncing Walker’s proposal as an “assault on unions.”

    In an interview with local WTMJ-TV which is now up on line

    , Obama said we all need to “make some adjustments to new fiscal realities,” but insisted it’s important not to “vilify” public employees and described them as “our neighbors, our friends”:

    “Some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally seems like more of an assault on unions. And I think it’s very important for us to understand that public employees, they’re our neighbors, they’re our friends. These are folks who are teachers and they’re firefighters and they’re social workers and they’re police officers.

    “They make a lot of sacrifices and make a big contribution. And I think it’s important not to vilify them or to suggest that somehow all these budget problems are due to public employees.”

    Obama’s comments — which put him squarely in opposition to the right’s ongoing campaign to scapegoat public workers for our economic woes — could draw more national media attention to a story that’s mostly unfolded so far online.


  7. spacemanspiff

    A great story.

    Young people doing the damn thing.

    About 100 Stoughton High School students walked out of class Monday morning to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to limit the collective bargaining of public employees, including teachers.

    The students walked across the street to the parking lot of Stoughton United Methodist Church, where they signed a petition and listened to protest leaders give speeches.

    “Let’s show Gov. Walker that we care about learning, and the teachers are worth every cent that we pay to them,” said Theron Luhn, a junior who helped organize the protest.


  8. jsfox

    A Democratic source in Wisconsin has confirmed to TPMDC that, in the heated budget battle going on in that state, the minority state Senate Democratic caucus walked out within the last few hours — which would deprive the legislature of the three-fifths majority needed for a quorum on budgetary matters.


  9. mixed feelings about unions in practice here in canada though. and i say this as a spouse of a union-member and former IATSE card carrier.

    but in the case of the US – and in education in particular – i say this is just insanity.

  10. jsfox

    The whole budget short fall was ginned up. Wisconsin is in good financial shape.

    In its Jan. 31 memo to legislators on the condition of the state’s budget, the Fiscal Bureau determined that the state will end the year with a balance of $121.4 million.

    To the extent that there is an imbalance — Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit — it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January.


  11. Jjc2008

    the democratic members of the state house and senate in WI have boycotted the call for a vote for the bill that would kill the right of collective bargaining.  

    And now the police have been sent out to “find” the congress persons.  Interesting….

    the state house is filled with parents, teachers, and many supporters screaming at the legislators for the rights of labor.

  12. HappyinVT

    “I think what Gov. Walker is trying to do amounts to political thuggery,” Obey continued. “It is one thing to say that these are tough times — everybody’s got to cut back and public employees are going to have to take cuts like the rest of us … but he’s using it as an excuse to gut the ability of workers to organize and bargain collectively. In my view that’s outrageous — and what is especially outrageous is his demand that the legislature pass this in a week’s time.”


    “This is a brutal, cynical political power play, and I really believe the state of Wisconsin is not going to stand for this …,” he said. “What Walker is trying to do is to undercut on of the last vestiges in our economy that produces any kind of upward pressure on wages at all…


  13. Shaun Appleby

    Be the appropriate method to deal with a statewide budgetary crisis not the cause?  And who created the budget mess in the first place?  Hard to believe it is the teachers’ union, isn’t it?

    The more this story unfolds the more it appears simply a naked attack on the state’s own employees as scapegoat for executive mismanagement and fiscal incompetence.  This is an IQ test for the electorate and we can only hope for a passing grade.  If the Republicans get away with this nothing is safe statewide in half the states in the Union.

    I suppose the National Guard has no public sector employees among their numbers?  Go figure.

  14. DTOzone

    love what he stands for, hate him because he’s a shit flinger.

    He just said Wisconsin Dems aren’t getting much help from national Dems, but here’s what OFA is sending me to

    looks like a lot of help to me.

    And to be frank, I’m not sure this will end up being a win for Democrats. I can see this turning into a “I agreed with the Democrats, but then they became unreasonable on this” reaction from the public since the American populace wouldn’t know principles if they showed up on American Idol in a plaid shirt and trucker hat, with a southern drawl, drinking a Bud Light and singing “Jesus Take The Wheel,” so I think that Democrats and the President are getting actively involved is very courageous. It’s a shame you got Ed Schultz pretending its not happening. Like I said, a general wouldn’t go into a battle with an army.  

  15. HappyinVT

    While Kasich and some in the legislature are trying to paint public workers as the cause of the state’s budget problems, they conveniently forget to mention that public workers already gave up $100 million in health benefits and $250 million in pay to help balance the current budget, passed in July 2009 when Strickland was governor. Union concessions included four weeks of unpaid furloughs, no pay raises and the loss of five personal days.

    Yet Kasich continues to call for pay cuts and sticks with his claim that public service workers are overpaid. In fact, though, “Ohio public employees annually earn 6 percent less than comparable private-sector employees,” according to an analysis released today by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).…  

    The Zanesville Register calls the bill “payback time” because the unions backed Strickland over Kasich:

    This bill is a partisan assault on working families and does nothing but punish workers and hurt the middle class, plain and simple. This bill would destroy the middle class because the working families this bill affects not only provide vital services, but put money and resources back into their communities, which support local merchants and other small businesses.

    Initial protests had “hundreds” of people.  Today, apparently, it was about 5,000.

  16. about a public school system that graduates less that 50% of students that enroll in High School.  Maybe if you don’t live in my district, you can defend traditional public schools, I will not.

    I see nothing defensible about a public school system that provides a private school education (via tracking and magnets) to some and little to nothing to the majority of students.  This tracking also heavily falls along the lines of racial and class lines.

    I see nothing defensible about living in an urban area and being double taxed because I pay for private school while finding that I would be a negligent parent if I sent my kid to the neighborhood public school.  

    I’m a product of public school from 4th to 12th grades.  A suburban public school and when I entered that school, I was two years ahead of all of my peers across racial lines.  I had to fight to avoid being tracked into a lower level and to be accepted into the mentally gifted program (when students with comparable or lower IQ scores were accepted) that was all white until I integrated it.  

    We don’t have a poverty problem, we have a low expectation problems and a problem that says some kids are expendable.  When white poor boys do better than middle class black boys, and there is actually evidence that shows, impoverished kids that attend good schools do better, it is not about poverty.  

    Every single crticism leveled against the school choice movement can also be leveled against public schools, including the picking and choosing of students.  Finally, it is a fallancy and blanket assertion that charters pick and choose.  Some do, just like public schools.  But many do not.  In my district, charters employ a lottery system which is ability blind.  Further, the best public schools in my city either employ a geographic boundary restriction or have an admissions process.  The superintendent in our school wanted to employ a process which would open up the admissions process at Masterman (one of our best and most selective schools unless you have connections) and give some slots to kids in a more equitable fashion (and anybody with some power in our city can get their kids into Masterman).  I live a city that is 80% Democratic and Progressive.  The parents in Masterman staged protests to keep this exclusive public school intact.  Those plans were scrapped!

    If your kid’s education were (thus future) on the line and you were in a horrible school district and was not a member of a teachers’ union, your outlook and opinions might be different.  I’m quite frankly tired of seeing folks so willing to accept the status quo no matter the detriment to minority parents who choose to live in a city.

    Read Savage Inequalities…I’m reading it now.  If you can defend the system that allows what happens to those kids to happen, be my guest.  I won’t be joining you in doing so!  My allegiance is to my kid and only my kid.  With the movement afoot more and more that parents are responsible for everything from cradle to grave for a child and parents being scapegoated more and more, well, let’s just say, I’m not passionate about defending a system that would be complicit in heaping a bunch of failure on my child.  

  17. HappyinVT

    now the governor’s stepped in it:

    Seven current and former Packers signed a letter in support of the AFL-CIO’s efforts to derail Walker’s plans. Those who signed include: Curtis Fuller, Chris Jackie, Charles Jordan, Bob Long, Steve Okoniewski, Brady Poppinga and Jason Spitz.

    I’ve only heard of Chris Jackie but I’m not up on Packers’ lore.

    The NFLPA has it’s own problems negotiating with the NFL owners; they’re in mediation.

  18. jsfox

    The reason state workers are so outraged by Walker’s actions, Kind said, is because they spent all last year negotiating and making $100 million in concessions with then-Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle only to have Republicans state legislators kill that bill then have a new governor come in and deny their negotiating rights.


  19. DTOzone

    after they were attacking public unions at dinner while watching an ABC hit job on public unions.

    My dad complained he pays every cent of his pension (he doesn’t, but insisted he did to the point where it got loud and I was told to shutup), and because he does, public employees should too and not take taxpayer money for pensions “I pay my pension and theirs too!”

    When I finally got the floor and pointed out that this wasn’t about pensions or jobs, public employees were willing to compromise over that, this was about collective bargaining and Gov. Walker had created the deficit with $145 billion worth of tax cuts, everyone at the table just zoned out on me and ignored it, then went back to their “Look what Obama’s done to our country” crap.

    Did I mention my family are all Democrats? I guess maybe if Obama used the bully pulpit, or more people were like Ed Schultz, amirite?  

  20. GMFORD

    I am very distraught about the Republican Party’s all out war against the middle class and it’s the Wisconsin workers on the front lines protecting the rest of us.

  21. DTOzone

    I reaction to the poll, albeit a conservative one, showing large disapproval in Wisconsin of Dems leaving the state.

    This isn’t surprising, since being viewed as skipping town isn’t going to be popular. However, if they return, the bill passes and all this effort will be for nothing. Further, their actions have allowed the protesters to become the top story in America, the kind of platform needed to carry this fight to the next level.

    Still, the Wisconsin Senate Democrats are going to take a hit for this. That’s another reason why what they are doing is so heroic, as they are potentially damaging themselves politically to stop this bill. They showing both real guts and real selflessness, and we need to be there to reward good behavior.

    It’s not that people want Democrats to fight that bothers me, it’s that they seem to think it’s going to result in winning. It never does and hasn’t since the 60s. This is not some dreamworld where everyone just unites under what’s right at the end and the bad guys die and good guys are given parades. This is the real world.

  22. HappyinVT

    The WI Senate Majority Leader has come out and said that compromise isn’t going to happen; the adjournment until Tuesday is just a temporary reprieve.  Do the protests continue?  For how long?  Do the Democrats come back, offer amendments and then get the hell out of Dodge before a vote can be held?  Does anyone think that once Fitzgerald gets a quorum he’s going to let the opportunity to hold a vote pass?

    I’m not sure how this all works but I’d like to see the WI Democrats out with the demonstrators daring the police to arrest and/or bodily force them inside to vote.  Those would be union police, too I believe, who would have to cross their union brothers and sisters to do so.

  23. Jjc2008

    and/or other songs from times gone by that mean so much to those of us who have always been strongly pro union.  But I  was unsuccessful so I just used links.  Perhaps someone here can give me a hint someday as what I need to do to be successful at that skill.  Just using the embed code is apparently not enough.

    Anyway, Pete Seeger, Wood Guthrie, Arlo Guthrie, along side Cesar Chavez, MLK and others,  have always been heroes for me, because they used their music to support the working people.

    Solidarity Forever (Seeger and Weavers):

    (The Union Makes Us Strong!)

    Which Side Are You On? (Seeger and Weavers):

    (You’re a Union Member or a thug for the corps)

    Ugh. –UB.

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