Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

The Shock Doctrine, Unions, WI, and me….

Some ask me why I am such a diehard, union supporter.  I may have mentioned some reasons in comments here. It started for me long before I became a teacher. Today I am feeling particularly saddened about some things happening in our country.  Or perhaps more about what is not happening up front as opposed to what is happening behind the scenes.  

While I believe the truth is on the side of workers, from teachers to firefighters et al who are fighting to keep hard fought for rights to private sector workers who have lost so many of those right, the media seems on the side of corporate profiteers.  

 I read the Shock Doctrine a few years ago, not long after it came out.  Nothing Ms. Klein said surprised me at.  I was an activist adult when many of these things were happening: from the fall of the Shah of Iran to the propping of Pinochet to the Reagan administration not supporting the ending of Apartheid to the Reagan administration supporting the juntas of Central America.  

I live near a small, liberal arts college, Colorado College in the heart of this conservative, right wing city.  If anything liberal in thinking is being promoted in this super conservative city, it happens there or near there.  (In fact next week, Van Jones is speaking there.  I will go and hear him).

When I was in high school, my mother worked in a textile factory.  Workers there were treated like slaves.  I knew this because one summer day when I was 16 I was picking my mother up from work, I got there early.  I went inside, something my mother had always told my sister and I NOT to do.  I guess that’s why.  I wondered what she did not want us to see or know.  Then I knew. It was the working conditions. It was HOT, smelly, and crowded.  It was mostly women (mostly ethnic immigrants, all poor, and probably like my mother, uneducated), but the floor boss, was a male.  He was screaming and cursing at some woman as I watched.  My mother had clocked out and came and grabbed me and pulled me out while screaming at me for disobeying her.  Years before I remember my mother going to “meetings” and whispers about meetings.  Before I turned 21, the mill closed and moved south.  Only when I was an adult, did I figure it all out.  I had lots of questions.  Sadly, my mother died young (at 55) so a lot of my questions went unanswered.

I suspect my mother and her co workers were meeting with people trying to help them unionize.  I remember the shock of getting my mother’s paperwork from her salaries having to do with insurance, bills, taxes.  My mother’s death was a shock (abdominal aneurysm) so not a lot made sense.  I saw how little money she made.  I sort of knew because when I went to college, I had to give my parent’s total income in order to apply for an on campus job.  Even for the times, my parents made very little (1967…mom-$2000 yearly salary, dad (cop) $4000).

I knew then without graphs or stats my parents were poor even though I never felt poor.  But most of the men in the neighborhood worked in the unionized Steel Mill or Tire Mill.  Most of the women worked in the garment mills to supplement.  They all had new cars and went on vacations.  We never did.  Police were paid poorly. I looked up the stats for 1967.  Minimum wage was $6000, average salary for everyone was $19000.  So both my parents working made what amounted to minimum wage.  But as I said I never felt poor or never wanted for food.  I was in a happy, loving, albeit hard working family.   But when as an adult I realized/understood what working conditions were, my view changed.  Between my senior year and college, I got a job in a mill, packing pills.  Conditions were not unlike what I saw at my mother’s mill.  The overwhelming majority of workers were immigrant women.  Floor managers were white males.  We clocked in to work at 7:30, clocked in and out for a 15 minute break, clocked in and out for a 30 minute lunch, clocked in and out for another 15 minute break, and then clocked out again at 4:30.  The job was repetitive, boring and we were on our feet the entire time.  I HATED IT.  My parents let me take it for the summer, because, I think, they thought it would imprint forever in my mind why they wanted me to get an education beyond hs.

So here we are in 2011. I have been a part of and benefit from public employees forming unions.  I believe that statistics have proven over and over that that the states that have unionized teachers perform overall better than those that do not.

What is happening in WI now is union busting, clear and simple.  Whether the unions are public or private is not the issue.  The right is using the fact that public unions are still standing strong to put a wedge between private sector workers and public sector workers.

Chris Christie, the darling of the corporate press, is framing the argument this way.  Why should public employees be paid well, get good pensions and health care, when the private sector does not?

Now I don’t know about others, but that strikes me as so obvious a reason for people to be angry, not at public workers, but at the right wing machine.  Christie himself gets a pension, health care and a decent salary.  He is a public employee.   Instead of wanting ALL workers to come up to the level public employees like firefighters and police and teachers have worked for years at attaining, Christie is telling the private sector they should want to bring the public workers down to their level. In other words, the right is telling workers “Hey, our world would be fair if ALL workers make less money, have few if any benefits,” and at the same time, he has given tax breaks to every corporation in NJ, just like Walker in WI.  

How anyone hearing Walker’s conversation when he thought he was speaking with Dave Koch could not be angry as hell, stuns me.  Why are people, even some progressives still buying into “trickle down”, the big lie of union busting, millionaire loving, despot supporting, Ronald Reagan?

We are seeing now and have been since Reagan, attempt at the Shock Doctrine.  Get rid of all public employee rights, privatize as much as possible, starting with public schools, and go for the Chicago School of Economics, where an unbridled free market, no regulations, is all that matters.  This is the mentality that helped the coup d’etat in Chile and propped Pinochet.  

When are Americans going to stop buying into this free market crap that makes the rich richer, and pushes us closer to oligarchy?

In 2006, while working for a democratic candidate for Congress, I met all the right wing opponents. In this very conservative city, we only had one dem candidate and five right wingers candidates, each and every one fighting to show they were the MOST right wing, not unlike what we saw this past election in NV, AZ, DE primaries.  One candidate was the brother of L. Paul Bremer, infamous for his “Iraq is open for business” comment.

His brother was so proud, so far to the right, so into being “God’s man in DC” the phrase used by four of the five republican candidates.  He did not win the nomination.  Someone to the right of him won, a pathetic little, non thinking dolt, backed by CLUB FOR GROWTH and FOCUS ON THE FAMILY.

So here it is, weeks and weeks of evidence as to what the end game is, on our screens in WI.

What the heck is it going to take to get citizens to wake up to reality, to get progressives even to be on board together, putting aside differences to stop the right from totally destr
oying the middle class????  I have to say this and I believe some here may be angry about what I say: I am disappointed that President Obama has not shown more support to the union workers in WI. I do not get this.  I do not get why he is so willing to give the right so much leeway. I would have been just as disappointed with Hillary, or John Edwards had they been elected.  No way we can know what they would have done.  But I do not understand why any democratic president, or congress person or senator or democratic governor is not standing up VOCALLY LOUD AND STRONG for the workers in WI NOW!

If nothing else, read this today:…

I truly believe that the GOP has become an arm of corporate America, and that all workers, public or private, union or non union, will be thrown under the bus if the progressive community does not fight this with everything we have.

I fear for the future of those of you who are young and still starting out. I know I will probably die before the worst of it happens, if the right wins this battle.  They (the corporatists) are smart enough to do things slowly….and subtly.  But this started back in the 80s, the desire to undo everything FDR did; the desire to privatize everything.

Since Reagan’s deceptive, spun unfairly A Nation at Risk, teachers have been demonize by the right; public education has been demonize; charters have been elevated with corporatists pushing Waiting for Superman.  There’s money to be made in privatizing/chartering public education in the same way there was money to be made from taking health care and pharmaceuticals into a privatized frenzy of money making.  

If we don’t stop the right wing now, in WI, where then?  When?  As I listen to Walker spinning on camera now, I do not get why the progressive community is not louder, angrier, stronger.  

He is openly all about union busting, taking away the rights of collective bargaining.  If this does not scare people, then they are either ignorantly naive, or not paying attention.  There is a plethora of history/facts, from recent history to a century’s worth,  showing why unions, despite their flaws, are better for workers than trusting the good will of the oligarchs. And when the most we can get from even democratic governors after meeting with the president is that “WI is a distraction…”, I am feeling worse than ever.

End of rant.  


  1. Jjc2008

    the “war against teachers” continues.  Firing all the teachers in a district is just another way the right wing, the corporate power, gets to break unions.  

  2. fogiv

    I am disappointed that President Obama has not shown more support to the union workers in WI. I do not get this.  I do not get why he is so willing to give the right so much leeway. I would have been just as disappointed with Hillary, or John Edwards had they been elected.

    A.) Specifically, what would you have had Obama done in this situation?  How is the POTUS ‘giving leeway’?

    And when the most we can get from even democratic governors after meeting with the president is that “WI is a distraction…”,

    B.) What is this a reference to?

  3. The middle class will continue to shrink without unions fighting for them. Unfortunately, unions have been fighting a defensive battle for decades. They can’t make gains, because they are fighting to keep what they have. Unions not only have to stop the war. They need to go on the offensive. I don’t see how that is going to happen until things get worse.

    BTW, your numbers are off a bit. The minimum wage in 1967 was around $1.25 per hour for a yearly wage of $2500. According to the SSA, the average wage in 1967 was around $5200. That is right in line with my memories. I was 20 years-old and making above the national average then. My pay was a little over $3 per hour and my annual income was over $7500 with overtime. That would be around $40,000 today. I was in a union and had health/dental/vision/life insurance and a retirement plan. Your parents $6000 per year would be around $32,000 today. That was more than the median price of a home and more than 10 times the cost of a new car.

  4. Jjc2008

    I won’t doubt your stats. I used a source but don’t know how reliable.

    Of course, you were a kid then, like me.  So when I was 21, my dad had been a cop for well over 20 years.  So at $4000 a year after 20+ years on the job…..and of course my mother had been working in textile mills since she was 13 (before the unions fought for child labor laws), still seems way low.  Neither were union jobs.

    All I know I was one of the few kids who was sought out to be given scholarship money at state schools.  There was a new act/law or something to give kids support in paying for college.  That first year, there were no applications, so they called in all of us who had been working in campus jobs starting with juniors and seniors and they gave us the paperwork.  Our grades had to be average or above, and our parents had to be making under a certain level.  

    That’s how I remember my parents’ incomes as I had to ask them.  Never knew before that.

    I agree that unions have to be more aggressive.  But we also need support from democratic politicians….especially those who got the support of unions.   So when that governor, a democratic governor called WI “a distraction”, I saw red.

    Obviously this is a passionate topic for me.  But I don’t see the passion on the progressive blogs as strong as I thought it might be.  

  5. Shaun Appleby

    “What is happening in WI now is union busting, clear and simple.”

    This a test, let’s see how we do.  Americans will get the treatment from industry and the state which they demand, either way, and if history is any guide the prosperity and quality of life of the average worker must be fought for and defended constantly.  I fail to see why this is any different today.  

  6. HappyinVT

    by the State Assembly has affected union members and their supporters.  That whole thing was a massive fail on so many levels and may have galvanized many more against the governor and the Republican members of the state legislature.

  7. HappyinVT

    I think we’re seeing in this thread a big part of the reason the President hasn’t gone to Wisconsin or issued more statements (as part of me wishes he would).

    Because then the story would be about him and it shouldn’t be.  The media would be caught up in the story of the President of the United States getting involved in what is largely a state issue; that he’s pandering to unions for votes.  We’ve seen young people motivated to stand with their teachers by skipping school to rally because it is the issue that is important not those who are leading the cause.  That’s true grassroots, not some national celebrity/politician calling for crowds to march.

    Of course, should he go to Wisconsin then he’d be obligated to go to Indiana and Ohio then wherever the next fight is (Tennessee maybe).

    The issue is that the governor of Wisconsin and the Republican-controlled legislature is/was trying to ram through a bill that was grossly unfair to public sector unions and that they lied about the budget shortfall and the union compensation package to justify union busting.  Not to mention the very questionable no-bid contracts and the new supermajority requirements for tax increases (that was passed in a hurry).

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