knew the Wisconsin battle is not about the budget at all. It
is a political question; a huge political question. Ohio,
Michigan and Indiana among other States are there, too.
What just happened in Wisconsin is so reflective of the
manner in which civil rights setbacks occur time, after
time at the State level, especially mimicking the first
half of the last century. The second half of the last century
was a miserable experience of having to constantly push
back against States Rights specifically as pro-civil rights
advances were made. It cannot be truer now that labor
rights are civil rights.
This is not the first time this country has witnessed such
an egregious attack on labor rights and the right to organize.
It surely will not be the last. A partial difference in
this period is that advanced technology is a major part
of the objective conditions. It is somewhat difficult to
reconcile that the Right has this major stronghold during
a time period in which we aim to believe that we live in
an enlightened, civil society.
It reminds us that at the time that the Patriots and Homeland
Security Acts were enacted, both encompassed sweeping repeals
of the Constitution that placesd everything else up for
grabs. Many of us did not want to believe that the repeals
were real. As long as we can continue to organize and
speak, then, all is well. Not so. Anytime States can in
somewhat rapid succession roll back laws as magnanimous
as collective bargaining rights, then change has come and
the change is not in our interest as people who work in
this country. Indeed, we have our work cut out for us.
I was wondering when the far right, Wisconsin Republicans
would use a procedural maneuver to sever the collective
bargaining portions of the budget bill to accomplish their
goal, making it political on its face.
The bill is unconstitutional under the First Amendment right
to association and speech, right to redress and assemble
and Fifth Amendment right to counsel (representation) and
was passed without the Fourteenth Amendment due process
and equal protection guarantees. Still, the courts are
packed with Reagan and Bush appointees. So, this battle
will not be decided solely on legal grounds. For sure,
it means that the courts and administrative law agencies
are going to be even more overwhelmed with cases.
I am not entirely sure that the Federal Circuit courts will
appreciate the draconian measures that the abolishment of
collective bargaining rights represent in terms of the degree
to which this potentially disorganizes the functionality
of the workplace and doing business in the both, public
and private sectors. Ironically and significantly, considering
the relatively small number of workers organized under collective
bargaining agreements, today, the agreements serve as a
blue print for managing the workplace. Even with many collective
bargaining agreements in varying degrees of deterioration,
the agreements serve as the bell-weather for workplace practices
across the board. At least the businesses know that the
matters in the CBAs are settled, even when contract provisions
are violated; for the most part they can focus on doing
business as oppose to wandering down the slippery slope
of arbitrary and capricious decision-making as a means of
doing business. How arcane is that?
Unions will be able to organize and gain members now. Unions
do not go away because a ban of ill-advised elected leaders
decide, “poof, unions be gone.” It does not work like that
in this country, in any State. Even workers that are not
all that pro-union understand what this means in terms of
working on a daily basis. It seems that there has to be
an accelerated messaging and organizing strategy. Everyone
has to sing out of the same song book now, for sure.
So, it is a political question and now the fight is really
on. In an article I read recently, it was pointed out that
where there has been organized mass participation and political
mobilization in support of civil rights, those rights were
gained and the economic picture changed. I think the same
idea is apropos in this instance.
guess what is particularly striking is how many fronts the
far right is forcing us to fight on in terms of issues and
Without out a cohesive strategy... we lose faster and very
BlackCommentator.com Guest Commentator Jane English is
an experienced human rights and social justice
organizer/activist. Her work as a community and labor organizer,
most notably, with the United Mine Workers of America International
Union (UMWA) and the national office of the NAACP includes
serving as a relationship manager with labor, housing advocacy
and community-based organizations. Click here
to contact Ms. English.