Freeze Debt Payments Not Wages!
The electric atmosphere produced by the struggle of Wisconsin workers for their rights is spreading across the country. Everywhere workers, teachers, youth and students are standing together and demanding an end to attacks on their rights. The brutal anti-social, anti-worker offensive of the monopolies and their governments is being met with increasing resistance, with demonstrations and sit-ins in Arkansas, California, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, Tennessee and Washington State and Washington, DC and elsewhere. Actions in all 50 states Saturday February 26 will defend workers’ rights and raise high the banner of the class, All for One and One for All!
Voice of Revolution stands with all those resisting. We salute the determined spirit expressed in Wisconsin that defending the workers and their rights provides solutions to current problems — not more attacks on union organizing, collective bargaining, pensions and benefits. Hands Off Unions and Pensions! Defend the Rights of ALL!
The attacks taking place in Wisconsin, in states south and north and at the federal level with a proposed 2-year wage freeze, are all being done under the hoax of deficits and budget crises. The rich seem to think everyone is blind to the fact that $1 trillion every year is available for wars against workers abroad. Yet we are to believe the lie that more concessions and more attacks on the rights of workers here at home is the only means to “balance” the budgets. Long experience shows that Concessions Are Not Solutions!
It is said that across the country, the states are contending with “deficits” totaling $125 billion for the coming year. This lie is used to impose the current attacks on wages, pensions, benefits and the unions themselves. Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin goes so far as calling his bill the “Budget Repair Bill.” He claims the open attack on unions in the bill, requiring yearly certification votes, eliminating collective bargaining and anything like a contract, is necessary for these “repairs.” In fact they serve to protect monopoly right to lay claim to public sector pensions and even more of the public treasury. These are anti-worker and anti-social attacks, aimed at wrecking society and organized resistance to this wrecking. Wisconsin workers have shown the just response, relying on the staunch resistance of the people and their stand to put the rights of all front and center.
We say, Stop Paying the Rich and Funding Their Wars! Increase Funding for Social Programs! The $125 billion promoted as a “deficit” is about 10 percent of the current yearly $1 trillion Pentagon and related military budget. It is time to defend public right, not monopoly right and their demands for more and more of the public treasury. Stop War Funding and Fund our Rights!
It is also the case that the rich demand that interest payments on the debts not be touched. Indeed, the federal government and many states require that such payments be made. For the federal government, interest payments for this year are about $207 billion — again more than the total “deficits” claimed for all states nationwide. And by 2014, net interest payments alone will surpass the amount spent on education, transportation, energy and all other discretionary programs outside of Pentagon funding.
The workers produce all this wealth and have first claim on it by right. Government funds at all levels are public funds, belonging to the public. It is by increasing funding for social programs and the rights of the people that solutions that serve the people can be found. We say Stop Paying the Rich! Freeze Debt Payments Not Wages! Defend Public Right!
The fact that many of these actions are taking place in statehouses across the country brings to the fore that the current political system keeps workers out of power. It recognizes and upholds monopoly right, whether it comes to waging aggressive wars, having war and repression budgets, or using force against the workers to remove them from their own public buildings! The actions are showing that worker politicians are needed. Defending and advancing society means defending public right. It means strengthening defense organizations like unions and building institutions of our own where the people themselves govern and decide. The collective organizing and decision-making being done to maintain and strengthen the resistance in Wisconsin is an example of this direction — to build and strengthen further, in Wisconsin and nationwide.
Stop Paying the Rich! Freeze Debt Payments Not Wages!
Wisconsin’s Fight is Our Fight
As workers in Wisconsin continue to resist the broad attack on their rights contained in proposed state legislation, workers across the country are standing with Wisconsin and opposing similar legislation in their own states. On Saturday, February 26, actions defending workers’ rights are planned in all 50 state capitals and a dozen other cities. Anti-war, immigrant rights, political and community organizers, religious groups, students and many youth are joining the many unions organizing for these actions. The stand of the working class of All for One and One for All is making itself felt as workers and their allies organize for their rights.
Many of the workers facing attack are public sector workers, who provide vital social services. Nationwide, of the 14.7 million workers in unions last year, 7.6 million of them worked for governments, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Twenty-two states, mostly in the south, already have “right to work laws,” making it difficult for unions to organize. These laws make it possible for workers in places that are unionized to not be union members and not pay dues. The laws are also used to prevent private and public sector workers from organizing into unions.
In 17 states at present, state governments are attempting to further restrict the rights of workers to organize and defend themselves, including eliminating bargaining rights on working conditions, pensions, and benefits and legalizing forced days off without pay. These attacks on organizing rights and working conditions are also attacks on the public as a whole, as it means the social programs and services provided will be undermined.
We provide below briefs on some of the many actions that have taken place nationwide. Additional actions took place in California, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and North Carolina.
Workers rallied in Little Rock, Arkansas February 22, taking their stand with the resistance in Wisconsin. They demonstrated on the steps of the state capital and were joined by many working families, community, and faith organizations of Arkansas. People wore red as a sign of solidarity with Wisconsin workers.
Hundreds of workers demonstrated in Atlanta Georgia, expressing their solidarity with striking Wisconsin workers. Some demonstrators wore “cheesehead” hats, a clear reference to Wisconsin’s cultural traditions, where cheese production is a major resource.
Hundreds of teachers marched against state legislation that would force the layoff 770 teachers and leave schools severely understaffed. They were joined by many other workers, standing against the attacks on public education and healthcare.
A thousand union members joined by students and other allies sat-in and blocked the entrances to the state senate chamber in Indianapolis while surrounding the building outside. Steelworkers and autoworkers were present in large numbers. The demonstrators, chanting slogans, singing and playing music are fighting several anti-worker measures currently being debated in the state legislature, targeting public and private sector workers.
One bill would make Indiana a “right to work” state, blocking companies from entering union contracts that require workers to either join a union or pay dues to a union. Another bill, HB 1585, would ban collective bargaining for state employees and would ban future governors from restoring it. Another measure targets teachers and the state’s public education system. It would remove issues like working conditions, pensions and healthcare as areas for contract negotiations. Working conditions of teachers are the learning conditions of students, so these attacks will further wreck public education. Workers also bring out that these attacks further harm the economy, by reducing the standard of living of Indiana workers by more than $5,000.
While at present one of the anti-worker bills has been withdrawn, others remain. Republican Governor Mitch Daniels, who issued an executive order on his first day in 2005 that unilaterally ended collective bargaining for state employees, is pushing the attack on public education. Democrats, taking their lead from their counterparts in Wisconsin, are boycotting the state senate proceedings, denying Republicans the quorum required to vote on the “right to work for less” proposals. The 50,000-member Indiana State Teachers Association and other labor groups are organizing events at the statehouse in Indianapolis every day.
Iowa workers rallied at the Iowa Capitol building in Des Moines, February 22, taking their stand with Wisconsin workers and demanding an end to attacks on workers nationwide. Iowa unions already have experience with having their right to strike being made illegal. Members of the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, the South Central Federation of Labor and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Iowa Council 61, along with many others joined in the protest. The AFSCME Council represents 40,000 public workers.
The protest stood with Wisconsin workers and rejected anti-worker efforts in Iowa. A bill introduced in the Iowa House, Study Bill 7260, is similar to the Wisconsin legislation and aimed at eliminating collective bargaining rights and gutting the unions. Workers brought out that politicians in many other states, including Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Maine and Missouri are also submitting anti-worker laws aimed at slashing pensions, healthcare benefits and organizing rights. They called for all to stand as one for workers’ rights.
Michigan workers rallied against legislation that gives emergency financial managers powers to remove elected officials and break labor contracts. These “financial managers” are imposed when state officials decree that schools and/or cities are “failing.” They would be given authority to suspend existing contracts for up to five years and approve, or reject, any contracts negotiated. They are part of efforts nationwide to impose executive rule on public institutions like the school systems. Hundreds of workers rallied in Lansing against these anti-worker and anti-social measures.
Other anti-worker measures would create “right to work” zones and repeal the prevailing wage law, among other items. Michigan workers bring out that workers through out the industrial regions of the Mid-West are facing brutal attacks on their rights to organize and their standard of living.
More than a thousand firefighters, teachers, students, correctional officers, conservationists, sportsmen, and many others descended on the Montana capitol in Helena to protest unprecedented attacks on public services, public education and laws that protect land, air, water and wildlife. They stood together against the various anti-social measures, recognizing that it is the workers and their allies that must be the ones to defend society and the natural environment.
In Columbus, Ohio, about 10,000 protesters demonstrated in Columbus, Ohio February 22. Buses from Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown brought protesters to Columbus.
People crammed into a hearing room on Senate Bill 5, with hundreds demanding to testify against the bill. So many demonstrators showed up that the Ohio Highway Patrol was ordered to lock the doors of the state capitol to stop more demonstrators from getting into the building. Workers then swarmed the statehouse Tuesday, chanting “This is our house, let us in.”
SB5, introduced by Republican state Senator Shannon Jones and backed by Governor John Kasich, attacks the rights of some 42,000 state workers including attacking their ability to utilize their collective strength in contract battles. About 300,000 local government employees, including teachers, firefighters and police are also targeted. The laws would eliminate working conditions, pensions, benefits and more from contracts, leaving state executives to determine all these matters.
The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, the Ohio Association of Public School Employees and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees have held five meetings since February 7 to mobilize members to join protests, make phone calls and call radio talk shows as part of efforts to defend workers’ rights.
Hundreds of Tennesseans gathered to protest a bill attacking teachers. The 52,000-member Tennessee Education Association, which represents 92 state school districts, was a main organizer of the action. Action is being taken at the state level that would impact teachers and local elected school boards.
Like other bills, it is aimed at wrecking the unions and eliminating their capacity to fight collectively for working conditions, wages, pensions and benefits. Hundreds of teachers demonstrated for their rights. As one teacher emphasized, the bill is “An attack on the rights of teachers to have a voice regarding their working conditions, which are also the learning conditions of students.”