(By Mark Ayers, President, AFL-CIO Building Trades Department)
Under the cover of darkness, and at the urging of Governor Scott Walker, Republicans in the Wisconsin State Senate on March 9 exercised the nuclear option to ram through a bill attacking Wisconsin’s working families.
These events, along with similar ones playing out in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and a host of other states, have demonstrated that radical right-wing conservatives are intent to do or say anything to push through an extreme agenda that is nothing more than an outright attack on the sole entity left in American society that has the ability to “check and balance” their aspirations for complete economic and political power – America’s labor unions.
If there is one silver lining to the dark cloud that has emerged from Wisconsin, it’s that Scott Walker and the radical right have been exposed as liars. NOTHING in the legislation that was pushed through last night had anything to do with the state budget. And the same is true in any number of other states, where conservatives are hiding behind the sham of “fiscal crises” to engineer their attacks on unions. To be clear, their ultimate objective is to eradicate unions from the face of the American landscape!
Losing badly in the court of public opinion, and failing to break the Wisconsin Democratic Senators’ principled stand, Scott Walker and his right-wing sycophants in the GOP have eviscerated both the letter and the spirit of the law and our democratic process to ram through their payback to their deep-pocketed corporate allies.
And today, the fight moves to Indiana, where our building trades brothers and sisters are mobilizing for the largest demonstration the Hoosier State has ever seen. In Indiana, the radical right – like they have in so many other states across the nation – is intent on eviscerating prevailing wage laws and project labor agreements.
Make no mistake, brothers and sisters, the radical right’s ideological war on middle class working families and the unions that seek to protect them is now indisputable. Their willingness to shred decades of labor peace, bi-partisanship, and a cooperative spirit that embodies the fundamental values of American democracy is beyond reprehensible.
They are summarily creating divisions in America that will take years to heal. And, politically speaking, their actions will also have the potential to cost the Republican party dearly in 2012 – but only if each and every one of our affiliated unions, state and local building trades councils, and local unions immediately and consistently engages with our members and educates them on what is happening in America today, and how we can put a stop to it in 2012!
I firmly believe that the radical right has “awoken the sleeping giant.” Young people, workers, and middle-class American families are as agitated as they have ever been. In state after state, what we are witnessing is a classic overreach by conservatives, and it has unmasked the Wall Street/Corporate CEO agenda at work in legislatures all around the country. And the American middle class is finally standing up and saying “ENOUGH!”
And because middle class Americans are finally awakening to the economic and political heist that has steadily occurred over the past 30 years, conservatives failed to break the Democratic legislators in Wisconsin and Indiana who have taken a principled stand for those middle class families. Even more, the radical right has done us the favor of making it crystal clear to the American middle class who, exactly, is on their side – and who isn’t.
Brothers and sisters, the battle in Wisconsin may be lost – for now. But, believe me, the war is far from over!
Stand together and stand tall. Be proud of who you are, and more importantly, be proud of what you represent!