(Image source unknown. Found on Facebook.)
First there was Tunisia. Then Egypt.
Now the battleground has moved to Wisconsin.
Make no mistake, what's going on in Madison this week is nothing short of revolution. Regardless which side you're on -- with Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican legislative majority or with Democrats and the state's unionized employees -- there's no doubt the capitol is 2011's Valley Forge, Gettysburg or Tahrir Square. The governor says he has already alerted the National Guard to maintain order.
The governor's so-called budget repair bill (details HERE) guts collective bargaining for hundreds of thousands of state employees, including teachers (but not police and firemen). It would roll back and eliminate provisions workers and management have worked out over decades, increasing the employees' contributions toward pensions and health care while ignoring whatever they gave up in exchange for the status quo. We're no lawyers, but this ex post facto maneuver strikes us as constitutionally illegal.
Former Sen. Russ Feingold calls Walker's plan "big government at its worst."
"No private employer can do what the governor proposes, nor should it. For decades, Wisconsin has protected the rights of workers to collectively bargain with their employer on wages, benefits, workplace rules, and many other aspects of their employment. The governor is wrong to suggest that public workers are responsible for the state’s budget woes, and he is wrong to use that bogus excuse to strip them of rights that millions of other American workers have."A second grade teacher from a rural school district posted an eloquent rebuttal to the governor on Facebook. I don't want to "out" her publicly here, but much of her essay deserves wide distribution:
"...The people who live here are hard workers and proud. But they can't afford the cost of educating their children. My school district has relied extensively on state aid to fund the schools. Unfortunately, the state has dramatically reduced the amount of funding it gives to schools like mine. As a result, our district has faced huge deficits. Last year, the district laid off teachers, which forced it to increase class sizes and reduce special ed services. This year, we are looking at more staff reductions and a salary freeze.Walker's measure comes up for legislative hearing Tuesday, with votes expected Wednesday and Thursday. Already, the state has seen worker rallies. More are scheduled.
"And now we come to Walker. His proposal to have public workers pay more than 5% of their salary into the state pension and another 12% in health care costs will not save my district any money. Our schools superintendent rather bluntly told us that the state was going to keep the money to cover its own deficit, not provide more state aid to schools. So the working families who send their children to us will still see increased class sizes and fewer educational opportunities, despite these "savings."
"...My district has never required us to pay anything into the pension or for health care. We took those benefits in exchange for a lower salary. People accuse state workers of having cushy jobs, with exorbitant benefits, job security and fantastic salaries. So while admitting this makes me uncomfortable, I'm going to do it so you can see just how ridiculous that accusation is: My salary as a second-year teacher, with a Bachelor's degree and one class short of a Master's degree, is $36,000.
"...Walker's proposal would cost me about $400 a month. Frankly, I won't be able to survive... I'm not sure how Walker thinks reducing the salaries of thousands of workers like me is going to save the economy... With that kind of wage reduction, I won't be able to buy new clothes, go to movies, go out to eat, go to happy hour, buy Christmas presents, buy birthday presents, get haircuts or buy pet food. I won't be able to replace my 20-year-old furnace... I already gave up cable and I drive a used car with more than 140,000 miles on it. So it's clear I won't be buying any iPods or iPhones or anything else shiny any time soon... With that kind of cut, I won't be buying food or gas, either.
"Let me clear up a few misconceptions about teachers: I'm not a babysitter. I don't color all day. I don't get to leave at 2:00 every afternoon. I don't sit on the beach all summer. I get to school by 7:45 a.m. and I work until 4:30 or 5 p.m. At least one night a week, I stay later than 5. I'm supposed to get a half hour of "duty free" lunch every day, but I usually spend that time helping students or prepping for a lesson. There are some days when I don't eat lunch at all. I won't get into how hard it is to find five minutes to go to the bathroom when you have a classroom of 20 kids who demand your constant attention.
"And I already spend my summer working. In my district, many families send their children to summer school. It's free daycare. I don't mind. I'd rather my students spent their summer reading books and playing math games, than sitting zoned out in front of the TV or computer for two months.
"So now I have to make a choice. Do I stay in education and try to make it on $5,000 a year less? Or do I leave and try to find one of those cushy private sector jobs, where you have to pay for health care, but at least you get a decent salary? Um, are there even any private sector jobs left?
"I don't want to leave my students. Because the truth is, teaching kids is a fantastic job. This past week, I taught a four-year-old how to spell his name. I taught another child how to sound out words, so he could start reading a Dr. Seuss book on his own. And I took my class to the Planetarium, where they got to gaze in awe at the planets, moon and stars. The universe, they decided, was a pretty special place. Watching them, for a little while I felt it was."
- The state Democratic Party has organized rallies at the State Capitol for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Buses will leave Racine from the park and ride at Highway 11 and I-94 at 7 a.m. each day for the noon rally in Madison, returning each day.
- There will be rallies at the Racine Unified Central Office, 2200 Northwestern Ave., on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m.
- Phone banks were set up this weekend to contact legislators. Local Democrats, working from the Labor Hall in Racine, at 1840 Sycamore (across from Skatetown), were attempting to contact State Sen. Van Wanggaard to ask him to vote against this proposal.(When I first heard this on Saturday night, I said it was a lost cause, an opinion borne out decisively Sunday night as TV commercials under Wanggaard's name appeared in favor of Walker's plan.) But for those who want to contact him, his office phone numbers are 608-266-1832 and 866- 615- 7510, his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
gov , and his fax number is 608-282-3561.
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