President sides with Wisconsin workers

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MADISON, Wis. - President Obama weighed in on the side of the workers who have occupied the state Capitol here for four straight days by blasting Republican Governor Scott Walker's bill to strip public workers of their collective bargaining rights as "an assault on unions."

He made his remarks Feb. 17 as tens of thousands continued to arrive here to reinforce the crowds that have occupied the state capitol and its grounds for almost a week, and while Democratic lawmakers remained out of state at undisclosed locations. They left Madison to prevent Republicans from having the quorum necessary to pass the union-busting measure.

There have been numerous press reports that Organizing for America, the Democratic Party formation that grew out of Obama's campaign organization after he took office, was working with labor and community groups to support and mobilize for the demonstrations in not only Wisconsin but also in Indiana and Ohio.

The Republican governor's actions "are about giving CEOs what they want and weakening unions," declared AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka Feb. 17. "Taking away bargaining rights doesn't do a single thing to help a budget deficit. When you have a union and collective bargaining you can work collectively to make those cuts so everyone understands and is educated about them. This is simply 'payback' (for union's having opposed Republicans in the last election.)"

Trumka made his remarks before a sea of demonstrators outside the capitol here today in the state that was the birthplace of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the largest labor union in the AFL-CIO, with a long history of successful battles for workers' rights.

Commenting on what has become an epic battle to preserve labor organizing rights, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich said, "The Republican strategy is to split the vast middle and working class - pitting unionized workers against non-unionized, public sector workers against non-public, older workers within sight of Medicare and Social Security against younger workers who don't believe these programs will be there for them."

Reich added, "By splitting working America along these lines, Republicans hope to deflect attention from the big story. That's the increasing share of total income and wealth going to the richest 1 percent while jobs and wages of everyone else languish."

Democratic lawmakers who left the state are warning Republicans not to expect them to return any time soon.

Some have gotten the word out that they will not return until the governor and the Republicans take elimination of collective bargaining rights off the table.

The Republican governor has sent law enforcement personnel out to search for the Democratic senators. Sen. Chris Larson, one of those who left, called the press to say he wasn't "worried" because he knew state police men and women who "have expressed solidarity with the workers' cause."

"We did not undertake our actions lightly," said Wisconsin state Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller. "But we believe, out of respect for our public institutions, the people of Wisconsin and our long tradition of working together, our fiscal challenges can be met without taking away workers' rights."

The AFL-CIO is urging everyone to show solidarity with the embattled Wisconsin workers.

The federation requests that everyone add a "We Are One" Facebook and Twitter avatar to show solidarity. Icons are available here.

They also ask that everyone change their Facebook status to: "I stand in solidarity with teachers, firefighters, nurses, construction workers and all who are under attack by governors and state legislators."

And they are urging the writing of messages of solidarity to workers at the We Are One Facebook page .

Photo: Wisconsin State Sen. Lena Taylor, left, one of the Democrats on the Joint Finance Committee delivers a fiery speech on labor rights to the crowd in the Capitol rotunda in Madison, after the committee adjourned around 3 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 16. Later she and others left town. (Craig Schreiner/Wisconsin State Journal/AP)

 

 

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  • I'M A sCOT WHO NOW LIVES IN BC CANADA. I WROTE A BOOK OF UNION POETRY SEVERAL YEARS AGO WHEN THE UNION WORKERS OF BC WERE UNDER SIEGE BY A RIGHT WING GOVERNMENT. IT WAS A CANADIAN BEST SELLER FOR POETRY AND I DONATED THE MONEY TO THE UNEMPLYED. I WOULD GLADY PAY MY OWN ACOMMODATION EXPENSES TO COME TO MADISON AND STAND BESIDE MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS. I AM A VERY GOOD PUBLIC SPEAKER AND MY POETRY IS INSPIRING. YOU CAN CHECK MY CREDENTIALS WITH THE BC FEDERATION OF LABOUR.
    PLEASE CHECK OUT MY WEBPAGE. I AM WITH MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN THE USA 100%. I THINK IT WOULD BE GOOD FOR PEOPLE TO KNOW THAT UNION MEMBERS FROM ACCROS THE WORLD ARE WITH THEM.

    JUNE WILSON

    Posted by June Wilson, 02/23/2011 11:20pm (3 years ago)

  • Jim here,makes an excellent point.
    UE workers of 1110 and public workers in Wisconsin,have gotten the verbal support of president Obama.
    This is excellent and partially the reason why workers and unions support our president.
    We look for the president to support the public workers to stave off repression in Wisconsin on the part of the National Guard,which the infamous Governor Scott Walker,has threatened workers with.
    Public workers need unions to protect their civil and human rights,not to mention their economic rights.
    Isn't this what, MLK died protecting,for the U.S. working people?
    Can we recount this,this African American history month?

    Posted by peaceapplause, 02/22/2011 4:34pm (3 years ago)

  • there hasn't been a president since franklin roosevelt who has stood with the workers like obama. he supported the ue workers in chicago and he now supports the public workers in wisconsin. brother thomas farrell all americans and all other earth people need the right to join a union to protect themselves from greedy employers and get proper health and safety just like the sister who was disciplined for answering her cell phone call from her son in afghanistan. she needs a union. in solidarity jim

    Posted by jim, 02/20/2011 3:57pm (3 years ago)

  • Why should Government employees have unions? So we have unions against ourselves? The government is the people. These protesters need to realize that they have had exceptional benefits for years and the government ( the taxpayer) can not afford to give life long pensions to a 50 year old, free health benefits, and automatic raises every year. In this economy public employees need to realize their benefits are bankrupting our states.

    Posted by Thomas Farrell, 02/18/2011 3:54pm (3 years ago)

  • Don't be fooled. Obama is not a supporter of workers. His tepid support is simply a play to ensure minimal satisfaction of his base.

    Posted by Brian, 02/18/2011 2:58pm (3 years ago)

  • If only the president would be pro-active on these issues.....the working class is trying to drag him away from the pro rasslin' game that's business as usual inside The Beltway.

    Posted by RDC, 02/18/2011 2:56pm (3 years ago)

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