This morning on a local news channel, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker reiterated a threat to send out layoff notices for public employees “as soon as early next week” if Democrats didn’t return to Madison to pass his budget repair bill. There’s a deadline built into the bill; if a debt refinancing scheme that saves anywhere from $100-$165 million dollars isn’t put into motion by Friday, it can’t be done, leaving the state to search for additional cost-cutting measures to fill the short-term budget gap. Basically, Walker is weaponizing that deadline with the layoff threat. The layoff notices are required under the current contract, and don’t necessarily mean that the layoffs would take place immediately.
State Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee), one of the 14 hiding out in Illinois, shrugged off the threat. “He’s throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall,” Larson said. “He knows on the wrong side of history. He should start listening to the people outside in the streets.”
Senate Republicans are also amping up the threats. Yesterday, Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald threatened a vote on a bill that would require voters show an ID at the polls. This kind of shows you how this is an ideological power play rather than a budget issue. And if you needed more proof:
A website designed to keep protesters informed was blocked by administrators inside the state Capitol, according to a claim by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.
Party officials said that the website www.defendwisconsin.org, which was set up by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Teacher Assistants, was accessible after its launch last week until at least Friday. It was then that website organizers realized their site, which was being used to let protesters know the latest news details and to let them know where volunteers were needed, had been shut down for those signing on as a guest to the free Wi-Fi offered inside the state Capitol.
Sachin Chheda, a Democratic activist and former IT employee at the State Capitol, said there are a number of sites that are blocked from users, but he said in order to block this site specifically, somebody would have had to make a conscious effort to do so.
But Department of Administration officials said computer software blocked the site, just like it does for any new website. It took several days for the software to update itself and when it did it blocked the site, a DOA spokeswoman said. She said there was no malicious effort to block the website.
This whole thing is a plutocratic power play. Kevin Drum’s long and timely article for Mother Jones makes this point nicely. The decline of the labor movement has fatally wounded the struggle for worker rights and tipped the scale massively in favor of the rich. Too many politicians have been bought or just had their worldviews aligned with the wealthy. Too many working people have been rendered voiceless on matters of economic power. Drum goes back to New Left fights against organized labor from the 1960s onward that cleaved off Democratic Party support for unions, but I think the problem has a more recent vintage. You can draw a through-line between the rising cost of political campaigns and the attitudes of politicians moving to connect with the preferred policies of the wealthy. A relentless conservative assault on workers didn’t help, either. This spiraled downward – the failure to generate more union members led to declining union power, which led to declining power for the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, which led to…
It’s a serious problem for anyone who has a job in this country. But in Wisconsin and now in Indiana, we’re seeing a fight back. And those State Senate Democrats are an integral part of it. So far it’s a rear-guard action, to stave off further erosions. But you have to start somewhere. And these movements are starting with solidarity. Whether it’s pizzas for the protesters pouring in from across the globe, or rock bands writing songs of support, or hardcore organizing looking to recall Republican Senators who try to take away worker rights, or the new alliances and coalitions using boycotts and possibly general strikes as tools of action, you’re seeing the stirrings of a new movement.
One question: the President happens to be in Cleveland today, one of the states where the worker-led showdown is taking place.
Does he mention any of this?