Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Moving Forward!

It's been awhile! So much to say...

Watching the court battle unfold this week has been illuminating. It is clear that the Republicans have violated the open meeting law. We knew that from the start, and the judge has all but to spell it out for us. What is so amazing is the sheer determination by Republicans to head straight off the cliff and try to enact this bill, despite the injunction against its implementation by Judge Sumi. I have to think eventually even supporters of this bill will recognize the ineptitude that a group of ideologues tend to bring into government. When God is on your side, what use is law?

LaFollette is clearly on their enemies list. Fightin' Doug waited the statutory limit to publish the bill, and when he refused (because he was blocked by the court order), the Republicans went ahead and attempted to publish it anyway. This was basically meaningless, but who cares? They tried to say it was law this weekend, until the judge brought the hammer down yesterday. They even went so far as to begin implementing the law. Judge Sumi was not pleased about this on Tuesday.

Additionally, when he was being represented in court, the state's attorney (assigned by the Walker administration) was essentially refusing to represent him, and not asking questions of witnesses on his behalf. The judge decided it was a conflict of interest to have the Walker administration provide him counsel. Fighting Doug will now get an independent lawyer, paid for by the state.

Now they're saying, "Well, she didn't specifically tell us who needs to stop."

Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has advised Walker that because Sumi didn't specifically name the administration in her order barring further action on the law, it can proceed with the payroll changes.

Friday's hearing should be great fun, and I wish I could be there for it. Judge Sumi has to be quite upset about the way this is being handled.

Let's be clear, though: The long game here may very well end up with us losing these bargaining rights for a bit. The legislature could easily go back and vote again. We need to keep that in mind, even as the Kabuki theater plays out in front of us. Yes, they're being exposed as even bigger ideologues, but at the end of the day, they're in power.

Which bring me to better news: I canvassed for the recall of Sheila Harsdorff on Saturday last weekend. What a great time! I would encourage anyone who is concerned about our state to head to your nearest petitioning center and get involved. There's no pick-me-up like the one that comes from pitching in with your neighbors.

I had the pleasure of working with a special-ed teacher from Eau Claire and a kindergarten teacher from Durand as we walked through the neighborhoods of Menomonie. It was cold, and I was a bit under the weather, but we had a great time! The organization in Menomonie was so masterfully done, people were in great spirits, and many of the neighborhood folks had already signed. We did manage to get our page halfway full in just an hour. I topped it off with a delicious meal cooked by the Boyceville teachers, and headed home to rest. (ugh, I was sick!).

A rumor started on Saturday morning about Randy Hopper. Apparently, they've got nearly the number of signatures they need to recall him. Organizers were quick to quash the rumor, for fear that volunteers would drop off. What an amazing thing, though! We're only 3 weeks in, if that, and we've got one almost down! Just a couple more will tip the scales in our favor this summer.

I'm also excited to see the turnout for Kloppenburg. She's against some pretty steep odds, as she barely scratched the surface in the last election. Make no mistake, it's going to take a lot of us getting out there on the 5th to stop Prosser from being another rubber stamp on Walker's legislative priorities. I'm convinced we can pull it off, though. Let's move Wisconsin forward!

Lastly, the Monticello Times, my hometown paper in Minnesota, was kind enough to run a guest column of mine. It will appear in tomorrow's paper. It's an answer to the question, "Are Unions Still Relevant." I answer in the negative. What!?!?! Sadly, I think it's becoming true. The entire initial justification for unions was the need for all workers to unite, in order to provide protection for the middle class. With the union movement dwindling, the middle class is beginning to lose our grip on many of our hard-earned rights. Our standard of living is under attack. Our kids' schools are under attack. We're losing the battle. Without action, the power of the billionaires will not be stopped, and they will continue to transfer our wealth into their pockets. I don't think it's a coincidence that they've succeeded as well as they have while union involvement continues to drop.

Unions were a wonderful solution to a problem that needed solving. I think they could easily have a positive impact now. It used to be a pretty clear concept. I think that's been lost, mostly due to a well-oiled propaganda machine, but also in part to honest failures by unions to evolve and adapt to a changing climate. We're the dog that caught the car, and didn't know what to do with it. Unions were one solution, but they don't have to be the only solution. We live in a fluid world. You never stand in the same river twice.

The single most important thing for us is remembering that we're all in this together. We need to continue to look out for entire community, union and non-union. Your neighbor, the non-union engineer, deserves the same living wage that you do as a union teacher. His kids deserve healthcare just like yours, and we all deserve better. The cops ought to protect both of you equally. The road in front of his house should be plowed just like yours. The more we stress that, the better. Do we deserve something for nothing? Of course not. But we all deserve a chance. We definitely deserve the ability to provide for our kids if we work for it. We all deserve a shot at a good future.

We use to refer to that attitude as "family values." Now it's called socialism. Our grandparents supported one another in their rise against the billionaires of their time. The easy way to do that was to respect each others' professions by supporting their respective trade unions in times of trouble. It was a system that worked quite effectively. But what about now?

Even as I say this, people all over Wisconsin are banding together in unity. It's happening organically, like nothing I've experienced. We are working as one big, happy family, in support of each other. I look forward to the day we get to march back into the capitol building, when it's finally ours again.The onerous security procedures will be gone, the billionaires will have to ask politely before taking our stuff again, and we will never forget this spring. Wisconsin will be ours, so long as we continue to fight for her.