United States: Wisconsin union battle on new footing

March 19, 2011

Legal action was launched on March 16 against Wisconsin’s Republican lawmakers in an attempt to repeal the anti-union bill that was signed into law on March 11.

The law bans collective bargaining for most public sector workers in Wisconsin.

Associated Press reported on March 16 that a legal challenge was mounted by Dane County district attorney Ismael Ozanne.

AP said: “Democrats in the Wisconsin Assembly had alleged that Republican leaders did not give enough public notice that a committee planned to meet to amend the bill.”

The article said Ozanne “wants a judge to void the law and issue an emergency order blocking the secretary of state from publishing it”.

Protests began in Wisconsin’s capital of Madison on February 14 and raged for more than a month — revealing huge public outrage at the bill.

Truth-out.org reporter Ryan Harvey said March 16 that since the protests the March 12 protests — in which as many as 150,000 people marched in Madison — the focus for the campaign had shifted to recalling Republican senators.

Harvey said: “Many I spoke with [in Madison] are looking toward the effort to recall several Republican senators and, eventually, the governor, as a major point to organize around.”

He said: “If maintained as a grassroots effort, such a strategy could contain within it much dialogue, face-to-face political organizing and, perhaps, widespread grassroots social change.”

However, SocialistWorker.org said on March 16 that many unionists believed a general strike was needed to overturn the law.

President of Madison 311 Local of the International Association of Fire Fighters, Joe Conway, said on March 9: “I’m in total agreement [with calls for a general strike]. We should start walking out tomorrow and the next day, and see how long they can last.”

The focus on recalling state senators, as a proposal counter-posed to calls for a general strike, has faced criticism.

In a March 17 SocialistWorker.org article, Lance Selfa described the transformation from the mass protest February 26 to the even bigger show of force on March 12.

Selfa said: “As statewide and national-level labor officials asserted control over the uprising, the movement’s aims and tactics shifted onto the only terrain that modern-day labor officials seem to understand: elections and support for the Democrats.

“The [Feburary 26 march], taking place while thousands still [occupied the Capitol building], allowed raw class anger to flow from the official podium and from the unofficial free speech area in the Capitol rotunda.

“The [March 12 rally], taking place after the union-busting bill passed and the Capitol was cleared of protesters, was a tightly controlled affair, with national labor leaders, celebrities and the ‘Fab 14’ speaking less about class and more about elections and recalls.”

The mass rally on March 12 also featured more than 50 farm tractors that were driven around the capitol in support of the protests.

TeamsterNation.blogspot.com reported part of a speech given by a farmer at the rally March 12.

The farmer said: “Solidarity between farmers and workers is an old and sacred movement. Family farmers, like the labor movement, value the dignity of having power over your work — of being empowered by your work …

“It’s a farmer’s issue because we have been battling corporate power for more than a century. We say no!

“Public workers are our friends and our neighbors and our family members and we stand in solidarity with them. We know we are all in this together. We go up together, or we go down together.”

[From www.wearemany.org]

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.