If you follow any bit of news, you have probably heard about what is going on in Wisconsin this past week. Our newly elected governor Scott Walker is trying to pass a revolutionary bill that will strip public employees of their rights to collective bargaining. It basically is a move to destroy public unions. If you have an IQ that is even a smidgen higher than the entire tea-party put together, then you have deduced that I vehemently oppose the bill and Scott Walker in general. The rest of you who actually got thrown off by the picture of Scott Walker, case in point, learn to read and graduate from your pop up picture books.
Before I delve into my rationale for opposing the bill, let me share some background about myself. I am a very hard working, honest, tax paying citizen, feeling the pinch of the economy. I barely make $33,000 a year. I pay out of pocket for my own health insurance. Almost 90% of my retirement savings is from my own pocket. The rest of it maybe company matches through the years. I am studying for MBA and paying every penny out of my pocket. I have some subsidized loans, but so far there have been no grants. I've been paying for it through my hard earned money and had to even break a retirement fund this year for it. I have never ever received a penny of welfare or government support of any kind, and pray to God that I die before having to do so.
I come from Bombay, India. Home of Indian capitalism baby. It was also the city which in the early eighties experienced the Great Bombay Textile Strike. It was an almost militant strike by unionized textile workers in Bombay, which ultimately led to the demise of the once flourishing textile industry of Bombay. The end of the textile industry had a crushing crippling impact on Bombay's economy. It has made me view unions with skepticism and a pinch of salt.
According to tea-party logic, I should be standing there with with them supporting Walker's bill. As an honest, hardworking American, I should be with them. As someone with knowledge of the bitter history of the textile industry, I should be with them. However, that is exactly where their lack of IQ, lack of common sense, lack of good judgment and lack of basic humanity and human decency plays in. Their values actually completely contradict and clash with the interests of honest, hard working Americans.
They also need to learn the invaluable lesson of stopping their pick and choose approach to history where they misquote excerpts to their advantage and study history in context. The financial capitol of India was built on hard labor and even today depends on and respects the worker. Corporate greed and political corruption destroyed industries. The busting of unions is what lead to crime and desperation in Bombay.
Most importantly, my parents did not raise me to be selfish, greedy, self-centered and apathetic to the world around me. They did not raise me to wish or inflict pain on everyone around me. Just because life is tough for me does not mean that I ought to make life tough for others. No matter what, I should always stand for the people who genuinely work hard, for people who contribute to the collective good of society, to stand up for the right thing. That is why I a private sector employee, future MBA and hopefully corporate/executive employee with the teachers, nursers, public workers, and all other good people of Wisconsin against Scott Walker and his despicable bill.
Now that the agenda is clear, lets move on to the myths and facts.
Myth: Fair and objective coverage by Fox News/Conservative media.
Fact: If Fox News was Pinocchio its nose would stretch light years into another galaxy. I was there at the capitol Thursday night and decided to watch Fox News to see the opposite point of view. I almost had to puke over their biased coverage. I had turned on the channel with an open mind to listen to the other side, but just a few seconds made me sicker than having my head stuck down a toilet. It was venomous, it was accusatory, it portrayed a picture of the bill opponents as vicious mobs, it accused them of vitriol and violent rhetoric. I'm not saying all protesters are saints or did not do anything wrong. However, I can reassure people that the protest on the whole is peaceful and friendly. Even on Saturday with the tea-party counter protest, there peaceful barring a few spirited debates and some unsavory signs. Fox News and many other conservative talk shows are not being honest with their coverage. I respectfully implore people to seek alternate news sources, look up the dozens of videos on youtube, call the state police and see how peaceful and friendly it is. Honestly, we would love to sit down for a cup of tea/coffee or a pint of local beer and share our perspective and why we so passionately oppose this bill.
Myth: It is about the money.
Fact: No, this is not about the money. Our public workers have already made huge sacrifices and are willing to make more as needed. All they want is the ability to sit at the table and negotiate. Negotiation is what keeps things running and helps opposite sides find a win-win agreement. It is not always about pay, but other things like working hours, work conditions, autonomy, flexibility etc. 1
Myth: The bill is absolutely necessary to balance the budget.
Fact: No, our economic woes have been completely fabricated by Scott Walker. The Wisconsin state budget was actually in surplus after 2010. Our Governor Walker offered sweeping tax cuts to big businesses to create the deficit. 1 2
Myth: The AWOL Senate Democrats are not doing their job.
Fact: They are doing exactly their job. Their job as elected officials is to represent their constituents. Their constituents do not want this bill passed as is. Their constituents want Scott Walker to negotiate a fairer bill. As someone who voted for the Senate Democrat of my district, I am extremely proud that they took a stance. In fact they would have not had to take this drastic step if the Republicans had been honest, conducted work in good faith and stayed true to the democratic process. 1
Myth: The teachers who called in sick should be fired.
Fact: I actually agree in a theoretical sense. I would fire a worker who lied about being sick. However, for all practical purposes the venom against teachers is disrespectful and disgusting. I read a tea-party sign that said "If I abandoned my kids, I would be in prison". Well, Mr & Mrs. Sign, you made your baby and assumed responsibility for it. Unless your kids teachers actually conceived your child or pushed it out their vagina, I don't think they ought to be obliged to your children. Teachers are actually doing this so that public schools can continue to hire and retain good competitive teachers, keep the curriculum challenging, expand school programs, expand education so that all students including special students receive good education and your kids dont have to sit in overcrowded classrooms receiving sub par education from sub part teachers. Also don't whine about taxes. I don't even have kids and never will, there is no law exempting me from the taxes, there is "no child" tax benefit. In fact you with children get tax breaks. So if you don't like your teachers just shove it and send your kids to private school.
Myth: Union employees are just greedy pigs.
Fact: The people in unions represent a diverse cross section of hard working American people, policemen, firefighters, teachers, crossing-guards, nurses, doctors, EMT, janitors, garbage collectors, snow plow workers and a lot lot more. On an average they make less than private sector employees, have less career growth opportunity than private sector employees and sometimes benefits is the only way to compensate for the low pay and concrete ceiling. 1
Now that a few common myths and facts are straightened out let us focus on the bigger picture of unions, management and government.
Corporate greed, abuse and overall bad management led to the formation of unions. Across the world unions representing hard working people have benefited the middle class and working society. It is because of Unions women can work, child labor is illegal, there are things like weekends and overtime pay, there are mandatory safety codes and many other valuable benefits that respect the worker.
Consequently greed and militant unionism can lead to bad management and corporate clout. Many times unions negotiate excessive wages and benefits that destroy profitability and the business. Unions can have poor leaders who negotiate for themselves and not everyone. Auto making plants and many other industries were forced to outsource or shut down due to excessive cost of operations in USA.
Good governments, good corporate citizens and mature adults negotiate responsibly and reasonably. Communication is the critical key to resolve most problems and issues. Management often never communicates respectfully why they have to make certain choices, workers often never communicate reasonably why they need something. Competent businesses and governments do not view collective bargaining as a threat, or try to destroy it; but, they take it as a challenge to work towards a new win-win situation. Corporates serve the customers, and government serves the people, and they know that employees are one of their valuable tools in doing their jobs. Good employees means success, bad employees mean failure. Most corporate or government failure is mismanagement of finances or employees. In the past few years governments in USA have done both.
Scott Walker is an example of a terrible manager and failed leader. He showed an inability to manage finances, rejected federal cash that could have generated jobs and spent money on a narrow personal agenda. When he failed at financial management he then disrespected his employees and attempted to strip away their rights. As a leader and person having to make tough choices, he is unwilling to meet and negotiate with them. He is unwilling to actually show that he values his employees and sell his plan to his opponents.
Major fiscal plans need approval from all sides. Anyone who has worked in a job knows what happens when management railroads employees and forces changes. Valuable employees are lost and there is failure all over. Anyone with good sense knows that success requires alignment in an organization. Alienation and disillusionment will lead to organizational failure. Even if Scott Walker was God and ramrodded the perfect God made budget bill through congress trampling on his own employees, alienating them from him, creating depression and disillusionment - the state of Wisconsin will be in for Epic Fail.
Seriously Scott, take of your blinkers and soak in the reality.
Now that we see the big picture of negotiations, what should Wisconsin do for long term success.
High Speed Rail: Public transit sucks balls in the United states. One great benefit people in Europe, India and several places in the world have is public transit. It allows them to travel efficiently without the debt of owning vehicles. It lets them save for other things. They are able to travel further for jobs making employment mobile, creating cross-employment both which reduce unemployment. Moreover, construction, operation and maintenance generates revenue and creates jobs. Now that the Mideast is in turmoil, USA will lose its monopoly over oil. We need to be more efficient in transit.
Broadband Internet: Internet will get the most rural and remote parts connected. Rural businesses and farms can take advantage of the internet to grow and expand their business. Rural people can take advantage of online degrees, certificates and enrich their lives and economies. I know the internet will kill the tea party because people will no longer be stupid, but its actually for the greater good.
Raise Taxes (especially on the rich): Most countries have a much higher tax rate than USA. Contrary to the belief that taxes make people miserable, people in these countries are better off and happier. It is not a radical socialist idea, but a practical idea of giving back to society. It is actually the kind of common sense and community that our founding fathers built their societies on. Small gradual increases on the wealthiest people will actually go a huge way if not eliminate deficits. The filthy rich won't even notice the difference. Aww you may lose a vote or two and the millions of kickbacks, but you will do your job and receive the support of the people.
Invest in education: Education is the building block of the future. A good education today is vital to produce good businessmen, lawyers, engineers, doctors and professionals in the future. As we ignore education, our competitive advantage in the globe is slipping away. We no longer produce the best of the best and are losing to other nations. If we continue ignoring education, India and China will be the superpowers of the future and we will be the backward nation.
Invest in public sector: The public sector provides vital and critical services that keep the nation running. A good public sector prevents corporate monopolies, forces competitiveness, fosters product improvements, gives people choices and makes services accessible to all people. The wealthy can go to private schools, hire expensive doctors and lawyers, buy the best, but public sector gives the people a reasonable choice in services so they can save more to spend on other things.
What can a citizen do against imperial governments?
Anything and everything, we elect them in power to serve us. We have the power to make them do their jobs. Think of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, they are fighting against dictators. We have the power of democracy with us. This week I was blessed to be a part of history. For the first time in years, I actually believe I had a productive weekend and stood for something important. I plan to keep fighting the good fight till the end, and everyone can do to.
1) If you live in or near Madison, come join us at the protests. Even a few minutes at night after work makes a difference.
2) If you live anywhere else in the state and cannot make it here. Plan and stage your own rallies and protests locally. Show Walker that Wisconsin is not with him. Show him that he does not have a majority.
3) If you live in states like Ohio, Indiana, New Jersey, Missouri or any jurisdiction that is trampling on the rights of people and silencing them, get together and organize for democracy.
4) No matter where you live, you can always stage a rally or protest for solidarity.
5) If you can why not buy pizza, food or other amenities for the protesters. Ian's Pizza in Madison is receiving orders from across the country and globe supporting the protesters.
6) If you can donate to the cause of working class America.
7) Write letters of support, it means a lot when someone is with us no matter who you are, where you are.
8) Spread awareness of the issues of the working people across the world.
9) Get involved and stand up for your rights. This goes out to India, China, Pakistan or anywhere in the world where there are authoritarian governments, issues with corruption and corporate greed. The people united can never be defeated.
10) Always remember "One World, One Pain". Its not about Wisconsin, Indiana, Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain or Iran. Its a fight for the average working man across the world against corruption and greed. Its to keep the democratic process alive.
And to end this some inspiring videos to share what we fight for and why.
Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill Protest from Matt Wisniewski on Vimeo
Wisconsin "Budget Repair Bill" Protest Pt 2 from Matt Wisniewski on Vimeo.