The power of the people speaks up

David Gutman

With growing unrest in Wisconsin after Gov. Scott Walker proclaimed no collective bargaining for state unions, California and other states worry if they will be next in line to have their unions busted.

The instigator of the protests is none other than Gov. Walker, announcing on Feb. 11 that his budget proposal to the state Senate would not include collective bargaining. Collective bargaining is the act of negotiation for funds between state unions and the state government. If this right is taken out, it would mean the end of funding and thus severely diminishes the unions.

Many of Saddleback College’s faculty belong to the state-wide union: California School Employee Association. This union ensures the rights of all full-time and part-time non-instructor employees are not trampled on.

“We would be devastated and up in arms about it if it ever came to California,” said former chapter president of CSEA Shanna Moorehouse. “And with the state of the country right now anything is possible.”

There is a little controversy as to why these budget bills are limiting unions. According to unions are some of the biggest supporters for Democratic runners for public office. After the 2010 Congressional election, the statistics for the top ten biggest spenders for political advertisements was released and ranked in places fifth and sixth were the biggest spenders for the Democrats. Both of them were international labor unions.

To really put it into perspective at how small these two spenders were, their combined spending is still roughly $4 million behind the Chamber of Commerce which spent nearly $40 million for Republicans.

What brought the issue to national light was the fact that 14 of the state senators refused to come into office to vote. Gov. Walker planned on using the state police to arrest and force the 14 representatives to come into the assembly room where they can be outvoted and the budget can pass along with its union-limiting agenda.

To counter this, the 14 senators have fled the state’s jurisdictions and forced the voting process to come to halt. In the Wisconsin state constitution more than two-thirds of the state senators must be in assembly to vote.

While the 14 senators are in hiding, many public sector employees have started to picket the capital building in Wisconsin.

Senator Glen Grothman of the Wisconsin state senate is quoted calling the protesters in Wisconsin: slobs and saying that they are enjoying their time in his office. The next day on March 2 Grothman made an appearance on the MSNBC show “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnel” where he was forced to talk to a handful of protesters.

“People have been able to get their points across for a long time without clogging up hallways with their obnoxious signs and beating drums,” Grothman said on “The Last Word.” Before their time block ended, O’Donnel gave Grothman the opportunity to apologize for his comments but Grothman refused to take back his statements.

U.S. congressman of California’s 42 district Gary Miller also showed his support for Gov. Walker’s plan.

“As states continue to struggle to balance their budgets, I do not believe it is unreasonable to require state and local government employees to do their part and contribute to their health and retirement plans as most of their federal employee counterparts and private sector workers must do,” said Representative Miller.

The Orange County Labor Federation is not keeping silent about the protests, being a conglomerate of nearly 93 unions based in Orange County ranging from teachers to hotel workers. The Federation is very confident that the union-limiting policy will not pass in California.

“First and foremost, California politics is very different from Wisconsin politics, and having a larger population of mostly liberal minded people means that it would not happen, and if it ever did come up, we as a federation of unions would picket and do as much as we could to stop it,” said Julio Perez, political director of OCLF.

On March 2, Ohio passed a similar bill to the one being held up in Wisconsin. In some ways the Ohio bill is more restrictive as it prohibits the bargaining rights of at least 350,000 public employees, while in Wisconsin it is 175,000 employees.

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