Tuesday, March 22, 2011

After Wisconsin, Unions Tie Cause to Civil Rights

After Wisconsin, Unions Tie Cause to Civil Rights
By Byron York

"Madison is just the beginning!" AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka told a union rally in Annapolis, Md., recently. "Like that old song goes, 'You ain't seen n-n-n-n-nothing yet!'"

Fresh from defeat in Wisconsin, union leaders are planning a new campaign not just to head off future challenges to their collective-bargaining powers but also to make the case that organized labor's benefits and prerogatives -- wages, health care and pensions that are more generous than those of comparable workers in the private sector -- are the moral equivalent of rights won by black Americans during the civil-rights movement.

To make the point, the AFL-CIO is planning a series of nationwide events on April 4, the 43rd anniversary of the day the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated after speaking in Memphis, Tenn., on behalf of striking black garbage collectors. The message: King's cause and that of angry schoolteachers in Madison are one.

"April 4 (is) the day on which Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life for the cause of public collective bargaining," Trumka said in another recent speech, this one in Washington. And on the AFL-CIO blog, there is this notice: "Join us to make April 4, 2011, a day to stand in solidarity with working people in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and dozens of other states where well-funded, right-wing corporate politicians are trying to take away the rights Dr. King gave his life for."

Union officials are not planning a traditional mega-rally in Washington. Rather, they're encouraging locals across the country to stage shows of force in support of Wisconsin unions and the Democratic lawmakers who fled the state in a failed effort to stop Republican Gov. Scott Walker's budget plan. Throughout, the AFL-CIO is asking local leaders to tie the Wisconsin issue to the King assassination and civil rights.

"A lot of people forget that what (King) was doing in Memphis was fighting for sanitation workers there," says Josh Goldstein, an AFL-CIO spokesman. "It's important for people to make the connection. Martin Luther King was so important to the labor movement. Workers' rights and civil rights go hand in hand. It's a time to remind people what he was fighting for."

The AFL-CIO is advising member unions to come up with activities to stress ties between big labor and the civil-rights movement. AFL-CIO planners suggest that local labor leaders team up with churches to make workers' rights a theme at worship services. Union bosses also advise asking churches "to consider organizing candlelight vigils, which could include the reading of Dr. King's 'I've Been to the Mountaintop' speech," which King delivered the night before he was killed.

But was King fighting for the things that Trumka and his union forces are fighting for today? Is, say, the "right" for well-paid, unionized public employees to enjoy a health plan that includes coverage for Viagra -- a cause for which Milwaukee teachers waged a protracted court battle -- the equivalent of King's work in Memphis, much less his efforts for the right to vote and access to public accommodations?

"It is delusion, bordering on abomination, to try to equate what Martin Luther King was doing in Memphis to public workers getting Cadillac benefits for which they contribute very little, or nothing, at taxpayers' expense," says Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights who has also served on the National Labor Relations Board. "The sanitation workers in Memphis were receiving wages that were so significantly below that which are enjoyed by middle-class teachers in Madison that to try to draw that comparison is offensive. Truly offensive."

Whatever events take place on April 4, look for the effort to have the enthusiastic support of the Obama administration. "Union rights are no different than civil rights," Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told officials of the Communications Workers of America during a Wisconsin strategy conference call two weeks ago. "It's a part of our history, it's a part of our culture, it's a part of what has made this country so great."

Will it work? After all the demonstrations and all the speeches, will the public watch protests by angry, nearly all-white, middle-class school teachers with excellent health and retirement plans and think of Martin Luther King? Trumka's AFL-CIO and the big unions are very rich and very powerful. They have the ability to get their message out. But their April 4 strategy might be too ambitious even for them.

To read another article by Byron York, click here.
It's Time To Get Even
By Sandy Rios

“It’s time to get even” declares a union letter to Wisconsin Teachers. An April 5th election for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court could be their chance for revenge.

Less than two weeks ago that Governor Scott Walker and the Republican Assembly signed a law changing collective bargaining rules for Public Sector unions in an attempt to save the state from financial ruin. Other states are considering similar measures and unions are panicking.

For days, protestors stormed the Wisconsin capitol, inflicting thousands of dollars of damage and a good deal of shame on union supporters which they brashly sought to impute to elected officials who opposed them. “Shame! Shame! Shame!” They chanted as they stormed the capitol and even the chambers, banging drums. They broke thru windows, wrote on historic columns and left their mark in more ways than one.

Democratic legislators deserted their duties and fled to Illinois to prevent a simple vote. In spite of that, after amending the language, Republicans were able to thwart their efforts and vote on the bill by limiting the ability of public sector union workers to collectively bargain for anything except salary. But most alarming to the unions, was the provision to cease state collection of union dues thru paycheck withdrawals so that unions will be forced to collect directly from their membership. You would think thousands of zealous union supporters could be trusted to pay their dues without coercion, but evidently not. And since those coerced dollars go to fund candidates in sympathy with unions, that dance will be over…the flow of money stopped.

Republican legislators and their Governor received death threats. Lots of death threats. State Representative Michelle Litjens was told after casting her vote she was “f…..king…dead” not by a protestor, but by her Democratic seat mate, Rep. Gordon Hintz.

As a result of the vote, nearly 100,000 protestors descended again on the capitol in outrage. They broke in windows, overwhelmed police and basically had their way once again with the facility. “This is what democracy looks like!” they chanted.

Only products of the American school system and their leftist teachers could have shown such ignorance. The Intercollegiate Studies Institute just released the results of a civic literacy test given to more than 28,000 college students showing that the products of these union educators know almost nothing about their government. In a multiple choice test, “Less than half knew about federalism, judicial review, the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address and NATO… Ten percent thought ‘we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal” was from the Communist Manifesto,’ reported Richard Brake, co-chairman of ISI’s Civic Literacy Board. Vaulted Harvard grads did no better, scoring a resounding D for their efforts.

And on the heels “that’s what democracy looks like” from the Wisconsin mob, other forms of that kind of “democracy” seem to be taking place. Last week Judge Maryann Sumi issued a restraining order on implementation of the controversial law, exercising authority she does not have, using a law that does not apply. Taking her cues from the disappearing legislators, she left for vacation until the end of March. Even though most agree her ruling will be overturned, it does stop the process of enforcement and reports from Wisconsin are that unions are quickly making bargaining deals in an effort to get all they can before enforcement really takes place; chaotic, rule-free, democracy at its best.

Now comes the “get even” moment. An election on April 5th could prove to be the determiner of it all. Justice David Prosser is up for retention. A twelve-year veteran of the court, Justice Prosser was a Republican Leader of the Wisconsin House in a former life and served in the legislator for eighteen years. Although the race is non-partisan, he is of course, a Republican and a conservative. His opponent, Assistant Attorney General, Joanne Kloppenburg is his polar opposite. In news articles, she’s described as a non-partisan woman of the people, but by those who know better, a radical of radicals. The American Federation of Teachers, Local 212 must know something because they sent out this letter:

“…on April 5 we will continue the process of defending our college and taking back our state from Walker and the anti-union ideologues who presently control it. Local 212 COPE has endorsed Joanne Kloppenburg for Wisconsin Supreme Court.

All Supreme Court elections are important but this one will have immediate impact on the capability of unions to survive Walker’s attempt to destroy us.

Many of the legal challenges to the bill stripping public employees of their collective bargaining rights will end up in Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The makeup of the Supreme Court is currently 4—3 in favor of anti-union justices. A Kloppenburg victory would swing the balance to our side.

A vote for Prosser is a vote for Walker.

It’s time to get even. Vote Kloppenburg on April 5th.”

Three million dollars have been pumped into Kloppenburg’s campaign and ads are currently pummeling Justice Prosser. And the unions WILL turn out the statewide vote on April 5th.

Last election they told us “elections have consequences.” Now their motto has changed to “It’s time to get even. “ This is what democracy looks like to the Left. No wonder our Founding Fathers warned us about it.

To read another article by Sandy Rios, click here.

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