Public sector general strike in Wisconsin
Saturday, 26 February will see rallies in every state of the US in protest at the attempt of the Republicans in Wisconsin to strip state workers of their collective bargaining rights. A central protest in Madison, Wisconsin’s state capital, is expected to attract around 100,000 in spite of the forecast of bad weather. Socialist Alternative (CWI supporters in the USA) will be distributing the following leaflet.
Governor Scott Walker thought he could walk all over the working people of Wisconsin. Instead, Walker ignited a movement that clearly has the potential power and momentum to bring his corporate sponsored administration to its knees. The key question is how can we unite around a mass action strategy capable of seeing this struggle through to victory?
Walker’s plan to strip state workers of collective bargaining rights is nothing short of an attempt to break the union movement. The Tea Party leaders attacking “Big Labor” are trying to cover for the bankers, Wall Street speculators and corporate politicians who caused the economic crisis. Working people and our unions are not the cause of the fiscal woes of the state. So we have to demand: Stop scapegoating unions! Make the super-rich pay for their own crisis!
But if two weeks of mass demonstrations, sick-outs and walkouts haven’t yet stopped Walker, the Republican legislature, and their big-business backers, what is the next step?
Preparations must begin for a mobilization which will stop “business as usual” across Wisconsin. The South Central Wisconsin Labor Council has urged immediate preparations for a general strike. A decisive first step would be a one-day public sector general strike, combined with mass protests and student walkouts, which appeals to all working people to join the struggle. . And while strike action is not legal for all state workers we must remember that the unions were built in the first place by struggles which defied anti-union laws.
But time is short. If we don’t keep moving forward, we will fall back. And we can’t rely on the Senate Democrats to maintain their stand unless they feel the fire of the movement spreading underneath them. After all, would they have even taken their stand if the working people of the state hadn’t risen up in the first place?
The stakes are extremely high. If this anti-union legislation passes it will embolden those seeking to attack unions elsewhere, but if it is defeated it will give confidence to workers across country to stand up. That is why we must build on the solidarity protests taking place across the country. This means launching determined mass struggles against both budget cuts and the assault on trade unions, following the example of Wisconsin.
Wisconsin has become center stage in a sweeping attack on the public sector all across the country. Other state governments are also targeting wages, benefits, and collective bargaining rights. This is the naked agenda of big business and their corporate servants in office.
It is up to us to stop these attacks. While many Democratic politicians are now talking about workers’ rights it is clear that the leadership of the party is prepared to go along with the Republicans in balancing the budget on the backs of public sector workers by forcing them to pay a lot more toward their pensions and health care in exchange for ending the attack on collective bargaining rights. In Wisconsin it is estimated this would represent a 7% pay cut.
And while President Obama has declared his opposition to union busting in Wisconsin, both his administration and many Democratic politicians at state level across the country have been as unyielding in their attacks on the teacher unions as the Republicans. Likewise, unfortunately, key union leaders have declared their willingness to accept the attacks on pensions and health benefits in Wisconsin in exchange for keeping collective bargaining rights.
It’s time that we build a political alternative to the two parties of corporate America. Campaigns should be launched across the country to stop the budget cuts and defend jobs, services and workers’ rights. The Republican and Tea Party attempts to “divide and conquer” by playing off unionized and unorganized workers must be defeated.
It must be acknowledged that the relentless corporate propaganda about the alleged “privileges” of public sector workers has had an effect. We say that all workers should have decent benefits and it’s way overdue that the unions go back to their roots and organize the private sector, especially low paid workers. The struggle to defend public sector workers must become a struggle to rebuild a labor movement worthy of the name that can fight back against the relentless attacks on working people’s living standards.
Hundreds of thousands are protesting across the country today in solidarity with Wisconsin workers. This energy should be channeled into creating broad-based local campaigns against all budget cuts and union-busting measures. Out of these campaigns we could run our own independent candidates as the first step towards forming a new party that gives a real, consistent, voice to workers and youth and fights for our interests.
Ultimately a decent future can only assured by struggling to take control of society’s wealth out of the hands of corporations and the super-rich instead of increasing the burden on working people.
The time is now to begin the fight-back. The Egyptian workers have shown is it possible to stand up to injustice everywhere. If you agree with the ideas in this leaflet please contacts us to discuss joining Socialist Alternative and how to organize a united struggle to fight for our rights and our future.
• Build solidarity with Wisconsin working people to stop Walker’s anti-union legislation
• Kill the WHOLE Bill! Stop ALL budget cuts, layoffs, and attacks on workers
• Reverse tax cuts for business and the super rich to plug the deficit
• Tax the rich and corporations to immediately fund a massive public sector jobs program at union wages and conditions