Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Could this be the start at last of labor's upturn?

Tens of thousands of workers and students have been demonstrating outside and staying inside, occupying the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison to stop the governor's move against collective bargaining rights for public employees. We can never know what's to come, we none of us have a crystal ball, but I do know that they're calling the plaza outside the Capitol "Liberation Square" in honor and emulation of the sisters and brothers who rocked Egypt--and that, just as in Egypt, there is no turning back.

The current round of attacks on government-employee unions, especially on the teachers' unions, should be understood as an assault not only on the working class's right to public services, the services to which we are entitled and for which we pay with our tax dollars, or toward which our tax dollars should be going instead of to the Pentagon and to bailing out the banks--not only as an assault on our right to services, and not only on the labor rights of public employees, especially teachers who are being outrageously scapegoated when they ought to be national heroes--not only all this. But more specifically, the current wave of assault on public-employee unions is a racist and sexist bludgeon. Most government employees, especially teachers, are women. A great proportion of these workers, especially city and federal employees, are Black.

With this reactionary, cynical and, by the way, completely bipartisan political rampage against public employees, from California to Wisconsin and Michigan to Florida and New York, the bourgeoisie might finally have gone too far. Labor, the sleeping giant, might finally be forcibly awakened.

On Wisconsin!