Monday, March 14, 2011

Message from PPA President Tony Carobine

Wisconsin rebellion reaches new level

Dear PPA Member:

In the aftermath of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signing a bill stripping public workers of their collective bargaining rights, a record number of working class Americans gathered in and outside the capital building in Madison on Saturday, March 12. By some estimates, the crowd numbered over 150,000 and clearly was the largest thus far in day 27 of protests against the attack on working families in Wisconsin.

The demonstrators consisted of not only union workers (public and private sector) but also democrats, republicans, former republicans, independents, small business owners, religious groups, retiree organizations, students, and many others all coming together to express their views in a peaceful manner. There are no words that can accurately describe the feeling of solidarity generated by over 150,000 people assembled for a common cause – to defend their way of life and to keep the “American Dream” alive.

As with past gatherings, this was nonviolent and rather festive affair, a disappointment to some far right commentators and politicians who continue to spread lies referring to the protestors as union thugs under command of their “union bosses,” or slobs, freaks, and long-haired bug infested Michael Moore followers, among other derogatory and hateful descriptions. An honest assessment of the crowd would reveal that all are everyday middle class Americans, many of whom are accompanied by their children.

Wisconsin is known as “America’s Dairyland.” Joining the March 12 protest with a “Tractorcade” to support public workers and bring attention to their cause were Wisconsin farmers. In his budget, Governor Walker has proposed cuts in a state health insurance program known as Badgercare and if the budget cuts are enacted, would affect Wisconsin’s self-employed family farm owners’ health care coverage.

Aside from legal challenges as to the procedure used by the Republican-controlled state Senate to move the union rights bill to the governor for his signature, there are now recall petitions being circulated against eight of the Republican senators who supported this measure. If the required numbers of signatures for recall are obtained (and that is fully expected), recall elections will take place within the next three months.

As in Wisconsin, the battle in other states goes far beyond an attack on public worker unions but also includes a large segment of the citizenry as well, regardless of union status or political affiliation. The fact is a war has been declared on the middle class and our democracy.

In a March 9 interview on FOX News, Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald inadvertently revealed the true reason behind the attack on public worker unions in Wisconsin (as well as several other states) and it has nothing to do with budgetary concerns. He said, If we win this battle, and the money is not there under the auspices of the unions, certainly what you're going to find is President Obama is going to have a much more difficult time getting elected and winning the state of Wisconsin."

Efforts are also underway through the legislative process in 32 states to make it more difficult for college students, minorities, the poor, and others to cast a vote on Election Day. (Historically, these groups tend to vote for more Democratic Party candidates rather than candidates from other political parties.) Elimination of same-day voter registration, residency definition changes, highly restrictive voter identification requirements are some examples of attempts at putting obstacles in place to affect voter turnout.

Meanwhile, efforts to transfer more of the wealth from the middle class and those least able to afford it continue. Here are two examples. In Michigan, Republican Governor Rick Snyder has proposed placing a tax on retiree pensions and elimination of the low-income tax credit. The $1.7 billion tax increase on the poor and old people would be used to help pay for a $1.8 billion corporate tax cut. In Florida, Republican Governor Rick Scott has proposed a massive $1.7 billion cut in K–12 public schools. The money saved from education cuts would be used for corporate and property tax breaks. 

Currently, the gap between the richest one percent of Americans and the middle and poorest parts of the population is at the highest it's been in over 80 years. This gap will continue to increase if the politicians under control of their billionaire “puppet masters” are able to continue their assault on the middle class and democracy in America.

For this reason the rebellion in Wisconsin and in other parts of the country that has not only generated the participation of union members but other groups and individual citizens is so important. It is more than a battle for union rights. It is a battle for the future of our country and our way of life.

Please visit the PPA website at for photographs of the Saturday, March 12 demonstration in Madison. There is a slide show on the main page and “Photo Gallery” in the left column that contains two March 12 photo galleries in addition to previous galleries.

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