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“It was a monstrosity designed to destroy public sector unions, expand executive power over all government agencies, and slash health and social services by $50 million while restricting eligibility, raising fees, and excluding undocumented workers. He also aimed to privatize public utilities in no-bid sales.
In Ohio a referendum defeated similar anti-union legislation.
Left socialist mobilisation was evident and how to develop class unionism is back on the agenda debated by a number of writers in the 16 chapters.
‘After decades of neoliberal attacks and union demobilization, there was a serious lack of working-class organization, historic memory, and collective experience. Most people who showed up in February and March had never been to a protest in their lives, and fewer had been part of a strike. If there had been another strike of any kind, it would have been miraculous, but a general strike was solely a point of agitation; even so, it should give us pause that throughout the struggles in France and Greece the mass strikes that did materialize were not capable of repelling austerity measures.
In the Wisconsin moment, there were no standing networks of rank-and-file unionists who could agitate to make it more likely that their unions would do what was needed to navigate a militant course for the movement.
…Despite setbacks and defeats, each struggle informs the next in kind, and statements of solidarity are sent from place to place in an understanding of common struggle. If we learn something from these places, it is that a radically democratic, “from below” orientation is not just a good idea or something we would like to see, but critically necessary for success in the battles to come. There is no simple move or strategy to take us out of this situation, but clearly we will have to prepare ourselves for patient, committed organizing and movement building.’
Militant unionists debated with union leaders over concessions or not, for more rallies and to widen the fight broader than collective bargaining. Appeals for strike action are hotly pressed with discussion on how to build a general strike - but not taken up. The turn to electoral recall politics is contested.
‘After a thirty year anti-union offensive by corporate America and its public sector counterparts, there is at last a two-sided class war.’
He argues…’when a real labor movement arises, that is, a movement not merely of thousands or even tens of thousands but millions, it necessarily becomes transformative. Labor union officials who hesitate, who waver, or who knuckle under will soon find themselves challenged by new, younger leaders who will either force those officials to fight or push them aside. Such a movement will change the unions—often by changing the leadership first and sometime by changing the very institutions themselves….’
Stephanie Luce in ‘What can we learn from Wisconsin’ promotes 5 lessons.
1. Mobilizing a Fightback Takes Organization
I am not saying this to suggest Democrats don’t also pull dirty tricks. I am simply pointing it out to remind us that the opposition may stop at nothing to push their agenda. Just as organizers do during a unionization campaign, we need to be prepared to inoculate potential supporters—warning them of the range of tricks the opposition will likely try, including ones that are illegal.’
protesters at one point, saying that despite what the legislature told them, they knew the difference between right and wrong.
The solidarity was not just between unions. The protests against the bill were from workers angry about cuts in their health care and attacks on their unions, but also from thousands of people worried about the impact of the bill on public services overall.
As well amongst the left…’ I am not saying that the differences in positions do not matter, because they do. …But instead of focusing so much energy on trying to persuade one another, we need to spend a lot more time talking to the millions of people who do not usually engage in political organizations and actions.’
‘The Democratic Party has delivered next to nothing to labor for decades, except the knowledge that Democrats are not Republicans. Labor and progressives have been triangulated…Both options, it is now obvious, are dead-end streets, and the Wisconsin revolt only crystallized the point.’
I met the ILWU International Longshore and Warehouse Union in San Francisco and learnt how this union implements “An Injury to One is an Injury to All”. The union takes militant direct action against the anti-union laws winning against a corporate attempt for a greenfield non-union site as recounted by Michael D. Yates ‘Class Warfare in Longview, Washington: “No Wisconsin Here”. The ILWU did not rely on the Democrats and class unionism was victorious.
While Australian unions defend more strongly workers’ interests with wins with community unionism campaigning, like US unions, we are not developing class unionism - needed in the challenges working families face against the ruling class assault.