For WordPress, written 2.18.11, posted 2.21.11
We didn’t have a very busy day today at work; consequently, I did quite a bit of internet surfing. I usually spend time on things like music or writing my own fiction or looking up interesting things when I’m not working. Today, though, I found myself looking for news articles about the protests going on in my former home state–Wisconsin.
In the November 2010 elections, Wisconsin’s Democratic Governor, Jim Doyle, was replaced by Republican Scott Walker. I didn’t hear any of my friends back in Wisconsin rejoicing or lamenting one way or another; in fact, I didn’t even know it happened.
Then last week, I started seeing news about Governor Walker introducing and attempting to push through a bill that would remove collective bargaining rights from the state employees’ union. I worked for the State of Wisconsin for several years–first as a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and then as an actual employee of the University itself once I had graduated. I didn’t know anything about the money, the insurance, the benefits, or any of that. All I knew–all I saw–was that I was making more money than I ever had (which was still a relatively small amount compared to private sector jobs, btw), and I had my own health insurance. And it was good health insurance!
During that time, I was only supporting myself on my wages (which were under $11). If I had been attempting to support a child, children, or another family member, it would have been much more difficult. At one point, I was informed that my union was doing some bargaining for me on health care for the new year’s contracts. I didn’t even know I had a union; I didn’t pay dues. Turns out it’s not that kind of union. Being employed by the State of Wisconsin automatically means you’re a union member, and you have people looking out for you.
Anyway, I never had any complaints while I worked for the State of Wisconsin, other than that they actually wanted me to WORK for the money they paid me. 😉 But that’s a different story…
I have friends–very good friends, though some more along the lines of acquaintances–and family who still live in various places in Wisconsin. Many of them have Facebook accounts, or have been emailing various things to me (as forwards, mostly). I have seen anger at closed schools, pride in the people of Wisconsin standing together to protest something they see as unfair, resentment toward the protesters and their various attitudes, and some indifference toward the whole thing. I’ve done some reading about the bill being proposed (and I continue to do so), and given a lot of thought to what I would be doing if I were in Wisconsin, whether I worked for the state or not.
I was going to say something soothing and practical now about everybody working together to make needed cuts and keep needed benefits throughout the state. I think every state individually needs to do this–and so does the federal government, as well as every person in the United States, richest to poorest. What we’re doing–all the “gimmie gimmie!” and “me first, all mine!” is not working for everyone; it’s hardly working for anyone, in fact, except for the richest 1%.
Instead, I have to let a tiny rant out.
I am appalled that Governor Walker is trying to bully this legislation through without the popular support of the people in the state who elected him. I am appalled at the sheer gall it takes to become a public servant–someone who is duly elected by the people for reasonable government–and then turn around and push his “my way or the highway” agenda. Passing this bill will hurt more of the middle class in Wisconsin than it will benefit–including all of my friends and family still living there and attempting to earn a living, whether they are employed by the state, self-employed, or otherwise employed.
Now, I need to say something else: I am SO PROUD to be from Wisconsin. Wisconsin has a great political history, including the beginnings of at least one major political party and some amazingly dedicated public servants–not to mention being on the ground floor of passing measures to protect workers in both public and private sessions. I take pride in being from Wisconsin, and it’s not just because my football teams do amazing things like go to the Rose Bowl and the Super Bowl (though I do look very good in cardinal and white, as well as green and gold!). It’s because the people there are not afraid to stand up for the things they believe; because of the work ethic I learned from the people around me; the solid humanist values I inherited from my family and friends (no matter their religion or skin color).
And finally, to all the protesters: be peaceful. Be fair. Be strong. You’re not alone outside of Wisconsin; there are people all over the United States standing beside you–even if we can’t actually be there.
- “Wisconsin, Trailblazer for American Workers’ Rights” and related posts (prwatch.org)
- The Best Wisconsin Protest Signs (PHOTOS) (huffingtonpost.com)