April 2011

From the Officers
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Wisconsin's Wake-Up Call

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans have pushed through their bill to eliminate collective bargaining for tens of thousands of public workers in Wisconsin. They did it the only way they could—considering that polls show over 60 percent of the state's population opposes the bill—by using undemocratic tactics that make a mockery of their state's progressive tradition.

Walker's heroics for anti-union employers and the nation's right-wing could come at a deep price. Recall campaigns against eight Republican senators are gathering momentum.

Even more importantly, however, Walker has awakened a movement. The huge mobilizations of workers, community residents and students against Walker's agenda in Wisconsin were in the best democratic traditions of that state and our entire nation.

I am proud that IBEW locals were in Wisconsin standing shoulder to shoulder with our fellow citizens and are working hard to stop more reactionary legislation from being railroaded through their legislatures.

Pitting workers in the private sector against those who work in municipal, state and local government is backfiring in Wisconsin and other states where similar initiatives are under consideration.

A growing number of Americans know that the budget problems of our cities and states were not caused by public workers, but by the illegal actions of the big banks and Wall Street insiders.

The allies of these same interests are threatening to enact legislation that would set back the collective bargaining gains of IBEW members in all of our branches.

Walker and other governors like John Kasich in Ohio were elected to create jobs and help rebuild the middle-class, not to undermine the standards of workers who keep their states running.

After Ronald Reagan busted the air traffic controllers union (PATCO) for going on strike in 1981, many of us were frustrated that our labor movement's response did not have the force or strength or outrage that was desperately needed at that time.

Brothers and sisters, Gov. Walker's attack and the demonization of public workers in other states is this generation's PATCO moment. To fail now would be to desert our responsibility to our families and to the next generation of workers.


Also: Lee: Danger on the Job

Edwin D. Hill
International President