Vol. 6    No. 4
February 24, 2011

The Capital City Hues
(608) 241-2000
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EDITORIAL STAFF

Jonathan Gramling
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Contributing Writers
Rita Adair, Ike Anyanike, Paul
Barrows, Alfonso Zepeda
Capistran, Theola Carter, Fabu,
Andrew Gramling, Lang Kenneth
Haynes, Eileen Cecille Hocker,
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Dr. Richard Harris and his book
Growing Up in South Madison
    Wow, what a difference two weeks makes. I was just finishing up our last edition of The Hues and
Governor Walker introduces his “budget repair bill” and all heck breaks out. I haven’t seen anything like this
since the 1970s.
    When I first started at the University of Wisconsin back in September 1970, the protests against the
Vietnam War were still going on. All into the winter and spring, demonstrations against the war would attract
1,000-2,000 people. But when the U.S. invaded Laos — with many people concerned that the escalation
would draw Communist China into the war — I think well over 10,000 people came out to march, perhaps
many more. It was a flash point where even people mildly against the war felt obliged to come out and
protest because so much was at stake. I think it was the huge reaction in places like Madison that helped
bring an end to U.S. direct involvement in the war to an end through the signing of the Paris Peace Accords
two years later. The lines were drawn with a stark clarity where there was no real debate on what the final
outcome could be.
   It seems as if the same thing is happening in Madison today with Governor Walker’s — with a strong and
well-financed faction of the Republican Party — efforts to end collective bargaining for public sector workers
in Madison. By Friday February 18, the public sector unions in Wisconsin had conceded the economic
cutbacks contained in the bill in order to balance the state budget — which many contended was not in crisis
at all. With the immediate economic reasons stripped away, Governor Walker still pushed forward and did
not budge in his insistence that collective bargaining rights be stripped and that Wisconsin become a de
facto Right to Work State. Not only would wages and benefits be cut, but worker say in what goes on in the
workplace would be severely curtailed.
   Well Governor Walker’s and the Republican Party’s stance has galvanized a movement of people who
would not normally get out there and protest. This is not the “radical fringe,” which normally attracts 500-
1,000 people to any given rally. This is not just “organized labor,” many of whose members were at work
making sure that “the trains run on time,” although from what I have seen in e-mails, many would have
loved to be there. The 70,000 people and more are not Democratic activists. They are people from all walks
of life, students and retirees, working people and managers, teachers, police and firefighters and even some
small business people. This is more than Democrats rising up, it’s independents too. Over 60 percent of
Wisconsinites are opposed to having collective bargaining rights stripped away.
This is a flash point where many people from different walks of life see all too clearly the implications of the
stripping away of the public sector’s collective bargaining rights. They see it as a radical change in their way
of life. What will all of this mean for their state parks and the public services they receive? To what extent
will their voices not be heard and decisions made without their voice as millions and millions of dollars
pour into state elections from outside sources?
   The elimination of collective bargaining and the slashing of state employee payrolls will have a
detrimental impact on all of us, even those who work in the private sector who feel that state employees are
paid too much. The slashing of state pay levels will cause a cycling downwards of overall pay levels.
Ironically, workers in the private sector will see their pay levels decline as well. We operate in a labor
market where there is a hierarchy of wage levels based on the level of education, skill, training and
experience the person has. That hierarchy won’t end with the Walker bill. It just means that all workers will
be making less as the wage cuts work their way through the state’s economy. As far as the workers in the
private sector goes, what goes around comes around. They might get what they want, but the law of
unintended consequences will see to it that it happens to them too.
   We will see what happens with this flash point. It might be that Governor Walker — along with his
benefactors — gets what he wants. But he just might win the battle and lose the war as he makes people
take sides in numbers that even millions of dollars can’t counteract. And in the meantime, thousands will
suffer and Wisconsin will lose millions in lost productivity. What a tragedy! For the first time in my lifetime, a
Wisconsin governor is enacting policies that will decrease the quality of life for Wisconsin citizens.
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling   
                                  Flash Point