All persons have the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of their interests.
– UN Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23(4)
As the opposition to the so-called budget repair bill continues to mount, Wisconsin working families can take heart in the abundant and diverse voices speaking out in support of collective bargaining rights.
International labor groups are alarmed that the budget shortfall is being used as a convenient excuse to engage in union busting; religious leaders are pointing out the mutual benefits of labor management cooperation; current and former Green Bay Packers players want public employees to know that they have fans; and veterans groups are alarmed by Governor Walker’s threat to call in the National Guard.
Public Services International (PSI) General Secretary Peter Waldorff, writing on behalf of a global union federation representing 20 million workers in 160 countries, had this to say in a letter to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker:
We regard this as an attack on one of the fundamental pillars in a well developed democracy, where social dialogue and collective bargaining is securing constructive relationship between the employees through their unions and the employers. A relationship that in many other countries has proved its high value in both times of growth in the economy and during crisis.
The New South Wales Nurses’ Association (NSWNA) General Secretary Brent Holmes, writing to Governor Walker on behalf of 54,000 Australian nurses and midwives, illustrated that public servants did not cause the financial crisis and should not be used as a scapegoat:
Fundamental rights to bargain about not only wages but working conditions which impact on nurses capacity to deliver safe patient care should not be removed because banks and financial institutions made terrible judgments and left your country and your State in a difficult financial position. Nor should a financial situation be conveniently used to take away workers rights to bargain for fair and just outcomes.
Wisconsin worker themselves are well aware that their struggle has implications for working families globally.
“If Wisconsin public sector workers lose the right to collectively bargain, it brings us one step closer to a world in which workers have no say about their compensation or working conditions,” says Candice Owely, president of the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Heath Professionals. She is also a registered nurse who is participating in rallies at the Wisconsin capital building in Madison this week. “We are standing up not just for ourselves, but for working people everywhere.”
The religious community is also speaking out in favor of workers’ rights. Rabbi Jonathan Biatch issued the following statement from the Madison rallies today:
Jewish tradition, from the Hebrew Bible, to Talmud, to our modern American religious movement, supports fair and appropriate treatment of workers, as well as the right to bargain collectively.
Our faith tradition knows that from these important and just practices come many benefits: from increased standards of living to increased productivity and profits. Judaism supports the rights of all workers to speak with employers, negotiate in good faith, and come to a final agreement that has everyone’s assent.
I therefore I cannot support Gov. Walker’s proposal in his Budget Repair Bill to remove collective bargaining rights for public workers.
According to a press release issued by VoteVets.org, veterans are strongly objecting to Governor Scott Walker's inappropriate threat to activate the National Guard to intimidate state workers.
"Maybe the new governor doesn't understand yet - but the National Guard is not his own personal intimidation force to be mobilized to quash political dissent," said Robin Eckstein, a former Wisconsin National Guard member, Iraq War Veteran from Appleton, WI, and member of VoteVets.org. "The Guard is to be used in case of true emergencies and disasters, to help the people of Wisconsin, not to bully political opponents. Considering many veterans and Guard members are union members, it's even more inappropriate to use the Guard in this way. This is a very dangerous line the Governor is about to cross."
Still basking in the glow of recent Super Bowl glory, current and former Green Bay Packers players including Curtis Fuller, Chris Jackie, Charles Jordan, Bob Long, Don Majikowski, Steve Okoniewski, Brady Poppinga and Jason Spitz issued a solidarity statement through their union, the NFL Players Association:
These public workers are Wisconsin’s champions every single day and we urge the Governor and the State Legislature to not take away their rights.
Of course, the loudest and most important voice in this struggle is that of Wisconsin working families themselves. An estimated 15,000 people turned out in Madison today to protest the budget repair bill, and rallies will continue throughout the day tomorrow.