After the Wisconsin State Assembly approved Governor Scott Walker’s “budget repair” bill, sending it on to the Senate, tens of thousands of protesters show no sign of backing down and have continued to demonstrate at the Capitol building. Back from his trip to Madison, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson visited The Nation‘s offices today to describe the momentous changes occurring because of Wisconsin workers. Jackson says that the “shock value” of what is unfolding in Wisconsin may have led some governors like Indiana’s Mitch Daniels to dial back a planned assault on public employees.
The massive resistance being seen in the streets of Wisconsin, Reverend Jackson says, is a result of workers understanding they “either have collective bargaining or private begging.” If they let collective bargaining go, workers will likely become “victims of arbitrariness.” That means they will not be able to negotiate layoffs and may wake up one morning to read in the newspaper that they have just been fired, like ousted school board member Martha Harris of Ohio did recently, Jackson says.
Jackson expresses concern with the divide-and-conquer strategy that appears to be playing out in Wisconsin: this should not be a public versus private worker issue, he says. The jobs that have been lost have not gone from private businesses to public institutions or vice versa, they have actually gone from “here to yonder” to countries around the world with more lax worker protections.