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Walker’s war on workers: Whatever it takes

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Rick Horowitz
March 10, 2011
— When the going gets tough, the tough just make up their own rules.

It was live on the local news, and it all happened so quickly, so bizarrely, that even the news anchors couldn’t explain what they’d just seen: a special conference committee that hadn’t existed just a few hours earlier called into session, and a brief statement from the Republican chairman that basically boiled down to “We’re allowed to do what we’re about to do.”


What they were about to do: split Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial “budget-repair” bill in two, set aside—or so they claimed—all the financial provisions in the bill, and ram the other provisions through. The union-busting provisions.


Because the union-busting provisions had no “fiscal impact”—or so they claimed, which was precisely the opposite of what they and the governor had been claiming for weeks—there was no need for the special “fiscal-impact” quorum that the 14 missing Democratic senators, still across the border in Illinois, had been denying them. They could pass this new version all by their Republican selves. All live on the local news.


Then an attempt at objection from the lone Democratic assemblyman at the committee table. The committee’s sudden convening violated Wisconsin’s open-meetings law, he tried to argue. He’d never received a description of this new version of the law. He’d first seen this new version of the law just minutes ago—how was he supposed to vote on something he hadn’t even read? He had motions, amendments he wanted to offer.


“No motions,” the chairman kept saying. “No motions.” And then, without warning, “Clerk, call the roll.”


The assemblyman was still voicing his objections as they called the names around him and totaled the vote and announced the outcome and adjourned the meeting. It was over in seconds.


Or rather, it was over in seconds and immediately sent down the hall to the Senate floor: another instant session, another high-speed roll call, another “victory” and another immediate adjournment. No discussion. No debate. One Republican voted “no,” still holding out hope for compromise on those collective-bargaining rights. The other 18 Republicans stuck with their governor—with Walker’s War on Workers—and stuck it to the unions.


It was breathtaking—those so-called “union bosses” have nothing on this bunch—and all of it live on the local news.


But please, don’t take my word for it; see for yourself. Here’s a link to the video of the committee session:


www.wiseye.com/Programming/VideoArchive/EventDetail.aspx?evhdid=3885.


Watch the proceedings in your own home, courtesy of Wisconsin Eye—it won’t take long. Watch the smug explanations and the legalistic contortions, the sudden votes and the instant gavels—and see if it doesn’t send a chill right down your spine. There are lines being crossed. It’s as if the government is staging a coup against its own citizens.


You might call it some kind of Third World maneuver—a self-righteous strongman driven to victory at all costs, and a puppet Legislature all-too-eager to do his bidding. Except that, when it comes to respect for democratic principles, there are parts of the Third World leaving the Walker administration in the dust.


The crowds in Cairo couldn’t be ignored.


The crowds in Madison, and throughout Wisconsin, are only getting started.


Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at rickhoro@execpc.com.

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