Saturday, March 26, 2011

Class War 2

Several years ago Milwaukee voters approved an ordinance requiring employers to provide sick days. These are fundamental rights which every worker in nearly every country in the world enjoys, outside the United States. It's a sad fact that local municipalities have to pass these regulations, as higher levels of government have been purchased entirely by corporate interests, with an eye to running government to ensure maximum corporate profits rather than citizen well-being. After a two year challenge, the courts voted to uphold the law. Yet giving workers rights is deeply offensive to the Tea Party Republicans who now control every branch of Wisconsin State Government. They immediately leaped into action. From the Milwaukee 9 to 5 press release.

The group called on state Assembly Members to vote against the bill that would strip local municipalities of some of their legislative power. The Sick Days Scam (AB41) would preempt local governments and voters from enacting the Milwaukee paid sick day legislation, and in doing so, open the door for the State Legislature to overturn a range of legislation passed in towns and cities throughout Wisconsin. The state Senate already passed the bill with no debate when the Democratic senators were still absent in early March.

“This bill is inconsistent with Wisconsin’s tradition of local municipalities having discretion, whether through direct legislation or their own power, to shape these matters,” said Kathleen Dolan, Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “It is also inconsistent with the Republican ideology that says, ‘Leave the states alone, one size does not fit all, top down is not always the best thing.’ Here they are trying to impose a position on localities who may want to determine their own needs.”

Wisconsin has a rich history of local governance, in which municipalities enact legislation that best meets the needs of their communities. In 2008, nearly 70% of Milwaukee voters approved a law to provide paid sick days for workers in the city. The law would provide 120,000 Milwaukee families who do not have paid sick days of the freedom to take care of ill family members without fear of losing their jobs or a paycheck.
So they can ignore millions of children without health insurance, but they immediately leap into action when workers are actually given rights. Remember, these are theoretically public servants.

But that's not even the most interesting thing here. As the press release notes, one of the cornerstones of the Republican party is supporting "local control." Traditionally, Republicans wanted to keep power local without interference, the idea being that local governments are closer to the people and have a better idea of what needs to be done than distant governments. It's a philosophy that theoretically makes sense, and one that I can agree with. The Milwaukee ordinance is entirely in keeping with this.

Yet, suddenly, local control is no good, apparently. Republicans are perfectly happy with larger units of governments overruling local control if it gives corporations and the rich more power over the citizens. Their actions seem to be the very picture of big government interference in local decison making. Yet I'm sure all the "small government" Republicans will be all for it. Turns out big government is actually just fine if it gives corporations more power, it is only a problem if it attempts to restrain corporate power. This just shows what some of us already know - there is no core governing philosophy of the Republican party except to increase the power of the rich and corporations to make profits on the backs of the rest of us.

What's amazing is that for Republicans, organizations that fight for workers' rights are demonized, while legislators in the pockets of big corporate interests like the Koch Brothers are considered the good guys, even if those Republicans are workers themselves. Do they really believe these Republican have their best interests at heart? In their ideal world, we are all working for minimum wage. I think a lot of these people are naive. They may have sick days in their cubicle paradise in the suburbs, but do they honestly not think that that sick days are eventually going to be stripped from them as well? Eventually, all workers will be affected by the race to the bottom, even suburban Republicans who work for a paycheck.

Note: sorry for all the damn political posts, but there are just so many outrages on a daily basis it's hard to keep up. These are also quick to write. Soon, I'll finally be getting to more of the philosophical discussions I hope to have here.

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