Friday, April 1, 2011

The view from Wisconsin (2)

Here is the rest of my friend Jim Oakley's writing (to date!) on the assault on teachers and other working people taking place in Wisconsin and around the country.
Greetings, all --

I have waited a while before compiling this follow-up to my commentary, "Which Side Are You On?"  Now it's time.  I have gotten lots of feedback  --almost all complimentary-- by word-of-mouth, phone, email, etc.  I appreciate all of it.  Some people sent articles or referred me to links, some of which I will share now.

One article expressed a contrasting viewpoint, titled "A Union Education".  It comes from the Wall Street corporate perspective, echoing the effort to divide public and private workers, misreading the Wisconsin situation, and blaming public workers for increased state and local spending.  Someone like Robert Reich or Paul Krugman could probably take it apart point by point.  It gives you an idea what we are up against.  As the friend who sent it to me said, it is "food for thought for ALL of us."  Here's the link:

Another friend sent a link for an article about a teacher in Maine that is really great.  Here it is:

My commentary was published in the Ashland Daily Press  (  There have been no on-line or in-print comments there as yet.

But there were several comments when it appeared in the Ashland Current (, including a correction.  Apparently the Lincoln Day dinner only cost $25.  I wish I had verified the cost. (Good thing I am not a journalist.)  But one of the comments read: "The cost of the meal isn't really that important."  Or as one of our slogans goes, "It's not about the money."

Another link that was sent to me gives a pretty good summary of our Wisconsin situation:, by someone called TheBadgerMom.

One more link that I will share is a New York Times column by a UW-Madison prof, Bill Cronon, who is now being harassed by some Republican state legislators:

Also from James Fallows, on the harassment of Cronon:

Now, just a few additional comments of my own:

1)  Some folks seem to think that unions have outlived their usefulness, and now we can have all the good stuff without collective bargaining.  This seems naive at best.

2)  I continue to notice a certain disdain for educators, for other public employees, and for education in general.  Compared to other societies, we do not value education.  Our culture values sports, but not physical education.  It values entertainment and competition more than cooperation and science.

3)  Some of what comes from the Tea Party types sounds almost socialist.  Apparently if one earns a living as a public employee, that money is not his/her own.  It's communal taxpayer money.  Sure, the governmental entity collects taxes and uses some of those taxes to pay for services which the employees provide, but they earn that money.

4)  We have a growing disparity between the very, very rich and the rest of us.  Call it class war, if you must, but the inequities are growing, and the attacks on unions and on medicaid recipients are scapegoating, not budget balancing.

5)  The governor and his allies are changing the rules in the middle of the game --without consulting the other players.  Public workers and local governments, school boards and teacher unions, are made of people who have learned to work together, respecting each other's roles in the system --a system that was not broken.  Everyone realizes that economic times are rough.   But where is the shared sacrifice?  Are the corporate bigwigs doing their part or just getting theirs?

6)  Finally, we need to step back and look at this in perspective.  We are not Japan or Libya or Haiti.  And in many ways we have been forced into a distraction that diverts us from issues that ought to have more of our concern:  the environment and climate change, global economic concerns, health care, real improvements in our education system, war and peace.

Please vote on April 5.



  1. For some reason when I click on the links it opens outlook express with a UNF email address. I can still copy and paste the links in my browser and get to the site linked. Just thought I'd let you know.

  2. Zeke, thanks for pointing that out. I don't know why it does that, but I'll fix it. Ron

  3. I got blocked posting this on Facebook? I was block from posting it on Facebook. I have noticed this a lot lately. I have been block mainly for posting anthropological and political commentaries from other blogs and articles on my Facebook page? Is this Facebook being a big corporation, or is this a reflection of people lack interest, or apathy, about politics in general. Makes you wonder if mass media is really brainwashing us, and shaping our views? I know of a great quote, I don't know who said this but it becoming true for the Internet as well, "TV is a pacifier of the masses. It keeps us quite and docile."

  4. I'm particularly annoyed with the association between socialism/communism and unions. I think of unions as being quite democratic--what's more fundamental to democracy than giving the people a say in their lives despite powerful authority figures that may be present? I'm angered by what democracy seems to mean for a lot of people now, which is capitalism. Capitalism does not equal democracy because democracy is about giving power to the people. Capitalism gives the power to those who make money.

    Having said that, I think it's hypocritical to say that because you work for our government, you can't or shouldn't have the freedoms guaranteed to everyone in the private sector. Shouldn't government-run agencies set the tone for what our country values?

    At any rate, people who think that unions don't need to exist anymore are likely the people who are at the top of the food chain or people who are benefiting from union-inspired regulations.

  5. good information ... I have read and will be added to my personal knowledge... thanks


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