Two and a half years ago, Scott Walker became a Teahadist hero when he declared war on the working class with the announcement of Act 10. With this law and the other anti-worker legislation he and his Teapublican allies in the state legislature has passed since then, the results have been disastrous:
Walker's Act 10 put tens of thousands of public sector workers - from teachers to social workers to public works workers - out of work. The ones that remained had their pay cut from 10 to 20%. By taking hundreds of billions of dollars out of the economy and out of people's pockets, Walker created a shortage of demand, especially for non-essential things like going out to eat, movies, etc. With less demand, businesses were forced to cut back staff and/or pay. This only served to widen and deepen the nosedive into which Walker had forced the state's economy.
Most of the jobs that Walker did manage to create are part-time jobs that don't pay above poverty levels and definitely won't support a family.
But as bad as the state is, there are few places that can compare to what has happened to Milwaukee.
Chris Abele, who bought the county executive seat after Walker vacated it, has not been a friend to workers by the stretch of the imagination.
Last summer, when the strike at Palermo's was still new, Abele wrote an editorial piece that said that the workers are treated well and should be thankful for what they have. What Abele was praising was the hiring of illegal immigrants, illegal labor practices and very unsafe working conditions.
More recently, Abele offhandedly rejected the notion that workers at a hotel being built on the county grounds should be paid 125% of the poverty level - about $11 per hour - and to be given five paid sick days.
Another way to avoid these requirement, which was never reported in the paper, was to allow the workers to unionize. But with Abele, unionization was definitely off the table. He hates unions more than even Walker.
And the union that Abele hates most of all is AFSCME. If you think what Walker did to the unions was bad, Abele makes him look like a piker. For example, Abele used Act 10 to make county employees pay 25% of their health care benefits. That's more than twice what Walker is doing to state employees. It's the highest rate of any governmental body in the state and possibly the nation, including federal workers. It's also much higher than most private sector workers have to deal with.
Because of Abele's draconian attack on workers, some of them have actually become eligible for food stamps and other benefits.
Yet this wasn't enough for Abele. He had wanted to make it 29% and a full third the following year. He also wanted to cut the flexible spending accounts for employees.
When the County Board put a stop to his full force assault on workers, he got so mad and threw such a temper tantrum that he went to buy off some Teapublicans and work with such charming deviants like Citizens of Responsible Government* to usurp control of the county, including putting himself and only himself in charge of union contracts - even though he denies that the union has a right to contract. (This stance alone will cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars until the petty tyrant finally figures out even he is not above the law.)
Because of the extra deep gouge Abele is taking from the workers and giving to his friends at the Greater Milwaukee Committee, it has had a ripple effect though the community. More businesses are closing down or moving away. More people are having problems finding work. And finding work that pays a sustainable wage is all but unheard of.
Sadly, another sign of the maleficence of Walker and Abele is that this year, for the first time since it's inception, there will be no Laborfest. With these two weasels stealing workers moneys and giving it to the rich in some perverted Robin Hood in reverse scheme, there just wasn't the funds or the manpower to do all the things the Labor Council needed to do this year.
This should act as a klaxon for everyone. If you're tired of not being able to find a job. If you're tired of not getting paid enough. If you're tired of having to work weekends and holidays. If you're tired of the plutocrats and oligarchs getting even richer off our back. If you're tired of women getting paid less than men. If you're tired of your wages staying stagnant if not dropping while everything keeps costing more.
If you're tired of all these things, please join us on Monday for a Labor Day March. Then take that energy and knowledge back to your friends, family and coworkers. Take that and educate, agitate and organize.
And if you think that unions are the pariahs and parasites of the county, the state and the country, you have been listening to too much squawk radio, watching too much Faux News and not doing enough reading. But we will continue to fight for you even as you fight with us.
But let us, as they say, remember the reason for the season and keep Labor in Labor Day.
*Despite giving money to extremist Teapublicans like Dale Kooyenga and Joe Sanfelippo, Abele has been working hand in hand with CRG and the Bradley Foundation. Yet there are a handful of money-blinded fools that think in some demented way that Abele is progressive. These scabs and sellouts are as much the problems as the ones in the legislature.