Sunday, 20 February 2011

You've probably missed Wisconsin...most people have.

Wisconsin is a pretty ambiguous state in the American mid-west, nestling near to the Canadian border, that you have probably never even thought about in a serious way.

To many Americans Wisconsin is a running joke. The only thing that the state is known about in the wider nation is Wisconsin is where they make cheese.

In other words to most Americans Wisconsin is 'the back of beyond'.

But, and you have probably missed this if you watch British news, there is a major news story developing right now in Wisconsin that on the face of it is funny but has various serious themes bubbling under the surface.

In last years elections Wisconsin returned a new Governor, Scott Walker (R) and a new majority Republican State Senate.

(If you are not aware each state has a similar governmental setup to the nation as a whole, ie. an executive who interprets laws and sets the budget, and a legislature who passes them. In the federal setup you have the President, in states you have Governors. In short because each state is in some ways a nation of its own the state Governor and Legislature have very significant powers.)

Governor Walker was elected on a platform (amongst other things) of union busting. One of his main pledges was to stop the rights of unions to undertake collective bargaining on behalf of their workers, and this is what is causing huge issues at the minute.

The simple fact is that in having a state senate who is predominantly republican Governor Walker has the necessary majority for his restrictive union laws to come into force.

The Democratic minority in the senate have very little power to prevent the law passing apart from one, for want of a better word, crazy option.

There are enough Democrat state senators to prevent the republicans from being quorate on their own. As a result if the democrats don't turn up in the senate laws cannot be passed!

As a result all of the democrats have gone into hiding, crossing the border into other states.

What makes things even stranger is that state legislation means that the police can arrest the senators and take them to the statehouse to fulfil their legislative role, although they can't cross borders and in any event many of the officers are fully behind the democrats on this one.

Their is a clear stalemate developing. The unions are outraged, the Governor won't budge (as he has been democratically elected), and the democrats won't go back to Wisconsin. In the meantime the legislature has had to stop work, for who know how long?

Now, like all things, there are similarities with how things are back home. Mrs Thatcher destroyed most of the rights of unions back in the '80s - and undoubtedly some of her restrictions were right (such as banning closed shops) whilst others were abhorrent - but right now thousands upon thousands of our public servants are losing their jobs with very little in the way of protection.

Hardly anyone in Britain would suggest the actions of the Wisconsin democrats are right or even sensible but there is no doubt that there is a significant groundswell of opinion seeking to protect public labour over there.

Isn't it a shame that in Britain we simply sit back and watch as dedicated public employees lose their jobs?

Why not google Wisconsin - this story isn't over yet!

No comments:

Post a Comment