On June 6th 2012, the long-anticipated results of the recall election for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker came to its end, resulting in a victory for Republican Scott Walker over Democratic Tom Barrett. Walker won with a leading percentage of 53% of the vote, while Barrett garnered 46%.
Scott Walker is the third U.S. governor in history to face a recall election and the first to emerge victorious. The new governor of Wisconsin surprised the entire nation in February of 2011 when he unveiled his Wisconsin Act 10. The proposed bill tackles the state’s budget deficit in the form of various shortfalls – a bill which equated to unprecedented attacks on working class; the public sector workers in particular. Walker’s service to the bourgeoisie serves as an example to other state governors, Democrat and Republic alike, leading to a newly invigorated, nation wide union-busting campaign aimed at America’s public sector unions. The Wall Street Journal even prophetically hailed Walker’s actions as a “lesson for other states and governors.”
The working people of Wisconsin did not sit by and watch, but heroically met these attacks with resistance, inspiring unity in struggle from the agricultural and private-sector workers. The working class once again displayed its leading role as the most revolutionary class of society. Walker’s reelection to the position of governor was mainly a reaction to this movement and marks a historical defeat for the American working class against the state, and the financial oligarchs the state protects.
Background behind Walker’s Controversy
The global financial crisis in 2007 released devastating economic shockwaves afflicting every aspect of the world economy, leaving working people to bear the brunt of its effects. One of the consequences of the crisis was a shrink in government spending, which in spite of the banal bleating against Obama’s “socialist agenda,” has decreased 2% since he took office in 2009, according to the reports of the first fiscal quarter released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the case of Wisconsin, this state of affairs was partially responsible for the state’s budget deficit Governor Walker avowed to repair by any means necessary.
As was previously mentioned, Walker unveiled his plan for a budget repair bill in February of 2011, initially called “Assembly Bill 11.” The centerpiece of Assembly Bill 11 was to completely strip the collective bargaining rights of the public sector unions. In Walker’s view, the ability to bargain over wages, health benefits and retirement pensions could actually inhibit the state’s ability to pull itself out of the deficit.
In addition to this, Walker included an estimated 1.5 billion cut in government aid to health care agencies, fire departments and public schools. To compensate this loss of funding, Assembly Bill 11 proposed that the very same public sector workers, after having been stripped of collective bargaining rights, actually be forced to pay more into the benefits they would no longer have any right to negotiate over.
The discontent over the loss of collective bargaining for the public sector workers coupled with the cuts to public schooling — affecting the children of private sector workers — was also felt by Wisconsin’s agricultural workers. Walker’s bill shifts the power of BadgerCare/ Medicaid from elected legislature and hands it over to the state-run Department of Health Services (DHS), essentially granting the Republican-controlled House the ability to make legal changes restricting eligibility limits for adults, certain infants and pregnant women as well as restrict benefits to non-citizens despite legal citizenship, alter care packages according to varying states of health per individual applicant and finally and institute stricter and more frequent eligibility reviews for members.
Wisconsin’s BadgerCare and Medicaid programs were the primary source of healthcare for self-employed farmers who already suffered difficulty in obtaining eligibility and paid hefty amounts to the insurance, owing to the status of farming as a “risky profession.” In one devastating blow, Wisconsin’s entire working population was forced to shoulder the burden of a financial crisis caused by the reckless practice of the capitalists and the anarchy inherent to the capitalism.
Walker and the Koch Brothers: The State and the Capitalists
As the violent suppression of the Occupy movement in December of 2011 proved, if the government cannot quell discontent by mandate, they will do so by force. It should come to no surprise that they are the harbinger of these attacks against the working class.
There is an antagonistic relationship that exists between the worker and the capitalist that eventually leads to political uprisings. Because the wealth is concentrating and because our numbers grow, the corporate elite need a mechanism to suppress these outbursts by force or mandate to make sure that their interests are well-protected. This mechanism is called the state. Governor Walker will help us prove our point.
Anyone who followed the protests in Madison, Wisconsin can readily recall the incident where a prank caller by the name of Ian Murphy telephoned and recorded a conversation with Walker posing as David Koch. Koch is a billionaire co-CEO of Koch industries along with his brother Charles Koch, the second largest privately owned company in the U.S. David Koch was one of Walker’s major campaign contributors.
Throughout the transcript, Murphy entices Walker into giving detailed expositions of the underhanded tactics employed by his cabinet to ensure the bill is passed — locking the Democrat senators out of the vote through a loophole in the quorum regulations, planting “troublemakers” giving the National Guard a reason to disperse the protestors, laying off workers so as to incite pressure on the Democrats through the labor unions fiscally supporting their campaigns, and expending vast amounts of wealth to manipulate public opinion in favor of Walker.
If this wasn’t enough, the fact that the real David Koch, one of the country’s most powerful capitalists, supported Walker in this bill speaks loud and clear of the animosity the state has towards the working people of this country despite us being the sole producers of their wealth. Moreover, the fact that Walker was so ready and willing to conspire against the unions, protesters and workers with a corporate supporter only further sheds light on the relationship between the government and the capitalists. In lieu of all these factors, the American Party of Labor does not recognize the legitimacy of Scott Walker’s victory in the recall election.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics highlights that in 2011, the labor union membership rate for public sector workers rested at 37.0% while the union membership rate for U.S. private sector stood at a deplorable rate of only 6.9%. The average median of weekly wages/salaries for full-time union workers of both sectors amounted to $938, whereas the median weekly earnings of non-union workers only amounted to $729.
Judging from these statistics, it is clear that the union-busting campaign against the private sector is nearly completed. Considering that on average less is paid out in wages/salaries to non-union workers, it only makes sense that busting efforts would shift their focus to the larger public sector of union workers. Although union-busting is nothing new, it reaches higher levels of ferocity in times of economic crisis where rates of profit also tend to be highest.
Although labor was defeated in Wisconsin, the working people may pride themselves in giving new life to the combative capabilities of labor across the country. Many attempts in other states to bust public sector unions were met with defeat. Many within the Occupy movement consider Wisconsin to be major factor in Occupy’s own birth.
The course of class struggle is difficult and from time to time the working class will be met with defeat. But defeated armies learn well — if the working class is able to learn from its experiences it will certainly be able come back stronger if we are able to unify and organize. The American Party of Labor considers it of tantamount importance that workers of all sectors, union and non-union alike, begin making a conscious and stubborn effort in this direction, so as to better coordinate their efforts in the future.
BLS 2011 report
Koch Industries is Second Largest in U.S.
Transcript of the prank call to Scott Walker
Statistics concerning the shrinking of government spending
Wisconsin act 10 / Assembly Bill 11
Walkers Unveiling of the Bill
The total amount of cuts to public spending
Poll results of the recall election