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Recently, events in Wisconsin have reverberated throughout our nation. At stake is the right of public employees to collectively bargain their union contracts. Unions have seen this as an attack on their very existence and unionized workers in the tradeshow industry are concerned they might become the targets for a similar attack.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has claimed there is a fiscal emergency in his state. He believes wages and benefits of public employees are the reason behind this budget crisis. Yet the projected deficits in Wisconsin can be attributed to tax cuts for the wealthy enacted prior to this attack. In essence, Governor Walker is demanding “Corporate Welfare” paid for by algebra teachers and firefighters. Collective bargaining rights have been in effect in Wisconsin for over half a century. Why has this created a budget crisis only this year?

Governor Walker has been supported in his efforts by several out-of-state organizations. They want to eliminate public sector unions using a contrived budget crisis for their union-busting efforts. Bankrolling this effort has been the Koch brothers whose inherited wealth of over $43 billion is only surpassed by Warren Buffet and Bill Gates in this country.

It’s not really a surprise why labor unions have become the target of the right-wing activists, unions are a major contributor to the Democratic Party. The more union jobs they can eliminate, the fewer union dues that can go to political contributions for their opponents. This will leave Corporate America unchallenged in their effort to reshape the legislative agenda to their liking.

The irony of this situation is that there hasn’t been more outrage from the middle class. The right wing media has been masterful in manipulating those who resent the pensions and wages of public employees. However, the wages and benefits that union workers receive are the leverage non-union workers have always used to achieve parity with their union counterparts. When this leverage is gone, the extinction of the middle class, which has been going on for the past 30 years, will accelerate at an unprecedented rate.

From the emergence of labor unions in the 1930s until the attack on unions that began in the 1980s, we had a period of unprecedented economic growth in our country. Since the 1980s, both union and non-union middle-class workers have experienced an economic decline. Is this just mere coincidence?

Wisconsin is the testing ground for a new strategy; if this works, expect a flood of copy-cat legislation that will erode the right of workers to negotiate union contracts throughout our nation. This is just the first chapter in what might prove to be a long-running battle. This could be the watershed event of our time; who prevails in this struggle will determine how America works for decades to come. Unions can continue to retreat, or use the events of the past few months to expose the tactics of those who want to trick the middle class into doing the dirty work of their own demise.


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