Tuesday, March 8, 2011


There is a grassroots effort brewing. Workers are taking to the streets like they haven't done in decades. The "busy middle" has awoken as austerity measures have targeted worker's compensation and collective bargaining.

Unions are easy punching bags these days, because they're often bloated, inefficient machines of a bygone era. However, they still serve an invaluable function - providing collective bargaining power to individual workers who would be powerless against their employer otherwise, especially in times of economic distress.

However, a curious thing has happened. On Tuesday, February 15th, 2011, the sleeping lion awoke. Public union workers in Wisconsin were organized by their union officials to protest in the state capitol. They've been there ever since. Three weeks of continuous protests! The protests have continued to grow in size rather than diminish. Union members not affected by the pending legislation in WI have joined to rally with the at-risk workers.

The organized GOP effort to pit private sector workers against public sector workers has backfired. While some still buy the idea that public sector workers are fat cats sucking off the government teet, many more are now realizing that this represents a threat to all working class people. The gutting of collective bargaining power will likely affect how effectively private sector unions can negotiate as well.

Mirror protests have sprung up all around the country in support of Wisconsin. "Workers of the World, Unite!" echoes in these efforts.

But the most interesting rallying cry might be the simplest. After Wisconsin house members passed the bill stripping public employees of collective bargaining rights in a late night session cries of "Shame!" erupted from the public gallery. As the lawmakers broke for the evening the gallery overran the legislative floor as the cries of "Shame!" followed the lawmakers out into the corridors.

Here is that video:

And then it happened again. Over the weekend Michael Moore, rabble-rouser and documentarian extraordinaire, flew to Madison, WI to speak to the protesters directly. His rousing and entertaining speech, America is NOT Broke, was at times inflammatory, at times hilarious, and always impassioned. Shouts of "Shame!" popped up as he spoke about the transgressions of the moneyed elite in their attempts to buy our democracy.

His full speech here:

I don't always agree with his documentary methods and I think he's sometimes over the top in his rhetoric, but he's definitely a lover of the working man and sincere in all he does. He's someone I'd be proud to have a beer with.

And most recently, the "Shame!" chant popped up in a Wisconsin Town Hall Meeting. Remember a couple summers ago when Democratic representatives were ambushed by angry citizens in their town halls over health care reform? Well, payback appears to have come to Republicans. Only the Republicans aren't taking it. They adjourned the meeting without responding to the protester's concerns.

Video here: 

And "Shame!" is what it is. Blaming the working class for the economic problems our country faces is not only incorrect, it is dishonest and at its root demonstrates a disdain for the citizens of our country. School teachers don't become school teachers to get rich. Most don't even become school teachers because they have outstanding benefits. Most become school teachers to teach our children. A similar truth exists about public employees. Many public workers choose those careers in order to serve their communities. In other to improve the lives of their fellow citizens.

It is time that the austerity hawks be shown what shame they bring on themselves and our country for the way they've attacked the working class while protecting the plutocracy.

Shame on every last one of them.

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