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Got the Monday blues? Start your week off right with a helping of useful information and informed opinion. 

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For the Week of March 07, 2011

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker used the livelihoods of state workers as hostages this week to increase pressure on 14 absent Democratic senators – who have been camped out in Illinois to prevent the Wisconsin Senate from having a quorum – to return. Walker claimed he would need to lay off 1,500 workers for budgetary reasons. Thousands turned out on Saturday in response, including filmmaker Michael Moore.

As New York Times labor reporter, Steven Greenhouse, explained in this radio interview, however, there is little budgetary justification for eliminating the bargaining rights of Wisconsin unions. Walker’s bill would not only strip unions of the ability to bargain over sick leave, benefits, and other working conditions, it would limit any bargained wage increases to the Consumer Price Index, eliminate “fair share” dues provisions, and require unions to submit every year to a decertification vote. As Greenhouse notes, this would effectively destroy public-sector unions in
the state.

Polls indicate that Walker’s position is slipping and that support is growing for the unions, such as this weekend’s NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, which found that 77% favor the right of public employees to collective bargaining. Some bloggers are reporting glimmers of a possible resolution.

But while the battle is raging in Wisconsin, in Ohio Republicans are on the verge of passing “Wisconsin +”: a bill that would not only eliminate public employees’ collective bargaining rights, but make it illegal for them to strike.

Teachers, students and education workers across the nation turned out on March 2 for a national day of action to defend education, such as this photo (top right) of UPTE members Genevieve Cottraux and Pam Pack (both UC Berkeley museum scientists).

UC regent David Crane is now using the Wisconsin playbook to try to take collective bargaining rights away from California’s public workers. He published an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle complaining that unionized public employees “have power over their compensation and benefits.”

On the contrary, state senator Leland Yee counters that the only public employees at the UC that have any real power over their compensation are the top executives, as  the Pacifica Evening News reports on Yee’s speech at a UCSF union coalition rally. “Collective bargaining is vital in addressing this disparity and fighting the unconscionable acts of UC administrators,” stated Yee’s press release.

There is power in a union,” writes UCB Anthropology professor Rosemary Joyce, though she says “much effort has been expended to try to muddy the waters by characterizing worker’s rights gained through unionization as an unfair advantage not enjoyed by those unprotected by unions.”

Want to lend your voice in support of public workers everywhere? Visit the AFL-CIO’s blog for several things you can do. ____________________________________________________________________________________

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