Volume 46 Number 3
Fighting to maintain collective bargaining
You can say one thing about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: he’s one great union organizer.
That’s what members of labor unions across the land are saying after thousands of educators, public employees, private union workers and other Wisconsinites joined in opposition to Walker’s proposal to eliminate collective bargaining rights in February.
Wisconsinites became outraged when their newly elected governor surreptitiously slipped the proposal into his plan to cut public employee pensions and benefits. In the ensuing weeks since the debate began, teachers agreed to concessions in their contracts, but drew a line in the sand when it comes to the elimination of collective bargaining.
Although Walker’s proposal was passed in the Legislature – and has since been stalled by a court injunction – it has served to reignite the Labor Movement and has gotten a lot of other people to think about the importance of collective bargaining in this country.
“When Scott Walker picked on teachers and public employees, he picked on the wrong people. Walker’s proposal attacked working people, it attacked unions, and it attacked the Middle Class of this country,” said CCA President Ron Norton Reel. “As faculty, we know that collective bargaining has improved the working conditions of educators as well as the learning conditions of our students.”
Reel was one of about 2,500 who converged on California’s state Capitol grounds in solidarity with Wisconsin protesters just a few days after the governor’s proposal was introduced.
Joining in were several other unions including AFSCME, SEIU 1000, the California Labor Federation and the Sacramento Central Labor Council and a large contingent of Tunisian- Egyptian- and Libyan-Americans who filed in after their own protest nearby. Smaller vigils took place in Oakland and Palmdale, and were followed by even larger rallies throughout the state and nation. Supporters who couldn’t make it to the rallies also sent messages of solidarity through CTA’s Facebook page.
Speaking to the crowd at the Capitol in Sacramento, CTA President David A. Sanchez invoked the words of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who once said, “The labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it.”
Sanchez continued, “It enlarged it by raising the standard of living for millions workers and working families. Every one of us here today, our children, and our communities have benefitted from unions and their collective bargaining rights.”
Wisconsin has been in the spotlight, but lawmakers in several other states including Tennessee, Arizona, Florida, and New Hampshire have also introduced legislation to curb collective bargaining for public employees. Bills have been introduced in Sacramento as well, although the erosion of collective bargaining in California is not imminent.
The reaction of unions around the country, meanwhile appears to be “Bring it on!”
To participate and to keep up with what’s going on with collective bargaining in California and the nation, check out the National Education Association’s new website, Education Votes at