Saturday, June 4, 2011

Remarks for former Sen. Russ Feingold on Wisconsin's recall election

Fellow Wisconsinites: the next battle for this state’s workers is here!

Earlier this year our government jammed through this illegal, unconscionable legislation, and now it’s time that they face the consequences of their actions. They had tried to gain political advantage by stepping on the backs of public employees, and never dreamed we would fight back the way we did. We made sure the entire country heard our voice then, and today with the certification of these recall elections, it is time to do it again!

This has become more than just another budget battle; more than just a give and take between the state and its servants. Our struggle has resonated with the entire nation. It has become a symbol of the inequities in our country between the classes, and of the way the rich and the powerful maintain their status by cheating working people. Just 45% of Americans had jobs last year. Millions of our citizens are forced to work long hours with no overtime pay and no benefits as “at will” employees- expected to feel lucky to even have a job. Real pensions have given way to a halfhearted system of 401k accounts, and real healthcare coverage has been replaced by copays and vouchers. We have been told by the corporations, and now by the Wisconsin state government that we have to compete against one another over who will work the longest, for the least. These state union workers aren’t greedy. They are merely the last, and strongest group of Americans to continue fighting for what is fair and decent.

Let’s all be clear. This has never been a fight about the budget. These workers agreed to all salary demands. This is about destroying a group that is willing to fight for their rights. It’s a campaign bankrolled by billionaires who would love to see a further emaciated work force. And it’s being perpetrated by these Republican senators and the governor who would all benefit from the death of the labor union.

Americans have for too long allowed themselves to be pitted against one another! In the South, the plantation aristocracy succeeded at creating hatred amongst the white poor towards the penny-less freedmen. McCarthy made marked men out of actors and playwrights who dared to join groups that aimed to give workers more power. Ronald Reagan pointed his finger at fictional “welfare queens” that bled America of Cadillac cars and food stamps. Speak today of the injustices of this country’s society, and you will surely be met on the other side by a smirking lobbyist who speaks of “class warfare”. Well, there is class warfare taking place here, and it’s being perpetrated by rich men who fight so they can have more, and you can have less!

We have two options. Either we can continue to look at what our neighbor has and hate them for it, or we can stop and ask, “Why don’t we have it ourselves?” “Why don’t we collect with our peers to demand better treatment from our employers?” “Why don’t we fight for vacation, and healthcare, and sick days?”. We agree to sign contracts that give up our rights, and we do it because it’s what everyone has come to accept. Why don’t we show them that we will are willing to take a stand? Nobody was given the things that today we take for granted. The 40 hour work week had to be fought for! Child labor laws had to be fought for! Safety and health regulation, meat inspection, Social Security, anti-discrimination laws- people fought and died to gain these! And at the very beginning there was a desperate struggle for the right to organize with your fellow workers and negotiate with employers as a group. It’s up to us to not forget the sweat and the blood that was spilt fighting for that right!

They have attempted to take yet another step backwards towards that gilded age. They took a historically unprecedented move with this legislation, and bent the law until it broke. Now we have responded with setting a precedent of our own; we have launched more recall elections this year than previously in the entire history of this state! Tell those brave Senators that used every method at their disposal to stop this legislation that you fight beside them. Tell those that used every extraordinary measure to pass it that democracy still works, and it’s the people that are still in charge! And finally, let’s all send a clear message to Governor Walker that his time is coming soon!

1 comment:

  1. The people of Wisconsin and all middle-class Americans would be well served, if Former Sen. Russ Feingold 'delivered' this thoughtful and well crafted piece of politics.

    Well done, David.