Judith W. Leavitt and Lewis A. Leavitt: Madison, Wisconsin: Ground Zero for a New Class War





[Judith W. Leavitt is Ruth Bleier Professor and Rupple Bascom Chair Professor emerita in the history of medicine at University of Wisconsin. Lewis A. Leavitt is professor emeritus of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin.]

WHAT HAS been happening for the last week in the Wisconsin state capital represents the first salvo in a new confrontation between working people and the business elite; it is an all out attack on unions and collective bargaining rights hard-won over the past fifty years. Wisconsinites are learning the hard way that elections have consequences. Last November’s election in Wisconsin turned the state house from blue to red, and the Republican victors have, since January 4, been busy trying to bring down the state’s deficit on the backs of some of the very people who voted them in. Refusing to consider raising taxes on the wealthiest section of the state, and determined to give tax benefits to businesses that move into Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled state senate and assembly are instead insisting that public workers contribute to deficit reduction by paying more into their pension accounts and for their health care, effectively taking an 8 to 10 percent salary cut. Even though the cuts would affect low-wage workers the hardest, they are acceptable to most state employees, who are willing to do their share to help out. But Walker is not consulting the public employees’ unions to work out the details or let their voices be involved in the decision. Instead, he wants to break the public unions and take away their collective bargaining rights now and for the future. He threatens to call out the National Guard to quell any potential disturbances....

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