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Mar-07-2011 21:07printcomments

General Strike Called in Wisconsin

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker appears to be unconcerned about the looming general strike and continues to push his program forward vigorously.

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Gov. Walker in Wisconsin

(PATAGONIA) - A general strike against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s program to eviscerate unions and social services is now a certainty.  The only questions remaining about the strike are the timing and extent.  The only possibility of avoiding this historic event would be a retreat on the part of of the sponsors of the draconian reform bill

Talk about a general strike has been going on in Wisconsin for nearly two weeks with several labor and political groups involved. 

A number of labor organizations have proposed a general strike on the day that the reform bill passes the Wisconsin legislature, but there have been more recent rumblings on twitter and facebook proposing an earlier date and making Governor Walker’s resignation the end date of a strike with comments like, “General Strike! Until Walker out! Stay united. Say goodbye to the many with the bully attitude.”

Unions and other labor advocates have taken a soft position on a general strike due to no-strike provisions in many of today’s labor contracts.

As early as Februrary 21, the Wisconsin South Central Federation of Labor backed, but did not actually call a strike stating "The SCFL endorses a general strike, possibly for the day Walker signs his 'budget repair bill."

Thus, labor organizations appear to have signaled early that any general strike call will have to be leaderless, but will be honored by the unions when it comes about. One observer at the daily protests canvassed opinions among protesters about the prospects for a general strike and came to the conclusion that while “There is no organization capable of orchestrating a strike at this time, If the bill passes, something will happen."

Wisconsin photos courtesy: Eddie Zawaski

Wisconsin political and labor leaders have already begun discussions about how the state will manage to cope with the general strike when it happens.  The Madison Wisconsin Capital Times reports, “both Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and past mayor and current candidate Paul Soglin talked about a general strike at a candidate forum Feb. 23”.

Both public officials and unions in Wisconsin appear to be concerned about how essential public services will be maintained during the strike and have begun coordinating plans to protect citizens from the worst effects of a strike.

Since the actual strike call has come directly from the leaderless protest movement, no officials or unions know how extensively to prepare for it.

A general strike in Wisconsin would be historic.  The last general strikes in the US occurred in Seattle in 1919 and San Franciso and Minneapolis in 1934. While the Seattle General Strike when on peacefully for five days, it ended in violent repression by the police and military authorities brought in to stop the strike.

A General Strike in Wisconsin now would undoubtedly be peaceful, but it is unlikely that Governor Walker could persuade the Wisconsin police to engage in a violent crackdown on strikers.  The possibility of a strike against consumption would also make a General Strike harder for the governor to resist.

Consumer Strike

Wisconsin photos courtesy: Eddie Zawaski

Some strike proponents have called for the strike to include a “buy nothing” element.  They say Governor Walker’s so-called budget repair bill is aimed not only against unions and workers but against all citizens who count on the vast array of public services that will be chopped by the bill.

All citizens are consumers and they can fight back by refusing to consume.  Something like this is already happening with the current boycott against the Koch brothers, Walker’s primary corporate sponsors. This consumer action has been gaining steam in the midwest.

The Koch boycott boycott-koch-industries-avoid-these-brands allows citizens to vote with their wallets against corporations who manipulate the political process to guarantee their profits at everyone’s expense. These business interests who have backed Governor Walker’s plan would be the most seriously affected by a general strike against consumption.

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker appears to be unconcerned about the looming general strike.  He has continued to push his program forward vigorously, most recently issuing provisional layoff notices to public employees as a threat to urge Democratic legislators back to Madison so he can get his bill voted on and passed.

Walker appears equally unconcerned about a recent poll that suggests his approval rate with the citizens of Wisconsin has fallen from 52% down to 43% since the beginning of the crisis. 

With some Republican legislators now waffling on support for his bill and the Wisconsin State police having refused orders to clear protestors from the Capitol, Walker’s overall support seems to be fading.  Without local support and only the Koch brothers’ Tea Party militants to fall back on, Walker would be very unlikely to withstand the force of a general strike.

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Eddie Zawaski March 14, 2011 1:35 pm (Pacific time)

Douglas, I'm ready to go and so are you, but I'm not so sure about the folks in Wisconsin. Since the passage of the bill, there has been no visible move toward a strike, Instead, the folks in Wisconsin have opted for a big demonstration and a variety of political maneuvers. They are hoping to elect a new Supreme Court judge who will look favorably on their legal challenges and to recall some of the offending Republican legislators. Both tactics have the peril of depending on the voting process and we know who owns the voting machines. Union leaders cannot lead a strike due to legal constraints so leadership is currently fragmented among a mass of individuals out in cyberspace. A large jumble of propositions and dates are floating around, but nothing has really coalesced yet. The only thing anyone can say for right now about a strike is that it will more likely be nationwide rather than limited to Wisconsin. Two things seem to be emerging as the prime candidates for action. A national Day of Labor Solidarity is being proposed for April 4 with details yet to emerge. Another action is a targeted bank boycott. The Wisconsin firefighters discovered that when they withdrew $192K from the Madison branch of the MandI Bank it was sufficient to cause the bank to close its doors. Banks operate with less than one-half of a percent of their assets in cash. Thus there is now talk of targeting banks who support anti-labor policies and politicians. Working people need to be very wary about who they support with their money. Remember, every time you feed a troll, God kills a kitten. Undoubtedly, there will be more but it is taking a while for the actions to come together.

Douglas Benson March 13, 2011 11:26 am (Pacific time)

AGITATE,EDUCATE,ORGANIZE. ON WISCONSIN! Lets do this! Time to put up or shut up,I sweat and bleed for a living,and I will fight back .Are you ready to go?

Bill Griffith March 11, 2011 2:17 pm (Pacific time)

Eddie Zawaski, some historical context for you: "...If the Republican Taft-Hartley bill became law over the President's (Truman) veto, it was because many of the Democrats allied themselves to the Republicans. Only 71 House Democrats voted to sustain the President's veto while 106 voted to override it. In the Senate 20 Democrats voted to override the veto and 22 voted to sustain it." ..."There you have it: the law that was to enable capital to destroy organized labor when it became convenient was passed by a bipartisan vote (and with more than just Southern Democrats), something you will never learn from the AFL-CIO, or from a thousand hoarse throats at Democratic rallies when the candidate is whoring for the labor vote. In the Clinton years, union membership as a percentage of the work force dropped, as well it might, because he did nothing to try to change laws or to intervene in disputes." "Clinton presided over passage of NAFTA, insulting labor further with the farce of side agreements on labor rights that would never be enforced..." Here's the law:

Charlene Young March 11, 2011 10:13 am (Pacific time)

By next January, the people will know that the sky didn’t fall, that the union workers didn’t really lose anything important, that people aren’t dying because of what they did. Maybe the media will even do their job, and explain that Wisconsin will still have better public employee union rules than a bunch of states, and the Federal Government. Hard to keep up the fervor for replacing people when you learn that it was all hype — which you will when they DON’T have massive layoffs of public workers because they passed the bill. A key issue many fail to consider is that will private businesses want to stay or even relocate to Wisconsin if the unrest continues? Look at what has happened in Ohio and other states as businesses migrated away. Afterall, who finances the existence of government? It's not the union bosses, or those professional rabble rousers that are clearly evident in the video's of the protests. I know their type quite well going back to the 1960's. "Sunshine is the best disinfectant for wrong info and hidden agendas." There is also something disconnected in the strategy calling for a general strike during an economy that is unstable with high unemployment and a future that is looking at increasing spikes in oil energy costs, the lifeblood of our economy.

Bill Griffith March 11, 2011 7:19 am (Pacific time)

Danielis: "In fact, the end goal should be larger--to make the United States a humane society." Wow, that's a load! Regarding the firing of the flight controllers, how many do you think actually got fired out of the total number of controllers? How many did not break the law? So if a general strike happens, how many do you think will engage in it? Have you an estimated percentage? Love to see it. What's developing in Wisconsin is now you have people like Jesse Jackson coming in to pursue their agendas, which is not about resolving the situation for Wisconsin union employees, but who knows what. Very unlikely that anything will stop the momentum that's been going on in the country for decades about unions; they are taking their final gasps. People will have larger paychecks and taxpayers will not have to subsidize political campaigns or candidates and issues they don't endorse. More freedom and a stronger democracy will be the end result.

eddie zawaski March 11, 2011 5:27 am (Pacific time)

Excuse me for failing to mention the General strike in Oakland in 1946. It has an important bearing on the current strike. The Oakland General Strike of 1946 may have been the principle event that spurred the Republicans to produce their centerpiece anti-labor legislation, the Taft Hartley act of 1947. Like today’s strike in Wisconsin, the Oakland strike was leaderless and spontaneous. When workers saw the Oakland Police assisting scabs to try to break a strike by department store workers, a general strike erupted almost instantly. The city was shut down for 54 hours and no one really was in charge. The police and government officials blamed the unions, but the major union leaders had been neutral or even opposed to the strike. Dave Beck, the head of the Teamsters, had condemned the strike. Nonetheless, a year later anti-sympathy strike provisions were made part of Taft Hartley to be certain that unions could not call a general strike. This time in Madison unions may not be calling, but they will be following. Union leaders like Joe Conway of the Wisconsin firefighters have made cautious statements to the effect that they would support a general strike, but they have not assumed any leadership in the strike effort. Since union participation is muted by federal law, the organization and development of this strike will be slow and somewhat disorganized. At the moment, a walkout of students in Wisconsin and perhaps nationwide is underway. There has also been a run on the bank in Wisconsin that supported Governor Walker's election campaign. Twitter messages are attempting to set a date of April 4 for a complete walkout and shut down of the state of Wisconsin. How this strike will develop is anybody's guess.

Clara Hall March 10, 2011 4:27 pm (Pacific time)

WTG Governor Walker. The Democrats showed to be cowards when they hid out in another state instead of doing what they were elected to do and that is be in Wisconsin to make your voice be herad. I support Governor Walker 100%.

Danielis March 10, 2011 3:03 pm (Pacific time)

So, Walker can't fire them all?

Reagan fired all the air traffic controllers (a highly trained and specialized position--even more so than police, fire fighters or teachers)

Result: Reagan was lionized and considered by many to be a hero (even by some non-Republicans). A general strike has to involve more than just the workers. It is must be crystal clear that the general population supports them, as Zawask suggests with a consumer boycott..

In fact, the end goal should be larger--to make the United States a humane society. 

TessTyFy March 10, 2011 2:27 pm (Pacific time)

Pedro, there is information at democracy now, I cannot leave links for you in here. Search for "Labor Organizers Consider General Strike in Wisconsin as Gov. Scott Walker Refuses to Negotiate over Anti-Union Bill" Also do a search for General Strike pamphlet. The strike being called for, the General Strike, in which you describe is not local to Wisconsin. It is national, and thus the reason individuals went over seas to learn how to do this safely. Nothing like Oakland, etc. Dieter: How is Scott Walker going to be able to fire EVERYONE if they go on strike? If this strike goes through and they all strike, they protect each other and their jobs. You say Walker will replace them with the unemployed. How are you going to educate all these unemployed to teach, police, fire fight, social work. The emergency will not all strike at once, but they will strike if the decision is made. Walker cannot fire/replace as he so intimidatingly created such articles of the bill. A simple scare tactic to prevent people from standing up to him. They must stand up. This is NOT what they voted for.

TessTyFy March 10, 2011 1:53 pm (Pacific time)

Pedro, you are wrong. Here is a video and the General Strike pamphlet for you. democracy­­11/3/1/fra­nk_emspak_­of_workers­_independe­nt_news­n/node/536­2 A strike is a strike and General Strike is abundant. Dieter, Walker can try, but cannot succeed in firing strikers if it is a General Strike. How can he replace all the teachers, social workers, firefighters, police officers? He can't, there are not nearly enough educated or trained unemployed workers that can do these jobs. He underestimate's their value, but he cannot replace them. Just another sign why Walker's GPA was only 2.37. He is defunct in thinking but working off ego.

DIETER March 10, 2011 6:09 am (Pacific time)

Scott will fire anyone who strikes, & use it as a means to privatize. Folks should retain their jobs and live to fight another day. I would prefer folks hoard their cash and stop consumption thus helping to lower the state sales tax revenue. Folks should not give this governmeny the ability to fire them, hold onto your job, use your future paychecks to help recall him and every elected republican.

Pedro Paulo V de Sa March 10, 2011 11:32 am (Pacific time)

@TessTyFy - Sorry, but by your definition, there has never been a General Strike in this country. The supra-cited strikes (Seattle 1919, Minneapolis and San Francisco 1934) were also localized. My point is factual, not political. By the accepted definition of general strike - "strike action by a critical mass of workers of a city, region or country" - The Oakland general strike of 1946 was the last one.

dieter March 10, 2011 6:12 am (Pacific time)

I would not stike, Scott would use this as a means to privatize these jobs. Better to dry up the state teasury by hoarding cash. Save your wealth to help recall him and every republican who voted for this. Must live to fight another day!

Amanda March 9, 2011 9:21 pm (Pacific time)

I am retired, but if the union workers, and the Unions themselvesm ket him get away with depriving the rights of the work force,that will be the end of the bargainung Rights of every working American.

Hank Ruark March 9, 2011 8:48 pm (Pacific time)

C. et al: How many of you have ever met a professional agitator ? Been in front line on strike-confrontation ? Even talked with striker ? Taken part in union meeting ? 'Easy talk" never gets peaceful fair solution from some predatory private-sector interests Now they are mounting national-level attack via paid-off political "leaders" to get dirty work done under pretense of budget pressures their own policies clearly created --with one party on record guaranteeing to wreck elected-President's plans even before he entered office --with assassination of Constitutional rights of secure association and collective action as major tool for renewing attack begun in Reagan era.

Al March 9, 2011 8:44 pm (Pacific time)

Lets hope there is a General Strike.

TessTyFy March 9, 2011 8:06 pm (Pacific time)

Pedro: Fact check. If a strike was in Oakland only, it was mislabeled as a "General Strike". A General Strike will include all States involvement. In other words, the working men and women of the United States putting their foot down and saying enough is enough. We educated our selves, and/or we work hard for a fair wage. If the government is going to systematically take away our Unions and/or rights for that fair wage, while giving bonuses, payoffs, and other rewards to the rich, or our bosses, we aren't going to work, but make our voices heard until you make concessions and square it with us. All States will have opportunity to strike, whether they are union workers or private sector workers. There is a pamphlet that clearly defines and describes the discussed up and coming "now probable" General Strike for you to download on the Internet

Pedro Paulo V de Sa March 9, 2011 2:56 pm (Pacific time)

Fact-check: The last general strike in the U.S. was in Oakland, CA, 1946.

jghocker March 8, 2011 12:52 pm (Pacific time)

This was a no-nonsense factual article, without the frenzy of both sides. One can only hope common sense will compel everyone to turn down the rhetoric, and get on with "the people's business".

J+ March 8, 2011 12:20 pm (Pacific time)

While anti-Union (despite being a public servant myself), I have to admire the perserverance of the Unionists in undermining the Democratic process through their disruptive protests. As we all know, our 'Democratic' system is simply a non-representative oligarchy. Absent armed militancy, such organized rebellions against the Democratic process are the only hope for overthrowing elected politicians and their legitimately-passed laws.

Charlene Young March 8, 2011 9:15 am (Pacific time)

Might not be a good idea for the union(s) to call for a general strike. Wisconsin has a serious shortfall of over 3 billion dollars, which is a huge budget hole for this state. It would be interesting to see how many would go on strike, and how many would cross the picket line. Please note that a super-majority of public service workers have not left their jobs during this protest period. Considering the very high unemployment rate, both nationally and in Wisconsin, pretty sure they could find able, willing and experienced personnel to fill any job need. Bottom line for you who think a strike would bring Walker in line, well he ran on fixing the budget shortfall, so if a full blown campaign to recall him begins, pretty confident that the counter arguement to the union will take place and the voters will keep Walker in. This can be either a win-win or a lose-lose situation, but if it gets violent, expect the union to take the negative hit in the PR department. Hey why no uproar about Ohio's recent union legislation? Or all those millions of union members around the country that have no collective-bargaining rights? You most likely have a lot of professional agitators whipping emotions up, and if so, I imagine people have their pictures and bio's available for publication if and when things get really ugly. Let's hope they resolve this situation in a fair manner, free of misleading and agenda-driven disinformation. The budget and available money is what will drive the ultimate outcome.

eddie zawaski March 8, 2011 9:01 am (Pacific time)

Douglas, A wildcat strike is a strike by union members that is not authorized by their union or prohibited by a no-strike clause in the union's contract. This usually involves just one union in a specific dispute. A general strike is something different. It is a strike involving many different unions and even some non-union workers in a specific place. A general strike shuts down an entire city, the ultimate expression of labor power in a dispute with the owning class. General strikes are almost unknown in the US but quite common in other countries where working people still have a voice. I quite agree with your conclusion that a general strike in Wisconsin could and should go national. For 75 years running, American workers have been consistently betrayed by government, owners, and their own unions. It's time to wake up to the call in Wisconsin.

gp March 8, 2011 9:01 am (Pacific time)

Right on! Nation wide general strike to end the wars, bank bailouts and betrayal by the two stinking political parties. And use the Argentine method of pots and pans banging and their slogan "they all must go".

Douglas Benson March 8, 2011 6:38 am (Pacific time)

Its called a wildcat strike . Im curious ,I seem to recall hearing that they have no contract at this time. In our union if the contract is expired and labor and management cant agree its strike time. Why give any warning and let them prepare? Im sorry folks but it may be time to break the law ,get arrested ,fill thier jails with protesters without the time to prepare like they had at the WTC . I have another nasty word the wealthy pigs who think they should pay nothing while the middle class and poor pay it all and expect a huge handout after they defraud the people [talk about welfare] NATIONAL STRIKE!

TessTyFy March 8, 2011 12:00 am (Pacific time)

WOW!!! Great Article! (I miss Salem now more than ever.) I have been watching and searching for good, honest, thorough and reliable news on this General Strike for weeks now. Found it here. Thank you. They are hush hush about this, but I think you explained well now that the quietness of it all is for good reason. Since I firmly believe this strike is what it will take to have the voice of the people heard, I have been waiting for this. No sense in allowing the bill to go through prior to a strike as it will begin to set off the hardships this bill will clearly cause, and will continue until the bill can be reversed. If you know you are going to have to strike... the hardships of that are going to bad enough. I pray for success and that the end date does result in Walker's removal as Governor. The mere thought that any public official be allowed to stay in office as a dictator in America is revolting!

Amanda March 7, 2011 9:41 pm (Pacific time)

I hope the topple him. He is unconcerned, because he assumes himself safe from political opponents. He is another one to add to the ones creating a djungle in America.

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