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General Strike Called in WisconsinEddie Zawaski for Salem-News.com
Wisconsin governor Scott Walker appears to be unconcerned about the looming general strike and continues to push his program forward vigorously.
(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 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.
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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