Joe Mirabella

Understanding the Significance of Wisconsin's Unions & Why We Should Stand in Solidarity

Filed By Joe Mirabella | February 22, 2011 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: anti-union laws, lgbt history, LGBT history, union busting, union members, Wisconsin

The unions have a strong history with the LGBT communities. They were one of our first allies that understood the connection between LGBT rights and worker's rights. If LGBTs were discriminated against in the work place, union-protest.jpeganyone could be discriminated against. Unions got that right away.

Not only do they stand with us symbolically, unions back up their support with money and people power when it is necessary. In Washington state, the unions provided both financial assistance and volunteer resources when we were fighting to protect our domestic partnership rights. Nationally, the unions stand with us for our push for an inclusive ENDA.

Unions are a significant resource for progressive candidates. This is why they are under attack right now in Wisconsin, Ohio, Tennessee, and states throughout the country. Simply, Republicans are trying to de-fund the progressive movement by denying Wisconsin's workers the right to bargain collectively. If they can bust the unions in Wisconsin, they are going to go after them everywhere they can.

The Task Force said in a statement, "It is inexcusable that some politicians are using the people as pawns in their quest for power and control. The assault on working people is a disgrace, and we are heartened that so many are standing firm and saying 'no' to this abuse of power. We join them in solidarity."

Conservatives understand the significance of Wisconsin for unions. The first union in that state was formed in 1847 by Milwaulkee's bricklayers. In 1959, Wisconsin became the first state to pass a collective bargaining law for their public employees. That's why the Koch Brothers invested $43,000 to get Governor Walker elected. If they can bust unions in Wisconsin, they could win everywhere, and achieve their ultimate goal of ousting President Obama.

From Mother Jones:

Walker's plan to eviscerate collective bargaining rights for public employees is right out of the Koch brothers' playbook. Koch-backed groups like Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Reason Foundation have long taken a very antagonistic view toward public-sector unions. Several of these groups have urged the eradication of these unions. The Kochs also invited (PDF) Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an anti-union outfit, to a June 2010 confab in Aspen, Colorado; Mix said in a recent interview that he supports Governor Walker's collective-bargaining bill. In Wisconsin, this conservative, anti-union view is being placed into action by lawmakers in sync with the deep-pocketed donors who helped them obtain power. (Walker also opposes the state's Clean Energy Job Act, which would compel the state to increase its use of alternative energy.) At this moment--even with the Wisconsin uprising unresolved--the Koch brothers' investment in Walker appears to be paying off.

The far right wing philosophy of the Koch Brothers is extremely dangerous to our community. Their brand of politics will set us back decades and must be stopped at all costs. We must stand strong with our union brothers and sisters in Wisconsin and throughout the country.

"Of course we need to stand with organized labor -- loudly and proudly," Tobias Barrington Wolff, Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania said, "They are our allies, a bulwark of the Democratic Party, and a force for economic justice."

Ryan Biava is an out Phd Student in Political Science. He wrote to me from day 5 of the protests from the TA union Headquarters in the Capitol.

The Governor's attempt to all but outlaw public-sector unions was perhaps not as well thought-out as it could have been for a state that gave birth to the Progressive Movement and modern public unionism. The new Republican majority in Wisconsin may have gotten carried away in the moment and forgotten a political truth: these sorts of deeply ingrained political cultural elements tend to be remarkably persistent over generations, so even if Wisconsinites are uncertain about the general role of unions in today's economy, they are still likely to be uncomfortable with a full-scale assault on the rights of workers to bargain collectively--something that I think helps explain the swift and severe response by supporters of organized labor.

Ryan is correct, but we should not underestimate the stamina of the right wing. If anything, the LGBT community has seen an unending assault on our rights. If they can target us, they can target the unions and will continue to. Our only choice is to band together.

Michael Mitchell, Executive Director of National Stonewall Democrats said:

National Stonewall Democrats stands strong with our union brothers and sisters in Wisconsin today. The right of employees to organize and unionize has been the largest driver of pay equity, fair labor practices and increased worker protections, particularly for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers. Any law that would infringe upon that right is ill-advised and flies in the face of our fundamental right to freedom of assembly and association.

The time to tell the truth to your friends is now. When unions are under assault, the people will suffer. We must all stand in solidarity against those who wish to take away our right to organize democratically. Our freedom depends on it.

(Photo via Intern Jake)

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misswildthing | February 22, 2011 4:08 PM

Hey Joe, how about a quote from Pride at Work. the lgbt folks at the AFL-CIO?

Tony Soprano | February 22, 2011 9:32 PM

From your title:
> "Understanding the Significance of Wisconsin's Unions & Why We Should Stand in Solidarity"

Q1. Which UNION(s) do you support? All of them?
Q2. If you support ALL of them, do you "stand in solidarity" with THIS UNION?

Wisconson Troopers would ‘absolutely’ use force on protesters if ordered - police UNION PRESIDENT says
By Stephen C. Webster - 02/21/2011

... according to a Wisconsin POLIC UNION president ... they would "absolutely" carry out any order given to them ... even if included using force against fellow Americans gathered in peaceful protest.

... Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association (WLEA) executive board president Tracy Fuller ... "our UNION represent state troopers and patrols ... capitol police, Univ. of Wisconsin PD, all communications officers and Dept. of Transportation field agents."

If push comes to shove ... he said, they would all don riot gear and "do their job," even if ... order to suppress the protests ... I'm not able to even fathom that any of those police officers would not carry out whatever orders were given to do their job".

From your article
> "... we need to stand with organized labor loudly and proudly," Tobias Barrington Wolff, Prof. of Law at Univ. of Pennsylvania, "They are our allies, a bulwark of the Democratic Party, and a force for economic justice."

I see. So, the University of Pennsylvania, and the DEMOCRATIC PARTY supports the POLICE UNION using armed force to disperse other UNION protestors and suppress their protests?

Force? You betcha. Count me out.

It's a disservice to the tens of thousands of trade unionists involved in the fights in Wisconsin almost 20 other states to pretend that their enemies are limited to Republicans. Democrats, in spite of their grandstanding in Wisconsin and Ohio, set up much of this situation.

Beyond that, the looter class utilize their vast economic power and domination of the White House, Congress and State governments to engage in a massive attack on unions in the private and public sectors. Of the 45 or 46 states facing bankruptcy some 22 are planning to steal the pensions, wages and benefits of public sector unionized workers to solve their problems.

Their next target will be the social security fund.

For those who own the US the 'recession', which is really a Depression (1) according to Paul Krugman of The New York Times, is over. As Obama noted in his State of the Union Address "Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again."

That's not true for everyone. It's getting worse for working class people, union and non-union. The WSJ (2) notes "There are 14.5 million people on the unemployment rolls, including 6.4 million who have been jobless for more than six months. To an extent rarely seen in recessions since the Great Depression, wages for a swath of the labor force this time have taken a sharp and swift fall. The only other downturn since the Depression to see similarly large wage cuts was the 1981-82 recession. But the latest downturn is already eclipsing that one. Unemployment has stood above 9% for 20 straight months—longer than the early 1980s stretch—and is likely to remain above that level for most of 2011, putting downward pressure on wages." African Americans (3), the unemployed (US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U6 index) and public sector workers are taking the biggest hits. ”Rutgers University professor Jeffrey Keefe found that, on average, state and local government workers are paid 3.75 (4) percent less than similar workers in the private sector." (Today's Workplace.)

Most of that is the fault of Obama and Congressional Democrats, cheered on by Republicans. They, working with the sellout leadership of the UAW, imposed conditions on auto workers that broke the back of the UAW, including a decade long no strike pledge, massive wage and benefits cuts and changes in workplace rules. Obama froze federal workers wages for two years and mid-December he cut a with Republicans to continue Bush’s tax cuts for the rich. He paved the way for declaring that Social Security is in crisis by reducing worker contributions from 6.2% to 4.2% for this year.

Taking their cue from Obama Cuomo, Democrat of New York, Christie Republican of New Jersey, Brown Democrat of California, Kasich Republican of Ohio and a host of other state governors and legislatures are gunning for the pension money of union workers to pay their bill. That money is already earned and taking it amounts to theft.

The antiunion groundwork laid by Obama and Congress set the stage for the current assault on unions by state governors who use the Depression and state insolvency as an excuse to destroy. In Wisconsin Republican governor Walker is following the Koch brothers union busting guide. He created an 'emergency' by adding $140 million (5) in new spending to aid his friends in the looter class and now proposes to end the 'emergency' by stealing the wages and benefits of public workers.

What to do

Events in Wisconsin are one step away from a general strike. Contact the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO at:

Phone: 414-771-0700


• Urge them to call a general strike, or a series of rolling general strikes, beginning with all the public schools, colleges and universities.

• If you're lucky enough to be in a union identify yourself with your union affiliation and your local number.

• Urge your local to pass a resolution of solidarity with the fight in Wisconsin and the idea of a general strike.

• If you're not in a union get in one, or form one, or form a local solidarity group for unions battling the government and employers.

• Form a local support group for the AFL-CIOs Labor Party and urge them to unleash it in the electoral arena.


Great post, Joe. We have to stand in solidarity with the unions or we'll have no one standing with us when we need them. We can't drop our biggest ally when they need us most!

How our movements intersect is definitely a topic of discussion here. Thank you for this post Joe.