Gov. Scott Walker’s announcement last Friday was perhaps the greatest push yet toward the feudalistic dystopia the new administration envisions for Wisconsin. In the midst of a paranoid mobilization of the National Guard and a dramatically vamped up security detail, Walker fired his latest salvo in a full-frontal assault on public workers that, if successful, will debilitate a sector of the economy significantly represented by people of color and women.
By attacking the benefits and pay of the state’s nearly 200,000 public workers, the governor is sending a clear signal to working people across the state that his administration is dedicated to destroying living wage jobs with humane benefits in the interest of providing his business supporters with cheap, easily exploited labor.
As concerned citizens and students, we mustn’t allow ourselves to dismiss these attacks as the plight of others; the assault on the working class and public employees is part of a war being waged against the public university and with it the very foundation of our democratic society. The governor’s radical vision for Wisconsin includes the shunting away of knowledge from the middle and lower classes through funding cuts and the conversion of tens of thousands of good jobs to ones that pay poverty wages.
The changes being proposed by the Walker administration would drag Wisconsin into a proverbial dark age where working people are deprived of collective bargaining rights and ultimately any agency to improve their lives and contest the dictates of the ruling elite.
As if the Walker administration’s attack on the standard of living for hundreds of thousands of teachers, transit and custodial workers, service employees and civil servants wasn’t bad enough, the rescission of collective bargaining rights will also pressure students on campuses across the state to work for peanuts or leave higher education behind.
On this campus, graduate students and research assistants will become the pawns of an increasingly private research chimera, being paid a pittance to innovate and make ever wealthier the modern-day robber barons sinking their teeth ever deeper into the state’s flagship university. At the same time, the dream of higher education will be dragged further away from the grasp of working class families. As the governor drives Wisconsin into pole position in a race to the bottom, wages, benefits and the capacity for upward mobility of millions of Wisconsinites will decline toward an indefinite bottom.
Recent events in Egypt are just the latest testament to the power of mass mobilization. Now is the time to take to the streets and show the Walker administration the good people of Wisconsin will stand steadfast against its radical, selfish agenda. See you at the Capitol starting Monday at noon.
Sam Stevenson ([email protected]) is a graduate student in public health and a former Herald columnist. He is a candidate in the race for District 2 alder, facing incumbent Bridget Maniaci.