Rich corporate interests have used a divide and conquer strategy to pit natural allies against each other for years. Attacking unionized public employees has always been a favorite tactic, and certainly worked well for Reagan when he broke the air traffic controllers union, PATCO.
Scott Walker gave it another whirl in his "fireside chat" last night. He refused to budge an inch, and instead once again defended his bill with the same old politics of divide and conquer.
Or the substitute teacher here in Madison, who wrote to me last week about having to sit at home unable to work because her union had closed the school down to protest.He really should have talked to these guys. They could have told him what's disgusting is union-busting.
She sent me an email that went on to say, “I was given no choice in joining the union and I am forced to pay dues… I am missing out on pay today… I feel like I have no voice.”
I assure you that she does have a voice.
And so does the factory worker in Janesville who was laid off nearly two years ago. He's a union guy in a union town who asks simply why everyone else has to sacrifice except those in government.
Last week, I traveled the state visiting manufacturing plants and talking to workers -- just like the guy from Janesville. Many of them are paying 25 to 50 percent of their health care premiums. Most, had 401k plans with limited or no match from the company.
It doesn't seem that Walker talked to these building trades workers, either. They could have told him that he is replaceable. And they could have offered a suggestion that never seems to have crossed Walker's mind -- how about, if instead of destroying the middle class to give new tax breaks to the rich, we made the rich pay a fair share of the cost of our public services. Wisconsin has been good to them. Why can't they pay their fair share? And if they did, we wouldn't have much of a budget problem.
Tuesday's impressive show of solidarity brought private sector union members from all over the state to support their union brothers and sisters who work for state and local government. When they marched, it was a powerful demonstration of unity that stretched all the way around the Capitol Square. And it suggested that the tired old politics of divide and conquer may no longer be working as reliably as it once did.