It's about the furthest thing from a secret that in 2011 newly elected Republican governors and state legislatures made a war on public workers a centerpiece of their radical agendas. But two important recent pieces draw back and assess the damage. In The Nation, Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert look at the massive public sector job losses newly Republican states have seen (and how the war on women and war on voters was being waged in those same states). Republican anti-worker warriors try, of course, to frame these job losses as helping taxpayers by reining in government costs, but as public workers are themselves taxpayers and consumers, higher unemployment among them hits the whole economy and leaves government short-staffed, with fewer workers trying to do the same amount of work—or more, as they struggle to cope with the problems their Republican governors and legislatures are causing. In Pennsylvania in 2011,
The number of government employees fell over 3 percent that year, one of the sharpest declines in any state. Before the cuts, “Pennsylvania [had] the second lowest number of state workers per capita, already,” said Rebecca McNichol, Pennsylvania state director of the CLEAR Coalition. Yet, she says, “this past year the budget was devastating” in deeper cuts.But Pennsylvania lowered corporate taxes at the same time as it was cutting public jobs.
The attacks on public workers don't just cut jobs and services, though. They affect the working conditions public workers face. Alternet's Sarah Jaffe details the repressive conditions workers face in Wisconsin under Gov. Scott Walker's infamous Act 10 (portions of which have been struck down by a federal judge, but not those relating to collective bargaining):
Beil told a story of guards at a women's correctional facility, who get sent along with inmates when they have to go to the hospital to hold a “vigil.” If one of the guards has to use the bathroom while waiting, they are now required to call the prison, get a replacement sent out, and not use the bathroom until they have returned to their post at the prison. “Workers are every day subject to this kind of abuse and degradation. There's absolutely no dignity in the workplace anymore,” he said.Private sector workers have already been facing much of the wretchedness being inflicted on public workers—and that's the point. What we're witnessing is a new front in the relentless war from above, a push to ensure that everyone in the 99 percent know their place, know that even their bathroom breaks are contingent on the goodwill of their bosses.
(Go below the fold for more.)
- Companies with histories of major health and safety violations really shouldn't be getting government contracts. But it happens.
- One of the Massey Energy officials facing criminal charges related to the 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate federal mine safety laws and faces up to five years in prison.
- Good news in one lockout:
A federal judge yesterday issued a temporary injunction ordering the owners of the Flatbush Gardens apartment complex in Brooklyn to end a months-long lockout of more than 70 unionized porters and maintenance workers and resume bargaining “immediately” with the union while the case moves through the NLRB process.The locked-out workers faced eviction and loss of health insurance, and the NLRB alleged that the employer was not bargaining in good faith.
- The Senate didn't have the votes to move forward on a measure that would basically kill the postal service in the name of saving it, cutting services and jobs rather than strengthening it to thrive in the current day. But, of course, the other leading proposal would be worse.
- Detroit unions are fighting major concessions.