Thursday, March 31, 2011

Garden Time

Those of you who are interested in a vegetable garden should get started preparing your soil and think about what you want to plant.

Grapes should have been pruned in February but if you failed to do that, better get it done now.

It's not too early to plant lettuce in the ground as well as onions.

I usually wait until Good Friday to plant potatoes.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Prayer for Workers on the Occasion of the We Are One Mobilization, April 1-4


Almighty God,

We are gathered here today in fellowship and in hope
As women and men committed to justice and freedom,
And as people who honor the dignity and rights of all working people.
We recall today the life and the hope of Martin Luther King, Jr.
And we remember today his vision of a just society, a beloved community.

We have been to the mountaintop,
And we have seen the Promised Land

Even as Dr. King courageously stood with sanitation workers in 1968,
So we stand today with teachers, firefighters, police officers,
And all workers whose rights are today imperiled across this nation
We know, God, that your Spirit is among us
And that Dr. King’s vision abides in our hearts.

We have been to the mountaintop,
And we have seen the Promised Land

We see in one another and in our working brothers and sisters
Your divine signature, God, and we lift it up this day.
We offer this common prayer in one voice to you,
In one mighty chorus across the nation.

We have been to the mountaintop,
And we have seen the Promised Land

God of Compassion and Mercy,
We ask that you remain with us and strengthen us
As we endeavor to ensure that freedom prevails for working people,
And that your divine signature is never obscured by injustice.

We have been to the mountaintop,
And we have seen the Promised Land

We ask that you guide us today and in the days to come
That we may all one day arrive in the Promised Land
As a beloved community, a great fellowship of men and women
Committed to the dignity and welfare and freedom of all people.

We have been to the mountaintop,
And we have seen the Promised Land

We ask for these things
In the sure knowledge that justice
Will triumph.

Amen.

source: Interfaith Worker Justice

Monday, March 28, 2011

Democrats Return, but the Republicans are Still Here

Although the Democrat members of the Indiana House are returning, look for the Republicans to continue their attack on Hoosier working families.

Never before in my memory have Republicans been so blatant in their attempt to hurt the middle class. They sure have made it clear as a bell who they're working for.

I know that the Democrats were able to negotiate some positive changes to what the Republicans were trying to do, but they could only do so much.

I sure hope the eyes of Hoosiers have been opened through all of this.

I hope everyone realizes that Republicans are no longer real Republicans but are instead mean spirited, intolerant and in the pockets of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the National Right to Work Committee and their rich pals.

Absolutely shameful what they are trying to do.

I know that some are calling this a victory for Indiana workers, but I think to have such rubber stamp politicians licking the boots of some National Right to Work Committee is down right shameful and the guy who authored the "take away bargaining rights for working conditions" for teachers (State Senator, Ed Charbonneau) is on the very bottom of a very nasty pile.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Attack On Unions is an Attack on the Middle Class


The recent attack on unions in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and other states is a continuing attack waged against the working class, which has now become obvious to all.

We have observed the systematic dismantling of the middle class over the last 30 years and now it has reached transparency in a war waged against unions. The conservative Republicans, sponsored by big money interests, know that in order to gain complete control of our economic system and the transfer of wealth (that has been going on for some time), unions are the only institutions and firewall protecting workers and the middle-class.

If unions are destroyed or made ineffective, there is no other institution or organization that can help to protect all workers. And make no mistake about it, this is true whether one is in a union or not.

The facts are clear. As union membership has declined, the status of all workers-union and non-union has declined. Union workers make more money, have better benefits and most importantly provide workers with democracy on the job and due process that otherwise would not exist.

The attack on public workers is just an extension of the attack on private sector workers and their unions that has been going for years. And, if these attacks are successful, the result will affect all workers.

We should all be outraged by what is happening. Think about it. Wall Street and the banking industry and money brokers created the recession, loss of jobs and the resulting financial problems for the government on a Federal, State and Local level. 401(k) plans and pension plans are also adversely affected by these misdeeds. And, tax breaks given to the same people and those who have outsourced our jobs are making matters worse and being used as an excuse to attack workers.

Bill Gibbons, SOAR PACE Board Member

Friday, March 25, 2011

Debunk The Myths About Social Security


I’m tired about writing on the continuing attacks on Social Security. I feel like the boy who cried wolf one too many times. But here we go again; Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is calling for cuts to Social Security and Medicare, despite its overwhelming opposition by the vast majority of Americans.

Let’s be clear, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are not responsible for adding money to the deficit. As I have stated many times before, the responsibility lies with corporate greed and out-of-control military spending.

Congress needs to hear from all of us. Strengthening Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, not weakening them is what the majority of Americans want. Just a few weeks ago, Congress approved huge tax cuts to the wealthy, and now they expect us to pay for them by cutting essential social programs.

Enough is enough! Social Security and Medicare provide essential supports to millions of retirees and disabled workers. The projections are clear. The financing of Social Security poses no major problem – it is projected to be fully solvent for almost 30 years with no changes whatsoever. Medicare poses a problem only because the private health care system is broken.

We must continue to debunk the myths that are coming out of Washington. Every time you hear someone say Social Security is going broke, set them straight! Social Security is not busted and it’s not broke! It has no impact on the deficit - it is self funding. If you want to fix Social Security, raise the cap so everyone pays their fair share.

Continue going to your elected Representatives Town Hall Meetings and tell them to strengthen Social Security, not weaken it! Continue writing letters and making phone calls. If we are to defend and strengthen these vital programs, our elected representatives must hear from us and they must know the consequences of voting against us!

Jim Centner, Director
Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Assault Continues


All across the country, in state house after state house, the attack on the American worker continues. It doesn’t matter if you are a janitor, teacher, or a steelworker; you are now considered fair game by the extremists in the Republican Party.

The debacle that is playing itself out in Wisconsin is just one example of the onslaught on the middle class. The Governor in Ohio is out to eliminate collective bargaining rights for state workers in his state. Conservatives in Iowa, Indiana, Rhode Island and elsewhere are supporting Right-to-Work legislation in their state houses to weaken unions and destroy collective bargaining gains achieved over the last 50 years.

All of this is being done on the misguided notion that it’s the unions’ fault that our economy is in shambles. All the while, ignoring, the fact, that the lending and investing practices of the Wall Street elite and our misguided trade policies, caused the worst recession since the Great Depression. Simply put, the Republicans view our current economic crisis as an opportunity to gut public employee unions and to attack organized labor in general.

What is the motive? Is this an opportunity for them to pay back their supporters, the Wall Street insiders and their Corporate masters? Is it an attempt to silence the only real voice of Middle America or is it simply union busting?

Our nation is in crisis. The quickest way out is to put America back to work! We are not going to solve this problem by cutting salaries and benefits of public employees or destroying collective bargaining rights. We will solve it with strong unions and jobs!

Connie Entrekin, SOAR President

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Indiana Senator Ed Charbonneau is Bad for Indiana

Whether to allow teachers in Indiana to continue to be able to bargain for working conditions seems to me to be a no brainer. Indiana Republicans seem to have a very poor understanding of what a union even is.

Items that appear in local union contracts which on the surface might seem strange or unusual to most people, have no doubt been placed there for a very good reason at some time in the history of that community of workers.

Anyone who has ever done any work for any entity knows full well that in every group of management there usually can be found at least one wild eyed, crazy acting, member that has no regard for the safety or an understanding of the human behavior of workers causing workers to be harassed, threatened or miserable. School administrators are no different. Some of them are really good and some are simple minded, hard headed egotistical nincompoops.

I can imagine some crazed administrator insisting that the temperature in classrooms be set higher or lower than that which is most conducive to learning. I can imagine how disruptive and miserable a work day could be for a teacher if an administer had a Captain Queeg complex.

Without agreed upon rules between teachers and administration officials, only bad things can be the result and the children who are trying to learn would be the most affected.

Why Republicans in Indiana are so afraid of allowing teachers this basic right to negotiate working conditions cannot be understood by me.

My own Indiana State Senator, Ed Charbonneau, in Indiana’s District 5, not only voted for this lousy assault on teachers but has the distinction of being one that authored or sponsored the darned thing.

Mr. Charbonneau knows better. He knows what a union is.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Governor Daniels and Indiana Senator Ed Charbonneau Anti-Union

Tell Congress: Don't Take Away Help for Seniors

This week is the first anniversary of President Obama signing the health reform law, which helps millions of retirees afford to see a doctor and fill a prescription.

But the big insurance companies want Congress to stop this. Tell Congress Today: Don’t Take Away Help for America’s Seniors.

The insurance lobbyists and their friends on Capitol Hill want to do away with a law that:

• Lowers prescription drug costs
• Closes the “Doughnut Hole” in Medicare Part D
• Eliminates co-pays and deductibles for preventive tests and screenings
• Provides free annual wellness visit with your doctor
• Helps early retirees keep their health care
• Assists middle-class families with cost of long-term care
• Adds 12 years to solvency of Medicare Trust Fund and cracks down on Medicare fraud

Medicare should take better care of seniors than big corporations. Tell Congress Today: Keep New Health Benefits for Retirees.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I Want Ed Charbonneau to Have to Bargain With Me

My Indiana State Senator, Ed Charbonneau wants a law passed to prevent teacher unions from being able to bargain for work rules or conditions.  Maybe he would like to author/sponsor a law that would require himself, as a public servant, to meet the same standards as those that he wishes to impose on our teachers.

Maybe he will consider authoring a law that would require him to collectively bargain with the public for his wages, health care premiums, pension benefits, office space, furnishings, supplies, staff, utilities, phones, travel and above all, certify his election annually?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Indianapolis Rally Against Anti-Union Legislators

USW Slams Walker's Assault on Democracy

(Pittsburgh) – This statement was released this morning by the United Steelworkers (USW) on actions taken last evening by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Republican Senators.

In a clear violation of Wisconsin’s open meeting law, Wisconsin conservative senators yesterday voted without a quorum to strip the state’s public sector workers – teachers, nurses, and librarians – of collective bargaining rights that the people of Wisconsin granted them a half century ago.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                          
March 10, 2011                                                                                                                           
CONTACT:   Wayne Ranick (412) 562-2444

United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard said this attack on the rights of Wisconsin’s public sector workers is an attack on all working people. “Although Wisconsin law requires a quorum when Senators vote to spend the people’s money, these conservatives exploited a loophole to vote without a quorum on legislation to steal workers’ rights. This is not democracy,” Gerard said.

“As illustrated by the surging crowd of protesters who filled the capitol building in Wisconsin after the undemocratic sneak-vote Wednesday, workers everywhere, whether public sector or private sector, union or unrepresented, will unite to win back their rights with their feet at protests and their votes at ballot boxes,” said Gerard, who leads North America’s largest industrial union, with 850,000 members, including steelworkers, paper workers, oil workers, rubber workers and public sector workers in the U.S. and Canada.

The conservative attack on workers in Wisconsin is far from isolated, Gerard said: “This is a nation-wide campaign by billionaires and country-club conservatives, to terminate workers’ rights, giving unfettered power to corporations.” So far in Wisconsin, conservatives have granted only government workers the right to freeload – the ability to benefit from collective bargaining without paying union dues. In nine other states, from Maine to Missouri, conservatives are pushing right to freeload legislation to cripple all unions.

“All this legislation is an attack on the middle class, which blossomed in this country as a result of collective bargaining victories during the middle of the last century. Middle-class workers, whether Republican or Democrat, know they must repel this assault on their right to collectively bargain or be reduced to insecurity and poverty,” Gerard said.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Anti Worker Indiana Legislators

If people in Wisconsin think that the Republicans in their state legislature are acting improperly and against the best interests of the people who work for a living in Wisconsin, they shouldn't feel pregnant because we have Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly that are just as bad.

My own State Senator, Ed Charbonneau would fit in just fine up in Wisconsin. His willingness to take away bargaining rights from Indiana's teachers has given him that distinction.

First They came

By Pastor Martin Niemoller

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

An Open Letter to our Friends, Neighbors and State Politicians

Today, we are writing this open letter to our friends, neighbors, and state politicians. Over the past couple of weeks, democratic representatives have walked out of the State House and are taking a stand against legislation that will have long-term ramifications on Hoosier families. We applaud them for there tenacity and courage. The working families in Indiana will never forget their decision.

The common threads on the bills before them are singular – they enhance the powerful and erode the rights and privileges of working families and their children. So-called right-to-work legislation is a thinly veiled attempt to silence the voices of Indiana working people. The legislation at creating more charter schools and diverting already scarce funds out of the public school system and into pseudo-regulated private enterprise can only damage the future of education in Indiana. These things cannot be taken lightly.

We are in a unique position in time. Men and women that will probably not be here to see the results of their decision-making are determining what the future holds for our children and future generations. That is unfortunate and the stakes are high. These decisions will affect the social, economic and life building abilities of our children and grandchildren. There can be no future without access to a decent and affordable education. There can be no viable future for families without the ability to make a living wage. There can be no future for a house built on sand.

The state of working families is in the hands of the Indiana legislature. Think hard before you cast that vote against us. Deliberate long and realize that after your last election is over, Hoosiers across the state will live by these acts for better or for worse. Lastly, choose wisely the legacy you leave our children.

USW Local Union 809 President, Jeff Hooker
USW Local Union 5840  President, Russ Oberg 
USW Local Union 9550 President, Chuck Owens
USW Local Union 6805 President, Rick Richardson
USW Local Union 905 President, Tina Smythe
USW Local Union 12273  President, Frank Troyer
USW Local Union 1052 President, Nena Defeberche

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Think About It

Why in tarnation would my Indiana State Senator, Ed Charbonnaeu, Republican in Senate District 5 propose to take away the ability of teachers to bargain over working conditions.
He knows full well the value of this right. So why is he wanting to take rights away from our teachers?

This is truly a slap in the face of working men and women all over our great state and he should do his best to put a stop to what he started.

What's next? Will he some day propose to take the right to bargain working conditions away from people who work in the steel mills or for NIPSCO as well?

The attempt to take this right away from workers is disgusting.......pitiful........no excuse.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Hoosier Manufacturing Summit - All are Invited


Congress of the United States
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Fellow Hoosier,
It is my pleasure to invite you to Playing to Win: Indiana's Future as America's Manufacturing Leader, a summit discussing the Hoosier manufacturing tradition and how we can innovate in order to continue to lead in this field. At this event, I will be hosting experts in the manufacturing sector from around the State of Indiana. Leaders from the automotive industry, trade representatives, business professors, and other manufacturing professionals from across the sector who will gather to share ideas and best practices for out-working and out-innovating the competition.

The first panel, entitled, Racing toward Tomorrow: A Sector-Specific Profile of the Automotive Industry, will tackle the current status of the automotive industry in Indiana and how we can continue to lead in this field. The second panel, entitled, Developing a Winning Game Plan: Policy Prescriptions for continued Growth, will cover the future of the manufacturing sector more broadly and panelists will cover topics such as retooling, workforce training, trade imbalances, and market trends. All panelists will focus on Indiana's role as a current and future leader in this sector and there will be time for a question and answer session with the audience for each panel. I hope that you, as a stakeholder with insight to offer in this field, will join us for this discussion.

Date: Monday, March 7, 2011

Time: Check-in begins at 8:15 a.m. EST
First panel discussion begins at 8:45 a.m. EST
Summit will end no later than 12:00 p.m. EST

Place: Ivy Tech Community College's North Meridian Campus
4th Floor Auditorium
North Meridian Center
Corner of Meridian St. and Fall Creek Pkwy.
Indianapolis, IN 46208

To RSVP, please email manufacturing.summit@mail.house.gov with your name, company or school affiliation, and contact information.

Thank you for your consideration, and I hope you are able to join me in this discussion on Indiana's economic future next month.

Sincerely,

Joe Donnelly,

Congressman Joe Donnelly (IN-02)










Workers and Retirees Still Threatened

Public Workers in Wisconsin, Ohio Still Threatened; Retirees Continue to Protest

Wisconsin’s budget stalemate over union bargaining rights shows no sign of resolution, and it could be a long wait, according to the Associated Press. Governor Scott Walker (R) isn’t budging; Democrats in the state Senate who are gone are not planning to come back; and, despite talk of deadlines and threats of layoffs, the state doesn't have to pass a budget to pay its bills until at least May. Even then, there may be other options that could extend the standoff. The bill passed the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Assembly last week after nearly three days of debate. Republicans in the Senate say they have enough votes to pass it once Democrats return.

Further east on Wednesday, the Ohio Senate approved a sweeping bill that would weaken the powers of public employee unions to negotiate contracts, propelling Ohio into the forefront of states seeking to revise public-sector labor laws. Like their counterparts in Wisconsin, demonstrators accused lawmakers of trying to use a budget crisis to destroy public-sector unions. But unlike in Wisconsin, Democratic lawmakers there did not have the numbers to delay the legislation through a walkout. The vote came after more than 8,000 union supporters descended on the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus to protest. The GOP-sponsored bill passed the Senate 17 to 16, with six Republicans voting against it. According to The Washington Post, as the roll call finished, dozens of union supporters in the Senate gallery chanted, “Shame! Shame! Shame!” Screeches and shouts echoed down the corridors of the Statehouse, where hundreds of opponents of the bill had gathered.

The bill next goes to the state House, where it is expected to pass, and then to the desk of Gov. John Kasich (R), who is expected to sign it. According to the Post, by including police and firefighters unions, the Ohio bill goes even further than the one under consideration in Wisconsin. There, Gov. Walker has gained national attention by railing against the power of public unions, but he exempted police and firemen from his plan to strip collective bargaining rights. Ohio Republicans revised the bill to restore collective bargaining on issues including wages and hours, but they also extended an existing ban on strikes to include teachers, and they blocked binding arbitration, giving the final say in contract disputes to the government.

The changes don’t maintain workers’ ability to bargain on a wide range of contractual issues, such as pensions and health benefits, as well as on such matters as equipment for police officers and firefighters. Making strikes illegal for all public workers, their supporters argue, effectively neutralizes the power of collective bargaining and removes the incentive to come to the table. Opponents of the legislation said they are already planning to fight it with a ballot challenge. If it gathers enough signatures, the challenge would give voters a direct say on the measure this November. “Public workers did not cause the crisis, and blaming them for it will only serve to decimate the middle class,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

96 Cities Protest Cuts to Social Security Administration
House Republicans voted on February 19 to cut $1.7 billion from the Social Security Administration (SSA) budget in 2011, and that could result in workers being furloughed for up to 1 month over the next 7 months. As a result, Social Security office doors may be temporarily closed, phones will not be answered, and claims processing will grind to a halt. On a Wednesday conference call with reporters and Social Security policy experts, U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) and other national leaders demanded a halt to the deep cuts to SSA. During the call, Richard Fiesta, Director of the Department of Government and Political Affairs at the Alliance, said, “These cuts are nothing but cuts for cutting’s sake. Social Security does not contribute a penny to our deficit -- both benefits and the cost of running SSA offices are funded by worker and employer contributions.”

The same day, retirees and SSA employees in 96 cities held informational pickets outside Social Security offices to draw attention to the devastating effects the cuts would have on services. For more information on these actions, go to http://strengthensocialsecurity.org/social-security-keep-it-working. Also, tens of thousands of Alliance members were asked to call their senators this week to drive home the message that the Social Security Administration cuts would hurt thousands of Americans. For a state-by-state analysis of the potential losses Social Security recipients would see, go to http://bit.ly/ihFxtF. Check out http://bit.ly/eVgLZ7 and http://bit.ly/8YG9i0 for photos and videos from Washington state protests of the cuts to SSA.  For Florida, go to http://bit.ly/hrbWYv and http://bit.ly/gxmY2s, and for protest photos from Ohio, go to http://bit.ly/eFJqgy.

Obama to Republican Governors: Opt Out of Health Care Law if You Can Do Better
Since its passage, Republican Governors have asked for flexibility in implementing the health care reform law—and they recently received it. During the Governor’s annual meeting at the White House on Monday, President Obama endorsed a bi-partisan proposal that would allow states to opt-out of implementing the health care reform law, as early as 2014. However, there is a major caveat: state officials must replace the health care reforms with a program that has the same level of effectiveness. This move has been characterized as Obama’s way of “calling the bluff” of Republicans. Many Republican Governors have expressed ideas for how they would implement health care in their respective states, but none of them have produced a plan that provides the same level of coverage, to the same amount of people, for a comparable price.

Factcheck.org Gets a Social Security Fact Wrong
A recent article published by Factcheck.org incorrectly reported that Social Security will face a $45 billion deficit this year. Additionally, the article reported that the program is “in the red.” However, this is simply not true. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the program will bring in $45 billion less in payroll taxes than it did last year. However, the Social Security trust fund, which currently contains $2.6 trillion, will earn $118 billion in interest this year. Therefore, overall, Social Security will not be running a deficit in 2011. The program will pay 100 percent of expected benefits this year and every year until 2037, without contributing to the national debt. “We hope that seniors will remain skeptical of people who try to convince them that Social Security is not financially solvent,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “The program is financially solvent and will remain that way well into the future.”

Source: Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert of March 4, 2011

Thursday, March 03, 2011

A Prayer For The Rights of Public Sector Workers

We are gathered here today to pray for the rights of public sector workers. We all rely on public workers to provide essential services for the common good. Teachers, police officers, bus drivers, public health workers and others are an important part of our society.

Our religious traditions insist that workers, as human beings with inherent dignity, may freely associate to improve their conditions at work.

Let us pray together for the dignity and right of workers to live decent lives as a result of their labor.
We:

• Affirm that workers have the right to organize and bargain with their employers over wages, benefits, and a voice on the job.
• Insist that elected leaders honor collective bargaining agreements that were negotiated openly and in good faith.
• Pray that elected leaders will come together with workers to address budget challenges and explore equitable options for the future.
• Applaud the efforts of workers all over the world, in Wisconsin and other countries, to stand up for their human rights for basic health, safety and dignity.

God of Justice, these are the people who take care of our children and our elderly, build our roads and schools, teach our children, serve our food, and attend our houses of worship. They do not deserve the attacks against them.

Give them the strength to persevere and advocate for justice and fairness in the workplace.

Amen

Source: Interfaith Worker Justice

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

In a Democracy, Freedom of Assembly Trumps "Free Enterprise"



It's illegal in America now to buy or sell a human being, but a recorded telephone conversation between a Republican governor and a guy he thought was a billionaire benefactor shows that it's still possible to own a politician.

Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker didn't have time to talk to Democratic leaders or union officials about his anti-union legislation -- a proposal that has incited protests by tens of thousands for more than a week in Madison. But he jumped on the phone for 20 minutes this week when told the caller was billionaire David Koch, who was Walker's second largest campaign contributor, who provided $1 million to a GOP fund to attack Walker's opponent and who bankrolls radical libertarian organizations and the Tea Party.

Republicans like Walker, owned by billionaires like Koch, are fulfilling demands from corporate interests that government "free" enterprise by slashing corporate taxes and regulation. Over the past three years, America has suffered the consequences of a government under-funded after tax breaks to the rich and under-performing after years of lax regulation. The result: a growing federal deficit, the Wall Street collapse, the BP oil spill and the deaths of 29 Upper Big Branch miners. Still, Republicans want more government atrophy. That would leave only one restraint on corporate control of the economy, environment and government.

That one restraint is labor unions. A union is workers using their constitutionally-guaranteed freedom to assemble, the right to get together as a group, in this case a labor organization, to negotiate collectively with employers for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

Workers who gathered together in unions over two centuries in this country have succeeded in raising their wages, as well as the wages of non-union workers in competing industries. Union workers secured improved working conditions so fewer were killed on the job. And they achieved creation of the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration, which protects the safety of all workers. Over the decades, unions played a major role is obtaining legislation barring child labor, standardizing the 40-hour work week, and creating both Social Security and Medicare.

Similarly, studies show union successes enhance the lives of all workers in a state. In anti-union states, the average worker earns $5,333 less a year, the proportion of people without health insurance is 21 percent higher and the rate of workplace death is 51 percent higher. In addition, there's evidence that union workers improve quality. Currently, after receiving an education from union teachers, Wisconsin youngsters collectively score second highest in the nation on the ACT/SAT college admission tests. By contrast, the five states barring teacher unions rank at the bottom of the pack: South Carolina dead last at 50th; North Carolina, second last at 49th; Georgia third from last at 47th; Texas fourth from last at 47th, and Virginia ever so slightly better at 44th.

Still, Wisconsin Gov. Walker wants to destroy his state's teachers unions. Two studies determined that public workers, that is those employed by governments such as teachers, firefighters and police officers, earn less than their counterparts in the private sector when both benefits and education are factored into the calculation. It wasn't union workers, in the public or the private sector, who caused states' financial crises. That was gambling on Wall Street, which ravaged the economy. Still, Republican governors across the country are demanding that government workers pay.

The government workers in Wisconsin already agreed to accept Walker's financial demands -- that they pay more for their pensions and health care. This negates Walker's contention that this dispute is about the budget. The governor is demanding more than those financial concessions. He wants the legislature to cripple the unions' ability to bargain for improvements in the future. In his "budget repair bill," he would strip government workers of their right to negotiate over working conditions and benefits. They'd be able to discuss wages but could never get an increase above inflation.

This is union busting. At the demand of corporate interests. And Walker is joined by Republicans in Ohio, Indiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee and others in attempting to do it, both to private and public sector workers.

This is not about money. It's about controlling America. Corporations have bought Republicans, who now chant the corporate mantra that government coddles its citizens with the likes of mine and food safety rules.

Walker's eagerness to talk to David Koch illustrates this. Koch and his brother Charles own the second largest privately-held company in America. Only the fortunes of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates exceed the Kochs' $35 billion. They've used that money to finance the supposedly-grassroots Tea Party and conservative groups like the Americans for Prosperity Foundation (APF) that have funneled money into anti-reform policies -- including attempts to reverse environmental and health care legislation.

It's a giant circle. Koch got Walker elected. The Koch-backed Tea Party now rallies in Madison against the public employees. The Koch-financed APF bought $320,000 in TV ads against the public workers. Other Koch-financed GOP governors are sending letters of support to Walker. In his few weeks as governor, Walker passed legislation to lower tax rates for and limit damage awards against businesses like the Kochs'. In addition, tucked into the anti-union bill is a provision that would enable Walker to sell the state's power plants to the Kochs without bids or state agency review.

Corporations are accomplishing their goal of shriveling government to the point of ineffectiveness so "enterprise" is "free" to run rogue. Now with their purchased politicians, corporations are trying to do the same to unions -- the only organization other than government that has traditionally effectively defended working Americans.

In the recorded conversation between Walker and a liberal blogger posing as Koch, Walker accepted an offer of a vacation trip from the "billionaire" if he "crushed" the public employee unions and said his effort was to get "our freedoms back."

That's exactly right. This is a contest between the excesses of "free" enterprise and the constitutionally-protected freedom of assembly. And getting "our freedoms back" means wresting them back from corporations.

Leo W. Gerard, President of the United Steelworkers Union