'We Are All Wisconsin' | Sojourners

'We Are All Wisconsin'

You have probably seen the joke that has been circulating recently: A union worker, a member of the tea party, and a CEO are sitting at a table, on which is a plate with a dozen cookies. The CEO takes 11 cookies, then tells the tea partier, "Look out for that union guy; he wants a piece of your cookie."

This February, when Democratic state senators in Wisconsin sought to negotiate with Gov. Scott Walker over his plan to end the right of public workers to collectively bargain, Walker said he wouldn't talk to anyone. No one, that is, until he received a call from a man who identified himself as billionaire tea party underwriter David Koch -- but who was actually Ian Murphy, editor of an alternative news and opinion website. Walker admitted to his faux benefactor "Koch" his disdain for the workers and their supporters: "This is Madison, full of ’60s liberals; let 'em protest. It's not going to affect us."

In 2011, America is experiencing a class war in the original sense of that phrase: an economy where the economic burden is placed squarely on the backs of working-class and middle-income Americans. For the past decade, the richest fifth of the country has taken a bigger share of income than any time in the post-WWII era. This is the centralization of wealth that the prophet warns us of in Isaiah 5:7-8.

Such a trend can’t be maintained if unions are able to contest the invincibility of the wealthiest and most powerful members of society. So Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, and other states have seen legislative efforts to decrease wages, roll back safety regulations, and eliminate collective bargaining. Gov. John Kasich of Ohio signed Senate Bill 5, a measure severely restricting the bargaining rights of 360,000 teachers, firefighters, nurses, and other public sector employees.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Walker preceded his attacks on public employees with a large tax cut for corporations; his budget problems are, in part, a crisis of his own creation.

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