“LIVE AMMUNITION” AND “DEADLY FORCE”:
IS THIS WHAT WE’VE COME TO?
Colonel Gaddahi, Libya’ brutal dictator, isn’t the only one who wants to kill protesters. An Indiana assistant attorney general over the weekend advocated the use of “live ammunition” and “deadly force” on demonstrators in Wisconsin. Who were these demonstrators? Public workers and their families.
By Eric Wolfe
It’s getting crazy out there, brothers and sisters. People around the world are expressing support for public workers in America, while an assistant attorney general in Indiana wants public workers shot dead.
In Wisconsin, where the protests began a little over a week ago, as many as 100,000 occupied the state capital and grounds in Madison to defend the right of public workers to engage in collective bargaining. Rallies have spread virally, including demonstrators in Cairo, Egypt who have been spotted with signs supporting Wisconsin’s public workers.
About 3,000 Californians, including Local 1245 members, rallied in Sacramento on Feb. 22, just one of several demonstrations around the country as the Wisconsin battle entered its second week. Local 1245 members also joined a support rally in Carson City, Nev. that drew about 400 people on Feb. 21.
The president of the historic Polish Trade Union Solidarnosc—the union that brought down the Communist government in Poland in 1989—sent Wisconsin workers a letter of support this week, hailing their “just fight for decent working and living conditions, for the workers’ rights” and declaring that “Your victory is our victory as well.”
“Deadly Force” and “Live Ammunition”
But we’re hearing something very different right here in our country. As working people organized dramatic but peaceful protests against anti-labor legislation in Ohio and Indiana, an Indiana Assistant Attorney General named Jeff Cox last weekend said that “live ammunition” and “deadly force” should be used to disperse protesters in Madison, Wis.
Live ammunition? There have been frequent comparisons between Madison and Cairo, but even the brutal Mubarak regime stopped short of wholesale slaughter. Perhaps the more apt comparison is Indiana and Libya, where the corrupt and violent Muammar al-Gaddafi has unleashed live ammunition and deadly force against his own citizens.
Where does this anger against workers come from?
Members of Local 1245 and other public employees are simply trying to protect a middle-class lifestyle that is becoming increasingly hard to come by as the richest Americans rake in a larger and larger share of the nation’s wealth. Some of the very richest, the oil-rich Koch brothers, have been key backers of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign against public employees. The Kochs make billions, but apparently can’t tolerate the idea of working people scraping together a modest pension to retire on.
The old labor anthem “Which Side Are You On?” has been out of fashion for many decades, suggesting as it does that there is a class war in America and that working people have to choose sides. Irrelevant today, right?
That’s what people say: Unions aren’t needed anymore. But when state officials start trying to take away workers’ bargaining rights, and even suggest that workers should be gunned down if they dare protest—you have to wonder if maybe there is in fact a very real class war developing in America.
If that is the case, then union members who’ve flirted with tea party ideas might want to think about Wisconsin, where tea party activists rallied against public workers last week. Union members may soon be forced to choose sides, or be prepared to give up everything they’ve ever won at the bargaining table.
Eric Wolfe is Communications Director, IBEW Local 1245