Saturday, February 26, 2011

I Got the Call: "You're Going to Wisconsin, so Pack Your Randonneur Woolies!"

As you might imagine of a lifelong trade unionist, I was ready for that call. Wisconsin is now emblematic of the struggle between corporate powers--like the Koch brothers--and working people. I wanted to be in the thick of it. This is a struggle without borders. Folks are flocking to Wisconsin from all over joining the tens of thousands of Wisconsin protesters, because that's how Americans have always protected our rights.

But there is a randonneuring connection for me. The randonneur who has taught me the most about randonneuring, and mostly on lonely wooded lanes during the middle of brevets and often at night, is a public sector worker. He told me about his job in the way we randonneurs do on a brevet when it's just us two. I think he and others like him are nothing short of public heroes. There just aren't many people who choose to be Special Education School Teachers in the public school system. Could you do it? Could Wisconsin Governor Walker do it?

All my life I have relied on public sector workers: teachers, of course, but also health care workers, garbage collectors, snow plowers, street workers, social service workers, tax collectors, city planners, engineers, NASA employees, the Armed Forces, forest and other natural environment protectors, letter carriers and mail handlers, food safety inspectors, parks employees, transportation workers, and police and firefighters. Apologies to all those I haven't called out here.

Where would I be without them?

This struggle has been ongoing for a long time. But the rhetoric has changed dramatically. Corporations, and in this case their Republican governors and state legislators, are blaming public sector workers for our current financial woes.

So yes, when I got the call to go to Wisconsin I took it as my very minor paying back for all the good that I have received from our collective endeavor we call democratic government and the people we hire to make that endeavor work. Damn right I'll go and protect their right to bargain collectively for their wages, hours and working conditions. I don't know a one of them that is getting rich working for...well, ultimately, working for me.

Now as to the reason for all this brinkspersonship, I think we must analyze root causes.

Does Wisconsin Governor Walker think everyone has forgotten the housing crisis that was a direct result of unfettered and unregulated greed: derivatives and the making of fortunes for a few at the expense of millions who are losing, or are in danger of losing, their homes? Or the resulting tanking of our overall economy and the acommpanying stubborn and painful unemployment? Or the serious decline in corporate taxes that are contributed to state coffers due to tax loopholes and such? Or the decline in the percentage of taxes paid by the wealthier?

Scapegoating is an old tactic, and it seems that public sector workers are now being set up to be the goat so that we'll turn away from sensible ideas like re-regulating the financial industry, closing unwarranted corporate tax loopholes, and investing in ourselves, our infrastructure and our future.

Well, we'll see. Governor Walker has been caught on tape acknowledging that he and others had considered bringing in troublemakers. The Governor of a state admits to considering bringing in agents provocateur? The American people don't cotton to elected officials who conspire or stoop to pretense.

The fact of the matter is that the Wisconsin public worker unions have agreed to all of the Governor's economic demands so that he will get his balanced budget, even though as I say they are not to blame. But to continue to insist on eliminating their rights to collective bargaining is going just way too far.

I'll have more to say about this soon (hopefully from Wisconsin), but there is another randonneuring connection. My orders to fly to Wisconsin included the following phrase: "be advised to pack warm clothes and coats !!!" I could have figured that out, but you know where my mind went: wool randonneuring clothing, baby!

Wool upper undies, CHECK!
Wool lower undies, CHECK!
Wool cap, CHECK!
Wool balaclava, CHECK!
Wool mittens with fingerless option, CHECK!
Wool glove liners, CHECK!
Wool socks, CHECK!
Wool arm warmers, CHECK!
Wool knee warmers, CHECK!
Wool iconic blue Seattle Randonneurs long-sleeved cycling jeresey...well, I think I'll keep our cycling club out of it.

In the meantime, let's take a hard look at the decline in tax revenue from corporations due to unwarranted tax loopholes that don't generate jobs. Let's remember why we're in this financial morass. And let's not let the downturn turn us into self-haters. It is We, the People, after all, not We, the Corporations.

Keep it united,



  1. Good luck in Wisconsin. As a former AFSCME member in Wisconsin, I could not believe the gall of the Wisc. State Assembly to pass the budget bill which dismantles collective bargaining. The same thing is happening here in Indiana.

    Despite the attitude against public service that many corporate folk have, we are not overpaid, and we skimp to save money for retirement. And we live in modest houses, and we drive rusty cars. Yet we feel an obligation to serve without asking for much in return.

    I applaud your efforts for speaking for people who tirelessly work to provide services no corporation could provide.

    Be sure to spend some time biking the back roads around Madison - it's a great place to ride a bike!

  2. LOL not sure Democracy can be defined as legislators hiding to avoid voting while calling in goons from other States to disrupt the process. I'm curious why you have the need to post politics on a Rando board? It does nothing but divide that community. I guess that's part of the disruption plan.

  3. Anonymous, your comment got me on the bike this afternoon despite my procrastination. I read it and said to myself: "Did Anonymous just call me a goon on my blog?" It was starting to snow, and it was windy. I had almost made up my mind to pack my bags instead of ride my bike. But reading your comment I thought...maybe I better go for a ride. As a cyclist, I know you know how hard it can be to go train when the weather isn't so inviting, so thanks!

    First, I welcome opposing viewpoints. Fantastic! But please, if you post again, don't do the goon thing or I'll have to use my supreme blogger comment moderation powers and delete it. I may get political in post now and then, but I try to keep this blog positive and friendly.

    Second, to the substance of your point about "legislators hiding", I believe that it is our duty to resist unjust laws. The right to bargain collectively is a fundamental right. Martin Luther King, Jr. described this distinction between just and unjust laws in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail: “A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.“ Wage workers are entitled to gather together and be recognized as a bargaining group. It's not a threatening thing, simply a leveling of sorts of the power relationship. I feel it is immoral to deprive them of that right.

    The absent legislators are refusing to make an unjust law, and I am confident that this struggle for the right to collective bargaining will look to us someday as the civil rights era does now. Now I don't compare myself to the Northern students who went into the South then at personal risk to fight for the civil rights of others, but I do take seriously that we either stand up for what is right or we are saying that moral distinctions don't matter. Either way though, those legislators will be judged at the ballot box, and we'll see.

    Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed in Memphis where he had just marched with striking public sector sanitation workers. To my mind, the Democratic legislators that are refusing to take away collective bargaining rights are following in the footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King. And again, the unions in Wisconsin have already agreed to the monetary takeaways. This struggle is solely now about Governor Walker and others trying to bust up the workers' rights to bargain.

    Third, as to the injection of politics in my blog, I guess I'll plead guilty. If you go to the Topics section in the right margin you'll find the Topic "social justice". Reviewing the relatively few "social justice" posts, I find posts about FDR, a bike co-op, our cycling Mayor, etc. If it turns you off, then I suppose I'll lose you. I hope not though. While I'm in Wisconsin I do hope to post a few reports on my "goon" duties, but I also have a couple posts queued up you might like. One is Part 2 of a previous ride report from the Fall with an unbelievably large Beaver-chawed tree. Another is a link to a video about Pittsburgh hill climbing. Whether you love or hate cycling up hills, it's a hoot. And you gotta love those Pittsburgh accents!

    As to whether those who link to this blog find this a problem, I'd be surprised. Every randonneur I know is independent, self-staining, and interested in the long distance. But if they find it too much, they'll make their own decisions.

    One more thing. I'd love to ride together sometime (here or Paris?) where we can find those places we share in common. Some folks have recognized me by my bicycle since I fawn over it so and put up so many pictures of it. But I had been thinking of sewing a Peace Sign patch onto my handlebar bag, and I might just do that now so we can find each other on the road.:) Best to you.

    Keep it just,


  4. Dear Steve,
    More power to you, many of us will be cheering for you and wished to have the courage and dedication like you to be with the brothers and sisters in Wisconsin that are finally saying enough. There is a solidarity between the people of Middle East and Wisconsin.

  5. Goons? Please! People, peacefully protesting a policy change are not goons. Goons are mercenaries from neighboring countries (Chad for example) hired by the government to shoot those peaceful protestors.

    More importantly name calling is the first step to dehumanizing the opposition. If you can paint people as goons, or thugs or ragheads or whatever demeaning epithet you choose to ascribe, then it is easy to demonize them, step one of the xenophobia road.

    If you take the time to talk, to air the differences to hear what the other side has to say it is a little harder to just dismiss them as 'goons'. That's really one of the biggest values of collective bargaining, it is not just about getting more, but having a say.

    Full disclosure; I am a government employee, and member of a government union, ... not a goon.

  6. Welcome to Wisconsin!

    I'm an AFSCME member and cyclist, but not (yet?) a randonneur, in Madison. I try to check your blog at least a few times each week.

    It gets only worse, as the governor released his proposed budget for the coming biennium yesterday.


  7. Go labor! I really hope that this thing turns out well and have sent extra support money through my union (musicians 76-493).

    I smell a recall on Governor Walker. Just sayin'.