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,