Friday, March 18, 2016

Labour & Pop Culture: Wisconsin

This week’s installment of Labor & Pop Culture is “Wisconsin” by Whitehorse. It was released in 2012 and is about Wisconsin’s 2011 Act 10 (the so-called Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill). This bill sought to address the state’s $3.6B deficit by cutting public services, public service wages and healthcare and retirement benefits as well as restrict collective bargaining.

The Bill was remarkable for its attack on public-sector collective bargaining rights.
Total wage increases could not exceed a cap based on the consumer price index (CPI) unless approved by referendum. Contracts would be limited to one year and wages would be frozen until the new contract is settled.

Collective bargaining units are required to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union. Employers would be prohibited from collecting union dues and members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues. … 
Local law enforcement and fire employees, and state troopers and inspectors would be exempt from these changes.
Home-care, child-care, health-care and university professors also lost the right to bargain. It is interesting to contrast this response to a deficit with Alberta’s current response (which is to maintain funding for core public services). And, in this sitting of the legislature, the government is also expected to extend the right to strike to public-sector workers (following a Supreme Court ruling on a Saskatchewan case).

They're bustin' unions in Wisconsin
We got mojitos by the pool
We got a talent for distraction
No reaction to the colic and the cruel

They're sinking battleships at midnight
We change the channel on a dime
When they break to a commercial, dress rehearsal
In our catatonic prime

Time is moving on
There's no marching band
Just some fuzzed out credits
Names of strangers
And a night cap in your hand

They're digging ditches in Zuccotti
We're getting famous by the hour
All our pirates are Johnny not Somali
Trading bad seeds for flowers

Everybody's got a ticket and a backstage pass
Everybody's going somewhere, someday
Even the mighty, they won't last

Night I had a dream... you were there
Weaving through the burrows
Down the highline
With daisies in your hair

They're bustin' unions in Toronto

I'm coming down from wishful thinking and the like
I'm sober as a judge
But the jury's out...
Drinking tonight

They're bustin' unions in Wisconsin
And praising Jesus in the schools
They keepin' science in the basement
Speaking tongues and making fools

-- Bob Barnetson

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