Scott Walker’s war against Wisconsin workers is reaching a tipping point as he and his corporate cronies attempt to pass a budget to fund his government through the next year. Walker has used the impasse between the parties as an excuse to jam several new controversial and non-budgetary related pieces of legislation into the final bill. A common, if not very shady tactic, the Wisconsin State Journal reported that the 24-pages of additions are a lobbyist’s menu of pet projects, ranging from allowing police officers to withhold information regarding police shootings, expanding the amount of lead allowed in paint, expanding the amount of services that predatory payday lenders may use to extort funds from the poor and the vulnerable, and removes accountability rules on the sale of military surplus items.
But the biggest items hidden among the mundane and the arbitrary are direct shots aimed at organized labor and the Wisconsin working class. He proposes to remove the right of workers to have at least one day off a week, allowing companies to pressure their workers into working seven or more days straight. It would entirely remove the hundred-year old definition of a worker’s right to a living wage- defined as enough money to provide “minimum comfort, decency, physical and moral well-being,” and replace it with the “minimum” wage- which is a paltry $7.25 an hour. This comes right as a labor group, Wisconsin Jobs Now, is suing Walker over the failure of $7.25 to fulfill the needs of a living wage and demanding that he form a commission to determine a more appropriate amount.
It’s a clear concession to one of Walker’s major campaign contributors, the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, which relies on a low minimum wage to keep profit margins high and their workers exploitable. Wisconsin worker Cornell White remarks that “I am a hard working man. It’s disgusting that these Republicans would rather force me to feed my son with food stamps instead of standing up to their corporate lobbyist friends.” The successes of Los Angeles and Seattle provide strong evidence that increasing the minimum wage to $15 provides huge benefits across the economy. Under Walker’s plans and the Republican handbook, workers are kept in near-poverty while the money goes to big corporations and the wealthiest Wisconsinites. It’s an absolute travesty and an insulting dismissal of the struggles of the American worker, who Walker and the GOP don’t even pretend to represent anymore. With luck, Wisconsin Democrats will prevail in preventing these awful provisions from passing.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.