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Letter to the editor

Wisconsin protests coincidentally follow crisis in Egypt

February 17, 2011

Dear Editor,

It’s beyond ironic that the same day Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak stepped down,Wisconsin¹s governor Scott Walker announced an aggressively anti-democratic plan to strip state employees of their collective bargaining rights

In Egypt, Mubarak bowed to the popular demand for democratic reforms, while our governor struck a vicious blow against freedoms democratically secured over five decades ago.

To make matters worse, Governor Walker, surrounded by extra security at the State Capitol, revealed a long-planned contingency to call in the National Guard against state workers in the event of strikes or protests.

The National Guard hasn’t been deployed to suppress American workers since the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike in 1968, a cause with which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was strongly aligned in the days before his assassination.  The Guard hasn’t been pitted against Wisconsin workers since the Kohler strike by the UAW in 1934.

Collective bargaining was established to create a peaceful means of resolving labor disputes that were previously violent and had resulted in many deaths over the span of America’s history.

Though these matters don’t get much play in the local press, my friends around the country who read of them in such publications as the New York Times wonder if Wisconsin has lost its values and its mind.

It remains to be seen whether our area’s legislative members, Senator Sheila Harsdorf and Representative Dean Knudson, will show the courage to speak out against Walker’s outrageous power grab.

We need to hold them accountable and hear from them something more than the usual politicians’ self-serving happy-talk.

If they will not stand up for our rights, we should take heart from the peaceful successes of the citizens of Tunisia and Egypt and rise together to do what needs to be done.

Thomas R. Smith