The labor battle in Wisconsin is part of a well-orchestrated effort on the part of the Republicans to wipe out unions as an effective force in the United States.
It's not about budget cuts. Unions in Wisconsin have already agreed to the cuts that Gov. Scott Walker has demanded.
No, it's about crushing labor unions for both political and economic reasons.
Politically, it would destroy an institution that supports the Democratic Party, as well as other liberal and progressive groups.
Economically, it would drive wages down for employers across the board.
And it would help Republicans rob the public sector of resources and siphon them off to private contractors. This has everything to do with privatization.
To carry out a privatization agenda, the Republicans must eliminate all obstacles.
Unions are one of these.
Solidarity between private sector workers and public sector workers is another impediment, so they are trying an old tactic of "divide and conquer."
Yet another hurdle is the whole idea of "the public" or "the common." We enjoy public parks and public libraries and public airwaves, but the privatizers want us to believe that nothing that is public is good, including public education.
Regardless of the outcome of the battle in Wisconsin, the good news is that segments of organized labor and allies are finally standing up. People are learning from the courage of the Arab democratic revolt thousands of miles away that people in motion can make an amazing difference.
Yet stubborn and courageous resistance will not be enough. To that resistance must be a new vision of public service that places the unions as guardians of the public's interests rather than as guardians of the interests of their members alone.
This means a different sort of unionism, a social justice unionism, one that defends public spaces and upholds public values at the same time as it revitalizes the workers' movement in America.
The vision of labor must match the malevolence of its enemies.
Bill Fletcher Jr. is an editorial board member of BlackCommentator.com, senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the co-author of "Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice." He can be reached at email@example.com .
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