Thursday, February 17, 2011

On, Wisconsin!

So I left my bunker yesterday morning and ventured to Madison to join the protest of the latest Republican power grab.

It was amazing. Estimated crowd of nearly 30,000 people filled the area, and their voices rocked the Rotunda. Made me proud to be a participant in a democracy (even though what we really have is a plutocracy).

The American Federation of Teachers rep had arranged for a group of us to meet with our State Senator, He-Who-Shall-Remain-Nameless. After several minutes of conflicting information updates, one of his Minions appeared. Four people were selected to speak (I was one of them). First went the Prof from the school just up the highway. Then I went.

The Minion looked like he'd rather be drinking bleach than listening to what I had to say:
  • The attack on collective bargaining does not solve the budget problem or create jobs.
  • This bill will make us even less competitive for quality professors than we are now (after 4 failed searches for a World Languages position, we finally found someone; now we've got the third Comm/Arts search in as many years). California may have some of the same problems, but at least it's got better weather
  • Students are going to leave WI and take their brains and their earning power with them. Why would anyone want to be a teacher or nurse or corrections officer in this state if this is how we are going to be treated?
I finally had to tell the guy, "Write this down" because he was just sitting there. He kept reiterating that we have a $137 milllion shortfall, and this will fix it. Dumbass. We left the meeting angrier than we were when we got there.

I wish I had known what was reported in the Cap Times later that day--that the missing $137 million mysteriously happened right after Walker took office ( as of 1/31 the state was projected to have a balance of $121 million)--coinciding with $140 million in special interest spending he has approved in his first 6 weeks in office.

I do not mind paying a fair share. Neither does anyone I work with. However, we do mind being professors on food stamps (at least 3 of my colleagues are the sole income for their families, and because our salaries are so low in the first place, they will qualify). I am OK for now--my OH makes less than I do but we don't own a home, so our expenses can be managed. Thing Two is now two, so his daycare isn't quite as expensive as it was before. But I am seriously rethinking living in this state if this is how it wants to treat its public sector workers...and I'm not the only one.

As scarce as jobs in the humanities are, I might have to go back on the market--after finally earning tenure--to try to find a better-paying job. Or I might have to go back to the private sector, where I made better money and I still have connections.

I do not want to do this. I love being a teacher. None of us gets into this profession for the money, but it's disgraceful that we're not going to be able to make decent lives for ourselves (I work in the two-year system, so we're paid a LOT less than our counterparts in the 4-year schools).

And if you think I should just shut up and be thankful to have a job, do me a favor and shut the fuck up. I am grateful to be employed, but I'm not going to take a kick in the teeth and ask for another one.


  1. The part about this being a manufactured crisis is the most important thing. The dishonesty on the part of the governor and his allies in this farce is staggering.

  2. Thanks, Archie. The level of sheer gall is almost overwhelming.

  3. Standing behind you holding a torch and hayfork in spirit, BC.

  4. Of course the state's deficit is much larger (about 17 Billion or so), and the projected revenue shortfall for next year is around 3 Billion. But this measure has fuck all to do with deficits or shortfalls. All it does is keep the state's general fund in the black.

    This goes back to my point yesterday: gutting the pay and retirement of all those state employees will save the state 140 Million this year? That is chump change in the context of an annual budget that totals around 25.6 Billion and a projected shortfall of 3 Billion or so. It is theatre, plain and simple. It is meant to give the illusion of action, nothing more.

  5. First They came... - Pastor Martin Niemoller

    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.

  6. It's good that you stuck it to them, I wrote before, this whole thing is a return to the 1990s "shut the government down" GOP. Before they went after the welfare mothers and now they are going after the civil servants, even if they have to jury-rig a crisis in the first place. The only good thing these yobs have done is try to shut down USA PATROIT, and they're failing at that.

    Meanwhile, down in San Diego, CA. the county GOP abandoned their classy offices six months before their lease ran out, and left behind a mess of office furnature, campaign literature, and rotten food - and they have the balls to demand their securty deposit be returned in full.

    Also if you Google "Tony Krvaric" (the head of the SD County GOP) you will discover that in the 1990s he was a software pirate in Sweden, cracking software under the handle "Strider" for the Fairlight group of pirates. He has never denied any of this.

  7. It isn't much, BurntChrome, but for those of us in a state whose governor is still trying (unsuccessfully) to gut both the university and the arts budget, the stand Wisconsin union members are taking is inspiring.

    I (and no doubt my colleagues) salute you.

  8. Good for you for at least trying to speak truth to power, BC - even if the bastards aren't listening and are lying like rugs.

    What your governor and his cronies are doing is a standard right-wing tactic; our own scumbag PM up here has been doing the same thing for the last five years. First they spend every dime they can lay hands on, usually on law-and-order or similar, and run up the debt astronomically. Then they say "oh look! there's no money! there will never be any money again! Now we must cut spending to education and welfare and outlaw unions and let the poor starve in the street!" But the whole POINT of the exercise was to make sure there was no money, so that there would be an excuse to destroy unions and cut social spending. Because after all, the poor DESERVE to starve in the street; and if your parents can't pay megabucks for an education it's because God meant you to be a servant and you should bloody well know your place.

    I hope that the massive outcry at these tactics will make a difference, BC. With you in spirit.

  9. [Humming the Marseillaise in your honor] Thanks for reporting in, and thanks for standing up. It sounds like there's even deeper skullduggery than originally reported going on up there.

  10. BC we are so with you in spirit. From here, what can we do? Is there a petition circulating? I am happy to forward it to my fellow 10,000 colleagues.

  11. I'll just be over here, humming the Red Flag, and similar. You go, Chrome.

  12. This event got lengthy (by network news standards) coverage on the CBS evening news last night.

    Did we see you on TV ??

  13. If anyone is within driving distance of Wisconsin, please go join the protests there this weekend.

    I have to be honest: when I read that Walker's attack here was one he made himself within his first few days of office... I found myself shedding a few tears, in public.

    Wow. Just, wow.

  14. Rachel Maddow also has done extensive coverage of this story. It is just infuriating, and I'm with you in spirit as well.

  15. I will happily go to Wisconsin to teach as a "scab" once they start firing those who violate their contracts. There are plenty of MAs and Ph.D.s who are unable to find employment in this economy. My degrees are just as good as yours and I may as well have a job at your expense.

  16. Wow, scab and proud. Impressive.

    Dude, you'll find that you are next on the chopping block. They took the private sector in the 1980s; they're taking what's left of the public sector now; and soon enough you'll find your adjunct work gone, too (because one adjunct can tape enough podcasts to cover all the others who need work). And we won't be waving signs for you.

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  18. @Rightwing: So, what sort of startup package will you be expecting? Face it: if you take one of these jobs, at the very best, you will be on the adjunct treadmill, renewed yearly and utterly at the mercy of your student evaluations, for life. It’s hard to imagine a formula for a more mediocre, unchallenging education for our students than this.

    No one will offer you a tenure-track position, ever. Any remaining ancient, tenured silverbacks or any other senior people who remain at your new college will remember how you got your job, and any letters of recommendation you get them to write for you will reflect it, even if they like how cheap you are.

    No one will respect you, and that’s at the very best. So, academia is about the life of the mind and the search for truth, is it? I’d hang it up if I were you, and start looking for a more lucrative position in the private sector.


  19. Yeah, also Gov Walker is prohibiting any merit-based wages, so if you are hired at $11,000/year for adjuncting, you will only qualify for raises tied to inflation for the rest of your career.

    Go ahead, Right Wing. Move to Madison. I'm sure you'll love the perpetual poverty in a state already cutting all of its social services.

  20. I worked in a unionized position for five years before coming to the Southland, where I was APPALLED by labor conditions. My heart is with you, Wisconsin!

    I would detail for you the horrible history of our great state's tertiary ed funding, but it would almost certainly reveal where I work...and it's not called Humpshack.

    I recently heard that law enforcement wasn't facing budget cuts in Wisconsin. That's a good plan. Don't educate people. Put them in prison. Fan-fucking-tastic.

  21. My heartfelt thanks to all of you (except RightWing, who must have missed the end of my post where I said "...if you think I should just shut up and be thankful to have a job, do me a favor and shut the fuck up. I am grateful to be employed, but I'm not going to take a kick in the teeth and ask for another one." I'm not sure you'll get a job in Wisconsin, because at least for right now you have to know how to read.

    So since you missed it the first time, RightWing: SHUT THE FUCK UP.

    For the rest of you, thanks. We're fighting for all of you, too...

  22. @BlackDog: The police, firefighters, and state highway patrol are currently exempt from the cuts and removal of collective bargaining rights (partly because their state-wide unions backed Walker over Democrat Tom Barrett). This has not stopped police and sheriff's deputies (in and out of uniform) and firefighters (some in their dress blues, with bagpipers) from marching with us:

    I can tell you that when we heard the pipes, we went nuts.

    Corrections Officers (the ones who staff the prisons) aren't exempt.


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