As thousands of workers continue to descend on the state capital in defense of collective bargaining and as media personnel question the Governor as to when or if he will negotiate with protestors and Senate Democrats, the primary response from Walker has been that it is about money, it is about balancing the budget. Walker has yet to make a move toward negotiation, even after local, state, and public school employees constructed an offer that maintains collective bargaining and still achieves the goal of balancing the state budget.
Obviously, money is king and Walker’s unwillingness to negotiate reflects the growing divide in the United States between authority and powerlessness, wealth and poverty, and citizen and non-citizen. This divide affects public and private workers, for whether it is the state or corporate authority the intent is the same: to control and to maintain the status quo. The workers protesting the bill agree that the state deficit needs addressed and are willing to do what they can as members of the state to correct it. However, Walker’s failure to negotiate signals an intention that expands beyond money and budgets to severing the connection between authority and workers.
No group in the United States better understands the inequitable relationship between higher authority and common labor than immigrants who have historically been active participants in organizations and unions that aim to protect them from employer abuse, inhumane immigration policies, and discrimination. Without such organizations there would be nothing to defend immigrants from governmental and corporate exploitation.
Governor Walker’s bill, as pointed out by Voces de la Frontera, also includes stipulations that eliminate health care for undocumented pregnant women and prevent legal immigrants from access to Badger Care. Unfortunately, the stripping of civil liberties from immigrants is not a new phenomenon but one that has historically drawn concern from various organizations, worried that injustice to immigrants would eventually affect citizens as well. The American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born, an organization both leftist and patriotic, expressed concern throughout the 1930s that increased militarization, deportation, and outright ignorance of human rights toward immigrants in the United States was simply a foreshadowing of the potential to pass measures to suppress the liberties of all people.
Voces de la Frontera and other immigrant groups are no strangers to collective action. They know and have experienced the success that can be met when a great number of people work together. Though immigrants are not always supported by all citizens, Voces de la Frontera is fighting for the workers of Wisconsin by taking part in the protests and providing bus transportation from Milwaukee to Madison. We, as citizens, must be vigilant of the way local, state, and federal governments challenge the civil liberties of immigrants because if those suppressions are ignored there is nothing to prevent broader attacks on human rights.
As I am writing this I know there are people who will claim that collective bargaining is not a human right that access to health care is not a human right, and that questioning our government’s policies is not a human right. If not, then what exactly are humans entitled to fight for? And in that case, why are there tens of thousands of people marching in Madison?