Pogo, Pence, Gould and London

I thought of Pogo, Jim Pence, Jay Gould and Jack London when I read that almost four in ten Wisconsin union households voted to help sustain Scott Walker, the Dairy State's union- busting Republican governor.

Citing exit polls, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel online reported that in the recall election, Walker "won 37% of union households in 2010 and 38% in 2012 — about the number that polls show represents the percentage of voters in union households that are Republican."

"We have met the enemy and he is us," famously said Pogo, the wise little cartoon swamp possum.


"Never before have so few with so much promised to take away so much from so many and then laugh their asses off as the so many with so little vote for the so few with so much," aptly observed Pence, who kindly lets this union-card carrying Hubert Humphrey Democrat regularly have his say on this blogsite.

Walker would have loved Gould, a union-hating millionaire financier and railroad tycoon. “I can hire one-half of the working class to kill the other half," bragged the old Robber Baron --dubbed “the perfect eel” -- after he hired scabs to break a strike.

Of course, there’s another way to crunch the Wisconsin numbers. Sixty-two percent of union households voted for Walker’s union-endorsed challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, whom Walker beat in 2010. At the same time, union members themselves voted for Barrett, 71-29 percent, according to exit polls The Washington Post reported.

If everybody in Wisconsin had voted like union members or union households, Barrett would soon be moving to Madison, the state capital.

Yet the figures also show Walker, one of the most viciously anti-union governors in Wisconsin history, still managed to sucker many union supporters.

Walker’s strategy for wiping out unions is “divide and conquer” – his words. So he started with public sector unions. His GOP-majority legislature passed his bill gutting their collective bargaining rights. 

Walker exempted police and firefighter unions, presumably thinking they were more GOP-friendly. Also part of his con job was leaving private sector unions alone.

Doubtless he counted on a lot of the exempted union members to say something like, “too bad about the teachers and government workers, but my ox isn’t being gored.”

Even so, most union members – including more than a few cops and firefighters – saw through Walker’s scam and voted for Barrett.

A lot of them figure Walker is taking a page from Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels' playbook. Walker is a big fan of Daniels, who has used the same “divide and conquer” scheme to hobble Hoosier unions.

When he first took office in 2005, Daniels nixed collective bargaining for state employees.

At the same time, he promised not to push a right-to-work law. Walker says he won’t either, for now.

Earlier this year, Daniels got behind a right-to-work bill which passed the Republican-majority Indiana legislature. If the Republicans win back the state senate in November, I'd bet the dairy farm, Walker will work overtime to add Wisconsin to the roll of right-to-work states.

Walker has a history with right-to-work, writes Jack Craver of the Capital Times online in Madison. “The governor, who sponsored unsuccessful right-to-work legislation as a state legislator, refused to state a position on the issue throughout the campaign, insisting that it would not come up in the near future.”

Right-to-work laws are designed to weaken or wipe out all unions by allowing workers to enjoy union-won pay and benefits without joining the union and paying union dues.

Meanwhile, Kentucky, too, had a near close encounter of the worst kind with Walker. Last year, he came to stump for Republican gubernatorial hopeful David Williams, a pro-right-to work Walker wannabe.

Union-endorsed Gov. Steve Beshear beat Williams in a landslide and won a second term.

Bluegrass State labor leader Jeff Wiggins thinks union members who voted for Walker will rue the day they helped keep him in office. “Their time is coming, too,” predicted Wiggins, president of the Paducah-based Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council.

Also president of Steelworkers Local 9447 and a member of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO Executive Board, Wiggins said Wisconsin union members who voted for Walker elevated "selfishness over solidarity.

"It's this ‘I’ve got mine and let everybody else get theirs' attitude. Republicans like Walker, Daniels and Williams love for working people to think that way -- it's what the Republicans think.”

Of course, pitting workers against each other is one of the oldest union-busting strategies around. It’s what Gould meant.

Anyway, those Wisconsin union members who voted for Walker though he shafted thousands of other union members put Wiggins and me in mind of “Ode to A Scab,” attributed to Jack London:

After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, the vampire, He had some awful substance left with which He made a scab.  A scab is a two-legged animal with a cork-screw soul, a water-logged brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten principles. When a scab comes down the street, men turn their backs and angels weep in heaven, and the Devil shuts the gates of Hell to keep him out. No man has a right to scab so long as there is a pool of water to drown his carcass in, or a rope long enough to hang his body with. Judas Iscariot was a gentleman compared with a scab. For betraying his master, he had character enough to hang himself. A scab has not. Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. Judas Iscariot sold his Savior for thirty pieces of silver. Benedict Arnold sold his country for a promise of a commission in the British army. The modern strikebreaker sells his birthright, country, his wife, his children and his fellow men for an unfulfilled promise from his employer, trust, or corporation. Esau was a traitor to himself; Judas Iscariot was a traitor to his God; Benedict Arnold was a traitor to his country; a scab is a traitor to his God, his country, his family and his class.



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