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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The New York Times nails it
Posted by Jill | 4:29 AM
The realities surrounding Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's true agenda are no longer the exclusive province of the blogs:
As Eric Lipton reported in The Times on Tuesday, the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, who have long been staunch union opponents, were among the biggest contributors to Mr. Walker. (Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group financed by the Kochs, will begin running anti-union broadcast ads in Wisconsin in the next few days.)

Some public sector unions have contracts and benefits that are too rich for these times, but even when they have made concessions, Republican officials have kept up the attack. The Republicans’ claim to be acting on behalf of taxpayers is not believable.

In Wisconsin, union leaders agreed to concessions requested by Mr. Walker: to pay nearly 6 percent of their wages for pension costs, up from nearly zero, and double payments for health insurance. At that point, most governors would declare victory and move on. Instead, Mr. Walker has rejected union concessions and won’t even negotiate. His true priority is stripping workers of collective-bargaining rights and reducing their unions to a shell. The unions would no longer be able to raise money to oppose him, as they did in last year’s election, easing the way for future Republicans as well.

The game is up when unionized state workers demonstrate a sense of shared sacrifice but Republican lawmakers won’t even allow them a seat at the table. For unions and Democrats in the Midwest, this is an existential struggle, and it is one worth waging.

And in a piece "below the fold" on the paper's web site's op-ed page, a reminder of why unions are important, and what happens when we rely on corporations to do what's right (whether our own employer is union or not):
In The Times’s grim, vivid account on March 26, 1911 — the day after the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire — these words appear: “The victims who are now lying at the Morgue waiting for some one to identify them by a tooth or the remains of a burned shoe were mostly girls from 16 to 23 years of age.” There were 146 victims in all, 129 of them women.

Nearly a century later, the names of the last unidentified victims have been discovered, thanks to the work of a historian named Michael Hirsch. They are Maria Giuseppa Lauletti, Max Florin, Concetta Prestifilippo, Josephine Cammarata, Dora Evans and Fannie Rosen, all buried together beneath a single monument in the Cemetery of the Evergreens on the border of Brooklyn and Queens. This completes the roll of the dead in one of the city’s worst and most important fires.

The fire started late on a Saturday, possibly in a waste bin, just before the Triangle shirtwaist factory closed for the day. The flames and smoke spread quickly, and there was no way to escape. The building was supposedly fireproof, the stairwell doors were locked and there was only one internal fire escape, which quickly buckled under the weight of bodies. Before the fire engines arrived, the terrified workers began leaping from the upper windows to their deaths.

The outer building did not burn; it still stands at 23-29 Washington Place. The horror there brought about sweeping changes in fire safety codes, workplace regulations and conditions for working women.

The owners of the factory had managed to fight off the International Ladies Garment Workers Union right through the 1909 and 1910 garment factory strikes (good information here).

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