Tuesday, March 01, 2011


Here in PA some of us attended the Harrisburg "We are Wisconsin" rally last Saturday, and while the turnout of 1000 was respectable, I was surprised not to see a more concerted presence from the state unions. Now I know why:
March 8 is when Pennsylvania gets its first look at the new fiscal reality as interpreted by Corbett and his pro-business administration.

Whereas Walker is using Wisconsin budget deficits as an ideological excuse for gutting collective bargaining rights, Corbett is said to have started a dialogue with unions.

“From every indication we get from the Corbett administration, it’s a given these are going to be difficult times, but the governor wants to sit down with us, said David Fillman, executive director of AFSCME, which represents 45,000 of the Pennsylvania’s 75,000 state workers.

“The draconian proposal in Wisconsin is not present in Pennsylvania,” he added.

AFSCME so hopes Corbett will stick to Marcellus Shale giveaways as a policy priority that the union chose not to participate in the “We Are Wisconsin” rally at the Capitol this weekend.

“We don’t have a problem here in Pennsylvania, and we don’t want to bring any spotlight to a nonproblem. We are very supportive of the Wisconsin workers, but right now we are just doing local events in Pennsylvania,” Fillman said.
Over the long years, AFSCME's leadership here in PA has been known for timidity in negotiations. Members in my own union, SEIU, have complained on more than one occasion of the spoiling of contract negotiation terms by AFSCME, which was known to roll over on its belly at the drop of the Boss's hat when SEIU would have tried to fight on for more. The fact that AFSCME in PA maintains such a huge majority among public unions has always ensured that their negotiations would establish the baseline for all the rest of us, and as soon as they completed their negotiations, the rest of the unions simply threw in the towel and accepted the same deal.

So the fact that Fillman is making such scaredy-cat noises already about not wanting to make Corbett mad, so much so that he will not even make a nominal show of support to his brothers and sisters in Madison, can only mean the rest of us will be thrown under the bus as soon as Corbett makes a frowny face.

Last night I watched the American Experience doc on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory massacre, and the pictures of young and old women being beaten by hired thugs and police as they tried to stand together for their rights made me wonder: how many of us have the heart to stand like that, under far less dangerous conditions, for the very thing they died for? Not David Fillman, you can bet on it.

UPDATE: I forgot to comment on Fillman's remark that "We don't have a problem here in Pennsylvania..." This kind of idiotic assertion is exactly what is wrong with the negotiating brains at AFSCME. Corbett threw down the gauntlet to labor during his campaign: 10% across the board cuts to agencies, sweeping changes to workers' hard-earned pensions including a "special session" (read: constitutional amendment), and he has backing through the Koch brothers. I don't know what the hell Fillman thinks is going to happen here. A cotillion?