Democracy, Fundamental Rights and Freedoms at Risk in USA As Wisconsin and Other States Attack Unions

Workers across the world are shocked to see the rights of teachers, health workers and other public employees attacked in the ’Land of the Free’. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and other Republican Party state governors including in Indiana and Ohio have launched a major assault on the rights of public sector workers to union representation and collective bargaining, with heavy pay cuts and new obstacles to freedom of association. Demonstrations have taken place in several US states over recent days, as opposition grows to the coordinated anti-union onslaught, which has its roots in the ultra-conservative “tea party” movement.

“Violating these fundamental democratic rights in other countries such as China, Egypt, Guinea or Mexico is rightly condemned by the US, so what are people to make of such abuse of power in the US itself?” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow. “The rights to organise and bargain collectively for fair wages and conditions are cornerstones of any democracy, and removing these rights means democracy itself is under attack.”

Moreover, the economic and employment crisis will not be fixed by taking away workers’ incomes. These moves will destroy, not create jobs, as household incomes fall and economic demand falls even further. This is just as true in the US as it is in anywhere else in the world.

Governor Walker’s threat to mobilise the Wisconsin National Guard, which he said were “fully prepared to handle whatever may occur”, has provoked outrage. “This threat is simply incredible especially if we look to those countries today which have mobilised military and security forces against peaceful demonstrators,” said Burrow.

“Teachers, nurses and other public employees provide vital services to the public, and the offensive against them is also an attack on the community, children in schools, the sick and infirm in medical care, and the most vulnerable in society who rely on public services. The USA was built on the foundations of freedom and democracy, but will certainly lose its claim to be the Land of the Free with this kind of extremist agenda,” said Burrow. “Opposition to these attacks is growing in the US, but it is a fight for fundamental freedoms which has implications well beyond the borders of the country. The entire international trade union movement stands in solidarity with these American workers whose rights are under such heavy attack, and we will do everything we can to support them.”