Sunday, October 7, 2012

My Analysis of AFSCME Propaganda


I came across an advertisement last semester at UW Eau Claire and again two weeks ago, the same advertisement at UW Stout in the English department. It was a poster colored a greenish white with the phrase, “I’ll give up anything for Wisconsin except my rights” and the acronym AFSCME at the bottom.
     This poster gets the reader to identify with it because of its lack of clutter and stark phrase. I was not familiar with the acronym AFSCME so this poster compelled me to look up the acronym online and I discovered a public workers union. The AFSCME used this poster to get the reader to identify with freedom, liberty and rights of the individual public worker, or those in civil service positions such as child care, food service, health care, public-sector corrections officers, university employees, social workers and other public places where people fill job requirements (afscme.org).
     The issue the AFSCME was addressing with their compelling poster was the argument between the unions and predominately right wing politicians to eliminate collective bargaining to balance the state of Wisconsin’s budget. Collective bargaining consists of negotiations between an employer and a group of employees so as to determine the conditions of employment (cornell.edu).
     The public worker identifies with the statement “I’ll give up anything for Wisconsin except for my rights” 
because he is willing to make concessions, but not at the high price of eliminating a union they believe is their right in a free society to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They identify with the people of a society to depend on their government as “we the people” dictating what politicians can and cannot do. To public workers, cutting collective bargaining is the same as cutting the voice of “we the people” which was the beginning of American culture.
     The values of the public worker are fairness and equality, a working middle class, economic justice, and a voice on the job. They support a government that will defend these values and protect their rights as public workers not oppose the progress of the public sector and eliminate the rights they experience in the workplace.
     The values of the public sector reminded me of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the many government reforms that were made in America in the 1930s because the enemy of a thriving economy was seen as unemployment. Roosevelt depended largely on the Keynesian theory which turned to the federal government to create employment by spending sums of money for public workers (Lowman and Thompson and Grussendorf 544). During this time such programs that we enjoy as citizens today were created for example: federally guaranteed jobs, housing, income, and old-age pensions (Lowman and Thompson and Grussendorf 544).  Also during the 1930s, the labor strike became a common occurrence and labor unions started becoming a powerful force politically in the United States (Lowman and Thompson and Grussendorf 550). Interestingly, the AFSCME traces its beginnings back to the year 1932 (afscme.org).

     The phrase “I’ll give up anything for Wisconsin except my rights” grabbed my attention because of the 

last two words “my rights”. Immediately images of sacrifice given to America by diverse groups flooded my 

mind, particularly missionaries and military families and immigrants.  What “right” did the AFSCME have to claim they had any “rights” they could not give up, that millions before them had already given?
     I decided to research the beginning of unions in America since I also value freedom, civil responsibility and rights. In the early beginnings of colonial America, those of like trade formed guilds to further their skills in their chosen vocation (Lowman and Thompson and Grussendorf 384). After the Civil War, local trade unions and national trade unions were formed (Lowman and Thompson and Grussendorf 385). The American Federation of Labor had goals such as netter wages, shorter hours, the six-day work week, and elimination of child labor. Their founder, Samuel Gompers, supported strikes meaning employees refusal to work. He was against violence and non-recognition of authority (Lowman and Thompson and Grussendorf 386).
     I agree with Samuel Gompers because I respect human life and their possessions. I should be able to have a voice on the job and I should be able to expect reasonable work demands and payment from my employer. Right wing politicians like Scott Walker, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as well as myself and other “right wingers” hold to values of freedom, life, responsibility and rights. We just believe that government should only create the conditions for happiness and prosperity not actually create happiness and prosperity by catering to every persons “rights” (Lowman and Thompson and Grussendorf). The government’s version of happiness and prosperity can be seen in the wrong treatment of the Native American Indians. The American government put them on reservations and gave them their needs. My family drove through some Indian reservations on our vacations out West and many of them were face down drunk in their own vomit. I do not want to be haphazardly taken care of by a government with rationed portions of food, shelter and clothing with nothing to live for unless I leave what was given to me.
     To me, freedom allows me to perform my duty as a human being on planet earth. Freedom allows me to pursue a life whether it is a career, a family, a hobby, and/or a place among my community. To me, liberty is a matter of serving and loving other human beings.
     In order to have this, responsibility must be considered. Anything that attacks or threatens freedom must be questioned and opposed. If I love the freedoms I possess I must be willing to defend and protect the free life. There is a price tag on freedom. Rights will be disputed over. Everyone has a right to a free life but not everyone is willing to pay for this life or carry their responsibility to live a free life. Enter the laws of the land:
     Like the public worker, the right wing does believe in “we the people” dictating to our political representatives what they can and cannot do. Discrimination is a way of protection for all living beings and it is something government officials do when creating, passing and enforcing laws. A human rapes another human of their virginity; they must be punished to protect the freedom humans should have to choose who they give their body to. A human being takes the life of another fellow man; he must be punished to protect the sanctity of human life. A human being steals his neighbor’s possessions; he must be punished to protect the freedom we possess to earn our own wealth. The list and situations could go on and on.
     Government officials are fallible and so are the citizens of any country as both are men attempting to govern men. Laws can be manipulated and misused against the original purpose of the law: to punish wrong 

doing and reward righteous acts. Adolf Hitler is my prime example of someone twisting the law to pervert 

good and evil.When the law becomes a vehicle that inhibits freedoms such as punishing innocent lives and rewarding discriminated groups that have previously threatened freedom (rapists, thieves, murderers, ext) those who love humanity must oppose the law until it is restored to discriminating right versus wrong (Angwin 22-23).
     I feel the AFSCME promotes thinking similar to John Locke (1632-1704) that the governed give the law of the land its authority (Lowman and Thompson and Grussendorf 104). If  this were the case, any society and culture could do whatever is right or wrong as they reasoned or felt leaving one society to accept rape as “just the way it is” while deeming killing other humans as expendable “an okay deal”.
     I believe the theory of William Blackstone (1723-1780) about the law of nature being the will of God not 

whatever a human mind figures makes sense. Depending on the thinkers of any given society leaves a nation 

open to instability and defenseless against those that would destroy what semblance of order and morality a 

society possesses. “Since the laws of nature carry out the will of God, they are, as they relate to mankind, 

totally equitable and just. It is man’s responsibility to comply with these laws in relation to his fellow men…because of Adam’s fall, man’s reason, important as it is, is not sufficient for establishing laws to govern mankind and that only in Scripture are such divine laws revealed” (Lowman and Thompson and Grussendorf 104-105).
     Instead of taking “we the people” as my final authority, I propose taking “God said and it was good” and experiencing liberty at a whole new level. For example, in 1776, the King of England had broken his contract by refusing to protect and ensure the rights of his subjects in the New World; therefore, the Declaration of Independence was written and America was born (Lowman and Thompson and Grussendorf 104). A few years later, the country of France decided to revolt but “rather than fighting for the rights of others, men murdered and plundered their fellow citizens for personal gain and revenge” (Lowman and Thompson and Grussendorf 149).
     Instead of focusing on “my rights” that I will not give up for Wisconsin, I think the citizens of this state should focus on the benefits for all living a Wisconsin life. Not just the public worker but the parochial school teachers, the church staff, the farmer, the soldier, and small business owners. When fighting for rights becomes about what is “my rights” and what is “your rights”, the focus has been taken off the good of humanity as a whole and helping our society to only being concerned with one group over another group. I would like to conclude my critical analysis of the AFSCME poster by including an article I submitted to the Flipside in September of 2011 which is University of Wisconsin Eau Claire’s alternative press:
Questioning the Recall
     Governor Scott Walker has recently made another 65.7 to 113.2 million dollar cut to the UW systems 

according to Volume One’s Ali Drew. University of Wisconsin Eau Claire’s Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich was quoted as saying, “In 2001, the state provided 64% of our operating budget while tuition …comprised 36%. In 2011, those percentages are essentially reversed.”  This led me to ask the questions “Is it so bad that students will have to pay for their education? How much are students willing to work to pay for a higher education? Have students considered the value of the education they are getting?” The price tag of “free” on something as valuable as education may be why students are not taking their college careers seriously.
     I am a college student, for a second time around, actually. I obtained my first degree at a non-accredited Bible college where we received no federal funding. Therefore all our classes were scheduled before noon every day and most students worked second and third shift jobs. We paid a little more for our degree but most of our graduates are working in their field or are out working. We hired a handful of teachers that had either worked or were working in the field they were teaching. Transferring to a UW system school brought culture shock: I could choose classes morning, noon, or night and I could choose from a smorgasbord of teachers, to name only two differences.
    Three out of my four classes this semester the teacher gave out non-classroom related material to fill up 

class time, did not cover most of their syllabus, or showed up late repeatedly. I have heard several 

classmates remark about other classes and the complete waste of time they are experiencing with teachers in 

regards to regurgitating verbatim what the students have already read in textbooks prior to class. I have also 

heard students remark about teachers walking out of the classroom when asked for help by the students. 

With Walker’s budget cuts, maybe these should be the teachers that go? After all, they really are not doing 

what they are being paid to do. 

Hire or keep a handful of teachers that can teach and drop the three quarters that cannot. Educators are important but not at the price the unions are putting on their career.
    My observations on the recall Walker rally’s and petitions is they are not about principles of right and wrong but the issue of necessity over convenience. Modern day Americans want their “rights” not what is right. Is education a right or is it a privilege? Do you appreciate something more if you worked and sacrificed for it? Is this about putting Wisconsin in the black and the state as a whole or is this about the money driven UW system and one group of educators? (As a side note, just because I have a four year degree with the wrong accreditation, I have to start all over as a freshman. I did not picket that my rights were violated because I have to pay money to education for another four years. I am inconvenienced out of money and time but when knowledge is power and is the only thing that cannot be taken away from a person; I think the sacrifice is worth it.)
      Is this about money or is this about giving a quality education to our children by keeping core classes strong with a handful of dedicated teachers instead of a smorgasbord of teachers with shoddy classroom skills emulating their bad habits to the next generation? Some would argue that cutting education costs is unethical because it is education that helps society. I was talking to a psychology grad from a local university and he told me two of the people he went to school with are in prison. When our university’s still have ongoing alcoholism, drug abuse, and sex weekends maybe we should research a new solution for mankind’s problems instead of handing out free schooling.
     The recall for Scott Walker seems to be about putting the needs of the educators in front of the rest of 

Wisconsin, not the needs of Wisconsin as a whole. The recall seems to be about putting educators at a higher worth than other people and other careers in society. It seems to me that a small portion of citizens got their personal lives violated and are asking the majority to sacrifice on their behalf. The principle of what is right is being sacrificed on the altar of what is convenient for a few people.
     As a final word to the “99%”, have you checked out the “70%” of the rest of the world that is more poor than you?

Works Cited
AFSCME. “75 Years of History”. Web. 6 October 2012. www.afscme.org
Angwin, Dr. Richard. Gay Rights Justice or Judgement. Minnesota: Revive America, Inc., 1983.

Print.

Cornell University Law School. “Collective Bargaining”. Legal Information Institute. Cornell University, 1992. Web. 6 October 2012. www.law.cornell.edu/wex/collective_bargaining
Lowman, Michael R., Thompson, George, and Kurt Grussendorf. United States History Heritage of Freedom. Florida: Pensacola Christian College, 1996. Print.