Monday, February 21, 2011

Stories from Madison: Vikki the Teacher

The Daily web newspaper site is a great source of information about the protests.

As the protests began on Monday, February 14, they ran an article by a teacher that is well worth reading, “I am not the enemy: A Wisconsin teacher considers Walker's budget,” by Vikki Kratz.

She is a second year elementary school teacher who loves her job. She talks about the budget cuts and how they hurt her children, who are mostly poor in her rural Wisconsin district.

Governor Walker’s demands for teachers like her to take further wage cuts and increase out of pocket health costs – an average Wisconsin public sector worker will lose $3,200, a university study found – will not help go to help her school. They will not restore jobs or prevent layoffs. They will not stop the rising class size, or buy inadequate supplies.

She talks candidly (and reluctantly) about her personal finances. She makes $36,000 a year. She has a bachelor’s degree, and has studied for a master’s degree and is one course short. Walker wants to cut her pay by $400 a month.

She admits she has no idea how she will survive on that pay cut. She was barely getting by as it is – car payments, mortgage, crushing student loan debt, food, gasoline, taxes.

I think we need more stories like Vikki’s. We need to work harder to personalize what is happening to America’s working class. We need to tell more stories. We need everyone to step up and tell their stories – just as hundreds of people have been doing in the hearing room on the fourth floor of the State Capitol, testifying to legislators about the impact of the dreaded union busting bill on their lives, on their families, on their neighbors.

The Republican story line is cut, cut, cut; attack and blame public workers and unions.

Our story is about real human beings, who have already sacrificed and are barely getting by, being told to give more and more.

Although, if you’re a frequent reader of the “comment” area under articles, which takes patience and stress control, then you may want to look at the comments under Vikki’s poignant story.

Many are supportive and add new information.

Many others are along the lines of “I’m also a worker, I took huge wage cuts, I pay huge amounts for my health care… so you should stop crying and suffer even more, like I have had to.”

Worker attacking worker. You might call it anti-solidarity, the opposite of solidarity. “I don’t care about you. I don’t care about anyone else but me. I’ve suffered, so I want everyone else to suffer, too.”

How do we reach those workers? They’re angry, too. They’ve many good reasons to be angry, too. But they don’t turn their anger against the tax cuts for the rich. They don’t turn their anger against a booming Wall Street, giving out tens of billions in bonuses. They turn their anger against other workers.

How do we reach them?

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