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Mike Elk

Mike Elk is a labor journalist and staff writer for In These Times

February 22nd, 2011 12:49 AM

Madison Area AFL CIO Votes to Prepare For General Strike

This evening in a press release from IBEW Local 2304 President Dave Pokilinski, I received word that the 45,000 member Southern Central Federation of Labor, the local chapter of the AFL-CIO for the Madison and Southern Central Wisconsin area, has voted to make preparations for a general strike.

The press release reads as follows:

Around 10:50PM Wisconsin Time on February 21st the South Central Federation of Labor endorsed the following motions:

Motion 1: The SCFL endorses a general strike, possibly for the day Walker signs his “budget repair bill,” and requests the Education Committee immediately begin educating affiliates and members on the organization and function of a general strike.

Motion 2:  The SCFL goes on record as opposing all provisions contained in Walker’s “budget repair bill,” including but not limited to, curtailed bargaining rights and reduced wages, benefits, pensions, funding for public education, changes to medical assistance programs, and politicization of state government agencies.

It’s important to note that this is just a threat and not actually going out on a general strike. Under the Taft-Hartley Act a general strike in support of other workers is illegal; therefore the key word is the phrase “begin educating affiliates and members on the organization and function of a general strike”. In addition, only individual unions, not the central labor federation has the ability to call a strike.

Many private sector unions would not go out on a general strike out of fear of being of sued by their employers. However, local labor observers say many public sector unions and some of the construction unions would go out on a strike. Threatening a general strike creates even more pressure for Scott Walker in the business community.  The business community in Wisconsin already appears to bucking under the intense pressure of the mass labor mobilization as I noted here last week. .

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