By Elizabeth DiNovella on August 25, 2011

Eric Cobb is getting a lot of email today. Cobb, executive director of the Building Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin, has been hearing from members who are feeling the effects of Governor Scott Walker's budget. For the first time, their paychecks reflect the cuts rammed through the legislature earlier this year.

"In February, people didn't want to talk about what was going to happen with the cuts. People were in denial," Cobb told me on the phone. "They can't do it anymore. They got their checks today or yesterday. Now I'm flooded with email from them."

The so-called budget repair bill requires most state workers and many other public employees to pay steep increases for pension contributions and health insurance.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, for the average state worker making $50,000 a year, the deductions add up to a 9 percent cut, or roughly $4,400, in take-home pay. But many workers make less than $50,000 and for them, the cuts go deeper.

"Some took a $200 hit on the first check," said Cobb. "I have some non-represented custodial workers whose checks are annihilated. Now, people are saying they may have to drop their health insurance in order to feed their kids."

Ah, yes, the freedom of choice in FitzWalkerstan: healthcare or food on the table?

The Building Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin, along with AFSCME Local 171, ASFCME Local 2412, TAA, the Student Labor Action Coalition, and other activist groups, held a Unity Lunch on the U.W.-Madison campus today. There were brats and music and an open mic.

Cobb said the event was fantastic, given the horrible situation workers are facing. "We saw the solidarity today that we saw in February and March," he said. "Rank and file members had a chance to talk about how these austerity measures are affecting them."

He stressed that this isn't simply a union issue. "It seems like Scott Walker and GOP rubber stampers are going after unions," said Hobb. "But the sad part is those who are unrepresented who are going to feel it the most. Some have just had a quarter of their income taken away from them."

Cobb spoke to me on his way to set up the PA system for the "Day of Impact" demo at the Capitol. People will be marching from campus, up State Street, working its way up to the Capitol. Around 5:45 pm, people will once again occupy the Capitol Rotunda. How long will they stay?

If you liked this story by Elizabeth DiNovella, the Culture Editor of The Progressive magazine, check out her story Wisconsin Workers Feel the Pinch."

Follow Elizabeth DiNovella @lizdinovella on Twitter.

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Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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