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America’s union revolution grows, but Obama remains unseen

Published time: February 23, 2011 22:15
Edited time: February 24, 2011 01:36

As thousands of outraged protesters march on their state capitols in a fight to maintain their workers’ rights – US President Barack Obama has stayed behind the scenes, opting not to get involved.

"It already is a revolution here," said Lucy – a protester who slept on a mattress inside the Madison Capitol building.

A revolution of tens of thousands of workers fighting to preserve the rights that their state is trying to rip away has been taking place in Wisconsin – rights of public sector unions to effectively protect their working conditions.

"All the people I grew up with in Milwaukee have public sector jobs. And I'm tired of people pretending that somebody is going to solve these problems for us," said protester Eric who traveled to Wisconsin from Canada with his baby son Wednesday to support the crowds.

The State Capitol, where lawmakers were set to pass the controversial bill, has been stormed by protesters, who are spending days and nights inside the building, eating, sleeping, and fighting back.

As protests that started in Wisconsin have spread to other states, an uprising of the middle class is becoming a trend in America. Many of the demonstrators are not just fed up with the state governments, but the inaction of the federal government too.

The question on the lips of many is “Where is Barack Obama?”

"I voted for Obama but I am tired of Democrats turning their backs. The only Democrats who stepped up are the ones who left the state," explained one demonstrator.

To most of the people rallying, the issue of a nation tired of struggling is far from local and can't be ignored by the President.

"We've only heard him say one statement really on this matter. America is asking – why isn't Obama here? Why isn't the President getting more involved?" asked Sarah, a Wisconsin student.

The crowds are also voicing blame for the economic turmoil that got them into this in the first place.

"We're here because of Wall Street reckless gambling and greed. People are suffering," said Mary Bottari, director of the Real Economy Project of the Center for Media and Democracy.

The people also argue the White House rescued the banks, leaving the people to drown.

"His comments that we have to tighten our belts were not very helpful. President Obama will not win 2012 without states like Wisconsin. And he should be here standing with the workers," explained Mary Bottari.

The lack of solidarity is only strengthening these workers commitment to their fight. As outrage spreads across the country it may be just a matter of time until it reaches Washington forcing Obama off the fence.

Richard Eskow, a senior fellow at the Campaign for America's Future argued Obama is hoping he will be able to move on without having to lay out his views clearing. It is not in his interests to alienate big business at this time.

Hoping to keep as low a profile as possible in order to not alienate or offend anybody,” he explained.

The strategy assumes union workers will vote for Obama and the Democrats over Republicans anyhow, no matter how strong Obama comes out in support of union protests.

It’s a risky strategy,” Eskow pointed out.

Obama needs his base, but also needs other support groups. He has to hope he will not cut off the base and will continue to maintain corporate backers and moderates. It may work, or could come back in 2012 to haunt the Democrats.

Will Urquhart, a managing partner at Sum of Change Productions was surprised and disappointed not to see President Obama at the protests speaking clearly on the union issue.

There is growing anger directed at Obama and the Democratic leadership in general he said.

I can understand there is a tendency in Washington not to get involved into local issues – it’s justifiable. However, I think it’s impossible just to claim this is still a local issue. There is a nation-wide assault on the Union State taking place,” he remarked.

There is a year ahead of the forthcoming 2012 presidential elections, and Obama still has great approval ratings. But no one knows how the bill, if taken, may change the situation.

Right now there is a serious moment in American history taking place and we are seeing Unions being attacked all across the country. I am not thinking of 2012 right now, I ‘d like to see him stand up for this issue right now,” Urquhart said.

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