At Bunny Headquarters, Solomon P. Bunny, union executive secretary, and a militant corps of Easter bunnies were preparing picket signs. I walked in, notepad in hand.
“Excuse me, Mr. Bunny, why aren’t your members delivering eggs this week?”
Bunny looked up from the papers on his desk, chomped harder on his cigar, looked at me, scowled, and answered harshly, “Don’t you know!?”
“No, sir,” I replied apologetically. “I always thought you were happy and content delivering Easter eggs.”
“We love it,” growled Bunny, “but the Wisconsin Legislature doesn’t love us.”
“I will admit the newly-elected governor and the newly-elected conservatives in the Legislature were a bit authoritarian in what they did to the rights of the workers.”
“Authoritarian, heck!” said Bunny, “they’re the models of a fascist government in how they took away our rights.”
“But don’t the people have a right to balance their budget without excessive union demands?” I asked.
“Listen, Ink Breath, Wisconsin had a $120 million surplus just three months ago. The deficit isn’t because the public employees’ pensions and wages but more than $140 million in tax breaks the Republicans gave businesses, and another $200 million it pays every year to Wall Street investors. Add in all the travel perks and legislator benefits and you have a pile of money to stack your lies upon.”
“But I read that public sector employees make more than those in the private sector.”
“You read it where? In newspapers?” When I didn’t answer him quickly, he continued. “Yeah, thought so. The Center for Economic Policy Research—that’s an independent think tank—independent, you get it?—Independent, as in not funded by FOX News or Progressive Democrats of America—said that public sector workers, when compared against the same criteria as private sector workers, actually earn 4 percent less.”
“Even with these facts, I doubt you’d have much support,” I said, noting that while most taxpayers want programs they don’t want to pay taxes and think union workers are greedy opportunists who deserve to be thrown on their tails, even if made of cotton.
Bunny went into one of his files, pulled out a sheaf of papers, and slammed it on the desk. “Read it!” he commanded. Not wanting to further upset a furious bunny, I skimmed the report that revealed about two-thirds of Americans support the rights of collective bargaining, even if they have serious problems with unions and how unions operate.”
“But those are polls,” I challenged. “Numbers can be manipulated to say anything.” “How’s this for a number? In Madison one day, 100,000 citizens went to the capitol to explain things to their legislators. Even the cops and firefighters who had endorsed Republicans during the election were there as part of the working class.”
“And the legislators heard their concerns?”
“You crazy? Most snuck in and out of their offices, like the weasels they are. America is being mocked by other countries for what it’s doing to the workers.”
“But we have the highest standards of living,” I countered.
“Listen, Lead-type-for-brains, collective bargaining is one of humanity’s most fundamental rights. Says so in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, approved by 48 countries in 1948.”
“But the Wisconsin governor says he never planned to kill all collective bargaining, just the public sector ones. And only because it would help the people.”
“You’ve got to be the dumbest piece of cow excrement walking around,” said Bunny. First you believe the newspapers, and then you believe some politician!”
Humbled, I apologized. “I can see your point,” I said, feeling a little sorry for the bunnies, but I quickly recovered, reasserting my spine as a hard-hitting investigative reporter. “I assume you want everything. More wages, vacation days, sick days, larger pensions, no-pay medical benefits, shorter work weeks.”
“You been sniffing newsprint? Haven’t you learned anything?! Sure, we want better work conditions. But, most of all, we want the right of collective bargaining negotiation. We ask for stuff. They don’t want to give us stuff. We negotiate. Just like unions have done for two centuries.”
“There’s still the matter of the Easter eggs. Are you so self-centered that you would deny the people of Wisconsin the right to hunt and capture hard-boiled cholesterol?”
“We don’t want to harm the decent people of Wisconsin, whether or not they’re in a union.”
“So you will deliver Easter eggs this week!” I said, thrilled that the bunny union was relenting.
“This is off-the-record, but everyone will get their eggs. It’s just that some people in Wisconsin may be getting 20-year-old eggs. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to preparing for a demonstration.”
As I left, Solomon P. Bunny was multi-tasking on three different phones and two computer screens. But, he warned if the rotten eggs of the Legislature and their buddies in corporate industry don’t stop pretending how religious and patriotic they are, while consistently violating the principles that Jesus stood for, “this will be the last Easter they will ever celebrate.”
[Walter Brasch is a social activist and award-winning journalist. His next book is Before the First Snow, a look at America’s counter-culture and the nation’s conflicts between oil-based and “clean” nuclear energy. The book is available at amazon.com]