In 2004, with the city of Springfield as on the verge of financial collapse, then-Gov. Mitt Romney offered a financial lifeline: a $20 million state grant to shore up the city’s budget.
But the check came with a significant catch: to get the funds, the city would have to agree to vacate its existing collective-bargaining agreements with municipal employees. After an outcry of protest from organized labor and its allies, the offer was withdrawn, and the city instead got a $52 million zero-interest loan, and a Finance Control Board to oversee its fiscal decisions.
It’s hard not to recall Springfield’s close call with a union-busting governor these days, in light of the political battle now playing out in the state of Wisconsin. Beginning last week, tens of thousands of protestors have crammed into the state capitol there to voice their displeasure with a budget proposal by Gov. Scott Walker that would strip municipal workers of their collective-bargaining rights.
Tomorrow, Western Mass. Jobs With Justice will host a rally on the steps of Springfield City Hall to show solidarity with Wisconsin workers. A similar rally is planned for the statehouse in Boston as well.
“What’s going on in Wisconsin is not an isolated event,” organizers of the Springfield event note. “Attacks on workers’ basic rights are sweeping the country. We will stand together to ensure it doesn’t happen here.
“This is more of the same old politics by politicians bankrolled by corporate CEOs. They’re trying to weaken or eliminate workers’ freedom to join unions so they can’t serve as a check on corporate greed to restore balance. We need to focus on creating jobs and restoring the middle class.”
The rally will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 22, at 4 p.m. on the steps of Springfield City Hall.