Law and Disorder Radio – Wisconsin Labor Uprising – Human Rights Crisis Continues in Puerto Rico – Left Forum 2011 – Hosts: Heidi Boghosian, Michael Steven Smith & Michael Ratner – Produced by Geoff Brady

Law and Disorder Radio

NLG Send Attorneys to Tunisia

No Libyan-Style “Humanitarian Intervention” While Hundreds Killed in the Ivory Coast

172 Detainees in Guantanamo, 89 are Innocent and Approved for Transfer

Leaving 36 People Referred for Prosecution – Military Commissions Return

Extremely Dangerous: Executive Order on 47 Detainees –  Preventive Detention





 Wisconsin Labor Demonstrations Update

Organized labor is in the cross-hairs to be taken apart by the American elite. Last month, 10,000 people continued a multi-day occupation of the Wisconsin state capitol building while tens of thousands chanted outside. Meanwhile the country is gripped by the drama unfolding in Wisconsin, and it has inspired unions in other states to move in solidarity. Among those states are Montana, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Listeners may remember that Wisconsin trade unions have already conceded to wage and benefit cuts. Now the state is voting to repeal Section 11170, the Public Employee Bargaining Chapter. Update: Wisconsin GOP Allows State to Fire Employees for Strikes, Walkouts


Attorney Lester Pines:

  • Governor Walker is clearly a stalking horse for the far right wing of the Republican Party.
  • I’m not surprised at his behavior, he behaved this way as a Milwaukee County executive.
  • I told people he was going to try to repeal section 11170, which is the Public Employee Bargaining Chapter.
  • What’s at stake is an attempt by the governor and the legislature to strike at the heart of the Wisconsin tradition of organized labor.
  • Public employee bargaining has been in Wisconsin for 50 years. This is an attempt to tear apart generations of how Wisconsin operated.
  • On a federal level, this is an attempt to wipe away outside groups that back Democratic and progressive candidates.
  • Wisconsin has a bi-annual budget. The legislation is part of budget repair bill. In that legislation is a bill to eliminate all collective bargaining for all municipal and school district employees as well as for state employees.
  • There will be no bargaining if this bill passes. The only thing that can be bargained with is wages.
  • The bill also imposes a cap on wages. These are designed to essentially make it impossible for public employee unions to function in any meaningful way.
  • Scott Walker didn’t talk about what he would actually do.
  • If we look at the mass demonstrations in Madison, these are the biggest demonstrations I’ve ever seen here.
  • Impeachment is impossible because Republicans control the legislature and Senate; however he can be recalled.
  • The Democrats can’t be arrested in a criminal sense.
  • Governor Scott Walker has reignited the progressive movement in Wisconsin.
  • Until you get these Republicans out of office they’re going to do a lot of damage. They’re nihilists. They care nothing for public services. They care only for what their corporate puppeteers want them to do.
  • It looks like this whole anti-public sector union movement was actually planned out amongst all these new governors.

Guest – Labor attorney Lester Pines, in practice since 1975, concentrating on civil trials, criminal defense, labor & employment, and business. A Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, Mr. Pines is a highly respected civil and criminal litigator who has appeared in courts throughout Wisconsin and litigated federal matters in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio and New York.

 Human Rights Crisis Continues in Puerto Rico

More than a year ago nearly 100,000 people took to the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico to protest the layoff of about 17,000 public employees. The demonstration shut down all state-owned enterprises including the island’s schools and colleges. Two days before that strike the governor passed a bill aimed at dismantling the Bar Association. Protesters were warned that if they stopped commerce, particularly at the docks and airports, that action would be sanctionable to federal law. Now, as human rights violations continue, students and faculty demonstrate against the dismantling of the progressive curriculum and tuition hikes. Law and Disorder Interview with Judy Berkan October 2009



Attorney Judy Berkan:

  • Wholesale attack on institutions of Puerto Rican society where any dissent could be lodged.
  • The Puerto Rican Bar Association, a real forum for those without a voice. Attacks have come to the Bar Association, elimination of mandatory Bar membership and imposed draconian restrictions upon the Bar Association. They took away a great deal of our funding.
  • The president of the Puerto Rican Bar Association was jailed for speaking out against a lawsuit that could take away life insurance from poor lawyers.
  • There’s a one month prohibition on leafleting and expression in the University of Puerto Rico.
  • The closing of the legislative chambers. Right now there is a US Department of Justice investigation and talk of a trusteeship of the police department here.
  • The use of the tactical operations of the police to repress dissent has been intensified.
  • All of our public spaces are being closed off to legitimate dissent, while people engaged in peaceful dissent are being attacked.
  • Austerity: Part of the remedy of the economic crisis there was an increase in tuition of $800. But much more at stake.
  • More than that there is question of the vision the University of Puerto Rico will take in the future.
  • The emphasis appears to be on privatization as it is throughout the government. We’ve been suffering these programs since 2009.
  • We were the guinea pigs. There’s more violence here–if we occupied the state house here, we would’ve been met with pepper spray, gas and beatings as we were when we attempted to demonstrate outside the state house last June.
  • The economic programs are really the model that’s being used by Republican governors in the US.
  • The University situation is really wallowing in the wind without a real solution.
  • The Bar Association and their presence is very crucial to public debate in Puerto Rico.
  • I think people are getting tired, we do have 2 more years left of this administration.
  • The police department is still in the hands of a former FBI agent who has openly encouraged violence against protesters. We have a raging crime rate.
  • What’s distressing for all of us here who care about these matters is the media black out in the United States.
  • Are we training people to be managers at McDonald’s or are we training people to think about the future of Puerto Rico?

Guest – Attorney Judith Berkan, is a partner in the San Juan law firm of Berkan/Mendez. She specializes in government misconduct litigation and employment discrimination cases. Berkan worked as an attorney in New Haven, Connecticut before going to Puerto Rico as the staff attorney for the Puerto Rico Legal Project of the National Lawyers Guild, now the Puerto Rico Civil Rights Institute. For twenty-seven years, she has been teaching, primarily in the Constitutional Law area, at the Inter-American University Law School in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

A frequent speaker and author of many articles on civil rights issues, she was the President of the Human Rights Commission of the Puerto Rico Bar Association in the mid-1990s and a member of the Commonwealth Supreme Court’s task force on gender discrimination.

Left Forum 2011

The 2011 Left Forum convenes this spring, March 18-20. This is the largest annual conference of a broad spectrum of left and progressive intellectuals, activists, academics, organizations and the interested public. Conference participants come together to engage a wide range of critical perspectives on the world, to discuss differences, commonalities, and alternatives to current predicaments, and to share ideas for understanding and transforming the world.

Guest – Stanley Aronowitz, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at CUNY Graduate Center, where he is director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Technology and Work. He has taught at Staten Island Community College, University of California-Irvine, University of Paris, Columbia University, and University of Wisconsin.