A Dane County judge has ruled that the anti-collective bargaining law championed by Governor Scott Walker—legislation that would ultimately lead to the failed effort to recall the controversial Wisconsin governor—is unconstitutional under both the Wisconsin and United States Constitutions.
While the news will, no doubt, bolster the spirits of Wisconsin unions fighting to regain their collective bargaining rights, they should not allow their hopes to get too high.
The case will, inevitably, end up in the Wisconsin Supreme Court where that highly partisan and political body—with the majority firmly in the camp of Governor Walker—is almost a sure bet to overrule the lower rule’s decision.
In the meantime, the impact of the ruling on existing union agreements remains unclear.
While the unions will seek to have the court’s decision take effect immediately, thus clearing the way to a return to the collective bargaining table in the state, the Walker administration will surely seek a stay pending review by the highest court in the state.
In response to the ruling, Governor Scott Walker issued a statement accusing Judge Juan Colas of being a “liberal activist” who “wants to go backwards and take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the legislature and the governor. We are confident that the state will ultimately prevail in the appeals process.”
Wisconsin Assembly Minority Leader, Peter Barca responded by saying, “This decision will help re-establish the balance between employees and their employers.”
By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, September 14, 2012
I’ve mentioned here before that I spent most of my childhood in LaGrange, Georgia, a town that was dominated in a profoundly feudal sense by Callaway Mills, one of the stalwarts in the fight against unionization of the southern textile industry. In the public schools there, we began classes each year on Labor Day, an impressive gesture of contempt for the American labor tradition.
We are not that far from a major lurch in that direction on a national level. It received little national attention during the Republican National Convention, but South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s speech presenting her backward, poverty-stricken state as a union-free paradise of happy workers seemed very much the wave of the GOP future. With the exception of a handful of self-styled “progressives” or “liberals”–or such savvy pols as Richard Nixon who cut deals for political support with particular unions–Republicans have always been considered the “anti-labor” party. But they use to pay automatic respect to the basic legitimacy of unions and collective bargaining, certainly in the private sector. Not any more. Republicans used to hide their anti-union bias and when in power sought to roll back labor rights quietly through control of regulatory bodies like the National Labor Relations Board. There is every indication that if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan win on November 6, the kind of loud-and-proud in-your-face hostility to unions that I grew up with will become national policy instantly.
Does that matter to Americans who aren’t union members, or are working in industries with little or no union presence to begin with? Of course it does. Unions greatly affect labor markets, and act to create upward pressure on wages and benefits–not to mention public safety net programs–affecting conditions of employment far from their specific bargaining units. And as Harold Meyerson points out in his Labor Day column today, the weakening of union power has played a big role in steadily eroding ability of wage earners to secure improvement in living standards despite rising skill levels and productivity:
Are American workers becoming less productive? On the contrary, a Wall Street Journal survey of the Standard & Poor’s 500, the nation’s largest publicly traded companies, found that their revenue per worker increased from $378,000 in 2007 to $420,000 in 2010. The problem is that workers get none of that increase. As economists Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon have shown, all productivity gains in recent decades have gone to the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans, in sharp contrast to the three decades following World War II, when Americans at all income levels shared in the productivity increases.
The primary plight of U.S. workers isn’t their lack of skills. It’s their lack of power. With the collapse of unions, which represented a third of the private-sector workforce in the mid-20th century but just 7 percent today, workers simply have no capacity to bargain for their share of the revenue they produce.
The implicit message of some business leaders and their political allies these days seems to be: you should count yourselves lucky for having any jobs at all, so shut up about your eroding wages and disappearing benefits and non-existent job security and under-seige public safety net!
And an even more offensive implicit message is coming from the “we built that” rhetoric of the GOP, which doesn’t just deny government’s role in making individual business success possible, but that of workers as well, who are viewed as interchangeable, expendable material shaped and deployed by heroic “job creator” capitalists, to whom all glory, laud, honor and profits must accrue to keep the American economy moving.
It’s a way of thinking and living that takes me back to the LaGrange, Georgia of the early 1960s. Better take advantage of this and every ensuing Labor Day. There’s no guarantee it won’t be, in some respect or another, the last.
BY: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 3, 2012
Members of Congress who questioned Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker when he testified before a US House committee last year are asking the chairman of that committee to help them determine whether the controversial anti-labor governor made deceptive statements while under oath.
The ranking Democratic member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, joined Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly and Connecticut Congressman Christopher Murphy in signing a letter to Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-California, which asks Issa to contact Walker and seek “an explanation for why his statements captured on videotape appear to contradict his testimony before the committee.”
The Congressmen began their letter: “We are writing to request that you ask Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to clarify his testimony before our Committee hearing on April 14, 2011, in light of a new videotape taken of Governor Walker three months earlier and an article published last week by The Nation entitled “Did Scott Walker Lie Under Oath to Congress?” Did Scott Walker Lie Under Oath to Congress?’”
Here’s the May 14 article that got members of Congress asking questions anew of Governor Walker:
Did Scott Walker Lie Under Oath to Congress?
When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker met with a billionaire campaign donor a month before he launched his attack on the collective-bargaining rights of public-sector workers and public-school teachers, he engaged in a detailed discussion about undermining unions as part of a broader strategy of strengthening the position of his Republican party.
After he initiated those attacks, Governor Walker testified under oath to a Congressional committee. He was asked during the April 2011 hearing to specifically address the question of whether he set out to weaken unions—which traditionally back Democrats and which are expected to play a major role in President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign—for political purposes. Walker replied: “It’s not about that for me.”
During the same hearing, Walker was asked whether he “ever had a conversation with respect to your actions in Wisconsin and using them to punish members of the opposition party and their [union] donor base?”
Walker replied, not once but twice, that the answer was “no.”
So, did the governor of Wisconsin lie, under oath, to Congress? The videotape of Walker talking with Diane Hendricks, the Beloit, Wisconsin, billionaire who would eventually give his campaign more than $500,000, surfaced late last week. Captured in January 2011 by a documentary filmmaker who was trailing Hendricks, the conversation provides rare insight into the governor’s long-term strategy for dividing Wisconsin. And the focus of the conversation and the strategy is by all evidence a political one.
In the video, Walker is shown meeting with Hendricks before an economic development session at the headquarters of a firm Hendricks owns, ABC Supply Inc., in Beloit. After Walker kisses Henricks, she asks: “Any chance we’ll ever get to be a completely red state and work on these unions?”
“Oh, yeah!” says Walker.
Henricks then asks: “And become a right-to-work [state]?”
Walker replies: “Well, we’re going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill. The first step is we’re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer.”
After describing the strategy, Walker tells the woman who asked him about making Wisconsin a “completely red state”: “That opens the door once we do that.”
In a transcript of raw footage from the conversation, Hendricks asks Walker if he has a role model. Walker replies that he has high regard for Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who early in his term used an executive order to strip collective-bargaining rights away from public employees and who, more recently, signed right-to-work legislation. Walker described the use of the executive order to undermine union rights as a “beautiful thing” and bemoaned the fact that he would have to enact legislation to achieve the same end in Wisconsin.
Within weeks, the woman who asked Walker about his strategy to make Wisconsin “a completely red state” wrote a $10,000 check to support his campaign. (She would eventually up the donation to $510,000, making Hendricks the single largest donor in the history of Wisconsin politics.) Within a month, Walker had launched the anti-union initiative that the two had discussed as a part of that “red-state” strategy, provoking mass protests that would draw the attention of Congress.
Testifying under oath to the US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Walker said in his formal statement and in response to questions from committee members that his efforts to restrict the collective-bargaining rights of unions— including moves to prevent them from collecting dues, maintaining ongoing representation of members and engaging effectively in political campaigns—had nothing to do with politics.
Walker was asked specifically about a Fox News interview with Wisconsin state Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald, in which Fitzgerald said of the anti-union push: “If we win this battle, and the money is not there under the auspices of the unions, certainly what you’re going to find is President Obama is going to have a much difficult, much more difficult time getting elected and winning the state of Wisconsin.”
Congressman Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, asked Walker about Fitzgerald’s statement. “I understand you can’t speak for [Fitzgerald] but you can opine as to whether you agree with your state Senate leader when he says this is ultimately about trying to defeat President Obama in Wisconsin. Do you agree?”
“I can tell you what it is for me,” Walker answered. “It’s not about that. It’s ultimately about balancing the budget now and in the future.”
Under questioning from other members of the committee (especially Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich and Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley), however, Walker admitted that many of the moves he initiated had no real impact on the state budget.
They did have the impact of weakening unions in the workplace and in the politics of the state, however.
It was in that context that Congressman Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia, pressed Walker on the matter of political intentions.
“Have you ever had a conversation with respect to your actions in Wisconsin and using them to punish members of the opposition party and their [union] donor base?
“Never had such a conversation?” Connolly pressed.
“No,” said Walker.
The videotape from several months earlier, in which Walker speaks at length with his most generous campaign donor, suggests a very different answer to the questions from Murphy and Connolly. Indeed, the videotape shows Walker having just such a conversation.
By: John Nichols, The Nation, May 22, 2012
With the Battle of Wisconsin reaching a temporary lull after the recent recall elections, attention is shifting to another midwestern state, where opponents of recently enacted union-bashing legislation have far exceeded the threshold of petitions needed to get a referendum repealing the measure on a November ballot.
With polls consistently showing Ohio voters favoring the repeal initiative (by 50-39 in a new PPP poll, and by larger margins in earlier polls), Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislative leaders are suddenly asking for meetings to seek a compromise on Senate Bill 5, which was enacted in March on a party-line vote.
Kasich hurried to sign the bill soon after it passed in order to force opponents to seek a referendum this year rather than in the higher-turnout 2012 presidential cycle.
But now Republicans are seeking to head off the referendum, or (since SB 5 opponents have made it clear that total repeal of the bill is a precondition to talks about how it might be replaced with compromise legislation) more likely, trying to strengthen their hand in the referendum fight by appearing reasonable. It’s a little late for that.
So the referendum fight is fully on, and as November approaches, you can expect the kind of national labor/progressive coalition that mobilized for the Wisconsin recalls to focus on Ohio.
By: Democratic Strategist Staff, August 19, 2011