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A Public Awakening: Wisconsinites Should Be Proud Of What They Accomplished

The history of the American labor movement is crowded with losing battles and crushing disappointments. The men and women who have fought for workers’ rights, often against tremendously long odds, have all too often suffered defeat and humiliation, only finding consolation in the idea that their efforts perhaps succeed in awakening a bit of public sympathy for their plight, inching their larger cause forward in unseen ways.

Yesterday unions and Democrats fell just short of victory in Wisconsin, winning two of six races to recall GOP state senators, in a battle that had unexpectedly emerged as ground zero in a national class war, partly over the fate of organized labor. There’s no way to sugar-coat it: Unions and Dems failed in their objective as they defined it, which was to take back the state senate, put the brakes on Scott Walker’s agenda, and let the nation know that elected officials daring to roll back public employee bargaining rights would face dire electoral consequences.

But nonetheless, what they failed to accomplish does not diminish what they did successfully accomplish. The fact that all these recall elections happened at all was itself a genuine achievement. The sudden explosion of demonstrations in opposition to Walker’s proposals, followed by activists pulling off the collection of many thousands of recall signatures in record time, represented an undiluted organizing triumph. At a time of nonstop media doting over the Tea Party, it was a reminder that spontaneous grassroots eruptions of sympathy and support for a targeted constituency are still possible and can still be channeled effectively into a genuine populist movement on the left. At a time when organized labor is struggling badly and GOP governors earn national media adulation by talking “tough” about cracking down on greedy public employees, what happened in Wisconsin, as John Nichols put it, amounted to “one of the largest pro-labor demonstrations in American history,” one that carried echoes of the “era of Populist and Progressive reform in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.”

What’s more, no matter how many times conservatives falsely assert that labor and Dems subverted the popular will by fighting Walker’s proposals, in reality precisely the opposite happened.

By staging a fight that drew national attention, labor and Wisconisn Dems revealed an unexpected level of national sympathy for public employees, and, yes, for unions and their basic right to exist. This alone was an important achievement, flummoxing pundits who had confidently predicted that public employeees would make easy public scapegoats for the national conservative movement in dire economic times.

Even if Dems fell short of their objective in Wisconsin, what happened was, in fact, a referendum on Walkerism — one that conservatives lost in the mind of the broader public. Nate Silver Tweeted last night: “Dems would be silly to not proceed with the Walker recall based on tonight. The results project to a toss-up if you extrapolate out statewide.” I don’t think Dems will go through with it, but Silver’s larger point is intact: Walkerism triggered a strong public backlash that can’t be dismissed and will remain a factor. As Markos Moulitsas noted, the Wisconsin battle enabled Dems to hone a class-based message about GOP overreach that is showing some success in winning back white working class voters, with potential ramifications for 2012. The national outpouring of financial support for the Dem recall candidates showed that there’s a national liberal/Dem constituency that can be activated by Dems who don’t flinch from taking the fight to opponents with unabashedly bare-knuckled populism.

Will the national support for public employees in polls slow the drive of conservatives and GOP governors to roll back bargaining rights nationally? Probably not. Conservatives will point to yesterday’s events, with some justification, as proof that governors might not suffer direct electoral consequences in response to radical union-busting policies. But what Wisconsin showed us is that the broader public simply isn’t on their side. Let’s hope national Dems take heart.

The events in Wisconsin were a blow to organized labor. But the simple fact is that labor and Dems came within a hair of realizing an objective that was dismissed at the outset of this fight as a delusional lefty pipe dream. Wisconsin won’t chasten the left; Wisconsin will embolden it. And those who poured untold amounts of time and energy into the Wisconsin effort shouldn’t regret their efforts for a second.

 

By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line-The Washington Post, August 10, 2011

August 10, 2011 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Class Warfare, Conservatives, Democracy, Democrats, Elections, GOP, Gov Scott Walker, Government, Governors, Ideology, Labor, Media, Middle East, Neo-Cons, Politics, Populism, Public Employees, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Teaparty, Union Busting, Unions, Voters, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Right-Wing Jobs Program For America: To Apply, Just Go Directly to Jail

Attention jobless Americans! If you’re among the millions of long-term unemployed people searching in vain for a job, here’s a hot tip: they’re hiring in Wisconsin.

There’s one little catch, though, you have to be a Wisconsin jailbird to get one of these dandy positions. But that’s no hill for a climber — I’m sure America has plenty of out-of-work folks who are enterprising enough to move to the Badger State, steal a six pack from a 7-Eleven, go to jail, and become eligible. I should mention, though, that you won’t get paid.

This so-called “work opportunity” is the first tangible product of Gov. Scott Walker’s corporate-scripted mugging of the collective bargaining rights of teachers and other civil servants. Having stripped public employees of their democratic rights in the workplace, government managers can now replace them willy-nilly with low-wage workers — even with free prison labor.

Jim Ladwig, the executive honcho of Racine County, has leapt on this like a chicken on an extra-juicy June bug. The day the law took effect, he announced that such jobs as landscaping and snow shoveling would be transferred from unionized county workers to prisoners. The captives will receive no pay, but they could be rewarded with reduced sentences. “We have a win-win when we use the inmates,” Ladwig exulted.

He’s not the only one thrilled with this scheme to take middle-class paychecks from public employees. The Washington Examiner, a far-right newspaper that cheers on the privatization of public services, hailed Racine County’s jailbird ploy as “great news for Wisconsin taxpayers. Hopefully, we’ll see more of it.”

So there you have the right-wing’s idea of a good jobs program for America. When Walker ran for governor last year, he promised to create 250,000 new jobs, and now he’s delivering. To apply, just go directly to jail.

By: Jim Hightower, CommonDreams.org. Originally Published by OtherWords, August 1, 2011

August 2, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, GOP, Gov Scott Walker, Government, Governors, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Labor, Middle Class, Politics, Public Employees, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Unemployed, Union Busting, Unions, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oh Really!: Gov Scott Walker Reports Net Gain Of 9,500 Jobs

Wisconsin added 9,500 jobs last month, in part because of a renewed focus on drawing tourists to the state, Gov.Scott Walker said Thursday.

The state added 12,900 jobs in the private sector but lost 3,400 government jobs in June, according to seasonally adjusted numbers released by the state Department of Workforce Development. The net gain of 9,500 jobs accounts for more than half the 18,000 net jobs created across the nation during the month.

The governor credited the state’s numbers to “a rebirth of tourism” following broad efforts to publicize Wisconsin’s state fairs, ethnic festivals and sporting events.

“Tourism is more than a $12 billion industry in the state of Wisconsin,” he told reporters in Milwaukee. “This is about putting people to work.”

He said he didn’t have details on which specific industries gained jobs. However, the Department of Workforce Development confirmed that almost half the private-sector growth was in the leisure and hospitality industry. There were 6,200 jobs created in that sector last month, and 3,300 more jobs than in June of last year.

A reporter asked whether the new jobs were seasonal and would be gone in several months. Walker replied that some were summer jobs but that an unspecified number would carry over into subsequent months.

“You certainly have a summer blitz when it comes to lakes and our other attractions, but you come back in the fall for hunting and you come back in the winter for snowmobiling and skiing,” he said.

When asked if the new jobs pay livable wages Walker said the job numbers released Thursday were sorted only by industry, not income. He added that his focus has always been to attract well-paying jobs.

Walker was joined at his news conference by Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett. She said Walker’s budget increased the department’s funding by 20 percent, allocating an additional $2.5 million toward attracting visitors from other states.

“We ran a $3 million marketing campaign this summer,” she said, “and I think today with this announcement we are seeing the results in a big way.”

She said some of the new jobs were year-round positions at popular resorts.

Even though Wisconsin added nearly 10,000 jobs in June, the state’s unemployment rate actually nudged upward for the month to 7.6 percent, up 0.2 percentage points from the previous month. That’s because the job numbers and employment numbers come from two separate surveys, DWD spokesman John Dipko said in an email.

The jobs number comes from workplace data, while the unemployment rate is based on a survey of households, he said.

Unemployment figures encompass Wisconsin residents who are available for work and actively seeking jobs.

The state Democratic party said the preliminary job numbers look promising, but party chairman Mike Tate said it is important to know specifically what types of jobs were being created.

“Will these jobs support Wisconsin families or will they bolster the profits of corporations that benefit from the downward pressure on wages and benefits that comes at the hands of Scott Walker’s attack on collective bargaining?” he said in a statement.

The state’s unemployment rate has hovered around 7.4 percent for the first five months of the year. The state figure generally has been about 1.5 percentage points better than the national rate. That trend continued last month as the U.S. unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage points to 9.2 percent.

 

By: Dinesh Ramde, Associated Press, July 22, 2o11

 

July 25, 2011 Posted by | Economy, Gov Scott Walker, Governors, Politics, Wisconsin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Timing Is Everything: Wisconsin Democrats Fret Over Strategy For Walker Recall

Timing is everything.

With the legislative recall campaigns designed to dispose of enough GOP senators to return the upper body of the Wisconsin legislature to Democratic control well underway, attention is now turning toward the future of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Certainly, should the senate recall efforts turn out well for the Democrats, the excitement will be there to continue the process and take a shot at sending Scott Walker back home to Milwaukee.

The question is when to begin that effort.

Wisconsin law requires that once a petition drive to recall an elected official begins, those engaged in the effort have just 60 days to collect enough signatures to equal 25% of the total number of votes cast in the prior gubernatorial election.

That is a tall order- which is why many Wisconsin Democrats believe that they should get the Walker recall petitioning campaign going just as soon as the senate elections are wrapped up and while passions remain high.

In a normal situation, I think these folks would be right.

The problem is that any electoral strategy of this nature must rely on the election laws of the state when contemplating moves that work to the favor of one political party or the other. Unfortunately, the application of the law in Wisconsin – thanks to one of the most bizarre State Supreme Courts one can imagine – is anything but reliable.

Because of this unusual state of legal affairs, as we will see in a moment, getting the petition drive going sooner rather than later could result in a very unfortunate ending for those who would like to see Governor Walker go away.

First, an explanation of how things are supposed to work in the state.

Under Wisconsin election rules, once the recall petitions are turned in, election officials have 31 days to issue a “certificate of sufficiency” or “certificate of insufficiency”. Assuming the petitions are deemed sufficient, the Wisconsin Constitution requires that an election be scheduled on the first Tuesday six weeks following the certification of the election.

While the law appears completely clear that the only exception to the six week period would be where the party attempting the recall requires a primary to determine who their candidate will be- in which case the primary would be held six weeks after certification with the actual recall election to take place four weeks after completion of the primary- Wisconsin, as noted, does not appear to always operate to the letter of the law.

Thus, the Democratic concern is that were their recall petitions to be delivered for certification by the end of this year, or early in 2012, the GOP would work to move the statutory date when the recall election should take place to the date of the statewide election already scheduled for just a few weeks later.

That election happens to be the Republican presidential primary which is scheduled for the first week in April.

Obviously, if you’re looking to turn out Republican voters to support Governor Walker, the day of the Republican presidential primary would be about as good as it gets.

How, you might ask, could the GOP succeed in delaying an election that should take place no later than, say, the middle of February (assuming the petitions are in by the end of this year), until April?

Assuming that the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, a non- partisan organization that oversees Wisconsin elections, would set the date for a statewide recall election according to the Constitutional requirements, the Republicans would likely engage in any number of challenges for the purpose of delay, including a court action(s) based on the argument that it is not in the best interest of the state to hold an election in February when one is already scheduled for the first week of April. After all, having to pay for two statewide elections when both could be held within a few weeks of the statutory date seems an unnecessary waste of state monies that are in short supply.

Never mind that the early April election just happens to be the GOP presidential primary.

Where would such a court action eventually be decided?

In the Wisconsin Supreme Court – the astoundingly politicized body where the friends of Scott Walker maintain a narrow majority thanks, in no small part, to the now infamous Justice David Prosser.

Maybe the Court would follow the law – maybe they would not.

Thus, were the Democrats to proceed with the recall effort shortly after the conclusion of the senate recalls next month, they may well be placing the future of Scott Walker in the hands of the Wisconsin Supreme Court – the last place they would like the matter to be decided.

The other option would be to wait until after the GOP presidential primary and try to time the recall election to take place on November 6, 2012, the day of the national elections. The strategy would be to pick that day based on the expectation that many Wisconsin Democrats will turn up to cast their vote for President Obama.

Of course, it would be impossible to pull this off given the state GOP’s willingness to get involved with dirty tricks. Were the Democrats to time things contemplating no primary election to pick the Democratic candidate, we can count on the GOP to run a ‘fake’ Democrat, as they did in numerous senatorial recall elections, to force a primary to throw off the timing. Were the Democrats to anticipate a fake primary, and time the recall election for 10 weeks following certification rather than six, the GOP would, no doubt, stay away from such a primary, resulting in the recall election happening a month before the November general elections.

Clearly, the Wisconsin Democratic Party finds itself in a very tricky position and one created by the uncertainty that comes when the state’s top judicial body cannot be counted upon to simply follow the law as written.

And therein lies the moral to the story. When we can no longer trust our judiciary to rule with fairness and according to law, democracy suffers.

While I may hold a few opinions, I really don’t know when the Wisconsin Democrats should seek to hold the recall election.

What I do know is that the Section 12 of the Wisconsin Constitution, drafted in 1926 and amended in 1981, is explicit and completely clear on the subject of how recall elections are to be handled and that no provision is made to alter the prescribed date of a recall election taking into consideration any factors other than those set forth in the state Constitution.

For Wisconsin Republicans -and supporters of Governor Walker- who would seek the political benefits of holding the election to recall Scott Walker on the day of the Republican primary rather than the day prescribed by their Constitution, I hope these people will bear in mind the deeply troubling hypocrisy of holding themselves out as ardent supporters of the Constitution only to turn their back on their own founding document when it is politically expedient to do so.

Personally, I hope the Wisconsin Democrats proceed immediately with the effort to recall Governor Walker.

If the state’s highest court -and those who believe that the Constitution trumps all- are prepared to throw their own Constitution overboard to save their governor, let them pay the price of such lawlessness that will surely come due for them.

If a Constitutional crisis is what it will take for Wisconsin citizens to understand what is happening to their state, I would also encourage Wisconsin Democrats to bet on their Constitution and see if your opposition is willing to pay the price for the sake of political expediency.

Let’s find out if Wisconsin Republicans love Scott Walker more than they love and respect their own Constitution. Let’s find out if they are willing to completely disregard the state’s moral and legal center all for the purpose of rigging an election to give the Governor the best possible chance of succeeding.

If Wisconsin Republicans wish to support their governor by coming out on whatever the legal election date works out to be, that is a valid exercise of their rights as Wisconsin citizens. But they should be willing to do it in accordance with the law of the State.

 

By: Rick Ungar, The Policy Page, Forbes, July 20, 2011

July 21, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, GOP, Gov Scott Walker, Governors, Ideologues, Ideology, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Union Busting, Unions, Voters, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wisconsin Democratic State Senator Wins Recall In Landslide: Eight Races To Go

Wisconsin Democrats have now won a round in the state Senate recalls, with Dem incumbent state Sen. Dave Hansen easily winning against a politically weak and seemingly troubled challenger, GOP activist and recall organizer David VanderLeest.

With 65% percent of precincts reporting, Hansen is winning by 69%-31%, and has been projected as the winner by the Associated Press.

In two other races, where Republican primaries were being held, the votes are still being counted to determine who will face Democratic state Sens. Robert Wirch and Jim Holperin.

This leaves eight races to go. On August 9, general elections will be held in six races targeting incumbent Republicans. Then on August 16, two more races will be held targeting incumbent Democrats. Republicans currently control the chamber by a majority of 19-14. Democrats hope to gain a net three seats and win a majority in a backlash against GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-public employee union legislation. In other words, control of the chamber is up for grabs.

This particular result was not in much doubt — due to the fact that VanderLeest has been plagued by questions about his fitness for office, after revelations about his personal finances and reports of domestic violence (which included a plea of no-contest to two charges of disorderly conduct).

As the election headed into its home stretch, VanderLeest made such statements as, “None of it’s true. I don’t smoke rocks, and that’s the truth,” and threatened to sue Hansen and various Democratic groups for slander. (He also claimed to have learned that there was an investigation against these groups for racketeering. The source: A complaint filed by a supporter close to his campaign.)

To be clear, VanderLeest was not the GOP’s preferred candidate. Instead, Republicans became stuck with VanderLeest after their originally recruited candidate, state Rep. John Nygren, failed to submit the required 400 valid petition signatures. Nygren submitted slightly over 400 signatures for himself — despite the fact that Republicans had been able to gather 18,000 signatures to trigger a recall — with not enough of a buffer for when a few them were disqualified. Nygren initially filed a lawsuit to get onto the ballot, but lost in court and announced he would not further appeal the decision.

In last week’s Democratic primaries, for races targeting six incumbent Republicans, the official Democratic candidates all won against fake Dem candidates — who were in fact Republican activists planted in the races by the state GOP in order to delay the general elections.

By: Eric Kleefield, Talking Points Memo, July 19, 2011

July 20, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Democracy, Gov Scott Walker, Ideologues, Ideology, Middle Class, Politics, Public Employees, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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