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“Democrats May Be Choosing A Governor”: Scott Walker’s Austerity Agenda Is Losing

Driving west from Madison, Wisconsin, through the small towns and dairy farm country of western Wisconsin, it quickly becomes clear that the Wisconsin recall election is a statewide phenomenon.

For all the efforts of Governor Walker to convince the hosts on Fox and CNBC that he is a popular governor who is threatened not by angry citizens but by “the left, the radical left, and the big labor union bosses” who are “somehow counting on the idea that they can bring enough money and enough bodies into Wisconsin to dissuade voters,” the message from farm country tells an entirely different story.

Walker has had the overwhelming spending advantage since the recall fight started last November. Walker has had all the benefits of the Republican Party organization that has gone into overdrive to aid his candidacy, while Democrats have faced a multi-candidate primary fight.

Yet, Walker does not have the swing counties of western Wisconsin wrapped up. Not by a long shot.

Along Highway 14, heading out of Dane County and into Iowa and Richland Counties, hundreds of hand-painted signs propose to “Recall Walker.” Most list reasons for the governor’s removal: “Worst Job Losses in US,” “Attacks on Collective Bargaining,” “Cut Education,” “Cut BadgerCare,” “Divided State,” “John Doe.”

Of course, the governor has his supporters.

But there is genuine, broad-based and statewide opposition to this governor in every region of Wisconsin—but especially in the western and northern parts of the state. Even as the governor has spent $21 million so far on the recall campaign, that opposition is growing.

The new Marquette University Law School Poll shows that disapproval of the governor’s performance had moved up to 51 percent. Indeed, the governor’s approval rating has now declined to 47 percent, the lowest point so far this year. And one of the prospective Democratic challengers, Tom Barrett, has now moved ahead of Walker in head-to-head match-ups run by the Marquette pollsters.

What has changed? The polling shows that Wisconsinites, who once felt that Republicans had the right equation for creating jobs (tax cuts for multinational corporations, attacks on public employees and their unions, slashing of education and public-service funding), have soured on the GOP and its poster-boy governor. They’ve been influenced, of course, by the Bureau of Labor Statistics study that reveals that, in the year since Governor Walker implemented his austerity agenda, Wisconsin has suffered the worst job losses in the nation. The Marquette poll shows that Wisconsinites now believe that investments in education, good relations with unions and fair tax policies are more likely to grow the economy than Walker’s “war on workers” approach.

The governor admitted Wednesday that the recall contest on June 5 is “a 50-50 race.” But what’s notable is that his numbers are declining, while numbers for the opposition are rising.

When I spoke at the Arcadia Bookstore in Spring Green the other night, we talked a good deal about the Democratic gubernatorial primary. I suggested, as I will here, that people should take their vote seriously. After all, they are not just choosing a nominee. If the signs in front of the farms are correct, and if the polls are correct, it looks like Democrats may be choosing a governor.

 

By: John Nichols, The Nation, May 3, 2012

May 4, 2012 Posted by | Wisconsin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Time For Infighting”: Divided Wisconsin Unions Could Spell Win For Scott Walker

Unions in Wisconsin made history by mobilizing the recall against Gov. Scott Walker, but it’s too soon to say whether the state will follow through and kick him to the curb. One thing that could work in his favor: The inability of some of the state’s powerful unions to consolidate behind a Democratic candidate to oppose him. Having come this far, some labor activists now question whether the best way to flex their muscle is to sit out the election altogether.

This is the drama unfolding at the Teaching Assistants Association, which represents graduate students and project assistants from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. No union is more identified with the anti-Walker mobilization. Days after he introduced his bill to gut collective bargaining, TAA members showed up at the state capitol, sleeping bags in hand, and kicked off what became a 16-day occupation. That emboldened Democratic senators to flee the state to deny Walker a quorum – bringing national media attention to the controversy.

Now a month before the May 8 primary, two Democrats, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, are neck-and-neck at the front of the pack. And TAA members are split on what to do about it.

At issue is whether the union should support a candidate who hasn’t pledged to restore cuts to public workers’ wages and benefits — one of the criteria the TAA originally listed as a a prerequisite for an endorsement. Falk, who entered the race in January, is the only candidate who has pledged to veto any budget that doesn’t restore collective bargaining rights. But she also frequently touts the $10 million in concessions that she secured in negotiations with local unions as county executive. Barrett, who entered the race Friday, is more problematic when it comes to cuts: Last year, as the debate over collective bargaining raged, he told a conservative radio host that he opposed Walker’s collective bargaining changes but supported his proposed cuts.

“While Barrett was positioning himself as Walker-lite to the right-wing radio audience, Kathleen Falk was in court suing the state Senate for violating the state’s open meetings law,” says Mike Amato, the chairman of TAA’s Political Education Committee. Amato’s committee voted unanimously to recommend that the membership get behind Falk in February, but the rest of the union hasn’t accepted the advice. It voted in March to remove the endorsement conditions, but still did not endorse Falk.

Some now argue that it is better for the union to endorse no one rather than compromise on its principles. TAA’s co-president, Adrienne Pagac, says the union should have left the endorsement conditions in place. “Some people were frightened that it was asking too much … Are we asking too much when we say we just want back what we had when Governor Walker came into office?” Pagac says. Falk’s boasts about Dane County make her worry that, as governor, Falk would join Democrats like New York’s Andrew Cuomo in shortchanging workers rather than asking the wealthy to make sacrifices.

Amato says that, while he supported the “No cuts” call at the capitol last year, reversing year-old concessions is the wrong place to draw a line in the sand. “Were she to say that she would restore every cut to every union … that would doom her candidacy, and on June 6 we would have Walker in the governor’s office,” he says. “I think we absolutely have to make sure that we defeat Walker.”

Pagac counters that a Falk endorsement would preserve political incentives that push candidates to the middle of the road while leaving unions under the bus. “The labor movement has become a fine-tuned machine in terms of being able to turn out voters …” says Pagac. “Organizing workers takes a lot longer.” If unions are strong enough, she says, “it doesn’t matter what political party is in office, because you have the ability to use that power, the power that you have in the workplace, to extract wins from your employer and the state.”

Amato says “one of the false ideas” held by some TAA members is that there’s “a zero-sum relationship where we have to do workplace organizing or political organizing.” Rather, he says, political activism is an opportunity to engage more members in the union. He worries that sitting out the election will hurt the union’s relevance, and will send the wrong message to others who occupied the capitol: “As an organization that is looked to for leadership, we have a responsibility to lead.” He also worries that rejecting Falk for excessive moderation could hand the primary to Barrett. “The idea that we’ve come this far and then we’re going to sit out the election boggles my mind.”

The TAA membership will meet again next Thursday. Amato says he doesn’t know whether he’ll revive the motion to endorse Falk. “It’s become a really contentious issue,” says Amato, “and I think a lot of us are starting to question how hard we’re going to push on it. I think it will absolutely be a big mistake if we don’t endorse Kathleen Falk.” But if both sides remain adamant, says Amato, “I also don’t think it’s worth tearing apart the union.”

 

By: Josh Eidelson, Salon, April 5, 2012

April 9, 2012 Posted by | Collective Bargaining, Wisconsin Recall | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wisconsin OKs Recall Elections For GOP Sens. Randy Hopper, Luther Olsen, Dan Kapanke

The Wisconsin board that oversees elections rejected most challenges Monday to a recall effort targeting three Republican state senators, clearing the way for a July 12 election.

The Government Accountability Board rejected the challenges made to recall petitions targeting Republican Sens. Dan Kapanke of La Crosse, Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac and Luther Olsen of Ripon.

They are among nine lawmakers, six Republicans and three Democrats, targeted for recalls for their positions on GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal taking away collective bargaining rights from most state workers.

Democrats are pushing the recalls as a way to gain majority control of the Senate, which they lost in the fall 2010 election. Democrats need to pick up three seats to gain a majority.

Republicans currently control both houses of the Legislature, providing GOP Gov. Scott Walker a clear path to passing his legislative agenda.

It was passage of Walker’s collective bargaining proposal that motivated all nine recalls. Republicans were targeted for supporting the bill while the Democrats were targeted for leaving the state for three weeks in an ultimately vain attempt to block passage of the bill.

The law has not taken effect pending a legal challenge.

State lawmakers are considering passing the law again, as part of the state budget in June, if the courts have not resolved the issue by then.

Most of the recall elections are likely to take place July 12, unless delayed by a court challenge. If a primary is necessary, that would occur July 12 with the general election likely Aug. 9.

The other Republican lawmakers facing recall elections are Sens. Robert Cowles of Allouez, Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls and Alberta Darling of River Hills. Democrats facing recalls are Sens. Dave Hansen of Green Bay, Robert Wirch of Pleasant Prairie and Jim Holperin of Conover.

The board plans to evaluate the challenges to those six recall petitions at its May 31 meeting, and likely would certify all the petitions that same week.

By: Jason Smathers, Associated Press, May 23, 2011

May 23, 2011 Posted by | Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, GOP, Gov Scott Walker, Government, Governors, Lawmakers, Politics, Public Employees, Republicans, State Legislatures, States, Union Busting, Unions, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tens Of Thousands Rally In Wisconsin To Declare: “This Fight Is NOT Over!”

Protest fatigue? Not in Wisconsin.

Three months after Governor Scott Walker proposed to strip state, county and municipal employees and public-school teachers of their collective bargaining rights, the governor’s agenda remains stymied. Legal challenges,moves to recall Republican legislators who have sided with the governor and the fear on the part of legislative leaders of mass protests have prevented implementation.

That fear is well-founded.

The Wisconsin protests have inspired similar demonstrations in states across the country, including state Capitol confrontations in Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio and, most recently, California and New York.

Yet, the energy in Wisconsin remains unmistakable, and unrelenting.

Three months to the day after the first large demonstration against Walker’s proposal, tens of thousands of Wisconsinites returned to the great square around the state Capitol and to town and village squares across the state to declare: “This Fight is NOT Over!”

“We’ve stopped Governor Walker’s plan to take away workers rights for three months — but he is not done. He has expanded his attack to seniors, college students, local schools and more. And he is still intent on ending collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin,” went the message from the Wisconsin unions and their allies — along with the “This Fight is NOT Over!” battlecry.

Saturday’s mass rally in Madison and other demonstrations came at a time when the Republican-controlled state legislature is weighing Walker’s budget proposal, which seeks to cut more than $1.5 billion from education and local services, while restructuring state government to take power away from elected school boards and local governments.

The fight inside the Capitol over the budget, and the rest of Walker’s economic, social and political  agenda will be intense in coming weeks. Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt warns that Walker and allies are rushing “to ram through their right wing priorities on corporate deregulation, school privatization and voter suppression before recall elections.”

The union leader was referring to special elections, which are expected as soon as July, that will determine the control of the state Senate.

Six Republican state senators face the threat of recall elections that could remove them, while three Democratic senators are similarly threatened.

The political intensity of the moment has kept the state on high alert, as Saturday’s demonstrations illustrated.

Organizers of the Madison demonstration — the We Are Wisconsin and Wisconsin Wave coalitions — estimated that Saturday’s rally drew between 15,000 and 20,000 Wisconsinites. Smaller rallies and events were held over the weekend across the state.

The crowd in Madison extended far beyond the base of public employees and teachers to include farmers, small business owners and students.

The demonstration in Madison took place on the same day as University of Wisconsin graduation ceremonies. A number of new graduates, wearing their caps and gowns, made their way to the Capitol after collecting their degrees.

One young woman stood outside the Capitol with a large sign that read: “UW Graduate — Thanks to Wisconsin Public School Teachers!”

By: John Nichols, Washington Correspondent for The Nation: Editor, Capital Times, Madison, WI.

By:

May 18, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, GOP, Gov Scott Walker, Governors, Ideology, Labor, Lawmakers, Politics, Public Employees, Republicans, Right Wing, Seniors, State Legislatures, States, Union Busting, Unions, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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