Against odds, labor sends loud message in Wisconsin
A coalition of labor unions and community groups didn’t take back the Wisconsin state senate from anti-union extremists Tuesday night, Aug. 9, but voters enraged over the extremists’ political agenda did unseat two of the six senators targeted for recall.
“Seeing that we were outspent three-to-one, that recall elections are rare in American politics and that our effort to change the face of the Wisconsin legislature only began a few months ago, contributors to the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund can be proud of the accomplishment of unseating two extremists, and, especially, the message the recall election sent anti-union politicians nationwide,” said UTU Alternate National Legislative Director John Risch.
The Wisconsin recall effort began after political extremists in that state legislature voted to curtail public-employee bargaining rights as a first step toward weakening labor-union power.
An anti-union agenda by political extremists in Ohio similarly energized labor and community groups there, culminating in a successful petition drive that puts the political extremists’ anti-union legislation to a direct voter referendum in Ohio in November.
And in Indiana, political extremists abandoned their effort to curtail public-employee collective bargaining rights after the pushback by labor and community groups began in Wisconsin and Ohio.
In all cases, the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund played an effective role.
In Madison, Wis., Tuesday, a voter told the Capitol-Times newspaper, “I think the fact that this election is going on right now is a victory in and of itself. We put [the anti-union lawmakers] on the hot seat. I would have liked to have seen us run the table on them, but this is okay for now.”
The UTU’s political consultant, Dean Mitchell, noted that the Wisconsin recall elections are a “test run for organized labor in expanding and improving its get-out-the-vote message and efforts ahead of the 2012 presidential election, where Wisconsin will be one of the swing states. The UTU can be proud that the two senators successfully recalled are from the two voting districts in the state with the most UTU members registered.”
UTU National Legislative Director James Stem said the extremist agenda in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and other states to privatize schools and weaken labor unions mirrors the efforts of extremists in Congress to fold Railroad Retirement into Social Security, privatize Social Security and Medicare, eliminate Amtrak and destroy organized labor.
“The situation in Wisconsin allowed the UTU and other labor organizations to fine-tune our communication strategies,” Stem said. “We are very proud of the manner in which our active and retired members responded to our efforts. The UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund and the UTU PAC will continue to spearhead our efforts going forward to protect our collective bargaining rights and defend against these brazen attacks on the middle-class.
“We owe temporary Gov. Scott Walker a debt of gratitude for waking up the middle class to the battle being waged against them,” Stem said. “We will use the lessons learned in the Wisconsin recall to improve our efforts and communications in Ohio and in presidential and congressional elections in 2012.”