As expected, the Republican-controlled Wisconsin House of Representatives March 10 approved state senate passed legislation revoking collective bargaining rights for public employees.
The bill now goes to Republican Gov. Scott Walker who promises to sign it into law.
Noting the size and geographic scope of public protests against the legislative assault on collective bargaining rights, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has named Walker “Mobilizer of the Year” for the labor movement.
Trumka predicts the Wisconsin assault on collective bargaining rights will create a national backlash against extremist conservatives.
“Now they’re seeing what backlash really looks like,” Trumka said. “It’s like the old song goes, ‘’You ain’t seen nothing yet.'”
Recall efforts are expected against state lawmakers in Wisconsin and elsewhere who have backed legislation revoking collective bargaining rights for state employees.
In addition to revoking public-employee collective bargaining rights, the Wisconsin legislation cancels state collection of union dues from paychecks, and requires unions to hold annual representation elections.
The Republican controlled Wisconsin state senate, with all Democrats still absent, passed a bill late Wednesday, March 9, stripping from public employees almost all collective bargaining rights.
The vote was 18-1, with a lone Republican, Sen. Dale Schultz, voting “no.”
A vote in the Republican-controlled Wisconsin House is expected Thursday.
“In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin,” said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mark Miller. “Tonight, 18 senate Republicans conspired to take government away from the people. Tomorrow we will join the people of Wisconsin in taking back their government.” It was a half-century ago that the Wisconsin legislature gave public employees a right of collective bargaining.
Wisconsin’s union-busting bill had been stalled after senate Democrats fled the state three weeks ago to prevent a necessary quorum for the Republican majority to pass the legislation. But Republicans stripped from the legislation all spending provisions, which allowed the bill, under the state senate’s parliamentary procedures, to be voted on without a quorum.
The Associated Press reports that prior to the vote, Republicans had been considering concessions earlier offered by Gov. Scott Walker. But when, according to the Associated Press, union leaders and senate Democrats said the concessions weren’t enough, the Republican majority changed tactics, stripping the spending provisions from the bill and voting it out.
There was more bad news for union members and collective bargaining rights.
In Michigan, March 9, the senate passed legislation giving cities and school districts authority to terminate union contracts and end collective bargaining rights for public employees. A similar bill was previously passed by the Republican-controlled Michigan House of Representatives. Once the slight differences in the bills are resolved, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to sign the bill into law.
In Ohio, where the state senate already voted to strip collective bargaining rights from public employees, the Republican-controlled House is preparing to consider the bill.
In Indiana, a three-week standoff continues after 40 House Democrats fled the state to prevent a quorum and stall legislation revoking public-employee collective bargaining rights. A labor-rally, expected to draw some 20,000, is scheduled for the state capital Thursday.
And in Idaho, the House and Senate have passed legislation stripping collective bargaining rights for teachers. The governor is expected to sign it into law.
The attack on public-employee collective bargaining rights by right-wing extremists is intended to destroy labor unions.
Union busting is something expected in the private sector; that’s why we have laws to level the playing field, with most differences settled at the bargaining table or in neutral arbitration — not through management dictatorship, as being attempted in Wisconsin and other states.
Should right-wing extremists succeed in destroying public-sector unions, the assault will spread to the federal government workforce and then the private-sector.
In my 45 years as a proud union member and officer, I have never witnessed such blatant attacks on working families.
The source of the attacks is corporations, financial institutions and wealthy investors bankrolling right-wing extremist lawmakers. A Supreme Court decision virtually removing caps on corporate political donations certainly helped the effort.
Many right-wing candidates use emotional words such as gun control, school prayer and abortion to stir the emotions of union members, recruiting many to inadvertently participate in destroying the right of collective bargaining and, eventually, the economic security unions provide working families.
If labor-union survival and the economic survival of all working families is going to be preserved, we in organized labor must respond to the attacks on our collective bargaining rights.
We must maintain our right to join a union, our right to unify and our right to make political donations (if we so choose) through payroll deduction to those politicians supporting workplace democracy.
We cannot match the level of donations of the huge corporations and others financially backing the attacks on labor, but we have something our enemies don’t have — millions and millions of members who can vote for labor-friendly candidates.
The UTU Political Action Committee (UTU PAC) helps identify labor-friendly candidates, helps finance their election campaigns, and helps to get out the vote for labor-friendly candidates on Election Day.
Please consider joining this voluntary effort and contribute to the UTU PAC. If you already are a member, please consider increasing your contribution. Our job security and the economic security of our families hang in the balance.
Let’s not forget that the attacks on labor we are witnessing today have not been seen in generations, and what is happening in Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin and elsewhere is only the beginning if we don’t stand in solidarity to protect the rights labor fought so long, so hard and at such a great cost to achieve.
MADISON, Wis. — The Associated Press is reporting that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has softened his insistence that Wisconsin public employees give up nearly all collective bargaining rights.
Tens of thousands of Americans — union and non-union — have been demonstrating against union-busting legislation being considered in Wisconsin, and some $1 million has been contributed from across the country to help derail the legislation and fund a recall campaign against Republican senators supporting it.
The AP says Walker is now offering an olive-branch, saying in e-mails to Democrats that he would accept continuing bargaining over wages, mandatory overtime, performance bonuses and hazardous duty pay; and allow collective bargaining agreements to last up to two years, instead of the one-year limit in his original proposal.
Walker also reportedly is willing that unions would only have to vote to remain in existence every three years, instead of annually, as Walker initially proposed.
The AP also reports that state Democratic Sen. Bob Jauch “hopes” the compromise “would serve as a blueprint for future negotiations,” but Jauch reportedly called Walker’s compromise “still inadequate.”
Demonstrations continued in state capitals in Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin this week as extreme right-wing legislatures indicated no intention of giving ground in their union-busting efforts.
UTU International President Mike Futhey, meeting with AFL-CIO officials in Washington, D.C., urged UTU members and their families to continue their telephone calls to state Republican lawmakers in opposition to the legislation. “We are not going away. We will not forget. And thanks to the values of the union movement and our members, the UTU and the labor movement is stronger than ever,” Futhey said.
In Ohio, a vote by the Republican-controlled Senate Labor Committee is expected this week on legislation to end collective bargaining and strikes by public employees, and establish stiff fines for public employees who defy the no-strike ban, reports the Columbus Dispatch. A sizeable Republican majority in the House and Senate prevents Democrats from blocking the bill from passage once it exits the Senate Labor Committee.
In Wisconsin, Senate Democrats remained out of state, preventing a quorum to consider union busting legislation in that state. Senate Democrat Tim Cullen told the Madison Captial-Times that Democratic senators remain united by their top priority — preserving key collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin’s public employees.
In coordination with the AFL-CIO, more than 1,000 automated telephone calls were made to UTU members in that state, delivering a message from UTU State Legislative Director Tim Deneen urging them to contact lawmakers in opposition to the leiglsation.
In Indiana, enough House Democrats remain out of state for a second week in their continuing effort to deny Republicans a quorum to consider union-busting legislation in that state.
In Idaho, legislation is pending that would prohibit state employees from joining unions, and would also outlaw public-employee strikes.
In Arizona, Florida and Kansas, legislation is being considered to restrict public-employees from having donations to union political action committees (PACs) deducted from their paychecks. In fact, Arizona State Legislative Director Greg Hynes advises that the Arizona state legislature now is considering 20 different anti-union bills.
Said UTU Assistant President Arty Martin, “In my 45 years as a proud union member and officer, I have never witnessed such blatant attacks on working families.
“The source of the attacks is corporations, financial institutions and wealthy investors who have bankrolled right-wing extremists running for public office. A Supreme Court decision making it easier for corporations to contribute to political campaigns certainly helped the effort.
“If labor-union survival and the economic survival of all working families is going to be assured, we in organized labor must respond to the attacks on our collective bargaining rights. We must maintain our right to join a union and our right to make political donations, if we choose, through payroll deduction to politicians who support labor and our rights.”
A senior Ohio Democrat promises that if Republicans there are successful in passing legislation to revoke collective bargaining rights for public employees, a ballot initiative would be drafted to repeal the law in the next general election, reports the Columbus Dispatch newspaper.
In Wisconsin, Democrats Feb. 22 remained absent from the state, leaving Republicans without a lawful quorum to pass similar legislation revoking collective-bargaining rights for public employees. Republicans hold a majority in both chambers of the legislature.
The South Central Wisconsin Federation of Labor, representing 45,000 union members in the Wisconsin capital of Madison, said Feb. 22 it is considering a “general strike” if the bill becomes law.
Wisconsin state Rep. Mark Pocan, a Democrat, said, “In one fell swoop, Gov. Walker is trying to institute a sweeping radical and dangerous notion that will return Wisconsin to the days when land barons and railroad tycoons controlled the political elites in Madison.”
In Indiana, state House Democrats are boycotting a legislative session considering similar legislation (HB 1468), vowing to remain away and prevent a quorum until they have assurances from Republicans that the bill will not be brought forward when they return, according to the Indianapolis Star newspaper. Republicans hold a majority in both legislative chambers.
Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, who supports the legislation, told the newspaper he would not send state police to “round up” the Democrats because they have every right to deny Republicans a quorum to do business.”
In Ohio, the Senate Labor Committee is considering legislation — SB 5 — to revoke collective bargaining rights for public employees amid growing protests against the bill. Some 15,000 demonstrated in Columbus, Ohio’s capital city, Feb. 22, as the Republican-controlled Labor Committee heard testimony on the bill.
Because Republicans hold a majority in both chambers of the Ohio legislature, and because of the size of the Republican majority, Ohio Democrats cannot prevent a quorum by boycotting the legislative session. No date has been set for a vote on SB 5.
Should the legislation pass in Ohio, Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern told the Columbus Dispatch, “We will repeal it at the ballot box, and that will happen. That is the great fear the Republican Party has right now, because of the overreach they’re playing out right now.”
Also speaking out was JoAnn Johntony, president of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, who told the Columbus Dispatch, “I believe Gov. Kasich decided he wants to squash unions and found a creative way to do it, but he has to realize that we’ve fought this battle before and he will not stop us because we will fight to the very end.”
An Ohio Senate Republican, Timothy J. Grendell, also sounded a warning over the legislation. The Columbus Dispatch reported Grendell said the bill could end up costing the state money and should scare conservatives worried about private contracting rights.
“You’re opening up a Pandora’s Box to the principle that government can interfere with private contract rights when it suits government’s purpose,” Grendell told the newspaper. “If you’re a conservative or a Tea Party person, you should be greatly concerned about that concept because today’s collective bargaining agreement could be tomorrow’s private business contract. I guarantee you litigation will be more expensive than collective bargaining.”
Back to Wisconsin, the Capitol Times newspaper said in an editorial that Gov. Scott Walker, the architect of legislation to outlaw collective bargaining by public employees, “is making political choices, and they are designed not to balance budgets, but to improve his political position and that of his [Republican] party.”
UTU protest pickets in Madison, Wisc. Pictured, from left, are retired Local 590 member Dan Stanley; Ben Deneen, GO 261 General Chairperson James Nelson; Local 590 Vice Chairperson Leath Sheppard; and Wisconsin State Legislative Director Tim Deneen and wife, Susan.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — As the legislative standoff continues in Wisconsin, Ohio takes center stage Tuesday, Feb. 22, in the battle to preserve collective-bargaining rights for state workers.
The Columbus Dispatch newspaper reports that as many as 20,000 pro collective-bargaining rights demonstrators will be on the front steps of the legislature at 1 p.m., three hours before the Senate Labor Committee hears witness testimony on SB 5, which would revoke collective-bargaining rights for state workers.
State Republican Sen. Kevin Bacon, the Labor Committee chairman, told the newspaper, there would not be a vote on the bill Tuesday afternoon, nor would amendments be offered.
UTU Ohio State Legislative Director Glenn Newsom said that tens of thousands of telephone calls, emails and protest rallies are having an impact on Republican supporters of SB 5. For more information on how to help in Ohio, click on the link at the bottom of this article.
Were SB 5 to move out of committee and eventually become law in Ohio, state workers would no longer be permitted to engage in collective bargaining, through their unions, for health care or working conditions. Even binding arbitration would be scrapped.
Click on the following link to learn how you might help preserve collective-bargaining rights for public employees in Ohio:
The right of workers to join a labor union and bargain collectively with employers over wages, benefits and working conditions is the foundation of workplace democracy.
Brave and dedicated trade unionists before us risked their lives, freedom and economic security fighting for collective bargaining rights, achieving victory first in 1926 with passage of the Railway Labor Act, and then the National Labor Relations Act in 1935.
For public-sector workers, the struggle took longer. Wisconsin was the first state to grant its workforce a right of collective bargaining in 1959. Federal workers gained a collective bargaining right in 1962.
It is ironic that Wisconsin was the first state to sanction public-employee collective bargaining because it is Wisconsin’s governor who this month invited massive civil unrest in his state by attempting to revoke that right.
Similar legislative efforts are underway in Ohio and Tennessee, and the movement to curtail public-employee collective bargaining rights could spread.
If the effort is successful, private-sector workers could then find their own collective-bargaining rights under attack. We are witnessing in Congress and in many state legislatures an anti-union animus stronger than it has been in decades.
To close our eyes to the struggle of state workers in Wisconsin, Ohio or elsewhere is to wake up finding our own collective bargaining rights gone.
That is why union members from across America — many from the United Transportation Union — have been participating in rallies, telephone and email communications efforts, petition drives and other activities in support of public employees whose collective bargaining rights are under attack.
Wisconsin State Legislative Director Tim Deneen and Ohio State Legislative Director Glenn Newsom are coordinating joint action with the targeted public-employee unions.
As a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Committee, I am working with the federation’s Transportation Trades Department to identify additional actions that might be taken to assist in fighting state attempts to restrict or eliminate public-employee collective bargaining.
The outrage is not that public employees must participate — with all segments of society — to close massive budget shortfalls.
The outrage is that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants to revoke the right of public employees to bargain over health care, pensions and working conditions, plus Scott wants to impose significant costs on workers and their unions by requiring annual representational elections and cancelling the state’s collection of union dues through payroll deduction.
This is all about union busting and not about closing budget shortfalls.
In fact, Christopher Policano, an official with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said the union is willing to negotiate concessions with Gov. Walker, “but he wants to throw out the bargaining table.”
Wisconsin is not the only state with a big budget deficit. By contrast, in California, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania, governors are collectively bargaining with state employees to find the least painful alternatives to balance state budgets.
In Pennsylvania, a spokesperson for Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, told The New York Times, “We’ll begin negotiations with the public-sector unions and anticipate we’ll conduct those in good faith.”
Many UTU members have inquired how they might join in solidarity with public employees under siege.
Begin with an AFL-CIO sponsored website, “States of Denial,” which provides opportunities for different levels of involvement. Click below to link to the “States of Denial” website: