Posts Tagged ‘Wisconsin’

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.”

Collective Bargaining Defense Fund fuels another win

Sturdy confirmation of the value of the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund emerged from a Wisconsin vote tally this second week of July – the second of three heats in a race to unseat anti-labor senators in special recall elections.

Wisconsin voters, awakened to and energized against anti-labor efforts of political extremists in their state legislature, cast majority ballots for labor-friendly candidates in primary elections.

The primaries were in advance of Aug. 9 special elections to recall state senators who earlier this year voted to strip Wisconsin public employees of their collective bargaining rights.

As Wisconsin has an open primary and no party registration, the labor-friendly candidates (all Democrats) found themselves pitted against Republican political extremists who entered the Democratic primaries as sham Democrats. They had hoped to win the primaries and assure either their own victory or victory for the incumbents they would face when the recall elections are held Aug. 9. The sham tactics failed.

Indeed, Wisconsin voters knew the difference between the real labor-friendly candidates and the sham candidates because of shoe-leather exertions by union members in Wisconsin. They knocked on doors, handed out educational materials and urged voters to go to the polls. Those successful efforts – as well as the earlier successful petition drive to force the recall elections — were supported by the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund.

Legislative attacks on organized labor in Wisconsin – duplicated in Ohio, where organized labor’s counter offensive also is proving successful – is part of a more expansive effort among political extremists nationwide to destroy organized labor, fold Railroad Retirement into Social Security, privatize Social Security and Medicare, eliminate Amtrak and starve other public transit operations of funds.

The UTU’s political consultant, Dean Mitchell, said, “The UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund made a difference by working with the Wisconsin AFL-CIO on member-to-member communication. UTU members in Wisconsin were contacted through phone calls and special mailings, urging them to vote in the Wisconsin primary. UTU International President Mike Futhey also hosted a town hall meeting via telephone with UTU active and retired members in Wisconsin.

Mitchell has been coordinating a multi-state effort among UTU legislative directors to educate voters to the threat posed by political extremists and to energize UTU members and retirees and their families to be politically active.

That communication effort will be duplicated in advance of the Wisconsin recall elections Aug. 9.

In Ohio, the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund helped to fuel a petition drive that put that state’s anti-labor legislation on hold pending a voter referendum in November. The fund is also assisting with efforts in other states to block anti-labor efforts advanced by political extremists.

Activities fueled by the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund have spawned media attention, which in turn helps to educate large numbers of middle-class voters to the anti-labor agenda of political extremists.

As evidenced in the Wisconsin primaries, voters are expressing anger with the attacks on organized labor even though many have never belonged to a labor union. They recognize that today’s attacks on labor unions are a prelude to a future attack on the middle class in America.

To learn more about the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund, and how to contribute, click on the following link:

https://smart-union.org/collective-bargaining-defense-fund/
 

Are labor unions irrelevant and ineffective?

It is said by some opinion leaders and decision makers that labor unions are on the decline — that labor unions have become irrelevant in our society and ineffective in influencing public policy.

Recent events in Ohio and Wisconsin properly send such notions to the rubbish bin.

Recall that political extremists in both states used extraordinary tactics to muscle through legislation stripping public employees of their collective bargaining rights.

It was the first step toward weakening the link between workers and labor unions – the first step toward privatizing Social Security, Railroad Retirement and Medicare, weakening workplace safety regulations, and returning to the days of take-it-or-leave-it offers by employers to their workers.

What union-busting lawmakers did not expect is the public backlash generated by organized labor and its members, whom they thought were so weak and irrelevant that they would retreat with barely a whimper.

Oh, yeah?

In the wake of the Ohio and Wisconsin assaults on collective bargaining rights, union brothers and sisters worked collectively and tirelessly to educate the media and the public – through, for example, the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund — about the assault launched by political extremists on middle-class values.

First by the hundreds, then the thousands, then the tens of thousands, and then by the hundreds of thousands did citizens respond to the messages of union brothers and sisters. The outrage initially was expressed in huge and loud rallies around the states. Then came the action.

In Ohio, UTU members joined with brothers and sisters in other labor organizations to launch a petition drive to put the union-busting legislation on hold pending a voter referendum in November. With Ohio State Legislative Director Glenn Newsom coordinating the efforts, members from 22 UTU locals in Ohio fanned out across the state seeking signatures on the petitions. They were joined by brothers and sisters from other labor organizations.

To succeed, 231,000 voter signatures were required. Five times that number — more than 1.2 million voters – signed the petitions.

You can be certain that the number of signatures obtained on these petitions is sending waves of remorse through the ranks of those who voted with the political extremists. After all, they, too, must face the voters.

In Wisconsin, meanwhile, petition drives coordinated by State Legislative Director Tim Deneen – and other labor organizations — are forcing many of the political extremists responsible for the anti-union legislation in that state to face recall elections in July and August.  By the scores – and of  this you can be certain — lawmakers in Wisconsin are discussing how to separate themselves from the anti-union political extremists facing recall, and regain the support of voters.

On July 5, International President Mike Futhey will hold, via telephone conference call, town hall meetings with Ohio and Wisconsin UTU members to discuss the next steps to ensure voter repeal of the Ohio legislation in November, and the recall of the anti-union Wisconsin lawmakers in July and August.

When union brothers and sisters act together in solidarity, organized labor proves not just to be relevant, but to be darn effective in influencing public policy.

Need we say more as to why UTU members should donate to the UTU Collective Bargaining Fund, and to the UTU PAC, which helps to elect and re-elect union-friendly lawmakers at the state and federal level?

Ok, we will say just a few more words: The jobs and economic futures you save through these actions may well be your own jobs and the economic futures of your families.

To learn more about the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund, click on the following link:

https://smart-union.org/collective-bargaining-defense-fund/

To learn more about the UTU PAC, click on the following link:

https://smart-union.org/td/washington/utu-pac/

Wisconsin decision will embolden extremists

MADISON, Wis. – A divided state supreme court here June 14 ruled in a 4-3 decision that the state’s controversial law revoking collective-bargaining rights for public employees may go into effect – overturning an injunction issued by a lower court.

This is important to UTU members for two reasons:

  • Political extremists in other states and in Congress will be emboldened by this decision, and that means a more concerted attack to fold Railroad Retirement into Social Security; privatize Social Security and Medicare, ending those programs as we know them; eliminate federal funding for Amtrak as a first step toward shutting it down; abolish income protection in railroad mergers, line sales and abandonments; and decimate workplace safety regulations and income.
  • The Wisconsin state supreme court decision would have gone the other way had a labor-friendly challenger to the incumbent won that seat on the court in a recent election. The challenger, written off early as unelectable, came within a few thousand votes of victory only because the state’s attack on collective-bargaining rights so enraged Wisconsin voters. Those voters became enraged because of a public outcry fueled by labor-union activism made possible by the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund and similar programs initiated by other labor organizations.

In fact, labor-union activism in Wisconsin generated such substantial support that many of the lawmakers who voted to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights now face recall elections this summer. The UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund will assist in educating Wisconsin voters and helping to energize them to go to the polls and cast votes to recall those lawmakers.

If the recall is successful, it is possible that the law will be changed by a more moderate Wisconsin legislature where many lawmakers who supported the anti-union measure are now rethinking their votes in light of the public outrage. In the Wisconsin House, language is being prepared for insertion in a budget bill to reinsert the collective bargaining language that was stricken under the leadership and bullying of political extremists.

Additionally, in Ohio, where the legislature passed a state law similarly curtailing public employee collective bargaining rights, the measure is now on hold and headed for a voter referendum in November because of labor-union activism made possible by the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund and similar programs by other labor organizations.

Voters across the nation are recognizing the threat posed to working families by political extremists intent upon dismantling government and turning back decades of progressive legislation.

Hundreds of UTU members and retirees, along with UTU locals and general committees, have made generous contributions to the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund.

More is needed. The Collective Bargaining Defense Fund is accomplishing what it was established to do.

Meanwhile, the UTU PAC is in need of additional contributions to help labor-friendly candidates challenge and defeat extremists in congressional and state elections in November 2012.

For more information on the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund, click on the following link:

https://smart-union.org/collective-bargaining-defense-fund/

For more information on how UTU members can join the UTU PAC, or increase their contributions, send an email to legis@utu.org, or click on the following link:

https://smart-union.org/td/washington/utu-pac/

Union-busting efforts face glare of sunlight

Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis coined the term, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

Indeed, sunlight cast by labor-union members on the dark-of-night action by political extremists in the Wisconsin legislature is having a meaningful impact in Wisconsin and beyond.

Recall that the Wisconsin legislature’s Republican majority voted in March — in violation of the state’s open meetings law — to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees. They gathered on less than two hours’ notice in the dark of night to vote without a single Democrat in the chamber.

State Judge Maryann Sumi last week granted a permanent injunction against the law’s implementation, and chastised those Republican lawmakers for the method in which they conducted the vote.

Judge Sumi called the action a trashing of “transparency of government,” adding that “one of the core principles of democracy [is] the right of the people to monitor the people’s business.” In the wake of the injunction, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear arguments on the bill in June.

Some of the credit for Judge Sumi’s ruling belongs to the UTU’s Collective Bargaining Defense Fund and similar efforts by other labor organizations.

Almost immediately after that now infamous in-the-dark-of-night Wisconsin senate vote, union members began demonstrating against union-busting by political extremists — demonstrations joined by tens of thousands of citizens that led to extensive media coverage and editorials criticizing the political extremists.

Public sentiment quickly turned against the political extremists in Wisconsin and in other states. A lawsuit followed, seeking the injunction issued by Judge Sumi; and public outrage resulted in petitions for a recall of the extremists, who now must face Wisconsin voters in a special election in July. Hundreds of UTU and other union members fanned out across the state seeking signatures for the recall petitions.

Also significant following the union demonstrations against union-busting was a surprise result in a race for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The conservative incumbent, seen as a shoo-in, barely squeaked by as Wisconsin voters flocked to the polls in record numbers to support a moderate challenger. The Madison, Wis., Capital-Times newspaper said the close vote “would almost certainly never have happened had Democrats, unions and other liberal groups not channeled anger against Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature into support” for the moderate challenger.

In Ohio, where extremists passed a similar union-busting law, union demonstrations also induced public outrage, and petition signings that have put the Ohio union-busting measure on hold pending a voter referendum on the law in November.

The UTU’s Collective Bargaining Defense Fund has one objective: Reminding elected officials that organized labor is a potent political force able to mobilize millions of voters, and to set the stage for recall elections of anti-union lawmakers.

To learn more about the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund, click on the following link:

https://smart-union.org/collective-bargaining-defense-fund/

Ohio lawmakers smash bargaining rights

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It’s official. The Ohio House and Senate have passed anti-union legislation that limits public-employee collective bargaining.

Gov. John Kasich intends to sign the bill into law.

The legislation bars strikes by public employees and limits collective bargaining to wages — but only if the public body chooses to bargain collectively. Otherwise, wages — as well as health care benefits, pensions and outsourcing — will be set unilaterally by public bodies.

The bill also limits payroll deduction for union political action committees and eliminates the use of seniority in determining layoffs.

In the works is a voter referendum for the fall that would overturn the legislation. The UTU, through the newly created UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund, will help in that effort.

A labor-law professor at Ohio State University told The New York Times, “The essence of collective bargaining is when you can’t agree on terms of a contract, you have a dispute resolution mechanism, by strikes or perhaps binding arbitration. Here, you have none of that. That’s not collective bargaining. I’d call it collective begging. It’s a conversation that ends whenever an employer decides that it ends.”

Said the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees: “[The legislation] undermines our basic American values by attacking the right of Ohio workers to have a voice on the job.””

In Wisconsin, similar legislation was passed without Democrats voting; and is now being challenged in state courts.

Other states, where right-wing extremists control the legislature — as in Ohio and Wisconsin — are also considering Ohio- and Wisconsin-like anti-union legislation.

To learn more of what is happening in your state, contact your state legislative director.

Wisconsin assault on labor suffers setback

MADISON, Wis. — It may be only a temporary restraining order, but the decision of a Wisconsin judge last week to block the state legislature from revoking the collective bargaining rights of public employees reflects the controversial nature of the action and keeps it before ever-increasing citizen wrath.

Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi, appointed by former Wisconsin Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, issued the temporary restraining order, barring Wisconsin’s secretary of state from publishing the law, effectively staying its implementation.

The challenge accuses Republican lawmakers — who control both the Wisconsin House and Senate — of violating the state’s requirement for open meeting requirements when they passed the law. It is alleged that because Democratic members of the legislature were not present, the open meeting requirements were violated.

An appeal to a higher court of the temporary restraining order is expected this week, and Judge Sumi also later could permit the law to be published following a hearing she scheduled to begin March 28.

Additionally, Wisconsin Republicans, who control the legislature, could bring the bill up again for a vote, now that Democratic members — who had fled in an earlier unsuccessful attempt to block the law’s passage — have returned.

“We highly doubt a Dane County judge has the authority to tell the legislature how to carry out its constitutional duty,” said Republican Sen. Scott Fitzgerald and Republican Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald.

The fight is far from over in Wisconsin or elsewhere.

It's not just Wisconsin. UTU members participate in a rally in Lansing, Mich., last week where the legislature there is considering bills whose intent is union busting. Similar rallies are taking place nationwide as union members and non-union members are speaking as one against the assault by right-wing extremists against collective bargaining rights.

 

Wisconsin governor: ‘Mobilizer of the Year’

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.

Union-busting bills gain in several states

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.

Opinion leaders agree: It’s union busting

Rallies in support of public-employee collective bargaining are being held in scores of cities across America to protest legislative efforts in Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin to revoke that right.

A new attack on public-employee collective bargaining was launched Feb. 23 in Idaho, reports UTU Idaho State Legislative Director George Millward. Idaho Senate bill 1024 would prohibit state employees from joining unions and outlaw strikes. The UTU will participate in an AFL-CIO meeting this weekend to formulate opposition, Millward said.

UTU members wishing to participate in a rally supporting collective-bargaining rights for public employee should contact their state legislative director, as no formal schedule exists. Most rallies, in dozens of states, are being coordinated by state branches of the AFL-CIO.

Meanwhile, newspaper editorials and opinion articles are exposing legislative efforts to strip away collective bargaining rights as union-busting tactics with no legitimate connection to state financial problems.

Here is a sampling:

Nationally syndicated columnist Eugene Robinson:

“It has long been common for unions to accept better health and pension benefits in lieu of higher salaries — in effect, taking the money later rather than sooner. Now that these IOUs are coming due, Wisconsin wants to renege. I thought Republicans were supposed to believe that a contract is a contract, sacred and inviolate. Guess not. This is pure, unadulterated union busting.”

Stanford University law professor William B. Gould IV, a former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board:

“It is downright obscene to strip workers of unions while deficit-spending tax breaks to the rich are being handed out as they are in Wisconsin. As the United States has argued for South Africa, Poland and now Egypt, unions are a basic part of democratic society. Yet that is the principal under attack by Gov. Walker in Wisconsin now. The answer is not to destroy the democratic fabric and the political opposition, but rather to engage in dialogue.”

Linda Kaboolian, lecturer in public policy at Harvard:

“Gov. Walker isn’t interest in saving money. He’s interested in crippling the unions that didn’t support him last fall.”

New York Times editorial:

“Republican talk of balancing budgets is cover for the real purpose of gutting the political force of middle-class state workers, who are steady supporters of Democrats and pose a threat to a growing conservative agenda. Conservative leaders in most states with strong unions have in the past generally made accommodations with organized labor, often winning support on social issues in return. That changed this year after wealthy conservatives poured tens of millions of dollars into the election campaigns of hard-right candidates.”

Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page:

“Without the right to collective bargaining, a union is little more than a social club.”

Gallup poll survey:

“While the public has ambivalent feelings toward public sector unions, they say they oppose any move by their state to eliminate collective bargaining rights by about a 2-to-1 margin.”

Madison, Wisc.,Capital Times editorial:

“Gov. Walker has made too many budget decisions not with an eye toward fiscal responsibility but with an eye toward rewarding his political benefactors. Now the governor says that Wisconsin needs to end collective bargaining for public employees and teachers. This is simply absurd. This is not about the money. This is not a fiscal crisis. This is a political crisis. And Walker has the power to resolve it by refocusing on fiscal issues, as opposed to pursuing the political goal of breaking unions.”

Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein:

“Unions — through collective bargaining, strikes and other means — give workers power. They also make negotiations less lopsided … unions tend to see their constituents as not just their own members, but the ‘working class’ broadly defined. That’s why you’ll find labor’s fingerprints on everything from the two-day weekend to Medicare to the Civil Rights Act of 1965 — none of which require you to flash a union card before you can benefit from them.”

Denver Post columnist Mike Littwin:

“If you read the [Wisconsin] bill … the union busting is in pretty plain language. The union can only negotiate salary — but, it turns out, any raises above inflation must be approved by [voter] referendum. You try putting your next raise up for a vote and see how it works out. Under the bill, employers can’t collect dues. And it’s worse than that. Every year, under the bill, union members would have to vote to keep the union certified. You can figure this out. If the union can’t bargain, why would you keep voting to certify it — and also vote to keep paying your dues?

“This comes on the heels of last year’s Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, making it easier for corporations to contribute to political campaigns. If I understand the law, the ruling said, in effect, that corporations were people. And public-sector employees? The jury is still out.”