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.

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.”

The United Transportation Union Board of Directors Feb. 28 voted that funds from the UTU’s Education Fund be made available to assist union brothers and sisters in various states whose collective-bargaining rights, right to strike, union membership and check-off privileges for PAC contributions are under attack by extreme right-wing lawmakers.

UTU International President Mike Futhey, a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, is in Washington, D.C., this week meeting with federation President Rich Trumka and other AFL-CIO Executive Committee members on strategies and events that will be most effective in combating union-busting efforts of state legislatures.

The UTU will coordinate its activities with the AFL-CIO and other federation unions.

Also under discussion is creation of a nationwide fund to which other unions and union members might contribute to assist in the effort to combat union-busting.

The signs — carried, pasted and nailed about the Wisconsin state capitol building this past weekend — say it all: “United we bargain, divided we beg.”
For labor, this may be our finest hour, as working families have gathered peacefully, but strong, confident and determined, in hundreds of cities nationwide to protest the most coordinated union-busting efforts since the early 1900s.
Collective bargaining rights, union membership rights, the right to strike and check-off for union-member PAC contributions are all under attack in numerous states.
Some 70,000 workers and their families — union and non-union, and joined by hundreds of UTU members — protested in Wisconsin’s capital city, Madison, Saturday, Feb. 15.
Students of history know the struggles of the early 20th century, when workers were at the mercy of employers. Armed Pinkerton detectives and even armed federal troops were called out to put down efforts of workers for better pay, benefits and working conditions.
It was not until the Railway Labor Act of 1926 and the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 that workers could lawfully join a union free of employer interference, engage in collective bargaining and be safe from the bayonets and bullets that once met organizing attempts and workplace protests. It took until 1959 — with Wisconsin leading the way — that state workers gained a right of collective bargaining. Federal workers did not gain such rights until 1962.
Today’s right-wing, anti-union zealots — many who have gained political office, bankrolled by similar thinking millionaires and billionaires — would turn back the clock.
But united labor must stand, lest we be divided and conquered.
One right-wing blog already is predicting the end of labor unions in America, recklessly blaming collective bargaining for scores of society’s economic ills.
Of course it’s rubbish, but unless the millions of working families making up America’s labor movement counter the lies and distortions being spread, and stand-up to the assault on the middle class, we will, indeed, be divided and reduced to begging status.
We have seen American corporations close factories and move production to third-world nations in search of cheap labor, destroying the hopes and dreams of tens of thousands of American workers and their families.
Now the assault on the American worker has been expanded to destroying the labor unions that helped to create America’s middle class.
The right-wing lawmakers, resolute in destroying collective bargaining and labor unions, assert that the reason is to balance state budgets and save millions of dollars.
The truth is that reducing wages, making health care unaffordable to working families and undermining retiree pensions will only reduce domestic consumption, destroy worker morale and productivity, add to unemployment rolls, increase the number of food stamp recipients, create more homelessness and incite social unrest.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Egyptians, who have overthrown a dictatorship that eliminated that nation’s working class, have found the time and energy to lend support to American labor’s fight against the would-be dictators who want to determine — free of collective bargaining — the wages, benefits and working conditions for public employees.
If the assault on public-employee collective bargaining is successful, it will be but a matter of time before the same assault is launched on private-sector collective bargaining.
Our great-grandfathers fought with blood, sweat and tears to gain laws assuring our rights to join a labor union of our choice and engage in collective bargaining. To sit idly by as a minority of right-wing zealots seeks to eliminate those rights is to mock the sacrifices and gains of our forebears.
As UTU International President Mike Futhey says in supporting pro-collective-bargaining demonstrations, “We are not going away and we will not forget. This fight is making organized labor stronger than ever. This will be our finest hour.”

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.”

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:

https://smart-union.org/news/help-preserve-collective-bargaining-in-ohio/

By UTU International President Mike Futhey

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:

www.aflcio.org/issues/states/

Click on the following link to see how you might help in Ohio:

https://smart-union.org/news/help-preserve-collective-bargaining-in-ohio/

And certainly consider joining, or increasing your contribution to, the UTU PAC, which works to elect union-friendly lawmakers to state legislatures and Congress.