$$ Voting Made Easy: Empowering the 99%

I’m about to buy a lawn mower, but I don’t want my money used to attack Wisconsin workers and families.

There are several lists of companies to avoid when making purchasing decisions, such as companies led by people who gave big donations directly to the Walker campaign. Buying local is usually a wise decision, but even that is problematic when most Wisconsin businesses support the Chamber of Commerce (national or local), or other organizations hostile to Wisconsin’s workers and families.

For example, Wisconsin-based Ariens is out because they belong to WMC. Illinois-based John Deere is even worse, because they not only belong to WMC, they also belong to ALEC.

It can be difficult to find a non-evil company to reward with my consumer spending, but it’s worth the effort. At the moment, I’m considering buying a Husqvarna mower. Husqvarna is apparently a Swiss company, although I’m not sure the where the mowers are actually manufactured.

Boycott lists are a good start, but aren’t enough. We need better ways to help each other identify and support companies that believe strong and prosperous families are good for the economy.

For starters, I need your suggestions on what mower to buy, and where to buy it.

Update: Cline Corporation gets the message, quits plan for Wisconsin mine.

Update:  From the facebook wall of Rep. Terese Berceau:   ” Senate rejection of the mining reforms in Assembly Bill 426 sends a clear message that Wisconsin will not welcome iron mining. We get the message. GTac is ending plans to invest in a Wisconsin mine. We thank the many people who have supported our efforts.” –  Letter just distributed on floor from Gogebic Taconite, President Bill Williams, evening of 03/06/12


Though I’m squarely against the mine, I made a decision to just document a pro-mine rally today and not counter-protest. When I walked up to the Capitol building, my friend Bruce was the lone anti-mine sign holder. I was glad for his vigilance.

About 300 members of 5 unions assembled. The crowd was primarily men with a few women also interspersed. I met men from Green Bay, Milwaukee, Wausau, and Crandon. The private labor unions pledging their support are the International Union of Operating Engineers  Local 139, the Iron Workers District Council of the North Central States,   Wisconsin Pipe Trades Association, North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, and  Wisconsin Laborer’s District Council. *

I talked with Chris Schoenbeck, President of the Wisconsin Pipefitters Association.  I tried to get more info on the letter of understanding that five private construction unions worked out with mining company, the Cline Corporation. Schoenbeck replied with the same information I got out of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: there’s a  promise that 95% of the people employed to work on the mine would be from Wisconsin and that they would come from the unions.

I spoke with Steve who lives in Wind Lake [near Milwaukee].  of Operating Engineers Local 139. Steve said his union has 6,900 active members and that his men would be the first people to work on the proposed mine site. He said that engineers would usually be doing road construction and any building work on campus.

I wondered if these folks supported public unions in Wisconsin last year but are now breaking with them.

Doing a bit of checking, I learned that Steve’s union has supported Walker from day one, though his union’s business manager was taken to task for it. Terry McGowan, the business manager for Local 139, wrote a letter to union members in December of 2011 to members to explain that Scott Walker was and is backed by his union because “Tom Barrett made his position clear that he was a mass-transit guy. He told me three times that he saw no reason for any additional highways. in Wisconsin if we can steer the public to utilize mass transit….  Scott Walker on the other hand
believes that we need extra lanes on most of our Interstate system. Not only that, he supports High-Occupancy
Tolls, or HOT lanes in congested areas for additional revenue. He is making a solid commitment to make it impossible if not illegal to transfer money out of the transportation fund and will seek to utilize taxes paid on all car parts and most automo-
bile-related sales toward the highway program. He also told me that the day he is sworn in, the public sector is out of the road-building business.” Read more HERE if you like.

I also spoke with a member of LiUNA. (These are the men you’ll see wearing orange in many of my photos). I asked him if it wasn’t a conflict for his union to side with the mine when many unions were siding against the Walker administration and recalling Scott Walker. He replied that “when it comes to politics we encourage people to go to make decisions that are work-oriented. To make the best decision for laborers.”

I asked him what LiUNA members do usually on a site and he replied demolition, clean-up, hauling debris, bricklaying – “all across the board”.

We talked for a while about the economy and its role in union membership. He said when the economy drops their membership does drop. He added that if the Keystone XL pipeline goes ahead that will yield a lot of labor for his union.

I said nothing about how I feel about the Keystone XL to him but in my mind I flashed to a moment that morning when I had urged Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now” to do a story on 5 Lakota Indians who had been arrested for creating a blockade against equipment on its way to be used on the tar sands of Alberta, Canada.

After I shared some of the photos from today on facebook, a friend asked if LiUNA wasn’t in the streets with us a year ago.

Indeed they were. From February 25, 2011, “In Wisconsin where it all started, thousands of LIUNA members have joined tens of thousands of protesters occupying the Capitol building in Madison to prevent lawmakers from stripping workers of collective bargaining rights. And today, state police announced they will join the protestors to defend workers’ rights.”

I am disturbed because I assume that LiUNA and the other unions assembled today will not bite the hand that feeds them  – I’m assuming they will not both accept mine jobs and turn on their provider, Scott Walker.

But hold it. WHAT mine jobs? Isn’t the streamlined mine bill Cline Corporation wants too dirty – so dirty that my scientifically pedigreed friends insist the EPA will stop it? Aren’t the tribes vowing to halt it?

In the process of getting from here to there we must deal with a charade – an assumption that Scott Walker and the mine provide jobs. Once again the corporation brings laborers to their knees. In the process the GOP gets a delicious bonus: men from LiUNA come into the Capitol not as allies to public unions and to Dems, but instead as their adversaries.

As I walked into the building I saw a man who was wearing a blue fist AFL-CIO button. I asked what the insignia was on his jacket and he replied “plumbers”. He was one of the rare men wearing any button at all. That blue fist button is usually marching with the anti-Walker crowd.

There was tension enough in the rotunda to make at least one friend leave the space but the only conflict that came of it was a chant from the visitors that overpowered the singers for maybe 3 minutes: “We want jobs”.

The chanting settled down and the Solidarity Sing Along picked up with , “We are a gentle angry people”.

Some of the assembled pro-mine visitors wandered off to lobby legislators and some stayed. At the very end a singer with a booming voice broke into the brief chant of “Jobs AND Environment!” and many of the other singers joined in.

This well of sound and beauty, the rotunda, is where chants of “Recall Walker!” and “General strike!” and “This is what democracy looks like!” were sounded one year ago. It’s not exactly a think tank, but maybe it’s a yell tank. Now it’s generated competing chants – new divisions.

The state senate was scheduled to take up the bill at noon today, then 1:30PM and then I realized it was 5PM and I was in a vehicle on the way home and the bill was being pushed off again. “All the better to be seen by people after work” I thought. And that’s how it worked out.   Ulimately the legislation that came out of the JFC was voted down and the compromise that Jauch and Schultz labored over was not even taken up (though they did speak eloquently to defend it ). The senate voted unanimously to send the Assembly bill to the Org. committee. That’s where the bill might die.

Today a statement came out from Geogobic Taconite that said it would reject any bill that improved on the original one written to the mine’s specifications, nevermind your wishes for democracy.

See more photos at my facebook page.

*A friend has reminded me that a regional union that has signed on may or may not have the approval of all of the locals within it especially when the agreement was arrived at within a tight time frame.

This was initially titled “Solidarity weakens and the Wisconsin mine goes to committee again. ” The Cline company shared their letter on quitting Wisconsin not long after I wrote this post.

Video: 1 week before his election, Scott Walker promised to negotiate with unions

How about that. He did promise to negotiate, didn’t he.

It’s not the first time this truth has been trotted out for public view. Politifact rated the following whopping lie from Walker a big FALSE on February 22, 2011:

“I campaigned on (the proposals in the budget repair bill for Wisconsin) all throughout the election. Anybody who says they are shocked on this has been asleep for the past two years.”

The video footage is from the interview mentioned at Politifact:
“Before the election Walker talked about seeking concessions in the context of face-to-face negotiations — as in the Oshkosh Northwestern editorial board interview. He is moving to impose health and pension cost-sharing through legislation, without having taken his proposal to the unions.

He once talked about expanding a statewide cost control system — using collective bargaining — beyond teachers to all state employees. But now he proposes an approach that would let individual municipalities set their own benefit levels — with little input from unions.”

For more info see Politifact’s check on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he campaigned on his budget repair plan, including curtailing collective bargaining

And if you can handle it, here is the full 1 hour interview:

Let’s Sway Responsibly

This past year, I have been a frequent participant in the Solidarity Sing Along protests held every weekday in or just outside the Wisconsin Capitol. One of the songs we sing is “Bring Back Wisconsin to Me”, sung to the tune of “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean”, with new lyrics by Lou and Peter Berryman. It’s a great little protest song that almost dares you to swing your arms back and forth while you sing “Ohhhh…bring back, bring back, oh bring back Wisconsin to me, to me…!”

So we do. We sway while we sing that song.

At some point in the nearly 300 Sing Alongs that have been held since March of 2011, it was suggested that we sway carefully to avoid hitting the person next to us while we swing our arms. It was also discovered that it helps if everyone starts swaying in the same direction.

The advice about proper Sing Along etiquette has become an inside joke that is repeated whenever we sing “Bring Back Wisconsin to Me”. The leader calls out “You may sway if you wish, but if you sway…”, and the crowd yells back “Sway Responsibly!” We usually have a few visitors who laugh. Many of the regulars still laugh, too. Often the joke is followed by a few people advising the newbies to always start to the left. Wink, wink.

It’s a good reminder in politics as well as in choreography. Perhaps if Scott Walker had known enough to sway responsibly, he wouldn’t be in the mess he’s in right now – another budget deficit, record job losses, at least half the voters in the state disgusted with him, and his recall election soon to be scheduled. I won’t even mention the John Doe investigation. Oops. Too late.

As we begin the process of selecting someone to run against Scott Walker from the left, we need to do the same thing the singers do every day in the Capitol. We need to move left, but we need to sway in that direction, not just shove each other out of the way to stake out claims. We need to sway responsibly. That means union leaders have to avoid the temptation to endorse the first person who promises them everything they want. It means center-left Democrats and moderate Republicans who have joined in the fight have to acknowledge that the movement began as a defensive action against the stripping of collective bargaining rights, and that the fight will not be over until those rights have been restored. It means that the leaders of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin must keep all the doors open and all the lights on as they guide the process of selecting a nominee.

We need to continue talking to each other so we know what everyone expects and what everyone is willing to contribute. As we did last year during the big rallies on the square, we need to turn and listen to each other individually, not just cheer someone speaking from a podium at the top of the Capitol steps.

Our fight began with Labor, but the demonstrations grew into a coalition, then a movement because it also became a fight to restore funds for public education and health care. It became a fight to restore environmental regulations, and a fight to take back the local control that Scott Walker and the Republican legislature said they favored, but stole from the citizens as soon as they had the chance.

Finally, it has now become a fight to simply restore decency and integrity to our state government. Every day, new revelations are highlighting the corruption, pay-for-play, and plain old theft of public resources being perpetrated by Governor Walker and his cronies. To truly bring back Wisconsin, we must include on the agenda a vigorous plan to bring back open government where everyone’s voice is heard. Taking unlimited, private money out of our politics has to be a priority.

It’s not either/or. It’s a fight for all those things, no matter how the fight began, and it won’t be over until every battle has been won, to quote a line from another protest song.

A primary election for governor is a great way for us to start working together. It’s clear that this will be an election like no other in Wisconsin’s history. Let’s treat it that way. Let’s be patient but assertive as we do it together, arm in arm, singing in unison as we sway to the left. Let us each promise that we will not go home until every item on the checklist has been marked “completed.” Some will be very difficult to accomplish, so we must take advantage of every opportunity to progress, regardless of where that opportunity resides on the agenda.

We will not succeed unless everyone commits to staying until we’ve sung the final chorus of “Bring Back Wisconsin to Me”. Then we’ll sing one more chorus just for fun, and one more after that to teach it to the next generation.

About WEAC and Kathleen Falk

I am not endorsing any candidate for Governor of Wisconsin right now because I think it’s still too early.

Would you listen to me anyway?

I could enjoy delusions of grandeur but I’m not a heavy hitter like Wisconsin’s union for education staff, WEAC. I have about 4,100 followers on twitter. WEAC has over 98,000 dues-paying members, many of whom will stand out in the snow with a recall Walker petition if you ask them to. WEAC has asked them to stand in the snow, to march, and to donate to recalls and members have gladly gained solidarity and triumph doing so. Now WEAC is asking these people to adopt the candidate of its choice for governor without giving the rank and file an opportunity to vote on the matter. It doesn’t seem to be going over so well.

From Dan Bice of Milwaukee J. Sentinel, “Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk has won the endorsement of one of the state’s most powerful labor unions.” (Zach at Blogging Blue heard Mary Bell say WEAC “recommended” not “endorse” at a press conference). There’s always more to any of these decisions than the surface shows. For example, what significance is it that Wisconsin’s Dem Party Chair Mike Tate used to work for Kathleen Falk? But the generically accepted determining factor is Falk said she would veto a state budget over collective bargaining rights if necessary.

“I have said that I will veto a budget bill if it does not have collective bargaining,” Falk said. “The way you undo (Walker’s) damage is the same vehicle by which he did the damage.”

From what I’m reading, it’s not as if the other Dems interviewed by union leaders [4 candidates in all I hear] were adverse to reversing Walker’s agenda. It’s just that they weren’t going to agree to hold the state’s cash flow hostage to do it– an action that Kathleen Vinehout called “brinksmanship”.

On the good side, the union and their chosen candidate are making their intentions transparent [unlike, for example, 81 GOP legislators who last year signed a secrecy pact to keep details about redistricting secret from you and I while charging the Wisconsin taxpayer $400,000]. On the good side, the needs of working people are being put at the top of the agenda not at the bottom or to the side as we saw in the veiled language advocating for “the middle class” in the recalls of last summer.

On the bad side I’m seeing a strong rejection of WEAC’s decision and Falk.

And there are the polls:
“Tom Barrett would be the top choice of Wisconsin Democrats to take on Scott Walker,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “If he doesn’t run they’d prefer David Obey. Kathleen Falk is not at the top of voters’ lists.”

See the footnotes for why I hope Milwaukee’s mayor Tom Barrett stays out of the race.

PPP Jan 17th poll

Cue the Kenny Rogers, please:

Going in early to organize the army. Looks like the army is no longer taking orders.

The players supporting Kathleen Falk can count on the drip, drip, drip of information about the John Doe investigation circling Scott Walker to create a darker cloud over the man every day as more and more local newspapers and TV stations broadcast juicy details. They believe that while in one TV ad viewers will hear “It’s working”, in the next ad they’ll hear, “And at 5 learn about the latest Scott Walker aide to be charged with a felony.” Hell, they might hear “learn about the criminal charge against Scott Walker”.

Still, Walker will have the air wave ads. A labor-friendly contender would need to completely dominate the ground game. According to Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, from 1999 to 2010 the ratio of business to labor union contributions for all candidates statewide and in legislative districts was $12 to $1. Walker’s adversary needs the army of 30,000 recall volunteers to stand behind him or her. I’m guessing that WEAC has a good idea of how many teachers are in that army and it’s high.

I have met a lot of current and former teachers who were recall petition volunteers on my stops in Jefferson, Watertown, Wausau, Madison, Sun Prairie, and parts North.

But the negative response online to WEAC’s endorsement was immediate and virulent. Of the many comments from WEAC’s facebook page:
“Your three posts tonight endorsing Kathleen Falk do not make me believe this is a good candidate. Member for 17 years. I am so disappointed.”

“I just received an email from WEAC: “WEAC members recommend Kathleen Falk for governor.” I have yet to speak to one of these members.”

“Ummmm….shouldn’t the members get a say on this since we are all a part of this UNION?? Very disappointed….AGAIN…..”

“Ms. Falk has a great deal of work to do in order to convince me she is the champion we seek. I am very upset that no input was asked from the locals before an official endorsement was given.”

From twitter:
“Conservative @BrownDeerRepub
Walker vs Falk would be a 9 point win at least. Can’t wait. At this point I want Barrett to give up”

“Sleepy Eye @sleepyeye11
They don’t know who’s running yet MT @swell:WEAC backs Falk? No, no no please NO. jsonline.com/blogs/news/138… #wiunion”

A lesser reason to go early.

Walker has signaled that he wants to get the recall done earlier rather than later.* The less time the recall verification takes, the less time the Dems have to organize and raise money. You can look at whatever G.A.B. says and their current policies to give you a sign of what’s to come however the G.A.B is controlled by Walker through the power of the rules committee and Act 21. G.A.B.’s Kevin Kennedy has hinted at June at the earliest. Frankly, he doesn’t know when the election will be and I don’t either.

“What part of “lost two statewide elections” do they not understand?” – twitter

Many – this blogger included – don’t see Falk as a strong statewide candidate. She lost a statewide race in 2002 she ran for Governor and lost. In 2006 she ran for Attorney General and lost. She’ll have to deal with wearing a scarlet “D” for “Dane County liberal” (well, more fittingly it should be a deep cobalt blue)

Odd thing is, Falk has a better chance of winning a state race than a Dane County one due to shoddy treatment of Peg Laughtenschlager in a previous campaign and Peg’s later meteoric rise in standing after doing legal work to open the Capitol building. I heard through the grapevine that when Falk visited the Solidarity Sing Along in the rotunda she got a tepid smattering of applause. For the record, any visiting Dem14 senator gets sustained, raucous applause.

What about the other candidates? How can they return collective bargaining rights?

So the other Dem candidates that unions interviewed would not vow to publicly stoop to the level of Scott Walker by inserting policy in the budget [which I’ve heard has happened repeatedly whether you’re looking at a Dem or GOP Governor]. And by “policy” I mean collective bargaining rights. Which then makes one ask, how would these dignified legislators proceed in reversing Walker’s agenda?

If you’ve watched any session of Wisconsin’s Assembly at all in the past year, you’ve seen Dems parade a list of amendments in front of an unbending wall of obstinance from the other side of the aisle. Bills in the Assembly are voted in lockstep, by the GOP. Time and time again bloggers have pointed out to you that ALEC writes bills that so-called “author” GOP legislators haven’t even read. The GOP Assembly is predicted to maintain its majority this year. At the moment there are 59 GOP, 39 Dem, and 1 Independent among them.

I think it is possible to change the character of the Assembly with a LOT of elbow grease. The aspiration to overturn the Assembly would come from the dreaming, passionate, driven grassroots who made the recalls happen and who are committed to straight forward democracy. (My personal opinion is that we need to do it, all your consultants be damned.)

Other options I think of (and please comment on whatever schemes you have that I miss) are manipulating statutes through the rules committee and changing the character of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The first option is authoritarian the second is another uphill fight with unsure outcome. Changing the court could come through a recall of Gableman and subsequent election and then a challenge to WI Act 10 again.

It is a wild card race and this actually works in favor of any Dem contender. In that PPP poll I cite earlier, I noticed this: “There’s a great deal of interest in the potential primary beyond the Democratic base. We find that 30% of likely voters for it are independents and 11% are even Republicans.” We have been hearing about a remarkable number of Republicans who have signed the recall petition against Walker. They are in the recall army. A good number of those petitioners will ultimately vote, and they won’t vote for Walker. They will be ready for something completely different.

*Election Timing Footnote:
I address this next thing to get it out of the way: There is a sliver of a chance that Walker removes all veneer of democracy, bares his fangs, and forces the recall to coincide with April 3rd (the presidential primary date in Wisconsin). This would be done under the guise of saving money (last estimate on the recall cost was $9 million) and with the power of Act 21 but it would backfire with the public. If we saw that come to pass we’d have no doubt the entire election was rigged.

Tom Barrett: While he has name recognition and — let’s put any policy disagreements aside — I believe he is a man of good character. But his lack of savvy – to not be ready to answer the question, “Did you sign Scott Walker’s recall petition?” To not understand that he had to not only have signed it but to do it with a brass band in tow and surrounded by the press – just put aside what you think of the answer and note that he was not ready for it, he did not latch onto the power of it, and he has no clue how relevant it is to the current climate. This is a continuation of what I saw from him in his failed 2010 campaign against Walker and made me feel he would lose all over again.

Falk’s staff: David Axelrod’s (chief strategist and media advisor for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign) former consulting firm, AKPD Message and Media and One Wisconsin Now’s Scot Ross are working on the campaign. Meagan Mahaffey,formerly Executive Director of United Wisconsin, is Falk’s campaign manager. Rumor has it that Teresa Vilmain is working as a Falk strategist while Rory McCarron is her “New Media Director”. More on her staff is here.

Solidarity and protest in Pennsylvania led to U.S. State Dept. crackdown on abuse of foreign student workers.

Once in a while we get a flash of good news for worker rights.

From AFLCIO’s blog:
“…this week the U.S. State Department announced that it will make major revisions to a guest-worker and cultural exchange visa program and barred participation by a major player in the program, the Council for Educational Travel, USA (CETUSA).”

The catalyst for this change was agitation by a coalition of about 400 foreign student workers, the AFL-CIO, SEIU, and others at a warehouse contracted out to Excel Logistics by Hershey in Palmyra, PA where workers were threatened with deportation if they organized, made to attend meetings, had threatening e-mails and calls made to their parents. The workers were also forced to live in company housing that charged a rate double the local rate, leaving worker with $40-$140 take home pay a week.

I wanted to draw attention to this story because back in August last year, Wisconsin was credited for a reinvigorated push for worker rights and solidarity among worker allies in the community of Palmyra, PA and beyond:

“We are seeing a very real shift happening. The solidarity between a group of essentially captive guest workers and American workers is unusual, and gets right at the heart of both global labor patterns and the hallowing out of the American economy,” says Boykewic, who added:

“There was something iconic about Wisconsin and there was a new infusion of energy. Before there was a national conversation happening at kitchen tables about the individual problems workers were having, but not at national discourse in the media. Wisconsin was the catalyzing moment that created an energy of people thinking about these connections between each other. …“” –source [Stephen Boykewich is a National Guestworker Alliance spokesman]

By hiring foreign student workers that could easily be threatened and manipulated, American businesses have avoided hiring local unemployed workers and they’ve also avoided paying state and federal payroll taxes. The much abused Summer Work Travel program or SWT admitted 132,000 workers last year.
Get more details at the aflcio blog.

“Right to Work” for Less Now Law in Indiana

The protest video above was shot during the governor’s state of the state address on January 10, 2012. There’s nothing quite like watching protest video to get this wonk’s attention. It’s heart warming to see democracy in action.

Since last year the people in Indiana have gained a special place in my heart. To refresh everyone’s memory, House Democrats left the state last year and fled to Urbana, IL to stop so called “Right to Work” from passing. They stayed away for a record five weeks and at that time managed to stop “Right to Work” from becoming law of the land in Indiana. In fact, the “Right to Work” legislation was removed from the docket as soon as the 39 House Democrats left the state. Indiana House Democrats and the people of Indiana deserve a lot of credit for everything they did to try to prevent this from happening. Hoosiers showed the same tenacity that made Wisconsin protesters known all over the world. The only difference then is not too many people were aware that anything happened in Indiana. Most people were too busy watching events unfolding in Wisconsin to notice the struggle going on in Indiana.

It was a happy day when the Democrats returned to the capital last March and even a happier occasion knowing the so called “Right to Work” bill had been at least temporarily scrapped. I had hoped the so called “Right to Work” legislation had been permanently taken off the table, but that was too good to be true.

Today the Indiana senate voted to approve so called “Right to Work” legislation. It has already been approved by the Indiana House. Governor Mitch Daniels has already signed it into law. Thousands of people inside and outside the capital building protested this move. Protesters marched to Lucas Oil Stadium after the senate voted to approve this bill. This is where the Super Bowl is going to be played this Sunday.

Indiana Teamsters who initially endorsed Mitch Daniels are now upset that he is going back on his campaign promises and have created the commercial above. It was played during the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. According to a January 24, 2012 by Maureen Hayden ,

“The clip is from a speech delivered to about 500 Teamsters union leaders who represent more than 16,000 Indiana workers who are Teamsters members. In the speech, Daniels said he wanted to avoid the “super wars” fought over divisive labor issues and said he saw no need to change the state labor laws. He specifically mentions right-to-work as an issue he wouldn’t support.”

According to a USA Today article, “The Legislature, she said, had rushed this bill, ignoring legislative procedures and traditions, to get it to Daniels before the Super Bowl.” I’m not much of a football fan, but that seems like a really lame excuse to rush through such important legislation. There needs to be public education and hearings, not just a rush to get it passed into law because of a football game.

There may be a protest against the Right to Work legislation during the Super Bowl. If there is a protest, I hope a lot of people show up to show their support and there are some good live streams of the event.

One thing that really struck me from the article is the following. “Indiana did adopt “right to work” in 1957 but repealed it in 1965. Unions say it will lead to a downward spiral in wages and working conditions for all workers.” So, they had a Right to Work law before. They repealed this law. Apparently it didn’t work for Indiana in 1965. What makes anyone think it will work this time?

Some people may be wondering why I’m concerned about Right to Work legislation in Indiana. I’ll tell you why. This is not just an Indiana thing. It’s a matter of workers’ rights. Whenever workers lose rights anywhere it impacts workers everywhere. Everyone who relies on a paycheck to live should be paying attention to this issue, no matter what state you live in. If and when it passes here, it could be coming to your state next. We all need to stand in solidarity with each other, because if we don’t stand together for workers’ rights, we will lose them one state at a time.

Remembering why Wisconsin Recalls by a Naught TEA Republican


As a result of the Walker recall my notions about who can become my friend are blown out of the water. The last time I had Republican friends *who I could discuss politics with* was the late 80’s.  Now I have the pleasure to know Dee Ives.  This is her facebook post which is reprinted at my blog with her permission.

– blue cheddar  

Today there were tears in my eyes as I watched boxes of Recall petitions being carried into the GAB office in Madison WI. Over 1,000,000 WI citizens gave our Governor Scott Walker a peoples referendum on his TEA Party Budget and theft of open and transparent politics in WI. For, you see, I am a WI Republican, and have watched with horror as the TEA Party infiltrated our Party of Lincoln, LaFollette, Reagan & Thompson turning it away from exactly what we in WI stand for…Progressive People Powered Democracy.

I was at Walker’s Inaugaration, heard him say he would uphold the WI Constitution and her Laws, that he worked for her people. As SEIU Republican Advisory Committee member for WI, I asked my union to give him a chance to be educated on the values of our proud WI Idea of Democracy & Union heritage. I had offered our nursing expertise to bring down the cost of Healthcare, to show ways to cut costs and improve the quality of care we can offer our patients, our fellow citizens. Then came the Budget Repair Bill in February.

I spoke at the first two rallies in February, in solidarity with WEAC , AFSCME, and many others on how this would affect our State, our veterans care, our communities. I stood in front of over 50,000 and explained this was not a Republican stance…after all, our party’s 1st President, Abe Lincoln had said “All that serves Labor, serves the Nation” and “There is no America without Labor, and to fleece one is to rob the other” I was aghast that anyone would try to end Collective Bargaining, a law that passed in WI the year I was born, without even sitting down with our State Employee Unions to negotiate! It was the Law and our Gov was ignoring it. Then came the infamous “Koch call” where he compared himself with Reagan.

I served in the USAF under Reagan, and know he was proud to have been a Union President of SAG, and remember when he stood up for the Polish workers saying that the loss of collective bargaining was the loss of Freedom and how if we were not vigilant the right to be union could be lost in a single generation. I also remember Reagan raising taxes on everyone, including corporations, because a real patriot sacrifices for the good of the country.

We Naught TEA Republicans believe in the right to speak freely, to bear arms, we support Labor and business, and insist that the government not interfere with our day to day operations of private organizations. We believe we should not have to choose between our party, our union, or our guns…yet our new Governor was choosing to try to make us a right to work state like Texas!

I was appalled as I watched our Senate, lead by Scott Fitzgerald, break the open meetings laws we had in WI , despite Peter Barca’s pleas, to illegally pass Act 10 as our brave WI 14 were in Illinois. But, it was just the start of the daily assault we in WI found ourselves faced with. The politicizing of our Dept of Veteran’s Affairs, wanting to cut educational funding by $800 million, raising taxes on our working poor and seniors by cuts to EIC and Homestead monies, wanting to sell State assets without a bidding process, Voter ID, every day we watched our 1st Amendment right to free speech being curtailed, locked out of our house, the Capitol , despite court orders.We started the Senate Recalls , and many said we failed, but two of those TEA Party fake Republicans were ousted…and all 3 Democrats won back their seats.

Gov Walker says it is working in WI…he lies. We have lost jobs every month since his reforms, despite his corporate tax cuts at taxpayer expense. We have lost our trust in honest & fair elections via electronic voting machines, and we do not believe that the Paul Ryan plan on the Federal Level is a direction we want our party to take…it’s not our parents Republican Party, but rather a TEApublicCON ! Walker said we were broke…but, if that is how a State Budget should be! Balancing a Budget means all the tax money taken in is spent…or we are paying too much into our taxes. We will always strive to be just broke, but in WI the corporate tax breaks will cost over a billion dollars in revenue over the next decade…we can not afford this!

So, I joined the We Are WI team last summer, a non partisan group, one of the things we were concerned about was the voter ID bill, especially as many seniors in nursing homes, including many of my fellow veterans do not have access to the documentation to get these ID’s so that they can vote in 2012. As I collected my 316 signatures to recall Walker, and 310 signatures for Lt Gov Kleefisch, I finally, almost a year later, got to meet our Governor. When I did, I told him of our Republican concerns of what he was doing cutting BadgerCare and then  my boss told him I was a veteran. So, I asked him “Will you give the gift of assurance that all of the Veterans living in our State Veterans Homes will have the free photo ID so they can vote in the next election?” Gov Walker stuttered a “Well, uh” as I reminded him we Veterans all served to protect our Freedom & Democracy…and he was moved very quickly off my unit without answering. 6 veterans were outside, denied the chance to hear him speak , by the State Patrol at the doors. No wonder today I cried…

We will do well to rid ourselves of this TEA Party in WI…no real Republican would EVER dare take the right to participate in American Democracy by not providing the very heros who risked all in service to America the means to vote! And with the FBI John Doe probe stating that the Operation Freedom charity funds embezzled by Tim Russell (who Walker appointed as Milwaukee County Executive to safeguard the money) being used by this person to pay for Walker for Governor websites, I also say no real Republican would ever condone stealing from our nations heros either! WI is better than this, and if 1,000,000 signatures does not prove it nothing ever will! Governor Walker…do not bet that we rural Naught TEA Republicans will be fooled again !

They took the shirt right off his back. Picketing Lincoln Hills School with Ron McCalister.

Ron McCalister recently suffered the humiliation of being forced to remove his clothing at work because it bore the name of his union.   He has worked for the State of Wisconsin for 26 years and been an AFSCME local union president for 19.

On January 5 Ron came to work and found that somebody had removed the AFSCME signs in his office at the Lincoln Hills School near Irma, Wisconsin. He asked managers what happened and was told that the deputy superintendent had taken them down. He then put on an AFSCME shirt and conducted his normal work. Following, the superintendent and 4 other managers circled him and gave him an order to remove the AFSCME shirt or risk be disciplined. He refused to remove the shirt and was informed he was suspended without pay and told to leave Lincoln Hills grounds. Ron then was escorted off the grounds of the school by security personnel.

He returned the next day wearing a union jacket and two AFSCME shirts. He worked for 3 hours. He was called in by 2 supervisors. He  was directed to remove his clothing and he did so down to bare skin. He made a motion to remove his belt, saying he also had union underwear on and he asked if he should remove that to. Managers then took a 5 minute break and informed the superintendent of the situation. The superintendent said Ron could put his clothes back on and complete the day’s work wearing his union clothing. Ron decided to go home at 1PM ill. Before he left, he told the superintendent that he’d “gone to far” and that he’d violated his civil rights by making him take off his clothes.

Ron said that on Friday evening he received a memo that said he could wear union garb.

He suspects the original order to force him to remove his clothes came from “the upper echelon of the department of corrections”. He said he and his local superintendent have had a good working relationship and he does not believe that the directive came from him.

As I spoke with Ron this afternoon, passing cars honked in a “this is what democracy looks like” beat and about 60 picketers quietly filed up and down the school driveway holding signs.

His mother, father and brother were also there to express their support.

Ron’s father also expressed anger: “He’s worked there for almost 30 years. It’s embarrassing that he was removed the way he was. This is thanks to Governor Walker.”

I asked a retired teacher why she came to picket. She said, “My reason for standing here is if we don’t take a stand at this particular point in history, there’s not going to be rights for workers. This whole thing will be said and done. That’s why”.

(I’m on the road this week. I’ll be able to process and upload video of this event when I get home this weekend.)

Find more images from the picket at my facebook page.

Walker Administration Finds New Excuse For Job Losses

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released preliminary national employment numbers today for the month of November. Once again, Wisconsin leads the way in job losses – 14,600 jobs lost after adjusting for seasonal factors. From the BLS report:

The largest over-the-month statistically significant declines in employment occurred in Wisconsin (-14,600) and Minnesota (-13,700).

When explaining away job losses previously, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s Secretary-du-jour (there have been three DWD secretaries under Walker so far) would blame President Obama and other unspecified national and international economic trends.

The national statistics, however, have shown that Wisconsin’s job losses are the exception. The rest of the country as a whole continues to make a painfully slow recovery, but a recovery nonetheless.

Now, the Walker administration just blames the data, pointing out that the BLS has revised its preliminary numbers often over the past year:

“October was the fifth straight month and the eighth month this year in which the federal government overestimated the preliminary job loss numbers or underestimated job gains for Wisconsin,” Secretary Newson said. “I am particularly concerned by the disparity in the October preliminary numbers, which were off by 7,300 for total jobs and 7,900 for private-sector jobs. These unreliable employment statistics out of Washington misinform the public and create unnecessary anxiety for job seekers and job creators about the shape of our state’s economy.”

(I think that’s why they call them “preliminary”, but I’m not a professional statistician.) What hasn’t changed is that even the revised numbers published later show job losses every month since Walker’s first budget was implemented on July 1st of this year.

Walker blames the data when it shows he has failed, but it was the Walker administration that was eager to trumpet the BLS preliminary numbers from June earlier this year. Walker eventually had to walk back an embarrassingly ignorant claim that implied Wisconsin was responsible for over half of all jobs created in the nation that month. As I said, I am not a professional statistician, but I could see his faulty math immediately. The nation had a net gain of 18,000 jobs that month. Wisconsin had a net gain of about 9,500 jobs, so Walker and his right-wing media allies were quick to make an idiotic implication that Wisconsin had miraculously created half the new jobs in America that month.

As my high school friend’s mother, an elementary school teacher, used to shout from the kitchen when she overheard us struggle with questions while playing Trivial Pursuit: “Third grade!”

Walker campaigned on creating 250,000 jobs in Wisconsin by the end of his current term. That sounds like a lofty goal, but when factoring in population increases, that would only get Wisconsin to slightly better than it was before the recession began. Walker probably thought it was a shrewd campaign maneuver to throw out what sounded like a big number. As bad as the economy was, it was a safe bet that it would be improved in 4 years. He knew that even a third grade governor could “create” 250,000 jobs just by doing nothing.

Here’s what the numbers show: Walker has actually done worse than if he had done nothing at all. That has to hurt. One thing about labor statistics is that trends are what matter, not individual data points. The trend in Wisconsin shows that Walker’s policies are failing.

Walker, Fitzgerald Attempt Smokescreens While Recall Succeeds and Job Creation Fails

Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and Governor Scott Walker each yelled “squirrel” today, attempting to distract the hounds that are getting close to recalling Walker. Fitzgerald spewed some nonsense about restructuring the non-partisan Government Accountability Board (GAB), the agency that oversees elections in Wisconsin. He also introduced a bill to make signing a recall petition more than once a felony.

It’s all noise, as is the Walker campaign’s announcement that it had filed a lawsuit to try to get the GAB’s plans for verifying recall signatures declared “unconstitutional.”

Their smokescreens were an attempt to hide two sets of numbers that were announced elsewhere today: Recall organizers said they have already collected over 507,000 of the 540,208 necessary signatures to force a recall election against Walker, while the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) whispered as quietly as possible that preliminary seasonally-adjusted numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show Wisconsin lost 11,700 private-sector jobs in November. That makes 5 straight months of private-sector job loss in Wisconsin.

The report shows the number of public service jobs also went down by 2,900 in November. That makes for a grand total of 14,600 jobs lost last month.

The DWD press release points out that the preliminary BLS numbers for October were revised and showed a much lower loss of jobs than previously announced. But it was still a loss, so the streak stands at 5 months. The state of Wisconsin has lost over 21,000 jobs since Scott Walker’s first budget was implemented on July 1, 2011.

Jobs going away while recall signature totals skyrocket adds up to a very, very bad day for Scott Walker and his dwindling circle of die-hard supporters. If his past history is any indication, expect Governor Walker at a photo op with military veterans within the next couple of days. It’s his favorite method of shielding himself from growing public frustration over his failed economic policies, outrageous power grabs, and lack of compassion for working people.

Solidarity Rally for Striking Manitowoc Crane Machinists

This is a guest post by by MadtownAnnie

On a frigid windy day in December, hundreds (thousands?) of people traveled to Manitowoc, WI to show their support at a solidarity rally for the workers at Manitowoc Crane. Members of IAM Local 516, the International Aerospace and Machinists union, voted 180-2 to go on strike on November 15 after the company introduced last-minute language into their contract that mirrored the “reforms” that Governor Scott Walker imposed on public employee unions earlier this year. Manitowoc Crane’s “freedom to choose” proposal includes forcing the union to make membership dues optional and extend union benefits to non-union workers.

The crowd was a colorful mix of public and private sector unions including AFSCME, SEIU, TAA, Ironworkers, Steelworkers, and Teamsters, as well as many non-union supporters. Many of the unions represented at the rally presented donations they had collected for the Manitowoc machinists. It was inspiring to hear some public employees talk about how they felt they were “returning the favor” after the huge display of solidarity put on by private sector unions and the larger community at the Capitol in February.

I drove up from Madison with a small contingent of occupiers from Occupy Madison. Our “We Are the 99%” banner fit right in at this rally, and several of the striking machinists expressed thanks and helped us keep it from blowing away.

And of course, what’s an anti-union-busting rally without Scabby the Rat?

After about an hour of listening to speeches, we put on our comfy shoes and marched to the picket line, completely shutting down a major street for blocks and chanting slogans like “United we stand! Divided we fall! An injury to one is an injury to all!” and “What’s disgusting? Union busting!” Some wonderful folks from Occupy Milwaukee joined our small Madison group and helped lead the chants through chattering teeth.

Once at the plant, we joined the picket line briefly and marched with the striking workers.

Amazingly, these workers are out picketing from 6am to 6pm Monday through Friday. This is not a one-day publicity strike aimed at making the company look bad; they’re really in it for the long haul.

Overall, I think the rally was a huge success. It was encouraging to see such a great showing of support from so many different unions. However, and this might have something to do with having listened to hours and hours of speeches through a PA system at the Capitol last winter and spring, but I wish the format had been different. Personally, I’m a bit put off by a parade of union officials expounding on the virtues of the “middle class” and shouting the word “Solidarity!” repeatedly until it starts to lose meaning.

Having spent some time at a couple different Occupies, and having spent a great deal more time sitting at home anxiously watching the live feed from many more Occupies, I saw stark contrast between the general assembly format used at these gatherings and being talked at by union leadership from a stage. More and more I’m buying into the idea of horizontal, hierarchyless democracy, and it’s time we apply this model to unions, too.

A lot of the frustration I’ve heard expressed by union members relates to having little or no control of or involvement in (or even knowledge of) what their union leaders actually do. Why listen to Phil Neuenfeldt or Marty Biel talk about the strike when you could hear it from the rank-and-file workers who are actually on strike?

I would love to see a rally like this take advantage of the general assembly model to allow a greater diversity of voices to be heard. And while using the human megaphone can be a long and messy process, it brings a group of people together like nothing I’ve seen. I’ve heard what union leaders have to say (repeatedly), and I think it’s time for the hardworking, dues paying members of the working class to step up and take it from here (just imagine if the top-down business union model suddenly became obsolete!).

Workers already have a great deal of power; we just need to learn how to wield it. The Manitowoc Crane employees are demonstrating this already. In an era marked by less effective methods of direct action like publicity strikes and corporate campaigns, not to mention the failure to build an adequate strike fund, these workers are making a significant financial impact on the company by stopping production and withholding their labor. Rank-and-file members must wake up and realize that we can’t wait for someone to fight on our behalf.

Spending a couple hours outdoors in the biting wind really makes one appreciate the hardship these workers endure on a daily basis. Not only are they sacrificing their comfort and health to hold the line, but the machinists receive only minimal funds from the strike fund to pay bills and feed their families. Sometimes striking workers are able to secure part-time work to make ends meet in lieu of a paycheck, but from what I’ve heard, employment opportunities in Manitowoc are too scarce.

The machinists at Manitowoc Crane aren’t just fighting for a better contract and the right to have a union, they are standing up for the entire working class. You can help by sending money to the strike fund, sending food and toy donations to the district lodge, and making sure to tell your friends and families about the strike.

MCI Strike Fund c/o Machinists Local 516
P.O. Box 222
Manitowoc, WI 54221-0222

IAMAW District Lodge 10
1650 S. 38th St.
Milwaukee, WI 53215

Walker Announces Tax Credits to Assist Company That Hopes to Create “at least 3 new jobs”

When I wrote previously about the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) handing out millions of taxpayer dollars to Spectrum Brands and Collaborative Consulting, my brother (who lives in another state) joked that he would offer to move back to Wisconsin and create 1 job for himself, but only if WEDC agreed to pay him a couple million dollars. He threatened to move to Arizona if WEDC didn’t take him up on his offer.

Maybe he should stop joking and submit an application. Scott Walker today announced that WEDC, a public/private corporation created by Walker to hand out taxpayer money to private companies, has approved two tax credits for investors in a company called OnScreenBrands, Inc., of Milwaukee. According to an announcement on the WEDC web site:

“OnScreenBrands has projected creating at least three new jobs in Milwaukee over the next three years.”

Whoah! Slow down there, OnScreenBrands. You know what happens to businesses that expand too quickly!

In order to help pay for this rapid expansion, the taxpayers of Wisconsin have agreed, through WEDC, to provide two tax breaks for the company. The Qualified New Business Venture certification and the Qualified New Business Venture Capital Gains certification will provide a 25% tax credit to investors in the company, and will allow them to defer capital gains tax liabilities if they invest their gains back into the company.

Thank goodness! Finally some good news about jobs, right? Just last week, Trane announced 98 layoffs at its facilities in La Crosse, Wausau Paper announced they will be closing their paper mill in Brokaw and eliminating 450 positions, and Schield Family Brands announced that the company’s Mosinee facility will close by the end of next year, affecting over 500 employees.

There’s no stability in making things like furnaces, windows, and paper products, anyway. Any kid in China or Mexico can make that stuff. We all know the real money is in “services for streaming video providers that operate through enhanced interactive video”, which is what OnScreenBrands will be doing. That sounds like a much safer investment – providing something that people really need.

Seriously, bro. Call WEDC and make your offer. They apparently never say no.

Meanwhile, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics released figures for new unemployment claims for the week ending December 3rd.

Surprise! Wisconsin led the nation in the number of new unemployment claims that week at 8,172. Michigan was second at 2,643. In the “state-supplied comment” about the increase, Wisconsin’s reason for the increase is shown as “Layoffs due to the holiday.”

The reasons given by the other four states with significant increases were layoffs in construction and manufacturing. Whew! At least we don’t have those problems, we’re just dealing with huge rounds of layoffs that always happen between Thanksgiving and Christmas when business slows way down and nobody is buying anything.

Brokaw Paper Mill to Close, 450 Jobs Eliminated.

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The Wausau Daily Herald is reporting that Wausau Paper will be closing a paper mill in Brokaw, Wisconsin by March 31st of next year. About 450 employees will lose their jobs.

The paper quoted Dave Eckmann, the economic development director for the Marathon County Development Corporation:

The closure is expected to ripple throughout the Wausau metro area and could lead to the loss of millions of dollars being pumped into the local economy, Eckmann said….

The Daily Herald also quoted a number of Brokaw residents about the closing of the mill, including Ruthelle Frank and her husband Henry:

Ruthelle and Henry Frank, who live in Brokaw next to the mill, said they fear for the community’s future.

“It’ll hurt our whole town,” said Ruthelle Frank, 84, who serves on the Village Board.

“It’ll be a ghost town,” said her husband, Henry, 85.

Henry Frank worked in the mill as a laborer for 37 years; Ruthelle also worked at the mill for a few years, as did the couple’s son, Randy…

If that name sounds familiar, Ruthelle Frank was in the news earlier this week when a story about her frustration with Wisconsin’s new Voter ID law went national. Mrs. Frank has been voting in elections since 1948 and is a current member of the Brokaw Village Board, but may have to pay up to $200 to correct an error on her birth record so she can obtain a state photo id card. Under Wisconsin’s new law, she will not be allowed to vote unless she can show photo identification.

That story prompted television news host Keith Olbermann to refer to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who signed the bill into law, as a “fascist bastard” for disenfranchising thousands of elderly Wisconsin voters like Mrs. Frank.

For some reason, I can imagine that fascist bastard Scott Walker being told privately by his staff about the layoffs in Brokaw and his replying “Hey. Life’s a bitch! They should vote for someone else next time,” and then laughing.

Police and Fire Fighters Gear Up to Fight and Win Against Scott Walker

Image above provided courtesy of Derek Brabender

The Park Street Labor Temple in Madison was wall to wall people as we revisited memories of the past year and readied ourselves to face the future. Thank you police officers and fire fighters, bagpipe players and drummers, and speakers John Nichols of The Nation, Brian Austin of MPPOA, Mark Sanders of OAPFF, Sly of WTDY, Joe Conway of Madison Firefighters 311, and Harold Schaitberger of IAFF for your part in the wonderful Returning to Wisconsin Values event and for your commitment to Wisconsin’s fight.


If you’d like to see all of these videos in one uninterrupted 20 minute session, click the very last video. I have an audio recording of the entire set of speeches which will be ready later today.