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:

President Obama visited Master Lock in Milwaukee. Scott Walker pleaded ill.

No, I wasn’t in Milwaukee today. But I got a few notes on Obama’s visit to a union plant there: Master Lock. Mostly about Scott Walker’s absence. He did meet President Obama at the airport, giving him a Brewer’s jersey with a “1” on it. I shared that photo on my facebook and Pamela Schmidt had the best imagined dialog to go with it:

Walker: “This is for you. The number is how many terms you’ll serve.”
Obama: “Well, at least it is a whole number.”

Walker said he was ill and that’s why he didn’t go to the factory and only met Obama on the tarmac. I think the true answer is found in Jenna Pope‘s tweet:

“At master lock in MKE for Obama’s visit. Someone announced Walker won’t be here. People cheered, saying “he’s not welcome here” #wiunion”

It’s been 13 months since Obama came to Wisconsin. I wrote about his Madison visit in September of 2010 when we were all wowed by a crowd of 26,000 at the UW campus. It’s odd to think that about 6 months later we would reach a crowd of 200,000 people.

Feb. 15 (Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama took aim at China and companies that move jobs overseas as he called for changes in the tax code to encourage U.S. manufacturing.

Obama highlighted his message following a tour of a Milwaukee factory of Master Lock Co., which has restored about 100 jobs from offshore.

“Right now, companies get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas,” Obama said in the text of his remarks to factory workers and local officials. “Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world.”…

Get the rest of this article at Business Week

Video: Wisconsin One Year Stronger, Anniversary Week of Action

This is an excellent video by Arthur over at the facebook page SSWIDTMS. It reminds you why this Anniversary Week of Action is so important – in case you weren’t already convinced.

See the whole list of events on facebook here.

Text below is from Wisconsin Wave:

Why an Anniversary Week of Action?
To remember and honor the unprecedented protests of February and March of 2011, when the people of Wisconsin rediscovered the power of collective action.

To reconvene the empowered community that launched the Capitol Occupation and organized state-wide protests, and to reinvigorate the spirit of cooperation and solidarity that fueled them.

To identify ways we can expose the political and economic interests that exploit our democratic process out of greed, and set a course to defeat them.

To create a space where our movement can articulate a long term vision for structural change centered around social, economic, racial, and environmental justice for all people.

To sustain Wisconsin’s 150+ year tradition as a laboratory of democracy by developing new forms of direct democratic decision making.
What is being planned?

Beginning Saturday, February 11th people from across Wisconsin will converge in Madison for a Week of Action to commemorate the one-year anniversary of last year’s Wisconsin Uprising and the sustained occupation of the Capitol building. The Week of Action will include two rallies, a march from UW-Madison to the capitol building, and a Documentation Station inside the Capitol to help preserve the collective memory of those historic events. Other actions may be included as well.

The Week of Action will culminate on Sunday, February 19th, 2012 with a participatory planning session that will set the stage for a statewide people’s assembly, the WisConvocation, to take place in the weeks to come. Participants in the the WisConvocation will deliberate on issues of public concern and formulate proposals for action such as a People’s Budget, a People’s Platform, and a list of movement demands for candidates participating in the 2012 recall elections.

Schedule of Events so far:
(please visit the Week of Action facebook page for a complete list)

Pre Event:
Thursday, February 9th; 7-9pm
“The Wisconsin Uprising One Year On: What Happened and What Next?”

Saturday, February 11th; 10:30am-1pm
“Bury the Mining Bill Feeder March” at 10:30am
“Wisconsin Day! Rally to Kick-off a Week of Action at 12pm”

Sunday, February 12th; 11:00am-1pm
Picket the Governor’s Mansion!

Tuesday, February 14th; 8am-5:15pm
“ICWJ Faith-Labor Breakfest” at 8am
“I Still ♥ UW March and Rally” at 12:15pm
“Show the Love, Save Our Schools! Rally” at 4:15pm

Tuesday, February 14th, Wednesday February 15th; 10-6pm both days
“Capitol Occupation Documentation Station”

Thursday, February 16th; 7-9pm
“One Year Later – Lessons from the Wisconsin Uprising”

Sunday, February 19th; 2-5pm
“WisConvocation Public Planning Session”

Who We Are

The Week of Action is being planned by a broad coalition of organizations and individuals including the Wisconsin Wave! Other endorsers include:

United Wisconsin, Wisconsin AFL-CIO, AFT-Wisconsin, Wisconsin Jobs Now, Family Farm Defenders, Voces de la Frontera, SEIU Healthcare WI, Teaching Assistants Association (TAA) Executive Board (UW-Madison), Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice, 9to5 Milwaukee, Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, National Lawyers Guild, Wisconsin Bail Out the People, Autonomous Solidarity Organization, Occupy Wisconsin, Occupy Riverwest, Liberty Tree Foundation, Socialist Alternative, International Socialist Organization.

If you or your group would like to endorse, get involved, or add an event to the schedule please contact Harriet Rowan at hattierowan@gmail.com

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.

“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.

Wisconsin and Our Year of Dissent

This is a small portion of a lengthy and fantastic Truthout story called “The Year Dissent Came Back”. It’s a thoughtful piece that covers 2011’s Slutwalks, the Occupy Movement, the Tar Sands Keystone XL resistance, the impact of Troy Davis’ execution and of course, the Wisconsin uprising.

It’s not worth your time just because Milwaukee native Ed Knutson is briefly featured – though that does make it a little cooler. In fact Ed got a lot more real estate in the Wired story Occupy Geeks Are Building a Facebook for the 99%.

Today Ed tweeted, “New year’s resolution: stop making the news”. Ed, I wish you rotten luck with your resolution.

What follows is the Wisconsin portion of the article:

Wisconsin Rises

Protests against Governor Scott Walker’s legislative assault on the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions began in February and took many forms across Wisconsin. But it was the peaceful yet forcible physical occupation of the Capitol building in Madison that took the #WIunion movement (to call it by one of the most frequently used Twitter hashtags) to a new level and pointed most directly to what was to come later in the year.

This was the first American instance in 2011 of several phenomena that went on to become familiar: The establishment of a functioning people-powered community within a symbolic location as an act of protest, the live video feeds and Twitter updates by independent and citizen journalists, the mutual solidarity with Egypt, and the photos of young people being dragged away bodily (though the police in Madison were a far cry from the brutality on display in other cities later in 2011).

Gov. Walker has claimed (most recently when he was “mic checked” in Chicago) that protesters were mostly the usual suspects—professional troublemakers, militant union activists bussed in from other states. That doesn’t square with accounts from people who were there.

Ed Knutson is a 36-year-old internet developer living in Milwaukee who took part in the demonstrations in Madison, as well as both Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Boston. He also develops software solutions for the Occupy movement. He says he saw “a lot of first time demonstrators” in Wisconsin, “spread across the generations.”

“A good deal of the people in the Wisconsin seemed to be first-timers,” confirms Matthew Filipowicz, a radio show host, comedian, reporter and activist who attended protests in Madison.

“Most did not seem overly partisan. They just realized that what Scott Walker was doing was a direct attack on them. Their standard of living was under assault, and that caused them to rise up. This had a very middle class, Midwestern feel to it. Firefighters and police officers marched alongside teachers and janitors, and their presence in uniform was a pretty amazing sight.”

What differentiates the protests in Wisconsin from many of those that followed is the hope that, locally, the Democratic Party could make a difference. That conviction powered the summer’s Senate recall campaign (with mixed results), and the campaign now underway to recall Walker himself.

“The statewide Democratic campaign is running on specifically overturning a lot of what Walker did,” says Filipowicz. “Sure, there’s a chance that they’ll lie and cave like national Democrats, but this is so localized, and a lot of rolling back Walker’s sweeping and devastating changes does require replacing the actual Republicans who did it.”

Knutson puts the relative amount of faith Wisconsinites have in the Democrats down to the state’s progressive tradition, although as he points out, “Many have noted that the state senators fleeing to Illinois earlier this year seemed uncharacteristic for a Democrat.” But in his experience, the overall attitude of most #WIunion protesters is in marked contrast to many occupiers, who “distrust the Democratic party due to the influence of money on both major parties.”

Read the piece in full here.

Minor Omission: Teacher in that ad stands with Scott Walker AND National Right to Work Legal Foundation

Channel3000 did a nice clarification on the anti-recall add by Kristi LaCroix in their “Reality Check” feature and that got me looking at the whole thing again.

The gist of the original ad is that those of us who are recalling don’t really have grounds for taking that action, we just have ‘sour grapes’ and Scott Walker is this principled man who said he’d do something and followed through.

With what the ad presents, we think Ms. LaCroix is merely a teacher admiring her unpopular Governor. No agenda.

“I’m not big on recalls, and I think at this point, in my opinion and I’m only speaking from the I, it feels a little like sour grapes,”


The ad forgot to include the anti-union ax Ms. LaCroix has been grinding with unusual vigor. She went so far as to file a brief in federal court supporting Walker’s Wisconsin Act 10 this summer. And naturally she gained the support of the National Right to Work Legal Foundation.

NRWLF runs the National Right to Work Committee PAC and the State Employee Rights Campaign Committee. The National Right to Work Committee PAC is one of those outfits that tries to keep legislators toeing the anti-worker line whether they be Republican or Democrat. [Reminds me of DeMint.]

It ran a series of ads in multiple states to help hobble the proposed Employee Free Choice Act. National Right to Work Committee told TV audiences the act would outlaw secret ballot elections for union representation, when in truth, it would have allowed workers to unionize more easily — by showing they had a majority of sign-ups by cards.

The group also did a pretty good job of taking the message away from the fact that the bill would create real penalties for companies that broke the law during union organizing campaigns and negotiations.

And this well-heeled group naturally keeps its claws constantly in each of the 50 state of our nation. From StealthPAC: “In 2002, the NRWC ran ads attacking six Republican incumbents for refusing to introduce right-to-work legislation.1 Among the targeted lawmakers was Rep. John Cooksey (R-La.), who the group said had pledged to co-author right-to-work legislation. Cooksey was campaigning in the state’s U.S. Senate primary at the time.

Bonus Fun Fact:
Here’s a fun little surprise for the folks who read to the end. The name of NRWLF’s secretary in 2007 was Anne M. Coulter. You don’t suppose it is THE skeletal, shrill Anne Counter who we’ve come to know and loathe on Fox etc?

Walker’s’ snow job ad on education refuted: “Next year, quite frankly, will be brutal”

Despite the fact that there is STILL no snow on the ground in my south side of Wisconsin, there is an accumulation of another sort of precipitation.

I refer to the continued release of snow jobs from Governor Scott Walker’s message machine.

Monona Grove’s Jeff Knudson, a fourth grade teacher, says:

“When the state budget passed in Madison, a lot of us thought we might lose our jobs. We figured if we didn’t get laid off, our class sizes would become unmanageable. But that, didn’t happen.”

Monona Grove superintendent Craig Gerlach says the opposite:

“Next year, quite frankly, will be brutal…We struggled to put together a budget this year.

We made significant cuts in terms of programs, laid-off teachers…we closed a buildling. . …we’re looking at almost $2 million dollars this year and quite frankly, that’s going to be staggering.

I’m concerned that the thought is that we will continue to reduce benefits for staff. I don’t support that. Our staff has given up approximately 8% of their salary this year by contributions to their WRS and healthcare. .. We need to do that, however enough is enough…”

Thanks for this video, Holbein3626.

Jeff Simpson has a more extensive piece on what these cuts to the Monona School District entail over at Blogging Blue.

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.

Scott Walker on “Big Government” and Occupy Wall Street

Who does Fox and Friends’ Gretchen Carlson turn to to help her understand the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Movement? Specifically, the entry of unions in the mix? None other than Wisconsin Governor Scott “Recall” Walker.  No surprise he’s still on his message that every single story is about private enterprise vs. “Big Government”.

GRETCHEN CARLSON (HOST): What do you make of the unions getting involved in these protests?

WALKER: Well I think they’re looking for a way to draw attention away from the real issues, which are, what do we need to do to put more people to work? The biggest thing we need to do I think at least in Wisconsin, across the country, is get government out of the way, make it easier for job creators to create more jobs. All these other things are kind of distractions. They’re ways of trying to show activity, show action, suggest that they’re being advocates, but in the end that doesn’t put people to work. You were talking in the earlier segment about the new jobless numbers coming out, the new unemployment rate coming out tomorrow, we need to ultimately put more power back in the hands of the people, and that means the American consumer, the American entrepreneur and the American job creator, not more money back in the hands of big government, and that’s really the debate going on here.

He wants to put “power back in the hands of the people”. I’m so amused I could choke. This is why his Dept. of Administration locked the people out of their Capitol building this spring in defiance of a court order?

Photo source:dailyreporter

And I have to ask, is delivering the public’s tax money to corporate private schools and handing over political control to a state agency instead of the local school boards putting “power back in the hands of the people”? WHILE he cuts at least $1.6 billion from locally controlled public education?

Perhaps the thing that makes his “putting power back in the hands of the people” point most enraging is Walker’s signature on Wisconsin’s recent vote suppression bill AB7. When 177,399 Wisconsinites 65 years old and up have neither a driver’s license nor a state ID, and they now need one to vote, where’s the people power?

He says we need to ask “what do we need to do to put more people to work?”

Why would I look to him for this information OR this advice?

His plan to create 250,000 jobs is not a rocketing success. Looks like unemployment was on the downswing until he got into office. Now it’s going back up. These job and unemployment numbers are a constant shuffling game for all politicians who take credit for the good, and push off anything bad on the guy who had the job before. But Walker upped the ante when he campaigned heavily on his ability to deliver jobs. Thus, it is time for him to hang by the rope he brought in with him. We need to start yelling that he is NOT DELIVERING THOSE JOBS.

With an FBI probe closing in, a recall effort against him, AND a failing “jobs plan”, his quivering hands are getting a little full.

Related bluecheddar posts:
How to Choke the Vote: Wisconsin Assembly Voter ID Bill 7 Passed
Let it be known that the day Walker suppressed the vote, people yelled like hell.

Save America’s Postal Service

What can you buy with 44 cents? These days it doesn’t even buy a candy bar. If you’re lucky 44 cents will get you package of ramen noodles. With 44 cents you can buy a first class stamp that can be used to send a letter to any address in the United States. That’s pretty amazing. I often take for granted all the great stuff done by the Postal Service and some of my fondest memories are of receiving that “something special” in the mail, be it a special present or a simple “thinking of you” card.

Mail is delivered to every address in the nation six days a week. That’s no small feat when you consider the number of addresses they service. For me the postal service represents quality and equality of service. Nothing says “equality” like having mail delivered to the poorest areas with the same frequency and quality of service as the wealthiest neighborhoods.

Each day more people are using electronic methods to communicate instead of sending letters, but remember these methods of communication aren’t universally accessible like the postal service. How many people can’t afford to pay for Internet service? How many people just don’t want to use computers? There’s no sign up fee or learning curve when it comes to receiving mail. All you need is an address and the post office takes care of the rest.

Yesterday postal workers held more than 400 informational rallies across the country. Their goal is to educate the public on the true financial status of the Postal Service and to ensure passage of H.R. 1351. Under a law passed in 2006, the USPS is required to pre-fund 75 years of health care for their retirees in 10 years. H.R. 1351 will allow the Postal Service to take money that was overpaid into retirement funds and use it to pay for current obligations.

I’ve often heard from conservatives that public services should be run like private businesses. Which private industry routinely sets aside 75 years of pension funding in 10 years? Which specific company plans for the retirement of people who haven’t even been born yet? I believe in saving for the future just as much as the next person, but think this is taking that idea a bit too far.

Rep. Darrell Issa and Re. Dennis Ross are cosponsors of H.R. 2309. Text for that bill can be found here.

From an article at the Herald-Times.

“Postal workers oppose HR 2309, which would give the service the option of eliminating Saturday service and also close various postal offices that bill sponsors estimate could save $1 billion.”

Contrary to popular belief, the Postal Service isn’t going broke, in fact in the last 4 years they made a net profit of $600 million. The Postal Service is completely self funding and doesn’t cost the taxpayers a penny. This “crisis” is an artificial one that was created by Congress in 2006. Congress created this mess and Congress should be the ones to fix it by passing H.R. 1351.

Please take the time to complete either the site. online petition or better yet, use the printable version of the petition and send it in the mail.

Please take the time to do your part to strengthen the Postal Service. Do you think any private business is going to charge only 44 cents to deliver a letter? Is anyone naive enough to believe private industry is going to jump in and deliver to every address in this country 6 days a week? By supporting USPS we support mail delivery to everyone in this country, not just the profitable delivery areas. We also back living wages, fair compensation and decent retirement packages.

Some pictures from the Save America’s Postal Service Rally in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Photos from a similar rally in Madison, Wisconsin.

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….and still more Madison rally photos are on the blue cheddar facebook page.

Watch this and feel your contempt for Paul Ryan shoot up 1,000%: Labor Day conversation

OK. I know this is on Blogging Blue and probably Sly’s blog but I just had to put it here too because it got me to raging.

I start out feeling really uncomfortable as I see Paul Ryan be confronted one-on-one. But then Ryan and his wife’s glib responses just bring my blood back to a high boil where it should have been.

Take a look at the grimacing smile Ryan’s wife has while the protesters says, “Do I have to work for $1.00 per hour? Is that the competitiveness that’s needed”?

She then says “Have a nice day!” and Ryan says “Would you like some candy?” “Would you like a Badger schedule?” while he smiles, almost snickering, and looks at his friends–
behavior I’d expect from a high school kid who’s trying not to laugh while he’s talking to the special ed kid.

(Jeeebus H. Fricking. . . .)

The protester says, “There needs to be better jobs in this community”
Ryan: “Yeah, right”

Protester:“What is deregulating going to do? Should we allow corporations to do whatever they like? Is that the goal?”

A Ryan supporter says something I can barely make out, like “Come on it’s a Labor Day Parade”.

Protester:“How can we be at Labor Day when there’s so much unemployment? This is a sad labor day!”

Notice that Ryan will not address any of his questions.

I’m glad Paul Ryan was pegged for the corporate suck-up that he is and was hounded mercilessly-as you see in this video.

Congrats to these protesters for effectively ruining Ryan’s parasitic use of a Labor Day event as some kind of ad for his name. Republicans, get it through your thick skulls that Labor Day is no longer some kind of politician promotion device. People are putting “labor” together with “jobs” and “middle class”. We know what you’re robbing us of.

For the record, Bureau of Labor Stats shows 9.5% unemployment for Janesville,WI in July 2011.

Some other Paul Ryan articles from the blue cheddar files:

August 27 Paging Paul Ryan and Scott Walker: Wisconsin protests are on the rise and protesters will find you

August 13 Lazy Friday Round-up: Paul Ryan and Area Blogger Notices Economy

July 18 Video: Wisconsin GOP Booze Cruise walks through protester gauntlet

July 14 Wisconsin Republicans Rush Redistricting. The people call it “Fitzmandering”

July 5 Raining on Paul Ryan’s Parade. Here’s how it’s done

June 28 Rob Zerban delivers 65,000 signatures supporting medicare today to Paul Ryan. Protests planned for Alberta Darling, Scott Walker, more

Labor Day Reports: Wausau, Madison, Milwaukee and More

(There might be a few more errors in this post than normal tonight and you and I will just have to accept the fact.  I have to leave for the 150th Solidarity Sing Along tonight. Which is sort of a big deal. )

Wausau has survived the great Labor Day Parade controversy of 2011.

A report from WPR [an audio version may be downloaded HERE]
“WAUSAU) The city of Wausau’s Labor Day parade attracted big crowds Monday (9/5) following a controversial attempt to keep Republicans out of it. The annual community event was politically charged.

The Republicans were put in the very rear of the parade right behind a Chevy van emblazoned with “Recall Walker” signs. The party faithful lined the route, and cheered for their officeholders, Congressman Sean Duffy and state Sen. Pam Galloway.

But there were many who weren’t happy to see them. Carl Marquardt is a local teacher and union supporter, “I’m disappointed. They are undermining everything that’s been worked on for many years, the rights of workers, whether it be vacation days, pay, fair pay for all.”

Sarah Ruffi is a Wausau attorney and Duffy supporter: “When I was driving past all the union folk, it felt like I was in hostile territory. There are a whole bunch of us that have non-union shops and we all work hard, and this is a day to celebrate the workers.”

For Republican Duffy, it was his first Labor Day since being elected to Congress, “There were a few not so great comments but for the most part we had people clapping for us, cheering us on, giving us the thumbs up. The greatest compliment to labor is to work on job growth, because they want to make sure there are good paying jobs, and that’s what we’re working on.”

But for Democratic Assemblywoman Donna Seidel, the parade’s Grand Marshall, the controversy was worth it, “This is the first time that so many of us have really paid attention to what this day is all about, that it was created by labor, for labor. The rights that have been diminished or taken away this year are going to be fought awfully hard to have them come back.”

Seidel joined other Democrats for a union rally afterward.”

And from WSAW by way of Giles Goat Boy of Daily Kos:
“Republican State Senator Pam Galloway and Congressman San Duffy showed up. They marched with a large group of supporters, and heard some cheers as the walked the route, but a decidedly democratic crowd lined the Wausau Labor Temple at the end of the route.
As Duffy’s people passed, many turned their back and faced the other way. They also chanted “recall Walker” until he turned the corner….

Besides chants, union supporters raised posters along the route. Those included slogans like “unions help all workers” and “walker your pink slip is coming.” When republican candidates came by they held up signs saying “shame.”

Democrats received a more warm response.”

This video from Jeremy Ryan gives you a sense of the warm reception for him and the Recall Walker car he’s next to. The 2nd half of the video is Mahlon Mitchell speaking at the rally following the parade.

These Wausau photos are from Brad Schmicker – this link takes you to even more of them.

Madison’s Solidarity Sing Along and Laborfest

Solidarity Sing Along
I go to this Monday through Friday sing once or twice a week. It has been declared the world’s longest labor sing protest by Tom Hayden [I haven’t verified this. He wrote about it in the Nation though. Sounds official.] Some days we are just chock a block with people. On Labor Day we had medium attenance. Every time I go I am deliberately casual wearing jeans or shorts or whatnot. I actually dressed up for Labor Day. The weight of each labor song weighed a bit heavier due to the day but I also felt lifted up by the experience. We also sang Happy Birthday to avid singers Kimi and Steve. It just felt so great to be able to sing that simple song in multi-part harmony in that resonating space for friends.

People polka to "Roll Out the Recall"

Madison’s Laborfest

Madison did not have a Labor Day parade and instead had a never-so-huge-as-this-year fest.
“”There’s never been anything like this,” said Adam Schesch, American Federation of Teachers retiree and historian, who has been coming to the festival since the 1960s. “I think we should give Scott Walker a lifetime achievement award as a labor organizer.” -from Madison.com

I tried my best to avoid talking politics and devote all my energies to drinking beer, listening to Paul Cebar and chilling out. Conclusion: a labor event in the year 2011 in Madison is no place to be if you don’t want to talk politics. If you saw me dancing like a fool, it was because that was a conversation-free zone. Well, it was also very fun.


A lovely set of photos from noise of rain is here at Daily Kos

I pondered going to Milwaukee to do some flouting with the Forward Marching Band of Madison, but got lazy and sat in my lawn chair instead. A report from Laurie R. with the band: “We spent Labor Day today playing in the Milwaukee Peoples’ Parade along with the kickass Molotov Marchers and Astral SubAstral. It was a 3-band convergence of aural awesomeness.”

Here’s a Milwaukee Laborfest video by Matt Brusky.

Milwaukee Laborfest 2011 from Matt Brusky on Vimeo.

Labor Celebrations Around the United States

I’ll list a few events and links I became aware of quite by accident. Please add your own in comments.

Racine Laborfest

Laborfest page on facebook.

Obama in Detroit on Labor Day – a photoset from Mike Huggler

The Fight Isn’t Over! Thoughts From Historic Election Night


Nancy Nusbaum spoke to a crowd of supporters at the Riverside Ballroom in Green Bay on August 9th, 2011 during the recall elections in Wisconsin and told them that history was being made that night and reminded them of the two Democratic state senators facing their own recall elections next week, August 16th, 2011.

Go here to help Bob Wirch and go here to help Jim Holperin. If you can’t make it to a recall district, consider doing virtual phonebanking from the comfort of your own home. Click here for the virtual phone bank from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

Nancy touched on a few good points in her speech. This race was about all of Wisconsin, not just senate district two. Every volunteer hour helped write the history that was made the evening of August 9th and yet to be written history for the next recall elections on August 16th.

Unfortunately, Nancy lost the election by only receiving 40% of the vote. In my eyes her campaign was a success story. She managed to get 40% of the votes in a very conservative district where the incumbent has been in office since 1987 and we all know it’s difficult at best to unseat an incumbent.

What I hadn’t realized is exactly how strongly Republican parts of this district are. I didn’t think it was possible to find a more conservative Wisconsin city than Appleton; the town that brought us “Tailgunner” McCarthy,Greta Van Susteren and The John Birch Society.

This movement isn’t just about one election night or the six senate seats we wanted to win from the Republicans. So much has been accomplished since this movement started. We made history by forcing recall elections for six senate Republicans. Democrats did gain two state senates seats with the recalls so far. Before this Wisconsin only had two recall elections in its history. Wisconsin has become a shining example of how much can be accomplished when people work together for a common goal.

Our movement has captured the hearts and minds of people all over the world. People from other states have stated they would like to see some Wisconsin people come to their states to show them how to organize just like we did here.

We are in this for the long haul and just because we haven’t gotten everything we want yet doesn’t mean we’ve lost. A temporary setback isn’t a loss unless you let it become a loss. The only way we can lose is if we give up and giving up is not an option.

Here are some pictures from Riverside Ballroom in Green Bay.
Go here for more election night pictures.

Dave Hansen and Nancy Nusbaum
Ann Muenster and Steve Kagen