Wisconsin anti-union bill becomes law but battle far from over

NYHTC — April 18, 2011

On March 9 and 10, Wisconsin's Republican state senators and representatives passed legislation that stripped almost all of the state's 175,000 public employees of their collective bargaining rights and simultaneously enfeebled the unions that represented them. Governor Scott Walker signed the bill into law the following morning. The bill is nothing less than the use of state power to suppress democratic dissent, and is worthy of the worst third world dictatorship.

In ramming the legislation through as they did, Walker and his Republican cohorts alienated a broad swath of the state's voters. For weeks, Walker insisted the bill's anti-union provisions were fiscal measures that were critical to the state's financial wellbeing. He proved himself a hypocrite and a fraud by insisting on pursuing the union-crushing provisions even after state employees had agreed to accept the financial concessions the bill sought to impose on them.

Working people throughout the state, union and non-union, as well as large numbers of high school and college students, reacted with anger and disgust and made clear the fight against the legislation would continue on numerous fronts. They also made clear their intention to recall or otherwise defeat at the polls the legislators who had backed it.

The Republicans had to use these legislative maneuvers to insure their massively unpopular bill got enacted, despite emphatic, sustained, and highly visible resistance to its anti-union provisions. When these provisions were abruptly plucked from the appropriations bill and voted on, the process was so stealthy and rapid that not a single Democrat was present in the Senate chamber when the vote was taken and the bill passed, 18-1, all in the space of a half hour. The Republican senators cast their votes with steady cries of "Shame, shame" coming at them from all directions.

Republican Senator Dale Schultz, the sole Republican to vote against the bill in the Senate, showed himself to be a legislator of genuine principle and integrity. He stated, "Ultimately, I voted my conscience which I feel reflects the core beliefs of the majority of voters who sent me here to represent them."

The Republicans had intended to move the bill through the Assembly with equal haste. But after Walker announced that the Senate had passed the measure, demonstrators immediately began pouring back into the Capitol to rejoin the many who had remained there. Within a short time, the Capitol building and grounds were again packed with infuriated opponents of the anti-union legislation.

The swelling number of demonstrators made it impossible for the Assembly vote on the bill to go forward the following morning. The Capitol building, which previously had always been open, was under lockdown; demonstrators and legislators energetically sought admission to the building while state troopers battled to keep people out and its doors and windows shut.

At least three members of the Assembly, one of whom was accompanied by Rev. Jesse Jackson, were denied entry to the building. One continued to be denied entry even after producing his official Assembly identification; he was also denied any explanation of why he was not being permitted to enter. Later that morning, he and another Assembly member were seen entering the building through a first-floor window!

The vote was eventually taken later that afternoon; Republicans have an even larger majority in the Assembly than they do in Senate, and the measure passed 53-42. Republican Assembly Representatives Dean Kaufert, Lee Nerison, Richard Spanbauer, and Travis Tranel showed themselves to be legislators of some integrity when they joined with all of the Assembly's Democrats and cast their votes against the bill. When the vote was taken after hours of debate, it, too, was punctuated by boos, jeers, and chants of "shame!", which continued as the Republicans left the chamber.

Governor Walker has now signed the bill. But he misjudges the people of Wisconsin if he thinks its enactment will defuse the situation, allow him to strip away workers' rights, and otherwise ignore the concerns of the middle class, the working poor, and those fighting to find their way out of poverty. Multiple challenges of the new law are already being put together on a number of grounds, and recall efforts against Republicans who supported the measure were undertaken early on and will continue.

Wisconsin working people were fighting for all of us. The fight on behalf of working people that started there is far from over. In fact, there are many reasons for believing it has really only just begun. Anti-union measures are presently being pursued in 16 other states, and people in the private sector fortunate enough to be represented by a union should not think their union is safe from attack.

For excellent first-hand coverage of the events in Wisconsin, go to the websites of The Capital Times and the Wisconsin State Journal. In addition to articles, there are powerful photographs and videos.

Our union's website will provide continuing coverage of this story and, when election time comes, will remind our union's members to make donations to every one of the Democratic candidates who will be running against the Republican scoundrels who voted for this outrageous bill.

The following is the list of those legislators, enemies of all working people, who voted to ban unions in Wisconsin:

Wisconsin State Senators: (R = Republican)
Robert Cowles (R)
Alberta Darling (R)
Michael Ellis (R)
Scott Fitzgerald (R)
Pam Galloway (R)
Glenn Grothman (R)
Sheila Harsdorf (R)
Randy Hopper (R)
Dan Kapanke (R)
Neal Kedzie (R)
Frank Lasee (R)
Mary Lazich (R)
Joe Leibham (R)
Terry Moulton (R)
Luther Olsen (R)
Leah Vukmir (R)
Van Wanggaard (R)
Rich Zipperer (R)
Wisconsin State Assembly Representatives: (R = Republican, I = Independent)
Tyler August (R)
Joan Ballweg (R)
Kathy Bernier (R)
Garey Bies (R)
Ed Brooks (R)
Mike Endsley (R)
Paul Farrow (R)
Jeff Fitzgerald (R)
Mark Honadel (R)
Andre Jacque (R)
Chris Kapenga (R)
Samantha Kerkman (R)
Steve Kestell (R)
Joel Kleefisch (R)
John Klenke (R)
Joe Knilans (R)
Dan Knodl (R)
Dean Knudson (R)
Dale Kooyenga (R)
Bill Kramer (R)
Scott Krug (R)
Mike Kuglitsch (R)
Tom Larson (R)
Daniel Lemahieu (R)
Michelle Litjens (R)
Amy Loudenbeck (R)
Howard Marklein (R)
Dan Meyer (R)
John Murtha (R)
Stephen Nass (R)
John Nygren (R)
Alvin Ott (R)
Jim Ott (R)
Kevin Petersen (R)
Jerry Petrowski (R)
Warren Petryk (R)
Don Pridemore (R)
Keith Ripp (R)
Roger Rivard (R)
Erik Severson (R)
Jim Steineke (R)
Jeffrey Stone (R)
Pat Strachota (R)
Scott Suder (R)
Gary Tauchen (R)
Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R)
Tom Tiffany (R)
Karl Van Roy (R)
Robin Vos (R)
Chad Weininger (R)
Mary Williams (R)
Evan Wynn (R)
Bob Ziegelbauer (I)