Archive for the ‘Labor Unions’ Category

Dane County Judge MaryAnn Sumi

In what is seen as a win for public labor Unions, Governor Scott Walker’s controversial Anti-Collective Bargaining law was struck down. 

Thursday Morning, Dane County Judge MaryAnn Sumi issued a permanent injunction against the bill, effectively killing it until the Supreme Court is able to act. Sumi’s 33 page decision said there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Republicans who control the Legislature violated the state’s open meetings laws. This referred to GOP actions at March 9th committee meeting where the measure was passed without providing proper notice to the public.  Also at that time, the Capitol building was locked down tightly keeping many members of the public away.

“This case is the exemplar of values protected by the Open Meetings Law: transparency in government, the right of citizens to participate in their government, and respect for the rule of law,” Sumi wrote. “It is not the court’s business to determine whether 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 is good public policy or bad public policy; that is the business of the Legislature. It is this court’s responsibility, however, to apply the rule of law to the facts before it.”

“This is what we were looking for” said Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat who sued to block the law after Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) filed a complaint saying that Republicans had not given proper notice in convening a conference committee of lawmakers from both houses to approve Gov. Walker’s budget-repair bill.

In a press release, Mary Bell, President of the Wisconsin Education Association said  “Wisconsin public school employees applaud the ruling today that strikes down this backward legislation. The motives behind the collective bargaining bill were clearly political. Governor Scott Walker has already admitted the bill was never intended to be about ‘budget repair’ but instead a way to bust public employee unions.”

“Scott Walker and the Republicans broke the law that night,” explained Stephanie Bloomingdale, Wisconsin State AFL‐CIO. “This is a democracy, not a dictatorship, and Judge Sumi’s decision today makes it final that the union busting bill was passed illegally and will not stand.”

Reaction to the budget repair bill that seeks to eliminate all collective bargaining rights from public unions- except police and firefighters- has included over 100 days of mass protests at the Wisconsin State Capitol and around the state. At times, over 150 thousand people have massed outside and inside the building in opposition to this measure.

Unions Make Us Strong

The most recent mass protest was May 14th.

It is expected that the Supreme Court will hear arguments on June 6th to decide whether it will take up the case. GOP leaders have always had the option of noticing a hearing properly, and voting on the legislation again.  Many democrats, activists and union supporters believe that the lock-step political will that existed at the time of the measure’s original passing no longer exists.  This is why Republicans continue to spend thousands of dollars litigating the law, rather than calling for a re-vote.

Republican leaders and the Governor’s office have yet to comment on this decision.

Pat mAcdonald of Purgatory Hill with cigar box guitar

Madison, WI. The sky was gray, the temperature below 50, and the wind brisk.  Perfect Wisconsin protesting weather.  Nearly 20,000 people came out to the capitol Saturday to protest the Walker Administrations’ war on the middle class.   You’d never know that the Wisconsin Uprising continues if you get your news from the mainstream media. The rally opened with music by PurgAtory Hill, an intense and otherworldly Sturgeon Bay duo consisting of grammy-nominated Pat mAcdonald, and his partner MelanieJane. Pat dedicated the song “Reset” to resetting Wisconsin government. Essentially, PurgAtory Hill has taken delta blues, amped it up to 11, added some serious low end rumble and injected some bad-ass rock and roll to create a sound that manages to be both working-class and anti-class. As the band played, the crowd continued to grow in size. At the end of their 45 minute set, Pat encouraged the drum circle folks to give him a beat, which resulted in a spontaneous jam that included the massed crowd singing “re-call Wal-ker”.  Shortly after their set, MelanieJane confessed “I’ve never really been part of a rally like this. When I saw the union members marching in from all sides, I started to tear up a little”. Video Here.

Former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz

Former mayor Dave Cieslewicz opened the program with a joke.  “Hi I’m Dave,  I used to be Mayor of Madison, but when I was, they never let me speak. So today I arranged it so I could.” he went on to describe how we’ve created a true, national progressive movement that won’t stop at simply fighting for union rights.  “First, we’re going to recall those republican senators.  Then we’re going to recall Walker and take our state back”.  Thousands roared in agreement.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach and Son

State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D- Middleton) took the stage next, accompanied by his son. He encouraged those attending the rally to focus on helping the democrats running in the recall elections. “This is the last time I want to see you in Madison,” he said to the massed protestors. “You can go vacation in Minocqua and help out Jim Holperin, or La Crosse, which is beautiful right now, and help out Jen Shilling.”

Ben Manski

Up next is Ben Mansksi, former national co-chair of the green party and assembly candidate. He stated that Walker’s budget was designed in back rooms by lobbyists and special interest groups in order to “tax the poor and feed the rich”.  He encouraged continued resistance and then led the protestors in a passionate chant; “We reject your budget!”

Mahlon Mitchell, President of the Wisconsin Professional Firefighters.

Mahlon Mitchell, the charismatic president of the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin, said “We have touched lives of Americans all over the United States, and they’re watching”. He recalled a recent trip to Oregon where he heard a new chant that certainly applies to the uprising in Wisconsin. He then led the crowd with “Banks got bailed out, and people got sold out”. He followed that with a question. “What is the role of the union? Well I’m gonna tell you.  The American Dream. He added “The role of the union is to make the American dream an opportunity to live with dignity, and to enjoy the fruits of your labor”.

rally

Several other speakers addressed the protestors including Mary Bell, the President of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. “We are still here, and we are waiting to be heard”. Bell said,  “They thought you would give up. That you’d go home and watch Dancing with the Stars and you’d forget about the largest power-grab in the history of the state of Wisconsin! Well, that didn’t happen”. Bell added,  “They thought you’d forget about cuts to seniors, to poor children and to schools in this state. Well that didn’t happen either.”
90 days after the first protest against Governor Scott Walker’s draconian budget repair bill in February, we’re still taking to the streets.  We are unbowed.  Wisconsin citizens have  initiated 6 historic recall elections against republican state senators.  Scores of new activists and leaders are involved in making a difference. We’ve shut down banks that financed the Walker Campaign, occupied the State capitol for weeks, held up the egregious collective bargaining bill in the courts, and much more.  Dave Cieslewicz was correct; this is not just about Wisconsin, this is the birth of a new national progressive movement.  Do we stand by in our communities while a mean-spritied majority consolidates power? Or do we fight?  In Wisconsin we fight with a ferocity that made the “Mamma Grizzly” herself appear more like a frightened screeching weasel as she lied about “violent rent a mobs” and “vandalized businesses”.  While the national media came out in force to report on a tea party event that saw barely 1000 people show up, they ignored the 10’s of thousands that massed at the capitol this past Saturday. Well, we’re still here.

The UAW arrives.

State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton)

Nice sign.

Crowd is getting larger...

As always, your comments are welcome!

Helen Weinstein resigned her teaching position rather than label a colleague a Communist. Photo circa 1945.

On this day, not only am I thinking about my mother, but more broadly, I’m thinking of all the strong women that have contributed to the labor movement throughout US history and have worked to improve the quality of life for all of us. In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker’s war on public employees makes me recall the incredible resolve and dedication that Helen Weinstein, a NY teacher, exhibited throughout her career.

A few excerpts:

It was 1932, the height of the Great Depression. School officials at PS 225 in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, decided to put  50 students in a single first-grade class.

(Today, the average first-grade class at PS 225 is 18.3.)

Tammany Hall’s “Uncle John” McCooey insisted the city had no money to build an addition to accommodate the growing student population. Helen Weinstein, in her first teaching job, launched a protest anyway.

With her colleague Ralph Fagin and the support of the principal, Weinstein organized the parents. She borrowed a mimeograph machine, distributed leaflets and took part in parades. Ultimately, the Board of Education was forced to build a wing onto the school. Mayor LaGuardia received the credit and Weinstein and Fagin were subsequently transferred by Superintendent William O’Shea “for the good of the service,” according to a 1932 article in The Nation.

Education and civic organizations from the PTA and local Chamber of commerce to the Teacher’s Union and ACLU protested the transfers, but to no avail.

“They should not have gone parading through the street and arousing the ire of the people against their employers … They should not help to instigate public uprising,” O’Shea told a group of parents, according to minutes taken of the meeting.

Some years ago, I first came across this article that had been written about her by her grand-niece, Brandy Marshall. Ms. Weinstein’s story is powerful enough that it has stuck with me since. It is particularly relevant today.  Just imagine being a Jewish woman in 1930’s Brooklyn and taking on the political machine of the time because the school board insisted there was no money to build a school addition, then ordered that classroom size be increased to 50 students. Like Wisconsin teachers, she took to the streets in protest. Unlike today, the police used clubs and labor disputes were often quelled with violence.  If you happen to find yourself with a spare few minutes after celebrating with your mother, read this article about a remarkable woman who embodies the true spirit of the labor movement.  You won’t be sorry.

Happy Mothers Day,

Patrick