Posts Tagged ‘Collective Bargaining’

Came across this video tonight.  It says a lot, and the truth rings through.  “Without labor, there is no capital.”

Empire State Building, Lighted to celebrate the passing of a bill allowing gay marriage.

 

Thanks New York for doing the right thing and granting same sex couples the right to marry.  Unfortunately, our formerly progressive state of Wisconsin is unlikely to follow suit in the near future.  Where republicans in NY voted their conscience, these days the Wisconsin GOP seems to lack that sort of human quality. You know, they’re too busy choking women, rolling back child labor laws, playing with guns, abusing protestors, removing consumer rental housing protections and communicating with the devil. And that’s just really the tip of the spear, so to speak.  There’s the massive increase in road spending at the expense of education, corporate givebacks, removal of collective bargaining rights, completely ignoring the minority party…and on and on. Anyway, back to the point of this post.

Excellent article on the subject by my friend Jeanne Devon at Mudflats:

Senator Tom Duane (D) got up and told of coming out to his Catholic parents when he was 18 years old. They were afraid for him, and sad. They thought he would be persecuted, and lonely, and never able to marry, and the victim of discrimination. It turns out that they were only partially right. He asked the Senate to vote yes for him and his partner Louis, and for all New Yorkers.

Senator Mark Grisanti, a Republican and practicing Catholic spoke of his difficulties. He had once opposed the bill and still objects to the use of the word “marriage” to describe a same-sex union. He apologized to those constituents who would be disappointed by his change of heart. But, he said, “a man can be wiser today than yesterday,” and as an attorney he could not “legally come up with an argument against same-sex marriage.” His sense of justice and equality, and law trumped the way he was raised.

A critical last-minute yes vote came from another Republican Senator, Stephen Saland.  He had been undecided until the end and described his “emotional journey.” “My vote is a vote of conscience,” he said. “I am at peace with my vote.”

Read her whole article for interesting commentary.

Justice David Prosser: Probably shouldn't be granted a concealed carry permit.

What a special Saturday morning!  While the State of New York is recognizing the equal rights of gay couples by legalizing same sex marriage, newly re-elected “Gentleman Bachelor” Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser is choking his female colleagues behind closed doors.  Perhaps if his GOP handlers gave him an opportunity to come out of the closet, the somewhat ambiguously gay Justice Prosser might stop lashing out violently at women.  This could very well be all about his personal frustration. But seriously, his alleged actions are egregious and he clearly demonstrates that he is unable to conduct himself professionally. Even more concerning is his apparent seething contempt for women.
Bill Lueders writes an excellent article detailing the incident at Isthmus

They say an argument that occurred before the court’s release of a decision upholding a bill to curtail the collective bargaining rights of public employees culminated in a physical altercation in the presence of other justices. (Justice Ann Walsh)Bradley purportedly asked Prosser to leave her office, whereupon Prosser grabbed Bradley by the neck with both hands.

Justice Prosser, contacted Friday afternoon by the Center, declined comment: “I have nothing to say about it.” He repeated this statement after the particulars of the story — including the allegation that there was physical contact between him and Bradley — were described. He did not confirm or deny any part of the reconstructed account.

On Justice Prosser being gay. Let me make this clear: I am not stating that David Prosser is gay. In fact, I’m sure the gay community would probably reject him. I am simply commenting on rumors that have been discussed for quite some time. They may be true, they may not. But in my sole  opinion, I vote David Prosser the Supreme Court Justice Most Likely to Be Arrested in A Truck Stop Restroom, While Tapping his foot and assuming a “wide stance”.

Bye Bye Senate Majority

Madison, WI. Showing signs of sheer desperation, three GOP senators up for recall elections on July 12 have now resorted to asking the courts to stop the election citing dubious alleged “irregularities” in the filing of recall petitions. Never mind the wholesale recall petition fraud perpetrated by the Wisconsin Republican Party; substantiated with scores of affidavits and reports of dead people signing their names, felons stealing items while circulating papers, and the involvement of a shady out of state group that helped organize the republican efforts against democrats.

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

State Sens. Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse; Luther Olsen, R-Ripon; and Randy Hopper, R-Fond du Lac, all want judges to block the state Government Accountability Board from calling elections based on the recall petitions filed in April by groups seeking to recall the GOP senators.

Clearly, they know they are in trouble.  Two of these senators, adherents of the GOP “family values” mantra,  are essentially the crippled sheep in the Republican herd. Easy pickings if you will.  The third is simply guilty of supporting union busting. Let’s take a look.

Hopper and his mistress, Valerie Cass

Sen. Randy Hopper, R- Fon du Lac -Fortunate Son shacks up with young mistress, lives in Madison. 

Sen. Randy Hopper began his political career by winning his race in a 163 vote “landslide.” A member of the northern Wisconsin gentry, Hopper is the owner of Mountain Dog Media, a radio station and broadcasting company that owns Fon du Lac’s two major radio stations, KFIZ (1450) and WFON (107.1)  In addition, Mountain Dog owns WCLB (950) in Sheboygan and Chilton‘s WMBE (1530). It is more than likely that Mr. Hopper was the recipient of generous seed capital from his wealthy father, William Hopper, whose grandfather had founded Hopper Papers,  a company eventually sold to Koch Brothers-owned paper giant Georgia Pacific.  After selling the company and staying on a few years, Randy’s dad bought a majority stake in a small bank in Taylorville, IL and grew his interests to $150 million. The bank then merged with another banking firm in Springfield, Ill. When that combined company grew to $2 billion in assets, it merged once again with another bank, and that’s when Hopper sold out. He also owns/owned a 50% stake in a string of Illinois car dealerships.  My point is that young Randy is no self-made man.  He was born of privilege and grew up in Taylorville, IL while summering on a lake estate in Arbor Vitae, WI- the same lake that is home to Standard Oil’s lavish former retreat, Red Crown Lodge.  Sen. Hopper has little in common with the average Wisconsinite he pretends to represent.

In March of this year, recall volunteers accidentally knocked on his door and encountered Hopper’s estranged wife who was more than happy to announce that “Randy doesn’t live here anymore.  He’s living in Madison with his 26 year old mistress Valerie Cass”. She then wrote a letter to Milwaukee radio station WTMJ confirming her statement. Imagine the shock! According to Mrs. Hopper,  Randy began having an affair with the then 25 year old Cass who at the time was employed as an aide to  Senator Ted Kanavas (R-Brookfield). After Senator Kanavas decided against another run,  Ms. Cass became employed by the aptly named political consulting firm “Persuasion Partners, Inc.”  Incidentally, Persuasion Partners counts as one of its clients the Koch brothers-funded front Americans For Prosperity. Yet another Koch connection to a Wisconsin legislator. To make matters worse, it appears that Sen. Hopper may have used his political connections to secure a sweetheart deal of a job for his mistress in the Walker Administration, circumventing the civil service process.  Regardless of your political persuasion, is this the type of man that would be inclined to represent you? Or would he be more comfortable championing the cause of corporations?

Sen. Dan Kapanke

Sen. Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse – Ethically Challenged and Paid no Taxes. 

In August of 2010, Wisconsin State Senator Dan Kapanke admitted to “unintentionally” violating the state ethics code by using his lobbyist funded charity as a personal slush fund to pay for improvements to the LaCrosse Logger’s Baseball Park. He and his wife own the LaCrosse Loggers, a summer collegiate baseball team.. The payments from the LaCrosse Logger’s Foundation to the City of LaCrosse totaled about $32,000 against a  $225,000 loan.

In 2009, Government Accountability Board representative Jonathan Becker said  Sen. Kapanke should not have used campaign funds for two “Economic Forums”. This was after the Democratic Party of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit asserting that his staff improperly coordinated the forums. The board declined to take action against Kapanke, but fined his aid who worked at the second campaign-sponsored event.  Kapanke took responsibility for the actions of his aid and agreed that he shouldn’t have used campaign funds for those activities. The party twice requested records about the event and each time was told they did not exist.  During testimony as part of the Democratic party suit, a top Kapanke aide admitted that she routinely used personal email for state work. The state’s Technology Services Bureau recovered information from a backup that confirmed that Kapanke had been sending work related emails to a yahoo email address. Rose Smyrski, Kapanke’s chief of staff and capitol employee since 2000,  incredulously stated that she never received open records training and that she didn’t check her personal email in response to the Democratic Party open records request.

Once again, Kapanke maintained that this was an “honest mistake”.  He seems to make lots of “honest mistakes” involving campaign-related financial issues and obscuring information. In Sept, 2009 the taxpayers of Wisconsin paid $38,000 to settle his legal fees as a result of the suit. It should be noted that taxes to average Wisconsin citizens increased under his watch while he himself paid nothing in 2008. Full information about Kapanke ethics issues and the source article is here.

Sen. Luther Olsen, R- Ripon

Sen. Luther Olsen, R- Ripon. 

Sen. Luther Olsen has long been considered one of the more moderate republicans in the legislature. In the early stages of the Wisconsin Uprising, Sen Olsen was one of the very few republicans who expressed reservations about removing the collective bargaining rights of unions. “The concept is pretty radical,” he said.  “It affects a lot of good working people.” Olsen said he could support the changes on pensions and health care but had reservations about taking away other bargaining rights.  That spark of independence died when he voted lock-step with the Walker machine ultimately setting himself up for recall.

GOP Recall Organizers Call for Chief Election Referee to Resign

Finally, in another blatant act of desperation, the Wisconsin Republican Party recall organizers are calling for Kevin Kennedy, the Executive Director of the Government Accountability Board, to resign. The GAB is tasked with overseeing elections in Wisconsin and has been given the monumental task of certifying 9 simultaneous recall elections. This is unprecedented. Wisconsin republicans are crying foul because all recall elections against the GOP have been certified, while serious questions remain about the validity of the signatures collected by out of state firms against the democrats. In at least several cases it appears that signatures were forged from information contained within phone books. Most notably, the signature of the long deceased father of Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan appeared on one set of papers turned in by republican operatives.

The recall elections were scheduled for July 12th.

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

L to R, Tag Evers, Jon Langford, Ben Manski and Patrick DePula

How do you know it might be time to take a break from the revolution? You come home from work late, wife and child are sleeping, you pour yourself a glass of 2nd tier scotch and make a Parmesan/Sriracha omelette with a couple of Hebrew National hotdogs on the side. Yeah, need to go grocery shopping and remember that I’ve got a little one to spend some time with.

So…It’s been a long week, culminating in one of the most incredible events I’ve ever been a part of. I’ve gone from being a participant, to acquiring press credentials, to helping organize one of the best rallies against corporate greed and GOP money politics yet.

Here’s how it went down.

Last Thursday, I was eating a hasty lunch and perusing the interwebs for information about rallies scheduled for the coming weekend. Not much information at all. I had ran into my friend Tag Evers, when I gained access to the capitol with my handy Mudflats press pass. And something he said struck a chord: “We must hold the Capitol Square. It is symbolic of the larger movement.” So, that said, I created an event on Facebook and called it, rather generically, “The Largest Rally Yet against Scott Walker and The Budget Despair Bill”. I simply hoped to encourage folks to head downtown and keep the pressure on. I had no Idea that I had just set the machinery in motion that would ultimately lead to shaking Michael Moore’s hand just 36 hours later.

Patrick DePula and Michael Moore.

After making the post, I focused on work for the rest of the day. Right before I left, I signed into Facebook and realized I had 27 messages about the “rally” with questions such as “are you bussing from Milwaukee?” “Who are the speakers?”, “Do you have a sound system”? Then I noticed that there were thousands of people RSVPing. So I thought to myself that it would be a good idea to pull a program together.

Later that night I ended up at Fair Trade Coffee, deep in conversation with Tag Evers, Activist Concert Promoter, and Ben Manski,  Director of The Liberty Tree Foundation. Ben’s wife Sarah was also present; another indispensable organizer. We decided to put something together under the umbrella of Wisconsin Wave, a group consisting of labor unions and social and economic justice organizations. Tag discussed artists that might be interested, and those that he’d already been in contact with. Ben, Sarah and I discussed potential speakers and a framework. At around 11 pm we broke and all went home. Just as I was walking in the door I received a text from Tag that Michelle Shocked had confirmed. Awesome.

Friday morning I rush to work and try to get as much done as possible and then go about booking a flight and hotel for Michelle Shocked and other logistics related things, such as applying for the necessary permits. Of course, right while I’m booking the best priced flight for Michelle from LAX to ORD, the internet in the office crashes, hard. Thankfully I have an air-card that I was able to use to complete the transaction. Finally, airfare is paid for. We’re committed. And I still don’t have the permit. I finally received a call from the capitol police at 7 pm telling me that the permit was approved.

We decide to meet at 9 pm at The Orpheum in order to finalize our plans for Saturday. By now, over 30,000 people have been invited to the rally with thousands responding. And we haven’t even announced the speakers or musical guests yet!

So late Friday, we finally send out a press release. It includes Michelle Shocked, Ryan Bingham, Jon Langford, Vo5, Mayor Dave, Congresswoman Baldwin, and a host of other community activists. What makes this rally different, is that we’re deviating a bit from the union message. We’re now talking about how the GOP/Walker bill is hurting everyone in Wisconsin, except the handful of rich folks that Scott Walker loves to pander to.

RSVPs on Facebook are now coming in at a rate of 150 per hour. We finally break late Friday night after dividing up some tasks and ultimately try to get a few hours of sleep. Load in is at 8 am, Saturday.

Meanwhile, all hell is breaking loose at the capitol. The doors are breached, and protesters rush the building only to be stopped by police next to the first set of stairs. Fox news also pulls out of town, most likely because they can’t go on air without loud chants of “Fox Lies!” No matter, because they DO lie. Has anyone seen the infamous Wisconsin Palm Tree video? The final holdouts leave the building, and the Department Of Administration promises to comply with the court order to return to the same security condition the capitol was in before the protests began.

Saturday Morning comes, and I need to run my son 44 miles south of Madison so my parents can watch him while I engage in what will become one of the biggest rallies yet.

I get back to Madison at about 10:30, drop off a tent and table by the stage, then meet with volunteers at The Majestic Theater. After a briefing by Adam, Wisconsin Waves coordinator, we break to the capitol, one block away, and get things ready.

12:05 arrives and we are missing a couple of guests. We scramble to call them and get them to the stage. Everyone finally shows up and we start. Speakers are phenomenal and the crowd roars. Finally,Ryan Bingham takes the stage and with a slightly gravely, smoked voice starts singing “The Times, They are A Changin’” by Bob Dylan. Amazing performance. Hardly a dry eye within 400 yards of the stage. At about 12:30, we receive a call that Michael Moore is deplaning and wants to speak at our rally. We enthusiastically agree!

Ryan Bingham, Wisconsin Wave rally, 3/05/2011

All of our speakers are great. We have folks from the Sierra Club, Family Farm Defenders, Hmong groups, labor, student groups – truly a diverse collective. Then Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and former mayor Paul Soglin share the stage, and discuss how though they may be political opponents, running for the same seat, they are united against the corporatization of Wisconsin. Michelle Shocked then performs and is amazing. She sounds like a Wisconsin Native and has such an awareness of what is going on in our beloved state.

Michelle Shocked

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and Mayor Paul Soglin

At about 2 pm Michael Moore shows up in a procession with firefighters, and the Daily Beast Editor who crank called Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and takes over for the next 30 minutes. He gives an incredibly inspiring speech about how we’ve all had enough! And about how we’ve been fleeced by corporations and the top 400 most wealthy individuals in the country. He also repeatedly praises the Wisconsin Senators who fled to Illinois. Many rousing cheers reverberate around the capitol square. When I stood on the stage I could see people all the way down King Street. Easily 35,000 people were gathered.

Michael Moore Arrives

Michael Moore addresses the protestors.

Michael winds down and we hear from Tammy Baldwin who poignantly offers that we are all in the fight of our lives, as she details proposed cuts to state and federal budgets that will certainly negatively impact working Wisconsin families.

US Rep. Tammy Baldwin

Finally, Jon Langford, of the Mekons plays Union Made. Great song, great response by the crowd. When his full set is through, Ben, Tag and I join him on stage and we sing “Solidarity Forever” as one of the strangest boy bands in history.

Who would have thought that my Facebook post would have turned into the “We are Wisconsin!” rally featuring Michael Moore, Michelle Shocked, Ryan Bingham, Jon Langford, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, Mayor Dave, Paul Soglin, and a host of others. But we pulled it off, printed t-shirts over-night, and managed to collect enough donations to pay for the equipment and other expenses.

But what is becoming completely evident, is that this is no longer a protest. This is a movement. What the mainstream media fails to discuss is that this is a homegrown phenomenon. It’s no longer solely about unions. The right wing has succeeded in radicalizing the middle class, and we won’t stop until we’ve recalled them all.

Patrick DePula
Madison, WI
for TheMudflats.net

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[Photos courtesy of Phil Ejercito. See more of his photos from the event  HERE]