Posts Tagged ‘Wisconsin Union’

Greed is the Enemy

Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?  On the surface, there doesn’t seem a lot to be happy about in Wisconsin right now.  So what have those crafty corporatists been up to during the last few days? (photos at end of post) The republican majority called an Extraordinary Session in order to pass a reprehensible budget with as little interference as possible. This budget is so one sided, it may as well be a Teahadist fantasy come to life. The budget puts in motion a plan to award $2.3 billion in tax breaks for corporations over the next decade, strips $834 million from already cash-strapped public schools, expands the school voucher program that does nothing more than lay the groundwork for Education, Inc, cuts $250 million from the  UW System, and $71 million will evaporate from the Wisconsin technical college system. All of these cuts are necessary, says Governor Walker, because the state is broke. But it isn’t so broke that he’s willing to spend up to $2 Billion as a giveback to the Road Builders. To add insult to injury, the GOP snuck into the budget yet another special gift to private industry; James Rowan of The Political Environment Blogreports that:

…as the Joint Committee on Finance wound down towards the three-day Memorial Day weekend, it voted to add to Scott Walker’s proposed budget a fresh giveaway to the road-builders: a requirement that all 72 Wisconsin Counties hire private contractors for any job over $100,000.  And the measure bars counties and other municipalities from performing such work for another unit of government – – so a village can’t contract with a County to get an intersection rebuilt, for example, if the cost exceeds $100,000. All this work is to be privatized – – even though the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has said and documented that private contracting for road-building costs the public more money. These items are in the Omnibus Transportation Motion, sections 18-20, which was sprung as motion #352 before Joint Finance Friday around noon, and was sponsored by the co-chairs, Republicans Robin Vos and Alberta Darling.

There is no question that republicans are endeavoring to make the rich wealthier while ensuring that workers get less of an education and remain subservient to monied interests. Make no mistake; this is not a class war, this is a full-on putsch orchestrated by groups and individuals such as ALEC, The Koch Brothers, Americans For Prosperity, corporate-backed think tanks, large banks and others to destroy democratic institutions in order to facilitate the creation of a permanent majority.

On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, in record time,  conveniently overturned Judge Marayann Sumi’s decision that voided the GOP’s attempt to remove collective bargaining rights for thousands of public employees.  It is now clear that the open meetings law is pointless and the conservative majority on Wisconsin’s high court is more interested in pandering to right wing idealogues than exercising the rule of law. Justice David Prosser, the conservative incumbent who nearly lost to little known challenger JoAnn Kloppenberg, should be especially ashamed. It wasn’t long ago that he desperately tried to characterize himself as independent. Everyone knew it was a sham, and his actions just serve to prove it. On her conservative colleagues, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson had this to say: “The majority justices make their own findings of fact, mischaracterize the parties’ arguments, misinterpret statutes, minimize (if not eliminate) Wisconsin constitutional guarantees, and misstate case law, appearing to silently overrule case law dating back to at least 1891”.  How convenient that Assembly GOP Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald threatened to put the collective bargaining measure back into the budget if the Supreme Court didn’t act on the original measure by Tuesday.  In Fitzwalkerstan, the Judicial Branch now serves the Legislative branch as evidenced by an e-mail obtained by WKOW- TV that suggests republican lawmakers knew the court would act ahead of the budget sessions.

Republicans Gone Wild – Encouraged shill candidates to run as democrats in order to force primaries. 

The Republican party fielded Republican candidates to run as Democrats in all six of the recall primaries, with the purpose of giving their incumbents an extra four weeks to campaign before facing general elections. The state’s recall law would require general elections July 12 unless there is more than one candidate in either party, in which case the election would be a primary, with the final general election held Aug. 9.  By engaging is such shenanigans, the self-described party of “ecomonic responsibility”  will fleece taxpayers to the tune of more than $465,000 by running fraudulent candidates and forcing primaries. This figure comes from election clerks in the recall districts. So much for concern about the mostly manufactured budget crisis.

Here’s a list of the fake democrats who should be ashamed of themselves:

Senate District 2 Incumbent: Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Allouez). Challengers: Democrat Nancy Nusbaum of De Pere, fake Democrat Otto Junkermann of Green Bay.

Senate District 8 Incumbent: Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills). Challengers: Rep. Sandy Pasch (D-River Hills), fake Democrat Gladys Huber of Mequon.

Senate District 10 Incumbent: Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls). Challengers: Democrat Shelly Moore of River Falls, fake Democrat Isaac Weix of Menomonie.

Senate District 14 Incumbent: Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon). Challengers: Rep. Fred Clark (D-Baraboo), fake Democrat Rol Church of Wautoma.

Senate District 18 Incumbent: Sen. Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac). Challengers: Democrat Jessica King of Oshkosh, fake Democrat John D. Buckstaff of Oshkosh.

Senate District 32 Incumbent: Sen. Dan Kapanke (R-La Crosse). Challengers: Rep. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse), fake Democrat James D. Smith of La Crosse.

This is further proof that these people will stop at nothing to hold on to power while making  a mockery of the electoral process.

Tuesday’s Mass Rally on the Capitol Square. 

Once again thousands of citizens massed in Madison to protest the corporate republican-backed horrendous budget and the war on working families. As expected, the calls for fairness and pleas for compassion went unheeded. Just before the rally started at 5pm, the Wisconsin Supreme Court announced that it had reversed Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi’s decision that voided the original measure.  Instead of feeling defeated, protestors and activists were outraged and looked toward the upcoming recall elections as the next battle.

Marty Biel, Executive Director of AFSCME referred to the capitol as a “marble whorehouse” and announced to republican legislators that “we’re going to be spending  our summer in your neighborhoods”.

Marty Biel, Executive Director of AFSCME Council 24.

Video of Reverend Willie Briscoe’s speech

Introduced by Mahlon Mitchell, Phil Nuenfeldt, Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President speaks.

Ellen Carlson speaks about budget impacts on education

Kim Hoffman, middle school teacher and 17 year veteran of the Wisconsin Army National Guard

Francisca Miras, member of Youth Empowered in the Struggle of Voces de la Frontera.

Mahlon Mitchell, President of Firefighters Union and Jackie Pokorney, SEIU member

We’re not going anywhere. We will fight, we will recall, we will keep the Wisconsin Idea alive until we successfully return a measure of sanity to the legislature, and ultimately, the governor’s mansion. The immoral actions of the republican majority will not be forgotten. What they’ve created is a new generation of activists, and ultimately a new national progressive movement. On Thursday, thousands of labor activists rallied at the NJ State Capitol to protest my home state’s bid to severely restrict collective bargaining rights. Just more evidence that this is a nationwide effort to destroy unions and advance a radical right wing agenda. Say goodbye to women’s reproductive rights, strong public schools, and critical social safety nets.  Unless we organize and fight.

Photos from the Wisconsin rally on Tuesday.

Firefighters and supporters at the July 14th Wisconsin Capitol Rally

Phil Nuenfeldt, Wisconsin State AFL-CIO president.

Mary Bell, President of the Wisconsin Education Association Council

Ellen Carlson and Son, speaking about education

Middle School Teacher and Wisconsin Army National Guard Veteran

Mahlon Mitchell, President of the Firefighters Union.

Rev. Willie Briscoe

Francisca Miras, Voces de la Fronterra

Marty Biel, Executive Director of AFSCME Council 24

Mahlon Mitchell, Firefighters union president.

And finally…the inspiration for the article title:

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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.

“In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin,” Democratic Sen. Mark Miller said in a statement. “Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten.” 

Police Mustering on Second Floor

MADISON, WI. Thousands of angry citizens stormed the Wisconsin State Capitol this evening when the Republican Senate, after removing fiscal items from the original bill, passed legislation that will strip public unions of most of their collective bargaining rights and require employees to pay 8% more toward their health insurance and and a greater share of their pensions.    Earlier today State Senator  and majority leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), appeared on Fox news admitting that the end game had always been to marginalize labor unions in order to defeat Obama in 2012.  Hey Scott, since when is it the job of the state senate to help a presidential candidate win?  And just last week Scott Walker was adamantly explaining that collective bargaining was a fiscal issue. But suddenly it isn’t, or it was…

Protestors Inside the Capitol

Hundreds of cars circled the capitol honking their horns in support while the crowd grew seemingly by the minute.  Teamsters in their trucks were handing out American Flags, and obviously had some sort of train whistle installed in one of their vehicles.  Gone was the relatively easy going attitude of the crowd that had become a hallmark over the last several weeks. It had been replaced by anger, outrage and utter disbelief.While walking around the Capitol, I ran into an old friend who told me that GOP senators were now holed up in the Inn on the Park across the square.  So we walked over there, and sure enough the camera around my neck caught their attention when we walked into the bar.  We tweeted and facebooked the info and within minutes, protesting firefighters showed up who were quite angry. Ultimately, the republicans fled from the bar to their rooms.

Inside the Rotunda- Mass Protest Rally.

Heading back to the capitol we noticed the doors were wide open allowing easy entry to the building.  As we are making our way to the rotunda it becomes obvious that there are no police in sight. We reach the press office where I’m able to obtain today’s pass. It is clear that this is one of the biggest crowds to occupy the building yet.  There are constant reminders over  the PA system that “the capitol is closed, please leave”. No one is paying the messages any mind.  It is now clear that all the police have retreated to the second and third floors.  One semi-official estimate is that there is 8,000 people gathered under the dome, while thousands more march outside.  The crowd is a mix of teachers, union members, college students, and every day folks who have finally had it.

At about 10:30 pm, I enter the press office and find Tim Donovan, spokesperson for the Department of Administration and Capitol Police giving an impromptu press conference. Mr. Donovan states that “there will be a large number, a significantly larger amount, of law enforcement at the capitol.”  Another reporter asks if he was informed ahead of time about the surprise vote. He answers “yes, I was told at about 5-ish and we tried to have more law enforcement on hand, obviously not enough”. Finally, I ask “Have you been in touch with the National Guard today?” Mr. Donovan responds with “Yes, the National Guard provides emergency law enforcement assistance, and in that capacity, yes, we have had discussions with them, but as far as being on alert goes, that’s a question for the governor”.   He then exits.

Back in the rotunda, things are getting louder, drums are beating, and the police are trying to deny access to the second floor.  Lound chants of “Let us up” reverberate through the building, and people start handling supplies up to the folks on the stairs behind the police officers.  At one point the crows learns that stairs on the other side of the building are unguarded, and there is a rush up them, to the second floor.  It appears as if some of the occupiers are now digging in for the night.

Folks, that’s what happened this evening.  The crowd peacefully took control of the Wisconsin State Capitol by overwhelming the police.  This seems to be without recent precedent in American politics.  The vote will now go to the assembly tomorrow(today) at 11:00 am.  There’s much talk about a general strike and plenty of rumors taking on lives of their own.  I’ll have more updates tomorrow, but for now, good night.

Patrick DePula
Originally posted to http://www.themudflats.net

Union Worker Standing Strong during one of the First Mass Protests.

Originally posted: 3/2/11 Appeared at http://www.themudflats.net

(Madison, WI)It’s a community called Rotundaville. It boasts a medical clinic/dispensary manned by capable folks who know first aid, a food preparation/pantry area, a communal charging station for electronics, its own Facebook page, and even a family respite center. It’s a village unto its own that functions 24 hours per day, under the persistently glowing lights inside the capitol dome. And it is home to an eclectic group of dedicated volunteers who care for the sick, provide food, coordinate cleaning crews, and most importantly, occupy this normally staid symbol of Wisconsin State government in protest of Governor Scott Walker’s mean-spirited and unfair “Budget Repair Bill”.

Volunteer Staffed Dispensary inside Wisconsin State Capitol

For two weeks now the State capitol has been continually occupied by a diverse group of people while tens of thousands of angry citizens parade around the square in opposition to all things Walker. Today I was able to gain access and experience first hand what’s been going on inside.

Tag Evers, Activist Music Promotor - Addresses the Protestors.

While approaching the building at 4:30pm from the King Street side, a dedicated crowd of about 300 people were waiting in line to gain access to the building. An impromptu rally had begun with the ever present megaphones. I had this passing thought that someone should call Radio Shack and see if there was a sudden uptick in megaphone sales that soon dissipated when I noticed that the assembly democrats had MOVED THEIR DESKS OUTSIDE and were conducting the people’s business in 30-degree Wisconsin winter weather.

WI State Representatives see Constituents Outside During Lockdown.

Why? Because it is becoming nearly impossible for representatives to meet with their constituents inside the building. Not so for right- to-life lobbyists that share the Governor’s agenda.

Matt Sande, of Pro-Life Wisconsin manages to gain entry in just under 8 minutes while regular citizens wait in line for hours. Furthermore, during Walker’s budget address, it appears that he may have allowed his supporters alone to access the Capitol via tunnels from the Risser Justice building located nearby. Madison City Councilman Bryon Egon snapped this photo of State Division of Criminal Investigation agents guarding what they say is a “storm shelter. ” Well, Councilman Eagon saw Mrs. Walker enter the “Storm Shelter”.

Massive Police Presence

While Walker’s cronies were freely entering the capitol, a hearing was underway regarding a court order issued by Judge Moeser to open the capitol completely to the public in accordance with the Wisconsin State Constitution. Of course, the Walker administration ignored the order and continued to severely and unconstitutionally restrict access. The hearing will continue through Thursday. Today, even the Honorable Dave Obey, former 21-term congressional representative from Wisconsin’s 7th District, was denied access to the capitol for the first time in 50 years. He went on to call Walker a “political bully”.

Okay, I’m rambling a bit. Upon entering the capitol, I immediately noticed Representative Brett Hulsey talking to members of the press. We exchanged some pleasantries and he dramatically announced “Welcome to our new police state!” And he was right. The police officers manning the building easily outnumbered the protesters by at least a 2:1 margin. Law Enforcement came from communities all across the state: Walworth and Trempeleau Counties, Prescott, Ellsworth, and a host of other small towns.

Interesting that Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney withdrew his deputies from the building while stating “My deputies will not be palace guards”. Kudos to Sheriff Mahoney for doing the right thing. Department of Administration Secretary Huebsch states that law enforcement costs are exceeding $5 million dollars. For what? I can’t see the justification in ordering 300 police officers to guard what appears to be 80 peaceful and respectful protesters inside the building. So much for the King of Frugality that Walker would have you believe he is.

It’s clear that we’re entering some seriously troubling times; The capitol is locked down with hundreds of police officers, The poorly thought out “Budget Repair Bill” is rife with attacks on Wisconsin families while further rewarding corporate interests. The Capitol square is overrun with angry residents every single day in a sustained protest the likes of which has not been seen since the War in Vietnam. Yet, the emperor still isn’t listening. Neither is the GOP majority. Together they continue to run roughshod over the rights of the very citizens they were elected to represent.

Amazingly, the folks inside the dome remain upbeat and they realize that they are a part of history and engaged in something significant. It’s not just college kids, but parents, teachers, firefighters, cops, iron workers and others that are staying overnight and keeping vigil. They are desperately trying to keep the Wisconsin Idea alive and would most likely be making Bob LaFollette proud if he were still around.

It’s not about Union busting, fiscal responsibility, the budget, or anything else but power. And making damn sure that the ruling class remains the GOP by eviscerating unions and pitting the middle class against each other. What Walker didn’t count on was Madison. Last Friday he was politely refused service at a new local restaurant because the other patrons were booing so loudly. He was asked to leave much to the amusement of nearly everyone in town. Beyond that, Madison is a special place with a population that basically exists within one degree of separation between everyone. A simple Facebook post that calls folks to action at the capitol will result in five thousand people showing up by 5 o’clock. Give it another hour, and you’ll have 10,000. Quite remarkable in a city of 227,000. We’re a compassionate lot here, supporting many joint causes and with many overlapping social circles, hence our strength. We will continue to resist because there’s no other choice. We’re proud of our city and won’t falter. We’ll win together.

One can only imagine what tomorrow will bring, but until then, good night!

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Democratic State Representatives Meet With Constituents Outside During Lockdown