My husband and I have worked to raise our three children to the best of our ability. At times we have struggled to keep food on the table, clothes on their backs, and a roof over their heads.
But life has got significantly better for us in the past year. My husband does the same work, but now he's in a union. He gets paid what he's worth, our kids have dental benefits and our medicine is paid for. We are actually starting to get ahead and are enjoying our family.
I hear people talk about unions as though they are a bad thing. The Saskatchewan Party seems to hate unions.
I bet an MLA's wife doesn't have to worry about how the family will pay for the next trip to the dentist or about how to pay for medicine if a child gets sick.
How can a government claim to be for the people, but at the same time not want to see people earn a good wage so they can take care of their families and have a good life?
I just had to write this because I know how much my husband's union job has helped our family. Come November, I know how I'm voting.
Regina StarPhoenix, Mon Aug 29 2011
Letter to the editor
A common pattern of union-busting in Turkey conducted against the BWI-affiliated Wood Workers' Union (AĞAÇ-İŞ) in Ankara. AĞAÇ-İŞ is affiliated with Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (TÜRK-İŞ) at the national level. AĞAÇ-İŞ members have been pressured to rescind their membership and forced to join a different trade union preferred by the management. The BWI is calling for action by Turkey's new Minister of Labour and Social Security, Faruk Çelik to respect workers' rights.
In March, 2011 a group of workers at YATAŞ Furniture Company in Hasanoğlan, Ankara came to AĞAÇ-İŞ saying that they want to change their union. Workers expressed that there is no Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in place even though they are members of a textile union, Öz İplik-İş affiliated with HAK-İŞ, a confederation close to the government. According to the workers' testimony, in 2001 the textile union registered YATAŞ workers as members with the support of the management against the Trade Union Act no. 2821 and Collective Bargaining, Strike and Lockout Act no. 2822. Ironically, the Ministry of Labour had sent a letter to union upon request saying the union cannot organize YATAŞ due to business line restriction in the same year. However, union dues have been deducted and shown at workers' payrolls.
Before registering YATAŞ workers, AĞAÇ-İŞ had applied to the Ministry of Labour requesting an investigation if there is a CBA at the workplace and if so which union. Ministry investigations confirm that the YATAS workplace in Ankara operates in the wood sector and there is no CBA in place. However, the same employer has another workplace in Kayseri operating in the textile sector and Oz Iplik Is trade union has a CBA in place at that workplace.
AĞAÇ-İŞ has started organizing activities at YATAŞ and registered about 100 members despite the very hostile employer. Yet the employer was hostile only to AĞAÇ-İŞ members. After finding out about the organizing drive, 3 members have been fired due to union activities. Workers have been pressured to rescind their membership in AĞAÇ-İŞ and to instead join a HAK-İŞ affiliated wood workers' union preferred by management while AĞAÇ-İŞ organizing drive was on the way.
On August 11, the production was stopped at the.workplace and workers were taken to a notary public collectively by buses for registering with Öz Ağaç İş, another affiliated union with HAK-İŞ. They were promised wage increase and threatened by the employer with layoffs if they do not register.
What has been done to AĞAÇ-İŞ members and YATAŞ workers are obviously a violation of ILO conventions no 87 and no 98. Workers' basic human and trade union rights should be respected. Workers are free to choose their own unions. What has been done to YATAŞ workers are also a violation of the Turkish Constitution article 51, Trade Union Act 2821 article 22 and 31.
In previous years, another BWI-affiliated Forestry Workers' Union (Orman-İş), TÜRK-İŞ affiliated Municipality Workers' Unions (Belediye-İş) and Food Workers' Union (Tek Gıda-İş) members had been also pressured by HAK-İŞ to rescind their membership.
The BWI calls upon Turkish Government to respect basic human and trade union rights. What has been done to AĞAÇ-İŞ workers clearly contravenes the national legislation as well as the ILO conventions ratified by Turkey. The BWI urges Turkish Government to ensure that workers of Turkey are allowed to exercise their democratic rights to freedom of association without any interference.
BWINT.ORG, Aug 24 2011
The struggle in Wisconsin was the awakening that labor movement activists had hoped for—disproving the modern notion that those who work will not stand up for themselves. Several hundred thousand people rallied in communities across the state.
Saying "Brother" and "Sister" and "Solidarity" had real meaning. People were exhausted but energized. Community/labor coalitions emerged to build for the future.
But the recall elections of six Republican senators turned out to be an education opportunity lost, in a sea of negative attack ads.
It seems that the "message people" saw the union question as a divisive issue. The only ads that discussed union rights came from the other side.
The millions of dollars in commercials in support of the Democrats did not talk about unions, the history of the labor movement, what we have done to create our modern society, or why it is important for our collective future that unions thrive. This in a state that has some of the richest labor history in the nation.
The commercials didn't address the fact that Governor Scott Walker had taken away public employees' union rights—despite the fact that it was the living and personal knowledge of that history that drove many to the streets.
The Lessons of Wisconsin
Recalls Gained Two Seats, Needed Three
Let's Learn the Right Lessons
The other side was consistent in its message: They needed to whack workers' rights to balance the budgets. Our side, the side that is being whacked, did not defend itself. Too often the theme seemed to be, "Why can't we all just get along?" (Interestingly, now that our rights have been stripped, Governor Walker's new position is "we all need to work together.")
On the positive side, some commercials attacked tax breaks for the rich and corporations and identified the impact brutal budget cuts will have on schools. Some politicians, like Dave Hansen in Green Bay, a 20-year sanitation truck driver and Teamster, made stump speeches as good as anything heard at a Labor Notes conference. But these were not the main face of the campaign.
It's worth mentioning that between the "bad guys" and the "good guys," an estimated $35-$40 million was poured into Wisconsin for the elections. Is this historic moment going to come and go as a typical election campaign, or can we create something sustained from all that cash?
KNOW YOUR ENEMY
Monumental struggles are where people learn who and what it is they are up against. It's where they build the infrastructure to become better fighters for the struggles to come.
In Wisconsin, local unions and community organizations recognized that they have a lot of internal organizing to do. Many have gotten on that task.
Some may want to go back to where they were, but, to quote famed organizer Jerry Tucker, "There is no 'there' there to go back to."
If we are going to build a labor movement "from the ashes of the old," let's build it based on an understanding of how the world works and who the enemy is, rather than on relentless rhetoric about a mythical "middle class." We are toe-to-toe with capitalism's brutal assault on the working class. Hundreds of thousands in Wisconsin know it. We need to act like we do.
The recall campaigns needed to talk about the Walker austerity budget, to be sure. But the campaigns should also have insisted on the importance of unions—which gave working people what we have today and which are necessary for a sound future.
That would have directly confronted the corporate assault and laid the groundwork for future organizing. This opportunity is being lost.
WE ARE WISCONSIN
In the recall effort a union-led coalition, We Are Wisconsin, ran its own volunteers, literature, and commercials, separate from the Democratic Party.
Over the weekend prior to the August 9 elections, We Are Wisconsin saw more than 12,000 volunteers visit nearly 300,000 doors. It was an impressive infrastructure and many would say far superior to the capacities of the Democrats.
We need electoral action as part of a comprehensive campaign to rebuild the labor movement, but that can't be the sole activity. If the only goal is to get Democratic politicians elected, and to follow their lead on what's acceptable to say and then to do once elected—we've seen where that gets us.
American history has demonstrated that once a movement is channeled into the Democratic Party, it dies. The previous labor uprising in the 1930s, the anti-war movement, and the civil rights movements all saw their energy and organizational efforts moved off the streets and away from the shop floor and into Democratic Party electoral politics. The movements stopped there.
The struggle in Wisconsin gives us old and new lessons: Workers and communities can indeed rise up against the corporate agenda. An uprising can build the necessary broad-based coalitions. It can lead to local unions recognizing the need to organize internally and develop solidarity unionism. And it may produce a glimpse of something beyond the stranglehold of the traditional corporate parties.
When significant moments in history arrive, we have to make the most of them. We Are Wisconsin will come and go, as so many electoral efforts past, unless we realize who and what we are up against—and then act like we know it.
labournotes.org, Sun Aug 21 2011
Workers in the United States and Canada are in a class war declared by big business and we're losing, Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, told delegates. "It is a war that we must win if the labor movement is to survive," he said.
"Why this war has been declared is simple – and it goes well beyond the usual reasons of simple corporate greed," Georgetti said. "This is a diversionary war. It's a tactic to confuse us, divide us and then to conquer us."
When the right wing factions tell us our countries are broke, they are lying, Georgetti said. "Our countries aren't broke; it's simply that the rich are breaking us."
The problem lies on Wall Street not Main Street, he said.
"Tell me, do you remember when Steelworkers crashed the stock market, or when we took billions in bonuses, killed millions of jobs, trashed the world economy and at the same time paid no taxes? I don't"
Just 400 rich Americans own as much combined wealth as 155 million Americans, half of the country, while the top 1 percent of Canadians got one third of all that nation's income gains from 1997 to 2007.
"In Canada, as in the United States, those responsible for the economic crisis are trying to blame the victims," Georgetti added.
"We can't as a society, especially as a labor movement, tell our kids that they don't deserve the same standard of living that we have enjoyed for ourselves.
"What kind of a world would that be if we accepted such a terrible notion? And yet that is what big business and right-wing governments are telling us. I say nonsense to them.
"We have to Stand Up, Fight Back and when we do, we will change our countries for the better."
usw.org, Thurs Aug 18 2011
17 August 2011: The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has joined with its Colombian affiliates, CUT, CGT and CTC, in firmly condemning the killing, on Tuesday 26 July in El Campo district, of Rafael Tobón Zea, a founding member of the Segovia branch of the mine and fuel workers' union SINTRAMIENERGETICA.
Rafael Tobón Zea was fired during the takeover process after working for 15 years at the Frontino Gold Mines, owned by workers and pensioners. The mining company had been forced into liquidation and then illicitly handed over to transnational capital. At the time of his murder the union leader was working at a small mine where he was defending small and medium sized mining operations, backed by SINTRAMIENERGÉTICA, as well as supporting the workers and the local community at the Frontino mine in their fight to save the company from the clutches of transnational capital.
In a letter to the Colombian authorities, the ITUC urged President Santos and his government to take every step necessary to clear up the facts without delay surrounding the constant crimes against the trade union movement in Colombia.
"Those responsible must be arrested and face the full force of the law, to bring an end to the impunity in Colombia," said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow. "As many as 19 trade unionists have already been murdered during 2011. Trade unionists have a right to exercise their legitimate trade union activities without putting their lives at risk."
ituc-csi.org, Wed Aug 17 2011
Gov. John Kasich's S.B. 5 and Republican lawmakers must be feeling the heat. Recently, 1.3 million Ohioans signed petitions to put on the November ballot the repeal of a law (S.B. 5) that eliminates the collective bargaining rights of more than 350,000 public employees. Today, Kasich & Co. pleaded for a so-called "compromise" in order to keep the repeal measure of the ballot out of the voters' hands.
At a press conference this afternoon, Melissa Fazekas, spokeswoman for We Are Ohio, the coalition leading the repeal drive, said:
We're glad that Gov. Kasich and the other politicians who passed S.B. 5 are finally admitting this is a flawed bill. Just like the bill was flawed, this approach to a compromise is flawed as well.
Our message is clear. These same politicians who passed this law could repeal it and not thwart the will of the people. They should either repeal the entire bill or support our efforts and encourage a no vote on Issue 2 [the repeal].
Kasich and Republican lawmakers rammed S.B. 5 through the legislature in March, ignoring the huge and near daily demonstrations and rallies in and around the Capitol. Kasich and his backers refused earlier offers to meet with workers and discuss the issue.
After the bill passed and Kasich signed it, We Are Ohio mounted a massive drive to collect enough signatures to put the repeal before the voters in November. Only 231,000 signatures were needed to put repeal on the November ballot. But the 10,000 We Are Ohio volunteers from all over the Buckeye State found overwhelming support for repeal and collected more than five times the number required.
The Associated Press reports that a recent Quinnipiac University poll found 56 percent of Ohio voters say the new collective bargaining law should be repealed, compared with 32 percent who favor keeping it in place.
AFL-CIO Now Blog, Wed Aug 17 2011
Byline: Mike Hall
Today, Wisconsin working families are going to the polls to defend two state senators who stood up to Gov. Scott Walker's (R) attack on workers. Democratic state Sens. Jim Holperin and Bob Wirch face recall elections financed by Republican tea party money.
Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt says the two lawmkers:
took bold and courageous action for the working people of Wisconsin last February. As members of Wisconsin's heroic "Fabulous 14" Jim Holperin and Bob Wirch have a proven record of fighting for Wisconsin's middle class.
In an effort to prevent Walker and his allies from ramming through legislation that eliminated the collective bargaining rights of public employees, 14 state senators left the state to prevent a vote. But eventually, Republican lawmakers used parliamentary trickery to pass the bill.
Last week, Wisconsin working families recalled two of those Republican state senators, and if Holperin and Wirch win tonight, the Republicans will hold just a 17-16 edge.
The Aug. 9 recall elections and today's balloting follow a massive mobilization that saw more than 12,000 volunteers mobilized for months in recall districts, contacting more than 1 million voters and, on the week before the Aug. 9 election alone, knocking on 125,000 doors.
Challenging Holperin is tea party extremist Kim Simac. Simac recently compared Wisconsin public schools to Nazi indoctrination camps and outsourced local jobs to China. When Simac published a patriotic book she authored, she choose to outsource jobs to China by utilizing foreign printers instead of a multitude of local printing houses.
Jonathan Steitz is challenging Sen. Wirch. Steitz is a newcomer to both Wisconsin politics and Wisconsin itself. Born and raised in Texas, Steitz works mostly in Chicago and London as an international attorney who turns layoffs into profits for an out-of-state law firm.
AFL-CIO Now Blog, Tues Aug 16 2011
Byline: Mike Hall
Handicapping the Wisconsin Recall Elections: Badger State Democrats are trying to win at least three recall race on Tuesday. What are the odds?
Never before in American politics have voters recalled more than two state legislators in a single year. That record could be broken on Tuesday, when Wisconsinites vote to decide the fate of six Republican state senators who voted for Gov. Scott Walker's conservative, anti-union agenda. Democrats need to win three of these recall races (and defend two more in another round of recalls next week) to reclaim a majority in the state Senate and throw a wrench into Walker's political machine.
Publicly, Wisconsin Democrats are oozing confidence. Mike Tate, chair of the state party, told reporters last week that internal polling showed Democratic challengers ahead in three races and tied in the rest. Jessica King, who is running to unseat GOP Sen. Randy Hopper in District 18, has predicted that Democrats would win all six races.
But in private, representatives of left-leaning groups are biting their nails about the razor-thin margins separating Democrats and Republicans in several of the races. These officials, who requested anonymity so they could speak candidly, strongly believe Democrats will claim at least two seats. Three races are too close to call, and they're writing off another as all but impossible.
Here's a breakdown of the six recall races, starting with the ones progressive insiders think Democrats are most likely win.
Looking Good for Democrats
District 32: Sen. Dan Kapanke (R) v. Rep. Jen Schilling (D)
Kapanke, who represents the LaCrosse area in southwest Wisconsin, is the only GOP senator hailing from a deeply Democratic district. The conventional wisdom among pollsters and political scientists is that victory is all but assured for Schilling, who was elected to the State Assembly in 2000. Polls have consistently shown Kapanke trailing by double digits in his recall race, including a Daily Kos poll from late June that put Schilling ahead by 14 points.
Kapanke knows he's in deep trouble. Secretly recorded at meeting of LaCrosse Republicans meeting in June, Kapanke said he hoped the government workers in his district—and there are lots of them, he stressed—"are sleeping" on election day. He mused grimly: "We could lose me. We could lose Randy Hopper in the 18th or Alberta Darling over in...the 8th," adding, "If [the Democrats] gain control of the Senate, it might be over for us."
District 18: Sen. Randy Hopper (R) v. Jessica King (D)
In 2008, Hopper defeated King in this traditionally Republican district by a mere 163 votes. "That's just 82 voters—that's it," King told supporters at a recent rally. "It comes down to who gets out the vote."
This time around, King heads into election day with as much momentum as she could hope for. The 18th may lean to the right, but it also boasts the most public workers per capita outside of Dane County, home of the state capital, Madison. For instance, there are nearly a dozen correctional facilities in the district, and by supporting Walker's anti-union budget bill, Hopper curbed corrections officers and other prison employees' compensation and bargaining rights. "I voted Republican my whole life," says John Eveland, a CO who plans to vote for King. "I feel just absolutely betrayed."
Betrayal is a theme Hopper knows well. He made headlines in March when protesters arrived at his house to confront him over his anti-union vote. They encountered his wife, who informed them that Hopper had left her for his 26-year-old mistress. She has since joined the recall effort against him. Hopper also helped his alleged girlfriend land a government job with an inflated salary. Safe to say, the controversy surrounding Hopper's personal life has not helped his chances: An August 3 poll put King ahead by 9 percentage points.
Too Close to Call
District 14: Sen. Luther Olsen (R) v. Rep. Fred Clark (D)
In February, Olsen was one of the few Republican senators to question Walker's attack on collective bargaining and organized labor, calling it "pretty radical." But in the end, he voted for the budget bill and now faces Clark, a progressive assembly member, in a recall race saturated with vicious, and sometimes plain misleading, radio and TV advertisements.
Left-leaning groups accuse Olsen of backing no-bid sales of state power plants (a claim PolitiFact rated "mostly false") and wanting to slash Medicare (Olsen argues he hasn't said anything about the federal program). Meanwhile, right-leaning groups have hyped Clark's spotty driving record—including an ad with real footage of him hitting a bicyclist in a Madison intersection—while ripping the Democrat for not paying child support. So dirty is the race that Clark pushed Olsen to sign a pledge requiring outside political groups, who've funded many of these ads, to tell the truth or at least unmask their donors. (According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, most conservative groups trying to influence the election are not disclosing their funders.)
Early polls showed Clark leading Olsen by a few points, but in recent weeks, that slim lead has evaporated, leaving the two in a statistical dead heat.
District 8: Sen. Alberta Darling (R) v. Rep. Sandy Pasch (D)
Darling, chair of the powerful Joint Committee on Finance, was Scott Walker's top ally in the state Senate, helping to craft the governor's controversial budget-repair bill. Of the six Republicans facing recalls, Darling, a 20-year Senate veteran, was considered the least likely to lose.
However, Pasch, a Democratic assemblywoman, has closed the gap with Darling, transforming herself from an also-ran into a serious contender. A Democratic poll from July showed Pasch with a one-point lead over Darling, which would have been unthinkable just a month earlier.
The Darling-Pasch race has been characterized by mud-slinging on both sides. After Republicans accused Pasch of coordinating with a third-party progressive group named Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Democrats fired back by filing an official complaint against Darling, accusing her of plotting with right-wing groups including the Club for Growth and the influential anti-abortion outfit Wisconsin Family Action. It remains to be seen whether the political one-upmanship will tilt the race either way. Democratic officials say that Tuesday's outcome is essentially a toss-up.
District 10: Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R) v. Shelly Moore (D)
Harsdorf, a 23-year veteran of the state legislature, goes into Tuesday with the most valuable trait any candidate can hope for: name recognition. The Harsdorfs are a political institution in the 10th District, which borders Minnesota's Twin Cities.
Democrats say it will take a Herculean effort on the part of Moore, a union organizer, to oust Harsdorf. A Democratic poll showed Harsdorf and Moore in a "dead heat" in late July, but party officials aren't optimistic that they can overcome what's sure to be a last-minute push from conservative outside groups to bump Harsdorf over the finish line on Tuesday.
Looking Good for Republicans
District 2: Sen. Robert Cowles (R) v. Nancy Nusbaum (D)
Cowles, a 24-year veteran of the state Senate, is largely considered the strongest Republican in the recall elections. He is the only Republican facing recall to be endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters. He's known for moderate stands such as supporting the extension of jobless benefits. Polls show him tied with Nusbaum, the former mayor of DePere. Democratic officials say they believe Cowles doesn't face a serious challenge and will cruise to victory.
motherjones.com, Mon Aug 8 2011
LabourOn 20th July 2011, civil society organisations, including the trade union movement headed by the ITUC-affiliated Malawi Confederation of Trade Unions (MCTU), took to the streets to advance legitimate calls for the government to address deteriorating economic conditions and international relations as well as repressive laws limiting civil liberties. Nationwide demonstrations in Malawi turned into two days of riots after government security forces brutally put down the demonstrations, leaving 19 people dead and many more injured. A set of recent legislative changes as well as the violent repression of legitimate and peaceful protest actions constitute unacceptable violations of international rights and standards. Despite the brutal police crackdown, protestors took their demands to the government, calling on President Mutharika to address these demands by 16 August. Many Global Union Federations, national centres and trade unions have joined the ITUC in condemning the violent repression and calling on the Malawi government to respect human and trade union rights.
This Tuesday, six Republican state senators who supported Scott Walker's radical agenda face recall. Here's what you need to know about the issues at play.
August 5, 2011 |
Tuesday, August 9 is going to be a big day not just for Wisconsin politics, but nationally. It was this winter, after all, that the Capitol building in Madison was the scene of not just protest, but a full-on occupation by workers and allies enraged by Republican governor Scott Walker's bill stripping collective bargaining rights from the state's public employees. Teachers, students, organized labor, local and national progressive groups, leaders, and even rock stars convened in Wisconsin to join the rallies, but the bill was passed anyway.
The movement in Wisconsin pivoted then from massive protest to massive organizing, and now Tuesday will see the recall elections of six Republican state senators who supported Walker's anti-worker bill. One Democratic state senator, Dave Hansen, has already successfully retained his seat after a July 19 election, and two other Democrats face recalls on August 16.
Just three wins, and the Democrats regain control of the state senate. And the polls look good to do just that. But Walker and his corporate and Tea Party cronies aren't going to give up easily, and with all political junkies' eyes on Wisconsin in the coming days, expect plenty of drama and dirty tricks.
Only three times in U.S. history have recall elections switched party control of a legislative body; Wisconsin has only seen two legislators recalled in its history. This is an unprecedented fight, and it's one where Democrats, progressives, and organized labor have been on the offensive. It has huge implications.
"I believe if given the facts they're going to make good decisions," Walker told reporters of the recalls. We couldn't agree more. We've compiled a list of things to keep in mind while the voters make those decisions.
1. Voter suppression
Wisconsin native Meredith Clark called Scott Walker's voter ID bill his "evil genius masterpiece." The bill doesn't go into effect until 2012, but it requires poll workers to start asking for photo ID right away—a surefire tactic for confusing and driving away voters who believe they don't have the right to vote without these documents. (Though it's unlikely to have an impact before the recalls Tuesday, Walker also ordered closed several DMVs in Democratic districts, making it harder for voters to get state-issued photo ID.)
And that's just the legal voter suppression.
The other kind? Well, Americans for Prosperity (the Koch brothers' group) sent out absentee ballot applications to at least two of the districts that are holding recalls with instructions to mail the ballot back days after the real deadline of August 9. AFP called the mislabeled date a typo, but this isn't the first time AFP has been involved in some election shenanigans in Wisconsin, as AlterNet's Adele Stan reported.
It may be the first time, though, that they're so openly colluding with the religious right; as Stan wrote:
"The address for the "Absentee Ballot Application Processing Center" on the return envelope is a Madison post office box, 1327, that is the mailing address for Wisconsin Family Action, a religious-right group that is virulently anti-gay, and was a vocal supporter of Wisconsin's 2006 anti-same-sex-marriage ballot measure, which passed into law."
A Milwaukee prosecutor also looked into charges that Wisconsin Right to Life and Family Action were offering gift cards to volunteers who signed up anti-choice voters to vote by absentee ballot in the recalls.
After a closely-watched state Supreme Court election was decided by 14,000 votes mysteriously found by a Waukesha County clerk, it's a safe bet that there will be more battles over the voting process in the next week.
2. Corporate cash
Elections aren't cheap in the post-Citizens United age, and these recalls have already broken records for spending in five districts. The amount of outside cash pouring in is staggering; the 8th district, where Alberta Darling faces a challenge from Sandy Pasch, $7.9 million has already been spent. The Club for Growth alone has dumped $400,000 into Darling's race, which Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate called the "crown jewel" of the six.
Darling is the co-chair of the legislature's Joint Finance Committee, the committee that passed Walker's anti-union bill. She was originally considered the safest of the recall targets, but Pasch has polls that show her within range or even ahead of Darling.
As far as where the money is coming from to make these races so costly, Greg Sargent at the Washington Post noted:
"In fairness, labor is investing big money in the recall wars too, via a major ad campaign being waged by the labor-backed We Are Wisconsin. But labor has been involved in this fight since the beginning, and the sudden influx of outside conservative money suggests that national right wing activists understand that if Dems take back the state senate, it would represent a massive blow to their broader agenda."
3. Women's issues
Unions were the big issues that led to the recall campaigns, but Walker and his crew have been awful on many issues. Walker's targeted Planned Parenthood for deep funding cuts and has a long history of anti-abortion action. and Wisconsin Right to Life has been pouring in funding and won a court battle just this week, removing the state's limit of $10,000 on individual donations to a candidate or political action committee. Right to Life's PAC isn't the only one bringing in the big bucks—Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition is involved as well.
The attacks on public sector workers has hit women hard as well. Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, told me several months ago that Walker's union-busting bill was falling heavily on public sector nurses and teachers; jobs that are disproportionately female (and also disproportionately people of color). "Their plan unfolds on us and it's landing disproportionately on women because we're in the public sector," Henry said.
It's no wonder, then, that five of the six Democratic challengers are women, and that national groups like EMILY's List and prominent national politicians like Kirsten Gillibrand, the senator from New York, are calling on women to support them with donations as well as votes and volunteer time. Nancy Nusbaum, running in the 2nd district, is a former head of the pro-choice group Wisconsin NARAL, and Shelly Moore, in the 10th district, is a member of the National Education Association Board of Directors.
4. National election picture
The 2012 election might be a presidential election year, but it's going to hinge on the states. Deeply unpopular conservative governors have driven polls up for Democratic incumbents, like Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, who were previously looking vulnerable, and if Wisconsin is trending Democratic in 2012, that could be a good sign for Barack Obama's reelection (though he should be careful not to assume that he can ride reverse coattails if the national jobs picture is still dismal).
Meanwhile, Wisconsin's senior Senator, Herb Kohl, is retiring in 2012. Kohl is the lone Democrat representing the state after the defeat of progressive hero Russ Feingold in 2010. And a Wisconsin leaning left could be poised to elect the first out lesbian to the Senate—if Representative Tammy Baldwin decides to run. ("I think I am likely to run," she told the Capital Times.) Widely considered one of the most progressive members of the House, Baldwin polls second among possible Democratic candidates to...Russ Feingold, though he has said he'll hold off a decision until September and has urged other Dems to get in the race.
Either one of them would add a much-needed progressive voice to the Senate.
There's also Paul Ryan, one of the austerity-obsessed GOP House leaders, who hails from Wisconsin's 1st district. McClatchy reported:
"A Ryan loss would cost his party a lot more than a seat in Congress. It would deprive it of one of its most influential figures. And it would be a huge blow to its policy agenda, which Ryan has played a central role in crafting."
Defeating Ryan would be an uphill battle, but a resurgent Democratic party will certainly give him the run of his life—and his popularity is stumbling after his polarizing budget proposal, which would have taken a hatchet to Medicare, among other things.
It's no wonder that organizations like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee are recruiting volunteers from around the country to call out the vote in Wisconsin.
5. The Tea Party
Scott Walker was one of the Tea Party-backed governors swept in in 2010, and the six state senators being recalled are closely linked to him. And the Tea Party is pulling out all the stops to keep them in power.
Andy Kroll at Mother Jones writes:
"Spearheaded by the Tea Party Express, the "Restoring Common Sense" tour brings together four different conservative groups—TPX, Tea Party Nation, FreedomWorks, and the Patriot Action Network—and plans to hit nine cities in what the groups see as a crucial battle to keep the GOP senators in office, and thus prevent Democrats from jamming up Republican Governor Scott Walker's agenda."
The Tea Party may have been declining in influence since the protests erupted in Madison so spectacularly this winter, but they're not giving up and going away quietly, and the politicians they backed continue to forge ahead with destructive policies. The successful recall of several of the Republican state senators in Wisconsin could be a serious—and very public—blow to the image that the Tea Party so desperately wants to cling to, of a massive popular movement.
Organized labor has been declared dead so many times that it took even progressives completely by surprise when union-busting was the catalyst for some of the biggest, most dynamic protests this country's seen in a while. The protests were organic, pulled together by grassroots groups, but the big unions quickly realized the potential and made Madison a rallying point for their cause. And it spread to nearby Indiana and Ohio.
Labor knows that these recalls are going to be a show of its power, something it can point to come 2012 when the Democratic party comes calling for the usual ground troops. Significant victories here will prove that the unions still have the power to make or break an election, as well as provide an obvious issue for national Dems to rally around. If the recalls succeed, the so-called pivot to jobs that the administration and Congress are talking about after the deeply unpopular debt ceiling deal might actually succeed.
7. Recall Walker?
Scott Walker isn't eligible for a recall yet, because he hasn't been in office a full year. But if the Democrats manage to take back the state senate, expect a big target on Walker's back just as soon as it's possible.
AlterNat.org, Fri Aug 5 2011