Those who would destroy or further limit the rights of organized labor — those who would cripple collective bargaining or prevent organization of the unorganized — do a disservice to the cause of democracy.
Our labor unions are not narrow, self-seeking groups. They have raised wages, shortened hours and provided supplemental benefits. Through collective bargaining and grievance procedures, they have brought justice and democracy to the shop floor. But their work goes beyond their own jobs, and even beyond our borders.
Our unions have fought for aid to education, for better housing, for development of our national resources, and for saving the family-sized farms. They have spoken, not for narrow self-interest, but for the public interest and for the people.
— John F. Kennedy * August 30, 1960
From the New York Times: “…Debate had gone on for 60 hours and 15 Democrats were still waiting to speak when the vote started around 1 a.m. Friday. Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer, R-Waukesha, opened the roll and closed it within seconds.
Democrats looked around, bewildered. Only 13 of the 38 Democratic members managed to vote in time.
Republicans immediately marched out of the chamber in single file. The Democrats rushed at them, pumping their fists and shouting “Shame!” and “Cowards!”
The Republicans walked past them without responding.
Democrats left the chamber stunned. The protesters greeted them with a thundering chant of “Thank you!” Some Democrats teared up. Others hugged.
“What a terrible, terrible day for Wisconsin,” said Rep. Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee. “I am incensed. I am shocked.”…”
After more than 60 hours in which Democrats threw out dozens of amendments and delivered rambling speeches, Republicans halted debate early Friday. In a matter of seconds, they had approved the bill. Only a few Democrats realized what was going on and managed to vote before the roll was closed.
The Democrats rose from their seats and rushed at the Republicans shouting, “Shame!” as the Republicans exited the chamber.
“I’m incensed. I’m shocked,” said Rep. John Richards, D-Milwaukee. “What a terrible, terrible day for Wisconsin.”
Republicans refused to speak to reporters, though Majority Leader Scott Suder did issue a written statement.
“The vote we took wasn’t the easy thing to do, but it was the right thing to do,” Suder, R-Abbotsford, said.
The governor has said that if the bill does not pass by Friday, the state will miss a deadline to refinance $165 million of debt and will be forced to start issuing layoff notices next week. However, the deadline may not as strict as he says.
The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said earlier this week that the debt refinancing could be pushed back as late as Tuesday to achieve the savings Walker wants. Based on a similar refinancing in 2004, about two weeks are needed after the bill becomes law to complete the deal. That means if the bill is adopted by the middle of next week, the state can still meet a March 16 deadline, the Fiscal Bureau said.
Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach said he and his colleagues wouldn’t return until Walker compromised.
Frustrated by the delay, Senate Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, Jeff Fitzgerald’s brother, ordered state troopers to find the missing Democrats, but they came up empty. Wisconsin law doesn’t allow police to arrest the lawmakers, but Fitzgerald said he hoped the show of authority would have pressured them to return.
Erpenbach, who was in the Chicago area, said all 14 senators remained outside of Wisconsin.
“It’s not so much the Democrats holding things up,” Erpenbach said. “It’s really a matter of Gov. Walker holding things up.”
As the Main Street Movement of students, workers, and other middle class Americans erupts across America, many conservatives have invoked the legacy of former president Ronald Reagan to demand that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) not back down from his push to end collective bargaining for his state’s public employees. In a prank call with the Buffalo Beast’s Ian Murphy, where Murphy pretended to be right-wing billionare David Koch, Walker himself even fantasized about being just like Reagan.
Yet conservatives may be shocked to learn that their idol Reagan was once a union boss himself. Reagan was the only president in American history to have belonged to a union, the AFL-CIO affiliated Screen Actors Guild. And he even served six terms as president of the organized labor group. Additionally, Reagan was a staunch advocate for the collective bargaining rights of one of the world’s most famous and most influential trade unions, Poland’s Solidarity movement.
On the call, Walker said he expected the anti-union movement to spread across the country and he had spoken with the governors of Ohio and Nevada. The man pretending to be Koch seemed to agree, telling Walker, “You’re the first domino.”
“Yep, this is our moment,” Walker responded.
The remarks showed Walker’s private relationship with David Koch. He and his brother, Charles, own Koch Industries Inc., which is the largest privately-owned company in America and has significant operations in Wisconsin.
Its political action committee gave $43,000 to Walker’s campaign, and David Koch gave $1 million to the Republican Governors’ Association, which funded ads attacking Walker’s opponent in last year’s election.
The Kochs also give millions to support Americans For Prosperity, a conservative business group that launched a $320,000 television ad campaign in favor of Walker’s legislation Wednesday.
On the recording, after Walker said he would be willing to meet with Democratic leaders, the caller said he should bring a baseball bat to negotiations.
Walker laughed and responded that he had “a slugger with my name on it.”
The caller suggested he was thinking about “planting some troublemakers” among the protesters, and Walker said his administration had thought about doing that, too, but decided against it. Walker said the protests eventually would die because the media would stop covering them.
At the end of the call, the prankster says: “I’ll tell you what Scott, once you crush these bastards, I’ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.”
“All right, that would be outstanding,” Walker replies, adding that the standoff is “all about getting our freedoms back.”