Roger Bybee

Roger Bybee, based in Milwaukee, has written on labor and economic issues for the past 36 years, including 14 years as editor of The Racine Labor weekly. Bybee's work has been included in several anthologies, and he teaches Labor Studies as the University of Illinois.

Recent Articles

Wisconsin Redistricting Lawsuit Could Reverberate Nationally

A federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn state legislative district lines could have sweeping implications for gerrymandered districts nationwide.

AP Photo/Morry Gash, File
AP Photo/Morry Gash, File Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks at a news conference in Madison. A fter a century as a trailblazer for progressive democracy reforms, Wisconsin has become what one local union leader ruefully calls “a kind of laboratory for oligarchs to implement their political and economic agenda.” This assessment, delivered by David Poklinkoski, president of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2304, captures Wisconsin Democrats’ dim view of the brazenly partisan redistricting plan masterminded by GOP Governor Scott Walker. But the redistricting plan, so central in empowering Walker and his legislative allies to roll back social reforms in Wisconsin, is now the target of a federal lawsuit. First heard by federal judges in May, the suit is now before an appeals court that is expected to rule this summer. That ruling could reverberate in other states around the country with heavily GOP-tilted electoral maps. While a few Democratic-controlled state...

Dodging Taxes Through Corporate “Inversions”

Johnson Controls is the latest in a string of American companies that save millions in taxes by moving U.S. headquarters overseas, costing Americans jobs and eroding the nation’s corporate tax base.

(Photo: AP/Kristoffer Tripplaar)
(Photo: AP/Kristoffer Tripplaar) In January, Johnson Controls announced that it would transfer its official corporate headquarters from Milwaukee, Wisconsin (above), to Cork, Ireland. I n 2014, Wisconsin-based manufacturing giant Johnson Controls rose to 66th place on the Fortune 500. The company’s soaring profits came thanks in no small part to a string of bailouts, tax breaks, and subsidies from the federal government. But in January, Johnson announced that it would merge with overseas manufacturer Tyco International and transfer its official corporate headquarters to Cork, Ireland, where Tyco is already based. Johnson called the merger a chance for both companies to leverage the emerging home products market. But the move conveniently saves the new company $150 million a year in U.S. taxes. That’s because Ireland has a corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent, while Johnson Controls paid a rate of about 19 percent in the U.S. last year. It’s a maneuver that economists have dubbed an “...

Ryan Visits Racine

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan visits one of the most economically depressed towns in Wisconsin, and residents there let him know what they think of his budget plan.

House Budget Chair Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, who earlier this month introduced a budget plan that would slash government spending and dismantle the social safety net, uses sinister tones to warn of our country's trajectory if we fail to enact it. He speaks "of a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency." The boyishly handsome Ryan, 41, had the good sense to avoid his insulting hammock imagery when addressing an audience of 600 Friday afternoon in Racine, Wisconsin. The town leads the state in unemployment with a rate of 14.1 percent, and well-paying jobs have declined for years. During the congressional recess Ryan and other representatives from around the country have been on a tour of town hall meetings across their districts. Many of the attendees have been hostile to the Congress members who voted for Ryan's budget proposal. What's different for Ryan, though, is that the...

Defective Democracy

Why the Democratic senators who fled Wisconsin feel the battle over the rights of public-sector unions is so important

(Flickr/mrbula's photostream)
"The tide is turning, and people are turning against this bill to take away worker rights in Wisconsin," says a determined state Sen. Mark Miller, a Democrat from Wisconsin, his voice hoarse from a non-stop schedule of interviews with media from around the nation. "If the governor remains intransigent, there will be consequences," he vowed. Miller is one of 14 fugitive Democratic state senators who refuse to be present in the State Senate, denying the 17 Republicans Senators a chance to pass of the nation's most radical assault on public-employee rights ever witnessed. The 14 Democrats have been given "religious sanctuary," as Miller put it, by interfaith groups in Illinois. They are thus outside the jurisdiction of the Wisconsin State Patrol, which Gov. Scott Walker sent after the absent Democrats to force a vote on the bill he introduced February 11. There hasn't been such an intense national spotlight on worker rights since the 1930's. While state troopers are out looking for the...

The Importance of Wisconsin

As state workers continue to protest the governor's anti-union proposals in Wisconsin, the stakes get higher and higher.

Wisconsin protesters fill the Capitol rotunda. (Drew Wisniewski)
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is just the first Republican governor to try out a new anti-public-union game plan that has been brewing among such right-wing funders as the Koch brothers, the Club for Growth, and Karl Rove. Numerous other Republican governors, most notably John Kasich of Ohio and Chris Christie of New Jersey, seem to be looking to Wisconsin for signs of or tips on a successful strategy. What's heartening is that, instead of slyly gutting Wisconsin's public unions, Walker is now facing tens of thousands of public workers and their supporters in the Capitol in Madison -- along with shutdown school districts; protests around the state; criticism from religious figures, Super Bowl heroes, and President Barack Obama; and editorials in national papers. The stakes in Wisconsin could not be higher, as both the right and labor view the state as the most committed stronghold of public-sector unionism. The virtual eradication of public unions in Wisconsin would instantly trigger...