Labor

The Ongoing Triumph of Radical Individualism

A figure from a bygone era.
Scott Walker's victory in the Wisconsin recall has been gleefully hailed on the right as a death knell for American unions, and while that may be an exaggeration, there's no doubt that the labor movement is in a long and perhaps inexorable decline. How did it happen? One answer is that conservatives have of late found increasing success in a tactic they've used for decades: getting non-unionized workers to resent unionized workers for the better pay, benefits, and working conditions that unionized workers have used collective bargaining to obtain. This is only possible if you convince people to see everyone around them as not potential allies but as competitors in a zero-sum contest. Rich Yeselson offers a story about watching William Winpisinger, the head of the machinists' union, on television 30 years ago: As always, the conflict formula for talk shows eventually took hold, and Winpisinger received a barrage of hostile questions from Donahue's audience. So, he stood up—a big, bald...

AFL-CIO Tries to Claim Some Victories in Wisconsin

(Flickr/Sue Peacock)
After Governor Scott Walker's win in Wisconsin last night, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka decided to walk a strange line on today's press call. WaPo's The Fix has a post arguing that the call was about distancing the union from the recall effort, but to me the union president seemed eager to point to victories—a strange tactic in the face of a devastating loss. "The best-funded politician in state history spent more than $50 million to hold on to his office but he could not hold on to a majority in the state senate!" he said. True, it looks like the Democrats won a single Senate seat last night, giving them control of the chamber. But as I've written , that doesn't necessarily mean much. Barring a special session, the legislature isn't meeting again until January of 2013 —so Democrats will have to hold on past the November elections. Guy Molyneux, a pollster with Hart Research Associates, walked everyone through an election-night poll of 390 union members (as opposed to "union...

Just How Hard Was It to Vote In Wisconsin?

(Flickr/Katri Niemi)
Last night's Wisconsin recall resulted in more than just Governor Scott Walker's re-election. It also showed the tremendous difficulties some voters in the state faced simply trying to cast their ballot. While Wisconsin has had same-day registration since 2006, which helps more people get to vote, the state passed a controversial photo-ID law last year that put up new barriers. The most stringent part of the law—requiring residents to show a form of photo-ID—is not in effect thanks to a court injunction, but other elements of the law came into play yesterday as new and old voters arrived at their polling places. The Election Protection Coalition, a non-partisan group that helps monitor elections, received 1,300 phone calls on Tuesday alone, as well as an more than 500 the previous weekend. "That's remarkable," said the group's lead attorney for Wisconsin, Dara Lindenbaum. (Lindenbaum is employed by the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, one of the groups in the Election...

Wisconsin's Not-So-Silver Lining

(Flickr/wackybadger)
Around 1 a.m. Wednesday night, while most of Wisconsin's recall activists coped with their candidate's decisive loss, around 30 supporters in Racine cheered as John Lehman declared victory in a state Senate race. Taking the seat gives the Democrats control of the state Senate, which was split 16-16 with one vacancy. However, Lehman's opponent, Republican Van Wanggaard, has yet to concede. It's hard to blame him. The margin of victory— less than 800 votes —practically ensures a recount. But even if the Democrats gain control of the chamber, the victory isn't likely to make much of a difference. Ostensibly, controlling the state senate will allow Democrats to thwart Walker's legislative agenda. But as I noted Monday, the legislature isn't scheduled to meet again before the November elections, which means, barring an unlikely special session, there will be no legislation to block. "Whether [Democrats] can hold the Senate in November is an open question," University of Wisconsin political...

A Wisconsin Domino Effect?

(AP/Wisconsin State Journal, John Hart)
(AP/Wisconsin State Journal, John Hart) Supporters of a recall effort against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker continue to sing a union solidarity song outside the State Capitol Building after polling results begin show a victory for Walker in statewide recall elections Tuesday, June 5, 2012. Wisconsin residents have been casting votes in recall elections against Walker, his lieutenant governor and several state senators. While hardly surprising to anyone who read the polls, yesterday’s victory by Republican Governor Scott Walker was a body blow to Wisconsin unions and to American workers. Within Wisconsin, Walker’s victory ensures that his law repealing collective-bargaining rights for public employees will stay on the books, and if Republicans maintain their hold on the state senate—four of their senators faced recall elections, and as I write this at least three have survived—they will, at least in theory, be able to go forward on other parts of their Social Darwinist agenda...

Despite Predictions, Turnout Looks Good and Recall Activists Are Flying High

(Flickr/Sue Peacock)
"I'm pretty confident that Walker's going to go," Roberta Retrum told me last night. "I know what I hear from the people on the ground. I know how much support there is here for getting rid of Walker." Retrum, a grandmother and recall activist who's decided to run for state Assembly in November, lives in the small conservative town of Eagle River. Her confidence was seemed well meaning, but I had my doubts. After all, to have a shot at beating Walker, recall activists need turnout numbers like those during the 2008 presidential election. Retrum is one of the thousands of activists that have invested months of their lives in the recall effort. Many have formed close bonds over the last several months, as the movement has galvanized Wisconsinites who weren't particularly political before. They're an optimistic bunch, but most know the only path to winning is an extraordinary turnout, like that of 2008's presidential election. But increasingly, it looks like turnout will be high—and,...

An Uphill Battle in Wisconsin

(Flickr/Katri Niemi)
If Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is indeed recalled today, it will be an unexpected upset for his supporters. Although the latest Public Policy Polling survey, taken yesterday, shows the race tightening—Walker leads challenger Tom Barrett by 3 points with a 2.8-point margin of error—pundits are not sanguine about the chances for a Barrett victory. Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell called the effort a "mistake," and many argue despite some last minute help, the DNC has been lukewarm in its support and fundraising . The New York Times ' Nate Silver had a post yesterday evening about the uphill battle Barrett supporters face : We have not officially released a forecast for the race, but Mr. Walker’s lead of about six points would translate into almost a 95 percent chance of victory if we used the same formula we did to evaluate gubernatorial races in 2010, which derives its estimates from the historical accuracy of gubernatorial polls over the past 15 years. Campaigns that are...

The Other Wisconsin Recall

While the effort to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has received gads of attention, most people don't know there are a variety of other recall races tomorrow—including four for state Senate. Today, Mother Jones has a nice profile of Democratic challenger Lori Compas, who's running as an alternative to Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald, a Republican and a Walker supporter. Meanwhile, WaPo 's The Fix has a post on a potential scenario in which Walker wins but the Democrats take control of the state Senate. Currently, the Post notes, the Senate is evenly divided with one vacancy, which means if any of the four Democratic candidates win, the party could retake the Senate. But even if the Dems win the Senate tomorrow, it's very likely a short-lived victory. The victors will only serve until November, when they'll be up for re-election. There's not a legislative session planned between now and then, meaning that unless the governor called a special session, the would-be...

No Slam Dunk in Wisconsin

We don’t know the outcome of Tuesday’s gubernatorial election in Wisconsin, of course, but we do know this: Even if labor somehow manages to oust Republican Governor Scott Walker, the result will be nothing like the resounding repudiation that Ohio voters delivered last year in repealing that state’s anti-collective bargaining law pushed by an equally controversial GOP governor, John Kasich. Why the difference? Kasich’s bill went beyond Walker’s in banning collective bargaining for cops and fire fighters, which proved a decidedly unpopular position, but that can hardly account for more than a fraction of the difference. Moreover, Wisconsin is generally regarded as a more liberal state than Ohio. Democrats have carried it in every presidential election for the past two decades, while Ohio went Republican as recently as 2004. Wisconsin has a storied progressive history; Ohio has nothing of the kind. Walker’s bill which, like Kasich’s, repealed collective bargaining rights for public...

Win or Lose, Walker Recall Was No Mistake

(Flickr/ Lost Albatross)
Tomorrow, after more than a year watching the Wisconsin saga unfold, the nation will see whether Governor Scott Walker stays or goes. Nationally, Democrats haven't been outspoken in their support of the recall effort—in May, the DNC took heat for not supporting activists and just this weekend , former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell told MSNBC he though the recall was a "mistake" since Walker admitted he should have sold his anti-union policies in a more conciliatory fashion. For the risk-averse, it's easy to see why the recall might seem scary. The election has offered the GOP a chance to try new tactics, flooding the airwaves in what is a relatively cheap state for campaigning. Walker's plight has become a rally cry for groups like the Tea Party Express and the Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama. The GOP's business wing has poured money into his campaign. If Walker wins, it will send Republicans a clear message: Even if a politician loses local support by taking extreme positions, the...

Are the Winds Shifting Towards Wisconsin Democrats?

(Flickr/ Lost Albatross)
There's been quite a bit of bad news for the recall activists hoping to oust Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. A close primary at the beginning of the month divided party supporters and muddied the unified front activists formed when they collected over a million signatures to prompt the recall. Then there was the money—Walker spent much of 2012 testing his stump speech with out-of-state voters. Thanks to a loophole, he could receive unlimited contributions while until the recall election was officially called, giving him months to raise over $14 million —more than some presidential candidates. While Tea Party groups continued to beat the drum and paint the race as a precursor to November, reports surfaced that the DNC wouldn't be showing up to help eventual Democratic nominee Tom Barrett , which left state Democrats "furious." With all the news, poll numbers showed a fairly consistent 5-point lead for the controversial governor for the first few weeks of May. It looked fairly bleak...

The Wisconsin Recall Won't Determine the Presidential Race

(Flickr/WisPolitics.com)
There's no question the stakes of the Wisconsin recall are high. As I wrote last week, if Governor Scott Walker survives the election next week—no matter how slim the margin—he's likely to claim a mandate. Since he's already a rock star among conservatives and anti-union activists, Walker would be in a good position to push further right. If he loses, it gives the labor movement one of its biggest victories in years. However, the fate of Wisconsin is unlikely to determine the fate of the presidential election. It may not even determine the presidential race in Wisconsin. I realize of course, that a whole lot of people disagree with me. Tea Party groups like Tea Party Express and the Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama have raised significant amounts by arguing that a win for Walker will mean a loss for Obama. When I emailed CDBO leader Joe Wierzbicki about the group's emphasis on Wisconsin, he responded the recall was "the opening chapter in the presidential race." Similarly, DNC chair...

How Walker Loses in Wisconsin

(Flickr/WisPolitics.com)
The Wisconsin recall effort may look like a lost cause for the Democrats and union activists who hope to see Governor Scott Walker voted out in a couple weeks. Over at the Washington Post , Jenifer Rubin offered a piece titled " Democrats are dreading a Wisconsin wipeout. " InTrade, the prediction market for anything and everything, shows Walker today with a 91 percent chance of winning . But things are hardly settled. While Walker has a clear and consistent lead in polls, that lead is relatively small—except for an outlier or two, it's been around 5 points or less. "The polling is showing margins that are either close to the margin of error or just outside the margin of error," explains Charles Franklin, a Wisconsin political scientist who's currently overseeing the Marquette Law School Poll. (His own poll showed a 6-point Walker lead.) The stakes are high. If, after collecting more than 1 million signatures to prompt a recall, Democrats fail to oust Walker, it will give the current...

Dems Use Walker "Divide and Conquer" Remark to Their Advantage

(Flickr/WisPolitics.com)
After he pushed laws to limit collective bargaining for public employees, sparking mass protests last year, it's hardly surprising to discover that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker told one of his biggest contributors that he favored right-to-work laws and would take a "divide and conquer" approach to union power. But when a video clip surfaced late last week, showing the governor saying just that, it offered his opponents a major opportunity. In the film, shot before Walker introduced his anti-union legislation last year, billionaire Diane Hendricks asks Walker if there's any chance Wisconsin can become "a completely red state, and ... become a right-to-work state." Walker responds by saying "The first step is we're going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer." The clip appeared as part of a trailer for an upcoming documentary film. Since the exchange took place last year, Hendricks has given more than $500,000 to Walker...

Meet Tom Barrett

(Flickr/barret4wi)
Last night, Wisconsin Democrats chose Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett as their candidate to go up against Governor Scott Walker. Barrett's pretty well known to Wisconsinites, both as a U.S. congressman and as a previous gubernatorial candidate. But most of us weren't all that interested in Wisconsin until Walker passed his anti-union laws and the widespread protestss began last year. Since then, the race has developed a national following—and some say, has national implications . With only a few weeks until the recall, meet the man Democrats are hoping will beat Scott Walker: 1. Irony of ironies, he's hardly a union favorite. Even though the recall has largely been painted as a fight between pro-labor and anti-labor groups, Barrett was hardly the first pick for Wisconsin unions. Rather, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk had the bulk of union support early on. From the state AFL-CIO, the the Wisconsin Education Association Council to AFSCME, almost all the major unions backed Falk...

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