Labor

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...

Richard Lugar, the Tea Party's Sacrificial Lamb

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
When he was the young mayor of Indianapolis in the late Sixties and early Seventies, Richard Lugar was acclaimed by Richard Nixon as his favorite mayor. An orthodox Main Street Republican, stiff despite his years, Lugar was competent, conventional and Nixonian in a good way (studious, intellectually ambitious) without any of Big Dick’s phobias. He brought those attributes to the Senate, where in recent decades he took on the challenge of ridding the world of loose nukes. It was a task that required him to work alongside his Democratic colleagues, which was never a problem for Lugar in any case. Yesterday, the Republican Jacobins dispatched Dick Lugar to history’s dustbin. He was a creature of the Republican past—a contemporary of Bob Dole and Howard Baker and a generation of not-excessively partisan and certainly not all that ideological Republicans who used to dominate their party. Indiana Republicans, who’d sent him to the Senate for six successive terms, now found him wanting: He...

Scott Walker Raises More Than Newt Gingrich

(Flickr/WisPolitics.com)
It's only a week until Wisconsin Democrats decide who will be the challenger in the gubernatorial recall that's grabbed the national spotlight. But while the polling shows a tight race between Governor Scott Walker and the two leading Democratic candidates, the numbers are out and the war for dollars is already won. Walker's a national favorite for conservative donors. Because of the competitive Republican presidential primary and the likely to be close general election, Walker has managed to raise $14.2 million from donors across the country. Thanks to a loophole in state election law , between the time recall activists started collecting signatures and when a judge finally ruled there needed to be an election, Walker was able to ignore the state's $10,000 donation cap. That allowed him to collect a bunch of six-figure donations, including two over $500,000. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has an excellent piece laying out the fundraising landscape, explaining that Walker managed to...

The Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama, Focused Largely in Wisconsin

A 2009 Tea Party rally in Madison protesting then-Governor Jim Doyle. (Flickr/cometstarmoon)
Based on emails from the Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama, the Tea Party-affiliated political action committee seems more like the Campaign to Support Scott Walker. Daily—sometimes multiple times a day—the organization sounds out emails blasting the move to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. The emails don't mince words. An April 15 email (subject line: Fox News + Wall Street Journal ALERT) tells subscribers that "If Obama's operatives and the union bosses win, they will export their tactic of million-dollar funded RECALLs against Republican governors across the country, and they will likely win Wisconsin's 10 Electoral Votes for Obama in November." "But," the email goes on to say, "if they lose, it will deal a massive blow to Obama, his allies and the labor union bosses." And those aren't just any allies. Another email went into more detail: "The complete power and force of the state and national Democrat Party, combined with millions upon millions of dollars from state and...

ALEC Gives In, But There's No Reason to Celebrate

(Flickr/Sunset Parkerpix)
After weeks of pressure, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) appears to be backing away from long-term efforts at creating barriers to voting (voter-ID laws) and pushing "Stand Your Ground" legislation. The latter allows those who feel threatened in public places to use force; Florida's version is currently at the center of the Trayvon Martin case. Giving in to public pressure, ALEC announced Tuesday that it was disbanding its Public Safety and Elections Task Force, which promoted such legislation and helped see it proliferate. The organization is now "reinvesting these resources in the task forces that focus on the economy." ALEC's spokesperson did not respond to interview requests nor did Public Safety Task Force Chair Jerry Madden, a Texas state representative. ALEC, which proudly calls itself "the nation's largest, non-partisan, individual public-private membership association of state legislators," has operated as a largely secret arena in which corporate sponsors...

Spring Cleaning for Occupy

Many social-movement organizations have become mausoleums to their causes. OWS offers a template for renewal. 

Creative Commons
Last week, several dozen nonprofit organizations hosted events across the country to train more than 100,000 Americans in nonviolent direct action. Dubbed the 99% Spring, the training was spearheaded by several national nonprofit organizations. If you didn’t hear about it, you’re not alone. Other than a few anticipatory stories from the Associated Press and NPR, the week’s worth of meetings and actions flew below the national radar. Whether that’s a bad thing depends on what role you expect nonprofit social-movement organizations to play in our current political discourse. The so-called nonprofit industrial complex includes organizations that want to change policies and practices for a wide range of social, economic, and political issues—from reproductive justice to foreign policy. Within this broad category is a subset of what I’ll call “social-movement organizations”—institutions that exist not only to advance their own agendas but to support a wider grassroots movement . Examples...

With the Wisconsin Recall Official, Who's Winning?

(Flickr/Sue Peacock)
With the Wisconsin recall election now official , state Democrats are in a sticky place. Pro-recall forces were able to look united through much of the process, and the million petitions they turned in sent a powerful signal that folks were united against the governor. But there are currently four Democratic candidates hoping they'll be the one to displace Walker. Furthermore, there are no clear winners; two Democrats are in a virtual tie, both in their primary and against Governor Scott Walker. Things got considerably more complicated on Friday afternoon when, hours after the Government Accountability Board made its announcement, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced he was throwing his hat into the ring. Barrett narrowly lost to Walker in 2010, and as mayor of a Democratic stronghold, he's got good name recognition around the state. He's also controversial with the state's labor unions—an awkward situation since it was the fight over collective bargaining rights that triggered the...

It Takes an Election

Last year's Save Texas Schools rally produced thousands of people, but education funding was still slashed by $5.4 billion. (Flickr/matthewjuran)
Last year, Save Texas Schools held a rally that wowed most of us covering it. Around 10,000 people came from across the state , traveling hours on buses to demand lawmakers prioritize education funding, and forego the unprecedented cuts the legislature's initial budget had proposed. In a state with little history of organization and few structures for bringing people together, the rally was an impressive success. But here's the thing: Even with the public outcry, lawmakers went ahead and slashed education funding anyway. So perhaps it's not a surprise that this year's rally only had about 1,000 attendees at its height (though organizers say a total of 4,500 people came through at one point or another). Toward the end, the numbers seemed to be in the low hundreds. The speakers each had a different pet cause or complaint —testing, funding, equity—and the overall program ran about 30 minutes longer than it was supposed to. Over at The T exas Observer , I left the program thinking the...

Woody Guthrie at 100—at SXSW

(Flickr/Karen Apricot New Orleans)
If there was one song I didn't expect to hear during the hipster-convention that is the South by Southwest Music Festival, it was "This Land Is Your Land." And while I didn't expect to hear it, I sure as hell didn't expect to sing. Let alone sing it twice on the same day. But then again, I'd forgotten that this year would have marked Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday. The SXSW organizers had not—and the folk legend's memory was in the air for quite a bit of the festival. The twangy Okie and migrant worker who chronicled fights for social and economic justice died in 1967, but he influenced everyone from Bob Dylan to Joe Strummer to Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen, it turned out, was keynoting the festival Thursday, and prior to his address, a Guthrie tribute was in order. Eliza Gilkyson and Jimmy LeFave took the stage to sing Guthrie standards. Joining them for the second half of their set was Colombian pop star Juanes. Juanes, who rarely sings in English, spoke of his own love for the...

Time for Government and Public Workers to Be Friends Again

Labor-management cooperation is the key to treading the line between budget shortfalls and unions' demands.

(Flickr/Wxmom)
A lost theme in improving public services—labor-management cooperation—has begun to receive long-overdue attention in recent weeks. Over the weekend The Washington Post gave front-page coverage to a Maryland teachers’ union collaborating with school authorities to accelerate curricular reform and improve teacher performance while disciplining ineffective teachers. Last month, Nicholas Kristof wrote approvingly in the New York Times of a comparable collaboration in New Haven. These examples hardly reflect a new development. In 2001, Toledo won an Innovations in American Government award from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government for its collaboration of organized teachers and school administrators. Parts of the Toledo Plan were replicated in other large Ohio cities. When Indianapolis decided to “contract out” some street repair work, the city’s unions persuaded Mayor Stephen Goldsmith to allow them to bid on the contract. The city workers won the contracts and saved the...

So Long But Not Farewell to Dennis Kucinich

(Flickr/abstract plain)
( Ready Abby's response to Salon 's Glenn Greenwald .) The Daily Show , April 11, 2011: John Oliver: Help me understand how you have been re-elected in the state of Ohio? Representative Dennis Kucinich: Harmony and understanding, sympathy, and trust abounding. John Oliver: Are you quoting the musical "Hair"? In the end, there just wasn't much harmony and understanding in the race for Ohio's ninth district. Dennis Kucinich, among the wackiest members of Congress, got beat decisively last night by his colleague Marcy Kaptur in very nasty Democratic primary. The two incumbents got lumped together after Ohio lost two seats in redistricting. Kucinich was one of the least likely, most memorable members of Congress. He started his political career in the late '70s as the "Boy Mayor" of Cleveland. He entered Congress in 1996, and thanks to two no-shot-in-hell presidential bids, Kucinich came to be a favorite among lefty college kids and Birkenstock-wearers around the country. He was probably...

The Other Big Ohio Primary

(Flickr/abstract plain)
Tomorrow, one of the nastier primary races in recent memory will come to an end. Nope, not the Republican presidential race. (That may drag on for eternity.) Ohio will be the first state to hold a congressional primary, which means an end to the vicious fight between Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich, two Democrats who both currently hold office. (A third Democrat, Graham Veysey, is also running in what's likely to be a distant third.) After the 2010 Census numbers were in, Ohio lost two congressional seats. The GOP-controlled legislature decided to lump two of the most union-friendly representatives together in one district: Kaptur, from Toledo, and Kucinich, from Cleveland. Both are consistently pro-union, with the same high rating from the powerful United Auto Workers. The unions, by and large, are staying out of the race rather than choosing between the two . However, each campaign does have the the support of a super PAC . The Ohio district favors Democrats, and it's likely that...

Zombie Bill Springs Back From the Dead

(Flickr/welovethedark)
Tuesday was a day for bills to come back to life—zombie bills you might call them. In Virginia, the Senate passed a revised version of its pre-abortion sonogram measure , which had looked dead only a few days before. And in Arizona, senators passed one of the measures aimed at killing public employee unions weeks after the measures appeared to have stalled out. Quite a day for the undead. Arizona started the legislative session with four anti-union bills, including one that would outlaw collective bargaining. Unlike Wisconsin, which also targeted public employee unions, these measures did not exempt firefighters or police officers. Two weeks ago, the senate passed a measure requiring yearly authorizations in order for unions (and other outside groups) to automatically make deductions from paychecks of public workers. The bill makes it harder for unions to collect money. However the other three bills didn't go anywhere. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was hardly advocating for the measures...

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