“Forced to Work for Less” Legislation to be introduced in Senate this week

“Forced to Work for Less” Legislation to be introduced in Senate this week

i Feb 21st No Comments by

All of us throughout Wisconsin have been talking to our neighbors and meeting with legislators to show them the evidence on why so-called “right to work” laws would hurt Wisconsin workers and businesses.

But now this dangerous legislation will be introduced in the Senate, and we need you to fight back.

At a time when many in our state are still feeling the effects of the greatest economic disaster in nearly a century, we cannot afford to let the people who represent us pass a law that will lower our wages, put our local businesses at a competitive disadvantage, and take away workers’ rights.

We need you, and your friends, and members of your union to tell your elected officials — the people who represent you, not the Koch brothers or multibillion dollar corporations — that right to work is wrong for Wisconsin. Will you join us?

Phonebank Against “Right to Work” from the Madison Labor Temple
Every Day, All Day
Saturday, Feb. 21 – Wednesday, Feb. 25
10 AM – 8 PM and 12 PM – 8 PM on Sunday
1602 S. Park Street, Room 212
For more information, contact Greg Neil at 608–556-9521 or gneil@wisaflcio.org

Rally at the Capitol
Tuesday and Wednesday
12 Noon
State Street side of the Capitol Building

We will share more information with you as we receive it.

$5 Million for Co-op Development in Madison

i Feb 2nd No Comments by

Click here to see GEO Article

Say No to Trans-Pacific Partnership

i Feb 2nd No Comments by

Click below to see a short, 2 minute video

No to Fast Track & No to Trans-Pacific Partnership

FREE 1 year subscription to “In These Times”

i Feb 2nd No Comments by

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Why Right-to-Work is Wrong for Wisconsin

i Dec 17th No Comments by

Next legislative session elected leaders in Wisconsin should come together to focus on jobs and the economy. We don’t need another divisive attack on workers’ rights. It is time to put aside the partisan politics and get to work on fixing our economy.

So called right-to-work (RTW) legislation would be a distraction from the real issues impacting Wisconsin families. Often called right to work for less, these bills are designed to crush the very soul of unions by crippling solidarity among working people.

The case against RTW rests on fundamental principles of economics and fairness. Data from the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Census Bureau show that workers in RTW states have lower wages, higher rates of poverty, less access to health care and poorer education for children. The average full-time, full-year worker in RTW states makes about $1,500 less than a similar worker in a non-RTW state.

This has implications for everyone. Despite rhetoric about the wealthy being job creators, we know jobs are actually created by middle class demand for goods and services. When wages are depressed by RTW laws, consumer demand goes down, taking employment opportunities with it.

RTW legislation is part of a national attack on the American Dream and democracy funded by power hungry CEOs and influential corporate interests. It allows for the government to interfere in the relationship between a private employer and its employees.

While supporters claim that RTW laws promote job growth, studies show a different picture. Oklahoma adopted a RTW law 10 years ago after supporters claimed it would stimulate employment. According to the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce, the number of new companies coming into the state has instead decreased by one-third since RTW was enacted. Closer to home in Indiana, where Gov. Daniels signed RTW legislation last February, officials have yet to identify a single company that relocated to that state because of RTW. In fact, Indiana continues to lose jobs to free bargaining states like Ohio, Illinois and California.

Let’s get the facts straight. No worker is ever forced to join a union. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled long ago that no one can be forced to join a union or pay fees not directly related to the cost of bargaining a contract. RTW laws encourage people to get something for free that others pay for – it’s called freeloading. These measures give workers the unjust opportunity to reap the benefits of collective bargaining grievance procedures, apprenticeship training programs, affordable health care, a good wage – without contributing their fair share to the cost of negotiation. This is unfair and un-American.

RTW simply redistributes income from workers to owners. At a time when corporations are enjoying record profits while workers’ wages remain flat, right-to-work is exactly the wrong way to go. The middle class has lost ground economically and income inequality is greater now than at any time since the 1920s. If we want a thriving economy we need to strengthen workers’ ability to collectively bargain, not weaken it.

Now more than ever, Wisconsinites across the political spectrum need to be unified in our efforts to create good jobs and restore prosperity for all. The RTW road is a dead-end for Wisconsin’s working families. (from AFL-CIO)

(December 2014 Union Labor News)

Nichols Looks to Workers

i Dec 17th No Comments by

John Nichols is journalistic superstar who regularly shares his progressive ideas on the Ed Schultz show and with Sly Sylvester on local talk radio. He has been staple in the Cap Times and the Nation magazine and is a prolific author. But John is a star who ordinary Wisconsinites are likely to meet just going about their daily business.

It was no surprise, therefore, when Union Labor News caught up with him recently in a coffee shop near the square finding him in impromptu discussions with all sorts of folks who had ducked in for a cup of coffee only to end up in an animated conversation with Nichols.

One thing Nichols emphasizes in conversation is the importance of unions and workers’ rights. Probably no journalist has defended workers more vigorously than him. ULN asked him how he viewed the recent election, especially as it relates to workers.

The Election
Asked whether Scott Walker won the governor’s election or Mary Burke lost it, he froze, paused 15 seconds, and finally concluded that Walker had won it.

“The election was very much about Scott Walker,” he said. “It was a referendum on him in many ways.” Walker had a lot going for him: money, his friends’ money, and an “incredibly intense schedule” that kept him circulating regularly around the state, especially in some rural areas and small towns that never saw Burke. “His last rally was on a farm,” added Nichols.

“He is a very disciplined political player,” Nichols said. But he could have been beaten, “I have little doubt of that.”

He said that Democrats needed to do better in some areas of western and northern Wisconsin which are “progressive/populist but not necessarily Democratic.” Burke needed to “articulate a clear strategy for making rural, small town Wisconsin work and survive.” Such a strategy would have focused much more militantly against school vouchers. “While vouchers may be damaging to urban schools,” he said, “they’re absolutely devastating to rural schools.”

Nichols compared Walker to Tommy Thompson, but not favorably. In Walker’s three elections he amassed voting totals of 52%, 53%, and 52%. Thompson’s numbers for his first three elections for governor also started at 52% (in 1986), but escalated to 58% then 67%.

Getting 52% in a Republican “wave” election, as Walker did, didn’t impress Nichols and it doesn’t bode well for Walker’s presidential aspirations. He is a “politically weak player,” according to Nichols.

Nichols believes the Wisconsin media have been very complacent in their coverage of the governor, especially when it comes to corruption, but he doesn’t believe it all started with Walker. “The change in Wisconsin has been profound and is deeply troubling” reflecting a “casual comfort level with corruption” that was unknown in Wisconsin until recent years.

Nichols cited previous movements in the wrong direction: Thompson for bringing in big outside money for the first time, the caucus scandals from a decade ago which tainted both parties, and most recently, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos for his “shocking statement” about the Milwaukee Bucks essentially disqualifying themselves from state help because their owner supported Democrats.

Nichols expects the national press to be much harder on Walker on corruption and other issues if he runs for president.

John Nichols defends workers during a 2011 rally at the State Capitol in Madison

John Nichols defends workers during a 2011 rally at the State Capitol in Madison

What’s next for workers?
There has been a “very organized effort to diminish unions,” Nichols said. He cited Michigan and Indiana as very much in the same mold as Wisconsin. In those two states they’ve already passed “right-to-work” legislation, decimating the unions there.

Could that happen in Wisconsin? “It’s very possible,” said Nichols. “The notion that this issue is not going to arise in Wisconsin is foolish.” He then quoted Walker’s exact words when asked about it several years ago: “I wouldn’t necessarily propose it.”

“He never for a second said that he wouldn’t sign it,” Nichols said. The governor wouldn’t have to propose it. An increasingly anti-worker State Legislature would do that. All he would have to do is sign it.

According to Nichols, Walker’s national ambitions might be the only thin barrier that keeps Wisconsin from becoming a right to work state as Walker weighs whether he should concentrate more on winning the Republican primary or make himself more electable in the general election.

But a governor so supportive of corporate power is likely to find other areas to attack workers: no increase in minimum wage, more “free trade,” an attack on prevailing wage, weaker public services and schools, more privatization.
Yet Nichols sees many things that unions are doing right in this difficult climate. He has seen “young people more excited about unions” and “more people (who) understand the value of unions.”

I’ve seen trade union activists and allies get into tough battles and step up,” he said. He believes that Tammy Baldwin’s senatorial win just two years ago was “a victory for an enlightened labor movement.”

What’s next for John Nichols?
When asked how many books he had written, he didn’t have an answer and started counting on his fingers. When he had run out of digits, he announced, “Twelve.”

His 2012 book, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, is the definitive book on our outraged reaction to the governor’s assault on workers.

In the book, he had this advice for unions, “The combination of street heat and electoral action, though difficult to achieve, seems to make the most sense. The two can and should go hand in hand; in fact I think the combination of the two is far more powerful than the sum of the parts.”

He said his next book will be a history of the Republican Party. “The party has abandoned a lot of what was good about it,” he said, suggesting that it had drifted into economic extremism. “The current Republican Party is a radical deviation from what the party once was.”

Then he began talking about book number 14. When he said, “We really blew globalization,” the coffee cups had long since gone dry and it was time to go.

(December 2014 Union Labor News)

Campus Workers Rally

i Dec 17th No Comments by

“The University has money for building expansion, more deans, new facilities–but not workers.”

That’s the message about 150 workers from four union locals brought on a Halloween march to the UW Chancellor’s office.

What brought them to this point?

A typical Wisconsin state employee has had a 22% wage cut in the past six years.

More than 400 UW classified staff do not make the City of Madison living wage, and over 900 make under $15 an hour.

Graduate students’ fees have increased 98% since 2003 and health care costs have almost tripled in the past three years. As a result, graduate student workers’ take home pay has decreased 14.4% in the last decade.

A UW-Madison graduate student worker at the minimum appointment level makes $9,830. The poverty threshold is $11,490.

The average student worker at UW-Madison would have to work more than 37 hours per week at the current wages to pay for the cost of tuition.

On average, an adjunct teaching the same number of courses as a tenure track professor makes less than $20,000 per year.

Barb Peters, President of AFSCME 171, said that campus workers are slipping out of the middle class.

It’s time to invest in workers on campus.

The rally was sponsored by the TAA (AFT 3220), AFSCME 171, UFAS (AFT 223) and the Student Labor Action Coalition (SLAC).

(December 2014 Union Labor News)

How much political corruption should we tolerate?

i Dec 17th No Comments by

Nearby Illinois has a long and legendary history of political corruption. They also have a tradition of locking up corrupt leaders. Of Illinois’ last seven governors, four have gone to prison. There’s Rod Blagojevich who infamously tried to sell Barack Obama’s old Senate Seat. George Ryan was convicted of racketeering and sent up the river for six and a half years. Dan Walker did time for bank fraud. Otto Kerner was sentenced to three years for bribery.

There are increasing indications that Wisconsin, which had no such tradition of corruption throughout most of its history, has adopted Illinois’ political ethic but has misplaced the cleansing mechanism of prison for the abusers.

There’s the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), chaired by Wisconsin’s current governor, which has lost track of millions of dollars of taxpayer money and channeled the lion’s share of investment money to his political contributors.

There’s dark money coming into the system, as evidenced by the $700,000 political contribution by mining interests just before they were allowed to write their own rules.

There’s the million dollars in insurance industry political contributions that appear to have influenced the state’s irrational decision to reject Medicare money.

There’s a state Supreme Court with justices who see no problem with making decisions featuring litigants on one side who have given them millions of dollars in campaign contributions.

Wisconsin justice didn’t always turn a blind eye toward corruption. It was nine years ago this month that former state Senate leader, Chuck Chvala, was sent to jail for nine months after pleading guilty to misconduct in public office and making an illegal campaign contribution. A few weeks before that, State Senator Brian Burke was given six months in jail for using his office to campaign for Attorney General. Both were Democrats. So was Senator Gary George, who lost his Senate seat in 2003 and was later convicted of taking kickbacks.

In May 2006, Judge Steven Ebert sentenced Chvala’s Republican counterpart, Representative Scott Jensen, to 15 months in prison. “You used your power and your influence to run an illegal campaign funding operation,” said Ebert at the time. An Appeals Court overturned the conviction on a technicality, and with the help of the current Wisconsin Supreme Court, a change in state law allowed Jensen to move the venue from Dane County to a friendlier Waukesha County.

Four years ago this month, the Waukesha County District Attorney reached a plea agreement with Jensen. Unlike the democrats Jensen ended up with zero jail time. The lenient DA in that case was Brad Schimel. He has just been elected Attorney General for the state of Wisconsin.

Now we have Assembly Speaker Robin Vos telling Marc Lasry, owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, that giving money to Democrats could harm his chances of getting state support for a new arena.

One Wisconsin Now has asked for a criminal investigation of Vos’s remarks. Current state law prohibits public officials from promising to give or withhold official action based on campaign contributions or support. It’s a good law. Now let’s enforce it.

(December 2014 Union Labor News)