OHIO VOTE RESONATES IN WISCONSIN: On Tuesday, November 8th, by a margin of 61% to 39%, Ohio voters repealed S.B. 5, a bill originally promoted by Governor John Kasich (R) that eliminated the collective bargaining rights of some 350,000 public employees, including teachers, nurses and firefighters.
Kasich and his Republican allies in the legislature moved quickly after sweeping to victory in the 2010 election to pass the anti-labor in March, 2011. Almost immediately, organized labor mobilized in Ohio, collecting more than 1.3 signatures, five times the number needed, to place repeal on the ballot. Going door-to-door, volunteers from labor and community groups visted more than 450,000 household.
The Ohio vote resonates loudly in Wisconsin where thousands of union volunteers have a two month window to collect the necessary signatures (540,000) to put the recall of the Republican Governor, Scott Walker, on the ballot in 2012. Signatures are also being collected to recall up to seventeen state senators. Republicans, after losing two seats in recall elections last summer, have a one vote majority in the state senate.
Walker and the Republican legislature promulgated the “Emergency Budget Repair Bill” last winter that limited the right to collective bargaining for most Wisconsin public employees (state, school district and municipal) to negotiations over base pay rate, limited negotiated agreements to one year, and prohibited public employers from collecting union dues through dues checkoff.
OHIO: On June 29th, 1.3 million petition signatures were submitted to the Ohio Secretary of State, thereby placing an initiative on the November ballot to repeal Gov. John Kasich’s (R) bill that eliminates the collective bargaining rights of more than 350,000 public employees. Only 231,000 signatures were needed to place the item on the ballot, but 10,000 volunteers, in a massive show of labor organization and strength, succeeded in collecting more than five times the number required. Kasich’s poll ratings, ever since he pushed the anti-labor legislation, have plummeted.
The petitions were delivered by 6,000 workers, who marched in downtown Columbus complete with fire engines, a drum corps, bagpipes and a semi-truck with the 1.3 million signatures. Go to AFL-CIO blog for more details.
WISCONSIN: Democrats, with major organizational and financial support from the labor movement, gained a net of two seats in the State Senate as a result of elections to recall six senate Republicans on Tuesday, August 9th. However the Democrats needed to flip three seats to regain control of the Senate. Republicans will maintain control of the Senate by a 17 to 16 margin.
The recalls in the six Republican districts represented a stretch for the Democrats. The districts, five of which are overwhelmingly rural and one suburban, are all Republican strongholds. One had not elected a Democrat to the State Senate in over one hundred years. Yet, most of the races were competitive, with Democrats actually prevailing in two districts.
The string of recall elections actually began a month earlier on Tuesday July 12th with Democratic primaries in which “fake” Democrats faced “real” Democrats. The faux Democrats were part of a ploy by the state Republican party to force Democrats into a primary, thereby delaying the actual recall elections until August 9th and stretching the candidates’ organizational and financial resources. The regular Democrats all won their primaries, although in Wisconsin’s open primary system, any registered voter from any party could participate.
In the first actual recall election on July 19th, this one to recall a Democratic state senator, the Democrat, David Hansen, won in a landslide. On August 16th, two other Democratic state senators also faced recall, both winning by big margins.
Organized labor helped collect petitions to recall the six Republican senators. The recalls could extend into the coming year, when Governor Scott Walker and more Republican Senators will have served at least one year in office. Under Wisconsin law, office holders are subject to recall only after one year of continuous service.
On February 17th the PSC’s Delegate Assembly voted unanimously to endorse a statement of solidarity with Wisconsin trade unionists. Subsequently, President Barbara Bowen traveled to Wisconsin, as part of an American Federation of Teachers (AFT ) team, to support Wisconsin unionists in their struggle to maintain collective bargaining rights. In Madison, she met with the Teaching Assistants’ from the University of Wisconsin who are occupying the Capitol building and sent solidarity greetings from the PSC. Click here to read her reports.
At the request of AFT affiliates working in Wisconsin, PSC Chapter Chairs and Delegates are busy planning small, creative solidarity actions on their campuses. The PSC has printed “We are all Wisconsin” stickers. If you need the stickers for an event on your campus, please contact Rob Murray at [email protected] or 212-354-1252.
PSCers have already been active in support events here in New York City. Click here for an address by Jim Perlstein, co-chair of the Solidarity Committee, before thousands at a 2/26 support rally at City Hall Park. (A Reuters report of the City Hall park rally features our own Judy Barbanel, Chapter Chair at QCC.) John Tarleton, Clarion Associate Editor, provides a report on a 2/22 rally at the headquarters of Fox News.
Whereas the Governor of Wisconsin has initiated legislation (“Emergency Budget Repair Bill”) to limit the right to collective bargaining for most Wisconsin public employees (state, school district and municipal) to negotiations over base pay rate, to limit negotiated agreements to one year, and to prohibit public employers from collecting union dues (dues checkoff);
Sign at 2/26 Wisconsin support rally at NYC City Hall Park
Whereas Wisconsin Governor Walker’s “Emergency Budget Repair Bill” would specifically eliminate the right of the faculty and staff at the University of Wisconsin to bargain collectively over any issue;
Whereas the proposed legislation would require public employees (state, school district, university system and municipal employees) to pay substantially increased amounts toward their pension and health insurance benefits;
Therefore be it Resolved that Professional Staff Congress/CUNY (L.2334, AFT, AFL-CIO) condemns the Wisconsin Governor’s proposed “Emergency Budget Repair Bill” and extends support to affected labor unions in Wisconsin.
Passed unanimously by the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY Delegate Assembly. February 17, 2011.
Speech in Madison’s Capitol Square, 3/5/11 — ”Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you’ll give up your pension, cut your wages, and settle for the life your great-grandparents had, America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It’s just that it’s not in your hands….”
”Three biggest lies of the last decade: Wisconsin is broke, there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the Packers can’t win a Super Bowl without Favre….”
Democracy Is Coming: A video with stirring images of Wisconsites exercising democracy set to the music and lyrics of Leonard Cohen. Posted by Risingsolari to YouTube.
In a powerful statement of solidarity, Kamal Abbas, the General Coordinator of the CTUWS, an umbrella advocacy organization for independent unions in Egypt, sends a message of support to Wisconsin workers. In the video, the poster in the background shows photographs of some of the recent young victims of the Mubarak government. The writing says they are among the martyrs of the 25 January Revolution.
The solidarity statement is in Arabic (with English subtitles).
Videos by Matthew Wisniewski, a prize-winning videographer at the University of Wisconsin, have gone viral. The videos, set to music, capture the passion, intensity and justice of the Wisconsin protests.
His most recent video (through March 10th) with music by Ryan Bingham.