- Since taking office on January 3, Republican Governor
Scott Walker waged war on public workers and their unions, aiming to restrict
collective bargaining rights to wage negotiations before ending them altogether.
- He also demanded draconian health insurance and pension
contribution increases, doubling them for state employees during hard times
when they're already strapped to make ends meet. Doing so called for pay
cuts ranging from 8 - 20% ahead of more planned reductions coming.
- On March 9, a protracted Senate battle ended when hard-line
Republicans violated Wisconsin's open meetings law, requiring 24 hours
notice prior for special sessions unless giving it is impossible or impractical.
- At issue was passing an old-fashioned union-busting law
with no Democrats present, brazen politicians and corrupted union bosses
selling out rank and file members for self-enrichement and privilege, complicit
with corporate CEOs.
- The epic battle ended along party lines after State Assembly
members past Walker's bill 53 - 42, following the Senate voting 18 - 1
with no debate. The measure reads:
- "This bill authorizes a state agency to discharge
any state employee who fails to report to work as scheduled for any three
unexcused working days during a state emergency or who participates in
a strike, work stoppage, sit-down, stay-in, slowdown, or other concerted
activities to interrupt the operations or services of state government,
including specifically purported mass resignations or sick calls. Under
the bill, engaging in any of these actions constitutes just cause for discharge."
- In addition, the governor may unilaterally declare "state
of emergency" authority to fire striking workers, and under the section
titled, "Discharge of State Employees:"
- "The Governor may issue an executive order declaring
a state of emergency for the state or any portion of the state if he or
she determines that an emergency resulting from a disaster or imminent
threat of a disaster exists."
- In other words, he can dictatorially do what he wishes,
especially regarding public worker rights and job security. They're gone
unless resurrected by a sustained, mobilized, united, and committed mass
action statewide shutdown for rights too important to lose.
- Other provisions stipulated worker responsibility for
half their pension contributions, and minimally 12.6% of healthcare premiums.
In addition, future pay raises are pegged to annual CPI increases, a rigged
index not reflecting true inflation. Greater ones may only be approved
by statewide referendum, a cumbersome process taking time.
- Further, unions must hold annual votes to let workers
decide whether or not to be members, and state authorities no longer will
collect union dues from paychecks.
- Dane County Judge Strikes Down Anti-Union Law
- On May 27, Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi rescinded
Walker's bill in a 33-page decision, ruling Republican lawmakers violated
Wisconsin's open meetings law.
- On March 18, she placed it on temporary hold, but Thursday's
ruling voided it, pending an appeal to Wisconsin's Supreme Court that may
- Nonetheless, Dane County Democrat District Attorney,
Ismael Ozanne, said, "It's what we were looking for," acknowledging
the war isn't won, pending the higher court ruling. "The supremes
are the supremes," he said. "They can do what they want."
- Ozanne sued to block Walker's bill after Assembly Minority
Leader Peter Barca (D. Kenosha) filed a complaint about not being given
- Expecting bill supporters to denounce her, Sumi cited
"clear and convincing evidence" that Wisconsin's open meetings
law was violated, one lawmakers are bound to uphold. She also said it carried
constitutional force because its provisions say the Legislature's doors
must remain open when in session.
- In fact, while Republicans met in conference committee,
only one entrance was open, police blocking people trying to enter. As
a result, Sumi wrote:
- "The Legislature and its committees are bound to
comply with the open meetings law by their own choice. Having made that
choice, they cannot now shield themselves from the provisions that give
the law force and effect."
- Afterward, Walker said Wisconsin's Supreme Court will
hear oral arguments on June 6, then decide whether to take the case, adding:
- "Either it will be resolved like that - through
the Supreme Court - or we'll look at alternatives with the Legislature,"
suggesting union-busting will pass, whatever it takes to do it. In fact,
Republicans must by June 30 to be part of the 2011 - 2013 state budget
- Marquette University Law Professor Rick Esenberg said
Sumi's decision didn't surprise him, adding:
- "She had clearly indicated that was her view. (But)
you had the sense that she had established that she wasn't going to rule
this early, (yet) apparently decided she needed to do it."
- Other issues are also in play, including recall petition
drives, potentially targeting nine senators, six Republicans and three
- On July 12, recall elections will be held. In addition,
two lawsuits were filed, other court challenges expected later. Moreover,
if Republicans defeat open meeting violation charges, the legislation itself
may be challenged, given its assault on longstanding rights, summarily
- As of now, however, a protracted battle perhaps looms,
facing long odds of winning unless enough people power decides losing is
not an option and will go to the wall to prevent it. Stay tuned. As Wisconsin
goes, perhaps the nation.
- On Wisconsin!!
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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