Is Wisconsin's union-buster-in-chief hinting at a presidential bid?
By Berry Craig
It looks like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is still proud of himself for declaring holy war against Dairy State public employee unions, might be thinking about tossing his hat in the ring for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
Lately, Walker has been boosting his political profile by hustling his new book in which he brags on his union-busting. Some folks wonder if he's really testing the waters for a presidential run.
Because he seems to be at least mulling a “move up to the Oval Office, his undemocratic policies become an even greater threat to all American workers,” warns Joanne Ricca, who was the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO’s legislative representative.
Gov. Walker would be private citizen Walker if his union-gutting bill applied to him, according to Ricca, who recently retired.
That’s ditto, she adds, for a lot of the Republicans in the legislature who in 2011 passed Walker’s pet, Wisconsin Act 10, which deprived state and local government workers of nearly all of their collective bargaining rights.
Ricca explains that one of the many union-busting features of the law forces public employee unions to recertify their bargaining rights yearly for each unit of employees they represent.
She cites the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission which recently held a recertification vote for an education unit of 664 employees represented by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 24.
“The employees approved recertification of their union by a vote of 329 in favor to 15 against--but the union still lost,” she says. “Act 10 requires that the union win 51 percent of all those eligible to vote in a bargaining unit, and the final tally of 49.5 percent fell short. Any employee who does not vote is essentially counted as a ‘no’ vote.”
In the 2010 election, when Walker, half of the state Senate and the whole Assembly were elected, the voting-eligible population turnout rate was 49.7 percent, according to George Mason University’s United States Election Project. Likewise, Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that turnout for the "governor's race was just under 50% statewide."
Though Walker and the Republican lawmakers succeeded in stacking the deck against public employee unions, the unions aren’t giving up, Ricca points out:
“They are fighting hard to maintain certification despite the odds. They are trying to find creative ways of representing public employees. Legal challenges to the undemocratic Act 10, including the rigged recertification process, are still winding through the courts.”
She also points to a recent letter-to- the editor published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Written by Courtney Roelandts of Sussex, Wis., the missive “reflects the viewpoint of Wisconsin's younger generation toward Walker's debris field,” Ricca says.
“Two years later, Act 10 is still dominating the media and public discourse in Wisconsin as the legal battle moves to the Supreme Court.
“Public service workers and teachers are dealing with the effects of unstable employment and an unpredictable retirement and pension system in Wisconsin. Unions are unsure of what the future holds as the law bounces between the courts, their fate repeatedly falling into another judge's hands.
“But there is an entire population being affected by Act 10 that has fallen under the radar: millennials. Millennials are the next generation of workers, and our careers are at risk of being under the control of Act 10.
“Frankly, we are thinking it best to avoid the dilemma entirely and live in a different state. We love Wisconsin, but is it in our best interest to live in a state with such unstable job security in education and public service?”
"As this bill continues to be revisited in the courts, I implore those listening to think of not only what this law is already doing to those who are finishing their careers but what Wisconsin's workforce may look like if something does not give."
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