National Police Officer Organization Urges Wisconsin to Recall Walker

Since he took office, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has tried to break worker solidarity. In fact, the bill that started it all, the union-busting Act 10, sought to peel off public safety workers from other public employees by exempting police and firefighters from the collective bargaining restrictions.

Of course, we now know that this was a deliberate move on Walker’s part. In a now infamous video, Walker described his plan to “divide and conquer” Wisconsin workers to one of his billionaire backers, Diane Hendricks. Not only was he trying to divide public safety and other public employees, he was trying to slice and dice all working people to further erode our collective bargaining rights, wages, benefits, and opportunities for legal recourse.

The problem for Mr. Walker? We noticed, and not just in Wisconsin. The National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) has formally endorsed Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in his recall bid against Gov. Walker:

“Scott Walker’s divisive tactics and his drastic cuts to public safety funding will make Wisconsin’s communities and the officers that police them less safe,” claimed NAPO President Thomas Nee in a Barrett campaign statement.

“Tom Barrett will bring people together to ensure that Wisconsin stays a safe place in which to live, work, and raise family.”

As our Working America members in Wisconsin have told us, one of the biggest moments of the 2011 protests was when police and firefighters joined in solidarity with the marches in Madison, even though the union-busting bill would not have included them. It was a signal that even in this day and age, we still believe in solidarity: that an attack on one is an attack on all.

NAPO’s endorsement is also a recognition that the ramifications of the Wisconsin recall don’t end at the state border. Law enforcement officials nationwide are beginning to question why the Republicans they have traditionally supported are now attacking their rights, wages, and benefits (just ask Ohioans, who smacked down Gov. John Kasich’s attempt to cut collective bargaining for Ohio police and firefighters in a double-digit referendum last November).

As the Republican Party moves closer to a complete subsidiary of their corporate sponsors, the folks that patrol our streets and protect our communities are moving to support their brethren – across state borders and nationwide.

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Working America Members See the Walker Agenda Clearly

The actions of Governor Scott Walker and his allies in the legislature have made existing political divisions in Wisconsin even more acute; we don’t expect the polarization to be alleviated any time soon as the May 8 and June 5 recall elections approach.

Part of the debate, and indeed part of the Republican strategy, is to question the validity of holding a recall election in the first place. Wisconsin Republican Party spokesman Stephan Thompson referred to the recalls as “baseless,” and that the elections are being “forced” upon the state.

In using this language, Thompson, Walker, and their colleagues clearly haven’t heard the voices of Wisconsinites. Let’s look at the facts: Eighteen states allow for the recalls of public officials. Of those states, Wisconsin has one of the highest thresholds for triggering a recall. In the case of the last successful gubernatorial recall, California in 2003, those recalling Gov. Gray Davis had 160 days to gather signatures from 12 percent of those who voted for governor in the previous election.

In Wisconsin over this past year organizers, had to gather signatures from 25 percent of the votes cast for Walker in 2010 in only 60 days. That number was about 540,000 – and Wisconsinites gathered over 930,000.

Truthfully, the recall mechanism is intended for emergencies, and Wisconsin has deemed Scott Walker an emergency.

Still, the opposition messaging has broken through with some. Last week, the Racine Journal Times published a letter from resident Marian Andersen. “The recall is a travesty on democracy,” Andersen wrote. Andersen went on to claim that the push for the recall is by “state employees” – which begs the question of where the other 700,000 plus signatures came from.

Working America member Pam Simpson saw Andersen’s letter and decided to respond. The next day, the Journal Times published Simpson’s letter, titled “Walker is in it only for himself.”

Walker is in it only for himself

I am writing in response to a letter to the editor from Marian Andersen published on Sunday. In that letter, Marian states that “the recall is a travesty on democracy.” In running for governor of our state, Scott Walker lied, withheld information and misled many individuals. He was and is in it for himself — to follow the Koch brothers’ orders and work for ALEC. A recall is a perfect example of democracy in action.

He has brought “dirty” politics into our state. Among the damage is the harming of our children’s education. He has attempted to redirect money meant for other things to cover up his lie of a “balanced budget” — attempting to obtain money meant for health care for low-income families and for homeowners who had faced foreclosure. He was only stopped because the federal government forced him to. A recall is certainly appropriate here.

He has undermined collective bargaining; he has turned back the clock on equal pay for women, etc. He is not fighting for us; he is fighting for big business and for the Koch brothers. He talks about buses of people being brought into the state — “union thugs” as he likes to call them. But he has to go all over the country looking for money to help defend himself in his legal battles — those who are very close to him being under investigation.

I am counting on the recall to be successful so we can get back to normal Wisconsin politics.

Pam Simpson

Racine

Like many of her friends and neighbors, Pam Simpson sees the Walker agenda for what it is. Walker’s campaign rhetoric of jobs and more restrained government never materialized; instead, the Governor and his allies have devoted their time to a radical, anti-worker agenda with the singular goal of gaining and maintaining power for both himself and his corporate backers.

Yes, recall elections are for emergencies only – that’s why it’s so hard to trigger one. And with over 930,000 signatures in hand, Wisconsin is well within its rights to pull the fire alarm.

Photo by Matt Baran on Flickr, via Creative Commons

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Voter Suppression Law Not In Effect for Wisconsin Recalls

The rollercoaster of the Wisconsin recall process continued Thursday when the schedule set by Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan confirmed that the state’s voter suppression law will not be in effect for the June 5 recall elections.

A review of the crazy timeline: The law, known as Act 23, had legal trouble from the start. Lawsuits from the civil rights groups NAACP and Voces de la Frontera resulted in a temporary injunction by Judge Flanagan, while a separate lawsuit resulted in a permanent injunction against the law by another Dane County Judge, Richard Niess.

That meant the law was not enforced for the April 3 municipal elections, but the big question was still whether or not the vote would be suppressed in the crucial May 8 primary and historic June 5 recall. Would the Supreme Court make the final call? Nope – Act 23 was bounced back to the circuit courts after the Wisconsin Supreme Court declined to take up the case last week. (Whew. Now we’re dizzy.)

Flanagan has temporarily blocked the law from taking effect while he considers both arguments. A four-day trial wrapped up Thursday afternoon after Flanagan said he didn’t need to hear oral arguments. Flanagan, who will issue the verdict in the case, said he wants final positions outlined in briefs. He set a June 18 due date for the last set of filings.

This is good news for the thousands of Wisconsinites – including 177,000 Wisconsin seniors and nearly half of Wisconsin’s African-American and Hispanic citizens who don’t have photo ID – who would have been effectively barred from voting in the June election by Act 23. (Not to mention for those folks who wanted to get ID before election day, 26 percent of Wisconsin DMV’s are open one month a day or less, only one DMV has weekend hours, and Gov. Walker tried his best to close 10 DMV’s in heavily Democratic areas.)

It’s not great news for Gov. Walker and his Administration. His policies have been overwhelmingly harmful to Wisconsin working families, particularly students (cuts to higher education), seniors (cuts to Badgercare), and working class folks (cutting the state earned income tax credit, effectively a tax increase on the poor). Therefore, it’s in his interest that fewer of these voters are able to exercise their rights at the polls.

So we were less than surprised to see Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, well-rested after not helping victims of foreclosure fraud, acting very “concerned” about the validity of the June elections:

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen says he is very concerned about voter fraud as six recall elections near, including one targeting fellow Republican, Gov. Scott Walker.

Again, Walker and his team are concerned about some things: keeping people from voting, tax breaks for big businesses, and the latest out-of-state fundraiser. They are much less concerned, judging by the policies they advocate, with the ability of anyone in Wisconsin to find work, go to school, save for retirement, or pay their medical bills. But hopefully, they’ll be in the private sector soon, where they won’t have to worry about anyone but themselves.

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Fake, Money-Wasting Wisconsin Candidates Allowed on Ballot

In Wisconsin, the state General Accountability Board (GAB) voted unanimously to allow six “fake Democrats” on the May 8 primary ballot.

The election board’s decision came in response to a legal challenge from the Wisconsin Democratic Party and We Are Wisconsin. Jeremy Levinson, the attorney who brought the case, said that the six candidates “knowingly filed false information” by running as Democrats when they were nothing but. “The First Amendment does not require the government to ignore an admitted lie,” he said, “and that is what we have here.”

The six candidates, four for state senate and one for Governor and Lt. Governor, are admitted Republicans who are running the Democratic primary in an attempt to drain resources and allow the incumbents – the recall targets – more time to raise funds. The exact same tactic was used in the State Senate recalls in August 2011.

All this is being done with the full blessing of the Wisconsin Republican Party. State party spokesman Stephan Thompson said: “In an effort to ensure election fairness, the Republican Party has recruited protest candidates to run in all of the upcoming recall elections.”

(Thompson also dutifully repeated the untrue Scott Walker talking points that the “Democrats and union bosses are the ones who decided to force these baseless recalls on our state.” Thompson was sure to brush over the fact that it was actually over a million Wisconsin citizensunion, non-union, Democrat, Republican, and Independent alike – who signed petitions to trigger recall elections against Gov. Walker and his anti-worker allies.)

The problem, again, is that elections, even elections you call “fake” or “baseless,” are not free. The “fake Democrat” gambit comes at a time where Wisconsin’s cities and towns need every penny they can get their hands on for education and basic services. And yet, last year this Republican tactic costs cities and towns an extra $500,000 to administer the extra elections.

Maybe you can make the argument that Gov. Walker can’t control everything the state Republican Party does (although Walker has been silent on this particular issue). But even Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), a recall target himself, remarked to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Republican voters could vote in the Democratic primaries in order to trip up his opponents for the June 5 general. “There’s nothing to keep the Republicans from messing around,” Fitzgerald said.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Gov. Walker, Sen. Fitzgerald, and the whole gang cared even half as much about creating jobs as they did about monkeying with state elections? But jobs, education, basic services, town and city budgets, voting rights – these aren’t issues that have much concerned Walker and Co. for the past two years. We shouldn’t expect them to start now. But hopefully, before too long, they’ll have the opportunity to take their negligence and callousness to the private sector.

Photo by ra_hurd on Flickr, via Creative Commons.

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Supreme Court Decision Brings Wisconsin A Step Closer to Suppression-Free Elections


Flashback: Wisconsin Republicans rammed through Act 23 in May 2011, by cutting off debate and calling the vote to cheers of “Shame!”

The Wisconsin state Supreme Court said on this morning that they will not take up two cases pertaining to Act 23, the Wisconsin voter suppression law rammed through by the Republican-controlled legislature last May.

The court’s terse orders send the cases back to two different courts of appeals. The appeals courts had said the Supreme Court should take the cases right away because of their significance. Now, the appeals courts will have to render their own decisions on the cases.

The cases could then go to the Supreme Court, and are widely expected to be decided by that court.

But in the short term, the rulings mean the voter ID law will remain blocked. The court issued its orders just three weeks before the May 8 primary for Democrats to pick a candidate to run against Republican Gov. Scott Walker in the June 5 recall election.

Act 23 was knocked on its feet when two Wisconsin judges issued injunctions against the law, at least temporarily keeping the voter suppression law from going into effect.  ”Without question, where it exists, voter fraud corrupts elections and undermines our form of government,” wrote Dane County Judge Richard Niess in his opinion, “But voter fraud is no more poisonous to our democracy than voter suppression. Indeed, they are two heads on the same monster.”

Now, Walker’s Department of Justice, led by Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, wants the appeals court to lift the injunctions while it considers the cases against Act 23.

We really hope the injunctions stay in effect, and that the very real, very valid Constitutional arguments against Act 23 eventually succeed in overturning the law in court. Experiences of citizens in Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee, and other states show that these “voter ID” laws serve only to disenfranchise thousands of voters – particularly minorities, women, seniors, and the working poor.

Not to mention that these laws blatantly target the voting rights certain demographics in a corporate-backed, ALEC-coordinated effort to reduce the number of eligible voters in time for the 2012 election.

No doubt that Walker and Van Hollen want the injunctions lifted before voters sound off on their agenda in the June 5 recall election. One can imagine that on June 5, they would love to have as few Wisconsinites to exercise their voting rights as possible.

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Walker Repeals WI Equal Pay Protection

by Donna Jablonski – Reposted from the AFL-CIO NOW Blog

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is facing a recall election, quietly repealed a state law making it easier for pay discrimination victims to seek justice. Amanda Terkel reports in The Huffington Post that Walker signed into law a bill passed in party-line votes by Republicans in the state legislature that rolls back the 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act. The act had allowed workers to challenge pay discrimination in state rather than just federal courts.

As Greg Sargent reports in The Plum Line at The Washington Post, Walker’s action may add to Republican trouble attracting women’s votes in the presidential election. Republican primary frontrunner Mitt Romney has tied himself to Walker, vowing to support the Wisconsin governor in his recall election.

Sargent reports that President Obama’s campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith released a statement calling on Romney to tell America what he thinks of the repeal:

As he campaigned across Wisconsin, Mitt Romney repeatedly praised Governor Scott Walker’s leadership, calling him a “hero” and “a man of courage.” But with his signing yesterday of a bill making it harder for women to enforce in court their right to equal pay, Walker showed how far Republicans are willing to go to undermine not only women’s health care, but also their economic security. Does Romney think women should have ability to take their bosses to court to get the same pay as their male coworkers? Or does he stand with Governor Walker against this?

Walker’s recall resulted from public outrage after he led the charge to take away public employees’ collective bargaining rights.

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To Wisconsin Republicans: Fake Elections Are Not Free



Once again, the working families of Wisconsin have used their constitutional right to express their disapproval with sitting State Senators by gathering thousands of signatures and triggering elections to recall them from office.

The response from those officeholders and their political allies? Gum up the works as much as possible, with no regard to cost.

The Wisconsin Republican party has announced that the four Democratic challengers to their Republican incumbents will face primary challengers – essentially extra Republican challengers posing as “fake Democrats.” This will force the challengers to spend extra time and money on a fake election, and give the incumbents more time and space to raise funds.

This is the same tactic used by the state party during last summer’s recall elections. Says the state party spokesman Stephan Thompson:

“In an effort to ensure election fairness, the Republican Party has recruited protest candidates to run in all of the upcoming recall elections…

“…The Democrats and their union bosses are the ones who decided to force these baseless recalls on our state, and by ensuring every Democratic candidate faces a primary election, we will limit their ability to once again create chaos within the election process.”

The gall needed to make this statement is mind-blowing. In 2011, this same tactic cost cash-strapped Wisconsin municipalities nearly $500,000. And since the elections were “fake” – the Democratic primary candidates were not Democrats and would not have continued to run for office if they won – that’s basically the equivalent of setting $500,000 on fire.

And as Scott Walker and his allies themselves keep saying, Wisconsin’s cities and towns don’t have an extra half a million dollars to burn. Walker used the constant refrain of “we’re broke” and the need to balance the budget to justify stripping collective bargaining rights of thousands of Wisconsin workers, cutting the state earned income tax credit, and slashing education budgets. He used the same justification for taking foreclosure settlement funds – intended for struggling Wisconsin homeowners – and instead using it to plug holes in his budget.

But when it comes to actions that restrict voting rights and maintain their political power, suddenly Wisconsin isn’t broke at all! In addition to thousands of taxpayer dollars for fake primaries, Walker and Co. found $6 million to implement a useless voter suppression bill. (Plus $142 million in tax breaks that have given the state nothing but six straight months of job loss.)

On the topic of fake primaries, we haven’t heard a peep of protest from the Governor’s office, and it’s ludicrous to think that Walker has no influence over the actions of his party. So for Walker’s party spokesman to claim that over a million Wisconsin citizens exercising their constitutional right to recall is “creating chaos” and that wasting taxpayer money on fake primaries is “ensuring election fairness” is some varsity-level, grade-A hypocrisy.

Make no mistake. Because Walker and his friends are using your money to help them stay in power, teachers have to get laid off and towns don’t have the money for basic services. Think about what that $500,000 in “fake election” money could do for Wisconsin schools, or what that $6 million in voter suppression money could do for local services like after-school programs and public safety.

The problem isn’t that Walker and Co. are playing dirty politics – we’re beyond being surprised at that. It’s that they are using our taxpayer money to do it, and families are suffering as a result.

Photo by ra_hurd on Flickr, via Creative Commons.

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Parts of Infamous Wisconsin Anti-Worker Law Struck Down by District Court

On Friday afternoon, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin struck a blow to two key parts of Act 10, the anti-worker “budget repair bill” that set off the historic protests last year.

Specifically, the court entered an injunction against the provision banning automatic dues deductions for public employee unions, which weakens the ability of the union to represents its members. The court also enjoined Act 10’s annual, mandatory recertification provision, which required public employees to vote to approve or deny union representation every year.

Here’s part of the reason why:

The court found those provisions violated equal protection and First Amendment rights, considering that the same rules did not apply to unions for public safety workers like police and firefighters.

“So long as the State of Wisconsin continues to afford ordinary certification and dues deductions to mandatory public safety unions with sweeping bargaining rights, there is no rational basis to deny those rights to voluntary general unions with severely restricted bargaining rights,” wrote U.S. District Judge William M. Conley.

Let’s translate that legal speak, shall we?

Flashback to 2011: In order to gain support for this bill, Gov. Walker and his allies tried to divide and conquer Wisconsin’s workers. They wrote the bill to exempt police officers and firefighters from the collective bargaining restrictions, thinking that this would peel them off from the opposition. They didn’t predict that Wisconsin’s public safety workers would instead turn around and join their brothers and sisters in solidarity against the collective bargaining bill.

And now, the court says, because Walker and Co. tried to set up different rules for different workers, the law violates equal protection and First Amendment rights, making it unconstitutional. It’s a grand irony: Walker’s attempts to divide Wisconsin’s workers not only failed, it could be the move that sinks the entire law.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, this kind of backdoor quid-quo-pro political deal works like a dream, and goes unnoticed by the public. In this case, it completely blew up in the faces of Walker, his legislative allies, and his corporate sponsors.

But the fight is far from over. While these two provisions are temporarily stalled, the rest of Act 10 is fully in effect. Wisconsin’s teachers, nurses, and other public workers are still without their full collective bargaining rights, giving them little to no control over their wages and workplaces. The state is still suffering from massive unemployment, while the chief executive spends his time jet-setting around the country raising funds from super-wealthy donors. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the destructive policies of Scott Walker, his State Senate enablers, and his massively well-monied sponsors like David and Charles Koch.

Today brought two pieces of good news, but the effort to reclaim Wisconsin is in for a long climb.

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At Long Last, Recall Election of Scott Walker Is On

Source: flickr.com via Working America on Pinterest

It’s hard to believe that a little over a year ago, very few people outside Wisconsin knew who Scott Walker was, apart from the fact that he was one of many Republicans to triumph in the 2010 elections. Since that time, Governor Scott Walker has become a household name, a symbol of the nationwide radical anti-worker agenda, and an incredibly polarizing figure in his state and beyond.

And finally, after historic protests, eight state senate recall campaigns, and an unprecedented signature-gathering effort, the largest recall in American history has cleared yet another hurdle.

Staff of the Government Accountability Board say in a memo released Thursday that more than enough signatures were collected on petitions seeking recalls of Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.

The board is scheduled to vote Friday on certifying the election. The primary would be May 8 and the general election would be June 5.

The board has already said enough signatures were collected on petitions seeking the recalls of four Republican state senators. It plans to vote Friday on certifying those elections for the same dates as those against Walker and Kleefisch.

Thursday’s memo says there were 900,938 valid signatures on the Walker petition, far more than the 540,208 needed.

There has been an update since that article was written. The GAB originally thought that “Fungky Van Dan Elzen” was a fictitious name that should be discarded as invalid. In an odd twist, turns out Ms. Van Dan Elzen is indeed a real woman in Wisconsin who wants a recall election, bringing the total to 900,939.

This morning, the Government Accountability Board accepted the staff recommendation that the recall election proceed.

Yes, democracy may be slow, and it takes thousands of hours of hard work – despite its prominence in the news, Wisconsin is one of the hardest states in which to trigger a recall election. But given the actions of Governor Scott Walker, his Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, and the Republican-controlled State Senate, it is more than appropriate that voters get the chance to make their voices heard and sound off on the radical, divisive, misguided agenda that these officeholders have put in place over the last two years.

As the Wisconsin protestors chanted last winter – and continue to chant today – this is what democracy looks like.

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More Koch Money Pours In to Prop Up Absentee Gov. Walker

What would you do with $700,000?

If you’re Charles and David Koch, the oil billionaires behind the conservative front group Americans for Prosperity (AFP), you toss it all into one television ad to support Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Walker’s connections with the super-wealthy Kansas brothers are well known. If you have any doubts, listen to Walker have a 20 minute conversation (on taxpayer time, with a government phone) with a prankster simply pretending to be David Koch. They have come to his defense time and time again – going so far as to send ballots with incorrect information to confuse voters about the date of the summer recall elections. That’s on top of their massive financial investments in walker through AFP, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in TV spots, direct mail, and online advertisements promoting Walker’s policies and allies.

The latest $700,000 investment, confirmed by AFP spokesman Levi Russell, is from the group’s nonprofit 501c3 arm – the ad promotes Walker’s policies without mentioning his name.

Even with the support of a few of the country’s richest men, Walker is still traveling around the country collecting campaign funds and raising his national profile. The Governor’s latest trip was to Naples, Florida, to speak at a $500-a-plate luncheon at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

In his travels, Scott Walker is finding that no matter where he goes, people know his name – but not in a good way. Even in 1,500 miles away in Florida, workers lined up to protest Walker’s appearance, waving “Recall Walker” and “Stop the War on Workers” signs.

Walker’s next stop will be Friday in Washington, DC, where he will speak at the notorious Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) along with other anti-worker politicians including Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney. Labor groups and Occupy DC have already vowed to make an appearance.

We already knew that Walker’s policies hurt working families and elicit outrage: that’s why over a million Wisconsinites signed petitions to trigger a gubernatorial recall election, the most in American history. But the real question is what is Gov. Walker doing everywhere except Wisconsin, which has suffered six straight months of job loss?

As we’ve written, the Wisconsin recall election is not just about collective bargaining, and it isn’t about party. It’s about Wisconsin having a Governor who has been negligent and often complicit in the crisis of unemployment that continues to ravage the state.

We talk to working people in Wisconsin every day who are struggling and seeing no help from Madison. Too bad Walker is never in Wisconsin long enough to notice.

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