A Shout and a Song from Wisconsin to Working America

The following is a guest post from Jason Roseblum and Chris Reeder, the organizers of the Wisconsin Solidarity Sing Along.

As the Wisconsin Uprising nears its first anniversary in defense of workers’ rights – and keeps getting stronger – we wanted to send a shout and a song out to all the fabulous organizers and canvassers and subscribers at Working America. We know that you are out there day in and day out to educate working Americans about how the 99 percent are losing out to an ever-more concentrated, ever more self-interested, and ever more exploitative one percent in this country.

We are working to unseat the union busting and democracy-busting governor of our state, Scott Walker. In fact, we just gathered a million signatures – percentage-wise, the most in the history of this country – to force a Recall Election this spring. We believe that we can unseat the man who boasted that he had “dropped the bomb” on public sector unions. When he called it a “bomb” he also declared that he was going to “change the course of history” by pummeling working men and women – by denying workers their voice at the workplace.

In common with you at Working America, we hold a solemn commitment not only to protect the voice of workers in this country, but to amplify and deepen workers’ voices. We believe in a sweet land of liberty. Of this, and of thee we sing. Without robust union democracy in the United States, we wouldn’t have democracy at all.

Thank you for all your help in this work – come join us every weekday at noon at the Capitol Building in Madison. Solidarity!

-From your friends at the Wisconsin Capitol Solidarity Singalong

Tags: ,

As Wisconsin Recall Announced, Walker Rakes in Campaign Cash

Scott Walker reacts to the recall announcement on Twitter.

With over a million signatures submitted to the state election board yesterday, the effort to remove Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is already the biggest recall effort in American history.

Wisconsinites frustrated with Scott Walker’s attacks on working families and his failure to address the state’s jobs crisis had 60 days to collect over 540,000 signatures. In the end, they exceeded both that number, as well as their expressed goal of 720,000.

Wisconsin law required signatures from 25 percent of the 2010 gubernatorial voters. As Mother Jones writes, organizers netted a number equal to 46 percent of those voters.

But make no mistake. There have been only two other successful gubernatorial recalls: North Dakota’s Lynn Frazier in 1921 and California’s Gray Davis in 2003. It’s not an action that voters take lightly, and organizers are preparing for an uphill battle.

First step, of course, is the verification of the signatures by the state election board. Observers are assuming this will go smoothly – the GAB would have to throw out about 460,000 signatures to cancel the recall election.

After that, there’s the selection of a candidate to run against Walker. Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk officially declared her candidacy this morning, and a few others have expressed interest as well.

But that pales in comparison to what Walker himself is bringing to the table.

While organizers were unloading 3,000 pounds of boxes of signatures in Madison, Walker was in New York City. He was at a fundraising event for his recall defense campaign hosted by the former CEO of AIG, Hank Greenberg. Attendees were asked for $2,500 for an individual or $5,000 for a couple.

To you and me, this seems like a very bad thing to be doing in terms of public relations. But Walker, as he has always done, is acting in the interest of himself and his wealthy donors – and it could be the thing that keeps him in office:

Thanks to a loophole in Wisconsin elections law, Walker can raise unlimited amounts of money to defend himself in a recall election (the typical limit for gubernatorial races is $10,000). Brad Courtney, chair of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, admitted last fall that raking in unlimited donations was central to Walker and the Republicans’ defense strategy, according to audio obtained by Mother Jones. Walker began fundraising in November, and has until “a recall primary or election is ordered, or after that time if incurred in contesting or defending the order” to raise unlimited donations. In other words, Walker’s unlimited fundraising window could extend well into next month.

If you’re a Wisconsinite, you probably think it’s kind of messed up how much time your governor is spending in New York, Texas, California, and DC raising money instead of addressing the jobs and unemployment crisis in his state. But in this Citizens United world, Scott Walker is doing exactly what he should be doing if he wants to win the next election. Walker pulled in $5.1 million between July and December last year, about half from outside Wisconsin. A quarter of a million dollars came from Bob Perry, the Texas homebuilder behind 2004’s Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

The way the law is now, Walker doesn’t need the approval of Wisconsin. He doesn’t need to address the jobs crisis – despite his rhetoric, the state leads the nation in job loss. What he needs is enough money to flood the airwaves with negative ads about his opponent and positive ads about himself. And thanks to loopholes and the U.S. Supreme Court, it doesn’t particularly matter where that money comes from.

If you want to end this situation where the super-rich have a huge influence on our elections, check out our 9 Demands of the 99 Percent.

Tags: , , , ,

1 Million Signatures Submitted to Recall Walker

by Tula Connell – Reposted from the AFL-CIO NOW Blog

Wisconsin working people hit one right out of Miller Park: Moments ago, they submitted 1 million signatures supporting a recall election of Gov. Scott Walker (R), exceeding the total number of signatures required by 460,000. Walker last year pushed to abolish the rights of public employees to collectively bargain for a middle class life. Overall, Walker’s policies are killing 18,000 jobs a year in Wisconsin, according to a recent report.

Union members and allies also turned in 123 percent of the required signatures against Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who was thought one of the more challenging recalls to pull off.

There also are enough signatures to force recall elections for the state’s lieutenant governor, and two other state senators. The Wisconsin elections board will need to verify all the signatures.

Photo by ra_hurd on Flickr, via Creative Commons.

Tags: , , ,

Over 20,000 In Conservative District Wisconsin Want to Oust Leader Fitzgerald

Organizers of the campaign to recall Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald have filed petitions containing an incredible 20,600 signatures with the General Accountability Board (GAB).

As we’ve written, this was a truly grassroots effort spearheaded by one of Fitzgerald’s constituents named Lori Compas:

Compas, a small business owner and mother of two from Fort Atkinson, said that most of the constituents who signed the petitions were not motivated by partisan politics. “More than 20,600 of his own constituents—Republican, Democrat, and independent alike—signed a recall petition because Scott Fitzgerald stopped listening to them,” stated Compas. “Individually they were not heard; together, their call for open, honest government cannot be ignored.”

According to Kristen Crowell, executive director of We Are Wisconsin, the campaign to recall the Senate Majority Leader has been a model of effective community organizing. “While political ‘experts’ in Madison were assuring the world that Sen. Fitzgerald was ‘untouchable,’ Lori Compas and the citizens of Senate District 13 knew the truth: any politician who stops listening to the voices of his constituents must be held accountable.”

20,600 is 123 percent of the 16,742 required to start a recall, providing a sizable buffer in the case that some signatures are disqualified.

Photo from the Wisconsin AFL-CIO on Facebook.

Tags: , , ,

#J17 – A Big Tuesday for People Power

The big story of 2011 was the discovery of strength in numbers. From Egypt to Ohio, we woke up to a world where mass protest and mass action could be a change agent against entrenched, powerful interests.

January 17 is the first test of 2012 to see what people power can do in this new year. Here are three spots to watch:

The Walker Recall. We don’t yet know the final number of how many Wisconsinites signed petitions to trigger recall elections against Governor Walker and Lt. Governor Kleefisch. But the organizers are doing a great job playing the expectations game and teasing us with small details.

For instance, we have heard reports that Washington County, reportedly the “reddest” county in Wisconsin, turned in over 8,000 signatures to recall the Governor. We know that the effort to recall Walker’s closest legislative ally exceeded expectations in the similarly conservative 13th Senate District. We know that the effort overall has been successful in small cities and rural areas of the state, in addition to the bigger cities where last year’s uprising was strongest.

Here’s something else we know: the petitions that will be turned in later today to the state elections board weigh 3,000 pounds.

Recall organizers are holding a press conference at 3pm Central, and we’ll provide updates as they come along.

Occupy Congress. Members of the 112th Congress, sporting the lowest approval ratings in a generation, return to what they call “work” on Capitol Hill today. Joining them will be men and women representing the Occupy Wall Street movement, using this opportunity to call for jobs, an end to corruption, Internet freedom, and the abolition of corporate personhood.

As I type, Occupiers are gathering at the Capitol Building in DC. Some will seek meetings with representatives; others will hold teach-ins on various topics throughout the city. Already, there’s been news of the protesters overcoming obstacles to get to DC, like a Greyhound bus driver who stranded a group of 13 travelers in Amarillo, Texas.

To watch events unfold live, the folks at Occupy Congress have compiled multiple livestream feeds here at j17live.org.

An End to Foreclosure Fraud, Or Just the Beginning? Over 21,000 people have signed messages to their state Attorneys General opposing a slap-on-the-wrist settlement that would let banks off the hook for illegal foreclosure activities like robo-signing.

Thanks to you, it seems like the AG’s are feeling the pressure. Last week, AG’s or their office representatives from 14 states met in Washington, DC to discuss alternatives to the current settlement deal.

“This past Tuesday, a group of like-minded Attorneys General met in D.C. to discuss ongoing and future investigations into the mortgage finance and foreclosure industries,” said Delaware Deputy Attorney General Ian McConnel.

“The talks weren’t just about investigations,” said a source with knowledge of the discussions. “They were also about the attorneys general offices feeling uninvolved in a process by which their federal colleagues have been negotiating on their behalf.”

Please note: This group was bipartisan – just as the group of AG’s pushing the weak settlement deal is bipartisan. Calling for a full investigation into illegal practices – reportedly widespread throughout one of the nation’s most profitable industries – is not a partisan issue. If the banks aren’t held accountable this time, what incentive do they have to stop throwing families out of their homes under false pretenses?

No matter where your AG is on this issue, please make your voice heard – sign our petition here.

Photo by Matt Baran on Flickr, via Creative Commons.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Effort to Recall Wisconsin Senate Leader Clears A Hurdle

While we wait until Tuesday to find out whether or not Governor Scott Walker will face the voters in a recall election this year, organizers of the effort to remove one of his closest legislative allies have announced success. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) may indeed be on a recall ballot:

Lori Compas, the recall committee’s chairwoman, said in a news conference the group had gathered more than the 16,742 signatures needed, but declined to say how many. She said volunteers would continue to gather signatures to recall the Juneau Republican through Saturday. That’s to provide a cushion because Fitzgerald will be able to knock some signatures off the petitions if he can show they belong to people who don’t live in the district or aren’t eligible to vote.

Two additional hurdles face the Recall Fitz folks at this time. First is to have enough of a buffer to account for signatures that might be thrown out in the GAB verification process. The second challenge comes from Fitzgerald himself, who has filed a complaint to the GAB over the timing of the recall:

The complaint to the Government Accountability Board focuses on a wrinkle in state law that allows those collecting signatures to start the 60-day clock — the maximum time they are allowed to collect — a day after they register with GAB.

“Only to a Madison lawyer does 61 days or 64 days equal 60 days,” said Andrew Welhouse, Fitzgerald’s spokesman.

Fitzgerald’s legal finagling may be too little too late: all the signatures are due at the GAB on Tuesday, and volunteers in the 13th Senate District will be collecting through Saturday.

Of Fitzgerald’s complaint, one recall volunteer joked: “That’s a kid not winning Monopoly throwing the board up at the end of the game.”

Scott Fitzgerald hasn’t just enabled Governor Walker’s anti-worker agenda, including the collective bargaining bill that has led to five straight months of job loss. He admitted on Fox News that the bargaining changes weren’t about the economy, but about hurting Obama’s reelection chances by essentially defunding Wisconsin unions.

He also, along with his brother Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, used taxpayer money to pay attorneys to come up with a redistricting map that protected Republican incumbents. Ftizgerald skipped the bidding process appropriate with use of public money, and ended up with attorneys that charged $395 per hour. The total bill came to $400,000 – an expensive power grab on the taxpayer’s dime.

It was also Fitzgerald who, on March 9, 2011, convened the meeting that lead to the passage of the infamous collective bargaining bill, a meeting that violated state transparency laws.

The success of Lori Compas and the Recall Fitz crew points to two things. First is that in this relatively conservative district, which John McCain won in 2008 while the state went heavily for Obama, anger against Fitzgerald runs high. Second, it is a testament to a group of committed, extraordinary volunteers who are running a truly grassroots operation to speak truth to power.

Tags: , ,

From the Field: Kicking Off Another Year in Walker’s Wisconsin

By Carrie Geenen – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

As the first snow of the season finally hits the Badger State, we find ourselves ready to face another legislative session in Scott Walker’s Wisconsin. It’s a good time to take a moment and reflect on all the damage he has done to the state of Wisconsin over the past year – and to gear up for more fights as he seeks to take our state even further backwards.

While Walker sits in the Governor’s Mansion and talks about making Wisconsin “open for business,” the rest of us are faced with five straight months of job loss. The people of Wisconsin are concerned about putting food on the table and what type of future their children will have.

“One of the top concerns in communities across Wisconsin is education,” said Working America field manager Kristin Gutkowski. “Day after day we hear stories about huge class sizes and teachers afraid of losing their jobs. How are kids supposed to learn in an environment like that?”

With Walker’s priorities it’s easy to see how we got into this situation. While he talks about doling out hundreds of millions of dollars to big business he is cutting $793 million dollars from the education budget.

Speaking of big business, Walker and his pal State Senator Glenn Grothman are busy yet again trying to give corporations the edge over Wisconsin workers.

Right now Grothman is pushing a bill that would remove the requirement that political campaign donors report where they work. The reason for this bill, according to him, is to protect businesses from the public – but not allowing us to know who those businesses support politically.

“This bill makes no sense to me,” said Milwaukee Working America member Scott Lyman. “People have less and less money these days, don’t we have the right to know who these businesses support before we hand over our hard-earned dollars?”

Grothman’s bill also comes at an ideal time for his buddy Scott Walker.

Not only was it recently discovered that Walker has 1,115 instances of improperly disclosed donations for his political campaign – totaling over half a million dollars – but one of Walker’s big donors just got nailed for funneling money through his employees to his 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

William Gardner, president and CEO of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co., plead guilty to two felony counts in connect to donations given to Walker in his run for governor. One of these counts was for giving company and personal funds to his employees and associates so they could make contributions on his behalf.

Guess what helped them pick up Gardner’s trail of dirty money? You guessed it: the employer information that campaigns are currently required to give for political donors – the very same information that Glenn Grothman is seeking to hide for the public with his pro-corporate bill.

Beyond the legislature, we can even see examples of Walker’s anti-worker policy bleeding into the private sector. The machinists at Manitowoc Crane were negotiating a fair union contract with their company when management decided to add in union-busting language at the last minute. Lifting the language straight from Walker’s anti-worker budget repair bill, the company was seeking to take away their workers voice even as they posted a 20.7 percent sales increase in the 3rd quarter of 2011.

By a vote of 180 to 2, the union rejected this contract and went on strike to ensure that their voices could be heard on the job. Working America members in Manitowoc have come out along with the rest of the community to support these courageous workers who are standing up for good, family supporting jobs.

In early December we saw nearly 3000 people gather in support of the workers, rallying in sub-freezing temperatures to bring them donations of food and gifts for their children before the Christmas holiday. After nearly two months on the picket line the workers were finally able to come back to the bargaining table with management this week and our thoughts are with them.

A community rallying in support is not something new to Wisconsin; we are a strong state with a rich history of supporting workers’ rights. Recently, I saw a commercial Scott Walker put together over the holidays. In it, he said that “we can all work together to move forward,” and we are. We are working together to make sure that he cannot do any more damage to our state. We are working together to stop the attacks on the working class, and create a future where the ultra-wealthy “share the sacrifice” with Wisconsin working families.

And most importantly, we are working together to get Governor Walker out of office.

Tags: , , , , ,

Other Shoe Will Drop in Walker Recall Next Tuesday

On Tuesday, January 17, Wisconsin Democrats and affiliated groups will deliver recall petitions to the General Accountability Board (GAB).

If enough signatures are validated by the GAB, it would officially trigger recall elections against Governor Scott Walker, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, and four additional state senators including Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.

The big question is – how many signatures will they have?

As we’ve written, Wisconsin law states that a gubernatorial recall can only be triggered by a number of valid signatures that exceeds 25 percent of the number of voters in the last gubernatorial election. In this case, that’s 540,258. The Wisconsin Democratic Party and United Wisconsin have publicly stated that they are going for 720,000 in the event that some signatures are disqualified.

The last update we got was on December 15. After one month of petition circulation, WisDems Chairman Mike Tate announced that they had over 507,000 signatures in hand. After that, they said they wouldn’t be giving any more updates on numbers until they turned in everything to the GAB.

We understand the need for security around the specific number of recall signatures. One good reason: a group on Facebook calling itself “Operation Burn Notice” bragged about destroying thousands of recall petitions in an effort to sabotage the effort.  (Destroying or defacing petitions is a felony, punishable by a $10,000 fine and up to three and a half years in prison. They might as well have a Facebook page for “I Like to Steal Cars.” Facebook finally shut down the page in December.)

However, the downside is the suspense. Will the historic effort to oust Scott Walker, which started a year ago after he rammed through the “budget repair” bill stripping rights from thousands of workers, result in a chance for voters to render their verdict? Or will it end before it starts?

This isn’t just about the political horse-race of a prospective election. After a year in office, Scott Walker and his enablers in the Wisconsin legislature continue to ignore the jobs crisis and focus on enriching their super-wealthy donors.

While working families in Wisconsin call for more action on unemployment, Walker has been raising funds and making speeches in DC, Texas, and Orange County, California. Revelations of mismanagement in Walker’s inner circle continue to undermine the public’s trust in his leadership. And while Walker touts his reforms in his travels, outside the state, working families back home continue to suffer: since the collective bargaining law went into effect in July, Wisconsin has seen huge job loss. In November alone, the state lost 2,900 public and 11,700 private sector jobs.

But, whether or not Wisconsin voters will be have the chance to make their voice heard on the Walker agenda is yet to be seen. Last year in neighboring Ohio, organizers shattered expectations when they turned in six times the required number of signatures to put the union-busting Senate Bill 5 on the ballot. Will next Tuesday be a case of history repeating?

Photo by keegstra on Flickr, via Creative Commons.

Tags: , , ,

Wisconsin Roundup XIII: (Un)Happy Walkerversary!

Can you believe it’s only been one year since Scott Walker began the process of privatizing the entire state of Wisconsin, renaming it “Koch Industries North, LLC,” and outsourcing all cheese and beer production to China?

I wish our jokes weren’t so close to the truth. As we pass our one year Walkerversary, public workers have no collective bargaining rights, thousands of women have lost access to cancer screenings, the working poor have higher taxes, and Wisconsin has became a national leader…in job loss. No wonder state Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate is calling 2011 “Wisconsin’s Lost Year.”

Yet the spirit that inspired thousands of brave souls to march on the capital building in Madison a year ago continues today. Rap with us: “As temperatures drop, Wisconsin workers don’t stop.” This is your Lucky 13th Wisconsin Roundup:

#RecallFitz is trending. We wrote in our last roundup why the other Scott – Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald – is as much of a villain in the Wisconsin story as the governor. As grassroots activist Lori Compas pointed out, “None of Walker’s controversial policies would be in effect today if he didn’t have a buddy in the Legislature pushing it through.”

Turns out that about 12,000 people agree with Lori – that’s how many signatures organizers have collected to remove Fitzgerald from office as of Monday. 16,742 is the magic number, and volunteers are pounding the pavement in the 13th Senate District to meet the January 13th deadline. All signatures have to be in to the GAB by the 17th.

What are the chances of toppling one of Walker’s best anti-worker allies? Walker took the 13th district when he was elected in 2010, but McCain only narrowly edged Obama here in 2008, 51-48; and that was before Walker and Fitz teamed up to make war on workers in the state.

Away, Galloway! Less lucky is Pam Galloway, the freshman rubber stamp Senator from the Northern 29th District. Obama got 53 percent of the vote up here in 2008, and angry independents and Republican workers are none too pleased with their senator’s attacks on voting rights, workers’ rights, and public education. 15,647 signatures are needed in the 29th to trigger Galloway’s removal, and the last word was organizers had 10,000 on hand back on December 15.

John Spiegelhoff of Merrill, Wisconsin wrote to the Wasau Daily Herald about why Pam needs to go:

Sen. Galloway and her colleagues have not improved our communities or our lives. The opposite is true. These are dark times for Wisconsin unless you are wealthy, or a big corporate CEO with loads of dollars siphoned from taxpayers.

The Koch brothers and their friends must be very proud of her. I’m sure they will reward her with large amounts of corporate money. The only thing standing in the way of her “giving to the rich and taking from the poor, working and middle class” is us.

Train’s leaving the station. Along with the one year Walkerversary is the one year anniversary of Walker rejecting $810 million in job-creating high speed rail funds, only to reapply for funds several months later. That funding is being put to good use, putting engineers and construction workers back to work in other states like Illinois, Minnesota, and Rhode Island.

We previously compared Walker’s back-and-forth on high speed rail funding to a soap opera – but the thousands of Wisconsin workers in unemployment lines aren’t entertained:

Prior to Walker’s election, Wisconsin’s passenger rail plan was to be the culmination of what was a bipartisan dream, more than 25 years in the making, to connect Wisconsin with eight other Midwestern states through a network of high-speed rail lines. The infusion of federal money put that dream on the brink of reality. Madison officials, giddy with excitement, set themselves to the task of planning the redevelopment of two downtown blocks around the proposed train station, including a hotel, a public market, and a multimodal transportation hub.

The excitement is gone, the plans on indefinite hold. The dream — at least as long as Walker is governor — is dead.

As we said before, Scott Walker isn’t under recall threat because Wisconsinites simply disagree with him. Scott Walker is subject to a recall effort because he has failed his key mission as state executive: put Wisconsin back to work. Instead, he has doggedly pursued another agenda, one he never mentioned in his campaign, to further enrich his donors and supporters at the expense of the public.

That’s why we hope this first “lost year” for Wisconsin will be the last.

Photo by viviandnguyen on Flickr, via Creative Commons.

Tags: , , , ,

How We Fought Back: Wisconsin

Let’s get real: You can’t talk about 2011 without talking about Wisconsin.

You can’t talk about 2011 without mentioning Governor Scott Walker, the most vilified state executive in recent memory, and his so-called “budget repair bill” that stripped collective bargaining rights from thousands of teachers, nurses, and other public workers.

You can’t talk about 2011 without talking about the enormous crowds that flocked to Madison – first hundreds, then hundreds of thousands; the occupation of the state capitol many months before “Occupy Wall Street” was even conceived; and how the world watched as police officers and firefighters joined in solidarity with their union brothers and sisters, even though Walker’s law exempted them.

You have to mention Ian’s Pizza, blocks from the State Capitol in Madison, which received calls from all over the world to order pies for the protesters. When protesters in Egypt, who had just weeks earlier overthrown their tyrannical leader, called in to order pizzas for the American students standing up to Scott Walker, you knew something big had started. It wasn’t 2010 anymore.

Scott Walker and his friends thought they could pull off the greatest swindle in Wisconsin’s history – campaigning on broad promises of jobs in 2010, but enacting a radical right-wing agenda in 2011. They didn’t anticipate the enormous response of the working people of Wisconsin, who recognized that their own fate was connected with those who taught their kids and plowed their driveways. They didn’t anticipate the power of social media and web video, which documented the uprising minute by minute while the cable news giants stayed silent. They didn’t anticipate the time, money, resources, and commitment that we were willing to give to the effort to erode the Republican majority in the State Senate and put a major roadblock in front of Walker’s agenda. They didn’t anticipate that within six months of rubber stamping the collective bargaining bill, Sens. Dan Kapanke and Randy Hopper would lose their jobs in a historic summer recall election.

The uprising in Wisconsin, the first revolt of the Middle Class in decades, set the tone for the rest of the year. Whether it was the fight against Kasich in Ohio, clawing back voting rights in Maine, or taking to the streets in New York City, the voices that echoed in the Rotunda in Madison reverberated across the country. Months before anyone ever said “We are the 99 percent,” the students and teachers and seniors and thousands of others shouted: “This is what democracy looks like.”

We started talking about the “Age of Wisconsin.” We started saying “this wasn’t possible before Wisconsin, but it is now. Wisconsin shows we can do it.”

As volunteers trudge across every inch of the state, preparing to oust the governor who picked the first fight, we can see that Wisconsin is still showing us what is possible.

Photo by ra_hurd on Flickr, via Creative Commons.

Tags: , ,