Sunday, April 29, 2012

Wisconsin Vote Is First Shot in Wider Union War

Yeah, a war on decency, a war on taxpayers, a war on women, a war on ...

Well, you get the picture.

At the New York Times, "Recall Election Tests Strategies for November":

AFLCIO Screw You
The combination of the squeeze on state budgets, high rates of unemployment and the conservative movement’s revived energy provided an opening for Republican efforts, often business-backed, to promote tough-on-labor legislation in key states. Those efforts have succeeded in rolling back gains made by unions over decades, prompting vows from labor to fight back with newly engaged members shaken from self-described complacency.

“The steelworkers will be working harder this year than in 2008, because we can see what can happen,” Michael Bolton, the director of the United Steelworkers unit representing 48,000 workers in Wisconsin and Michigan — including many hundreds in Koch facilities — said in an interview last week at his office in Menasha, Wis.

The steelworkers will be part of a broader effort that national union strategists say will fill the streets in battleground states with hundreds of thousands of their members, who will go door to door telling union colleagues — and, for the first time, nonunion households — why they should vote for Mr. Obama. The A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s political director, Mike Podhorzer, said his organization, which reached 25 million voters in 2008, would easily exceed that this year.

Officials for the steelworkers say it has been awkward at times to wage partisan battles against the family that owns the factories that employ them.

The union’s leaders recently agreed on a contract with Georgia Pacific that they considered fair. When liberal groups called for a boycott of Koch products late last year, a Steelworkers vice president, Jon Geenen, said it would harm “the wrong people,” writing of a “dilemma and a paradox,” namely, “While the Koch brothers are credited with advocating an agenda and groups that are clearly hostile to labor and labor’s agenda, the brothers’ company in practice and in general has positive and productive collective bargaining relationships with its unions.”

But, Mr. Bolton said, that has not stopped the union from telling workers at those companies what it believes to be the goal of the Kochs and their allies. “They want ineffective, weak unions,” he said, adding, “A lot of these bills didn’t directly affect our private sector members, but we realize that we would be the next.”

In an interview, Mr. Walker called that a “bogus argument,” saying he has no plans to pursue right-to-work legislation, as private sector unions have feared. Such legislation lets employees at unionized workplaces opt out of paying union fees.

“Private sector unions are my partners,” he said. Mr. Walker said that in restricting collective bargaining rights for government workers, save those in public safety, he was confronting a reality facing virtually all state governments with aging, unionized work forces: “We can’t sustain our budgets unless we make some reasonable changes.”

Mr. Walker said charges that he is doing the bidding of wealthy supporters like the Kochs are “the biggest joke out there.”
IMAGE CREDIT: Grandpa John's.

UPDATE: Walter Russell Mead has more: "Walker Gains in Wisconsin: NYT Shields Readers From Distressing News."