Tag Archives: labor unions

Labor unions vow to play a role in 2016 elections

Labor unions, which have seen a decline in power in Wisconsin in the last four years, say they will have a voice during the 2016 election, and they plan to speak up on issues like minimum wage and fair scheduling.

Stephanie Bloomingdale, secretary-treasurer of AFL-CIO Wisconsin, told Appleton Post-Crescent Media that unions are more politically engaged than ever before, partly due to changes in collective bargaining rights passed in 2011 and the more recent approval of right-to-work laws this summer.

“Union members understand what’s at stake right now in 2016 more than they ever have before,” Bloomingdale said. “Families are at a breaking point in terms of their ability to sustain healthy communities. People are angry about this and ready to take action.”

She said union members plan to speak up on issues such as minimum wage, income inequality, paid family leave and fair scheduling. Their message was delivered at Labor Day parades and other gatherings statewide Monday.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union membership has steadily dropped in Wisconsin in the last 10 years. In 2004, 16 percent of workers belonged to unions, compared with 11.7 percent in 2014.

Labor unions regularly support Democratic candidates over Republicans. Between 2000 and 2014, labor groups gave $541 million to Democratic candidates compared to $51 million to Republican candidates.

Michael Bolton, United Steelworkers District 2 director, said he expects an energized labor force when the elections draw near.

AFL-CIO and United Steelworkers District 2 have both endorsed former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold in his Senate race against incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson. Feingold has recently called for a steady minimum wage increase to $15 from $7.25 an hour, while Johnson does not support an increase.

Johnson believes regulations on businesses and “reckless” government spending don’t encourage private growth that helps workers, said Brian Reisinger, a Johnson campaign spokesman. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican candidate for president, also believes a minimum wage increase would cut jobs. He has said he’d rather help bridge a skills gap through technical training.

Bloomingdale said union members will counter that message by knocking on doors, working phone banks and talking with co-workers and friends.

Wisconsin labor unions contribute $64,000 to Republicans

Ten political action committees (PACs) controlled by labor unions that represent police, firefighters, plumbers, carpenters and construction workers contributed about $64,000 during the first six months of 2015 to Republican campaign committees.

The labor PAC contributions to Republicans accounted for about 45 percent of the total $142,350 in labor PAC contributions to all legislative and statewide officeholders and candidates between January and June 2015, which was the same period that the Republican-controlled legislature and GOP Gov. Scott Walker considered and approved prevailing wage law changes and a right-to-work law that were opposed by most unions.

Topping the list of labor unions that contributed to Republican statewide and legislative officeholders was the Wisconsin Pipe Trades PAC, which gave $36,000, including $30,000 to Walker and $6,000 to the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee (RACC). RACC is used by Republican Assembly leaders to raise money from special interests to spend against Assembly Democratic legislators and candidates in elections.

The Milwaukee Police Association PAC, which is one of the few labor unions that has been a longtime contributor to mostly Republican legislative and statewide candidates, contributed $11,000 to GOP fundraising committees, including $6,000 to RACC, $3,500 to the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate (CERS), $1,000 to GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, of Juneau, and $500 to Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel. CERS is used by Republican Senate leaders to raise money from special interests to spend against Democratic state senators and candidates in elections.

Rounding out the top three labor PACs that gave to Republicans was the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin Local PAC, which contributed $7,000, including $6,000 to RACC and $1,000 to CERS.

The top Republican recipients of labor PAC contributions between January and June 2015 were Walker, $32,500; RACC, $24,000; and CERS, $4,500.

In March, Walker and majority GOP legislators approved a right-to-work law, which prohibits requiring workers to make payments to labor unions as a condition for employment. In July, Walker and the legislature approved a 2015-17 state budget that repealed the state’s prevailing wage law as it applies to local government projects.

Where Scott Walker stands on key issues as of today

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has shifted his stances on everything from the federal ethanol mandate to Common Core education standards to immigration reform as he positions himself for a presidential run. Here’s where he stands on some key issues as of today, July 3.

IMMIGRATION

As early as 2002, Walker supported creating a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally. Now he doesn’t. He attributed the shift to his conversations with border-state governors and voters nationwide. “My view has changed. I’m flat out saying it,” Walker told Fox News in March. “Candidates can say that. Sometimes they don’t.” He’s open to granting legal status short of citizenship to many people in the country illegally. But he’s also questioned whether the current policy on legal immigration makes economic sense, suggesting he might side with those who believe high numbers of immigrants — legal or not — suppress wages.

FOREIGN POLICY

A weak link in his presidential resume. To address that, he has traveled overseas four times this year. His visit to Israel in May was tightly controlled, with no public appearances. He stumbled rhetorically at times during a more public London tour earlier. Oddly, in an otherwise well-received speech to conservatives in February, he said his experience taking on thousands of protesters in his state helped prepare him to confront terrorists abroad. Walker has also said that his Eagle Scout training had prepared him for the role of commander-in-chief. He speaks hawkishly about the U.S. conducting pre-emptive strikes to prevent what he insists are certain future attacks on the U.S., although he’s offered no specifics, such as which countries he’d strike and why — only that he would strike somewhere on the globe.

SOCIAL ISSUES

Walker, the son of a Baptist minister, opposes abortion rights, including in cases of rape and incest. As governor, he signed into law a bill requiring women to have an ultrasound before having an abortion. He also supports a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. Walker also opposes same-sex marriage, even though he’s had a large number of key advisers who are gay and even attended the wedding of a gay relative. Still, Walker called the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states a “grave mistake” and said he’d support a Constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. Walker opposed the death penalty until 2006, when he switched positions, saying he believed that if DNA evidence proved the guilt of a person, the death penalty was justified. Wisconsin does not have the death penalty. The National Rifle Association gives his gun-rights record a 100 percent rating. In June, Walker signed a bill removing a 48-hour waiting period for handgun purchases. Walker also legalized the carrying of concealed weapons in 2011. He supports the drug-testing of welfare recipients and allowing people who get food stamps to only use them to purchase approved items.

EDUCATION

Walker supports Wisconsin’s first-in-the-nation school voucher program, under which taxpayers will pay for students to attend private rather than public schools. That would transfer money from public schools to for-profit schools, including religious schools and schools that have no education standards and no access for the disabled. Walker has extended the program statewide after its start in Milwaukee and Racine, and this year proposed eliminating enrollment caps. Walker cut money to K-12 public schools by $1.2 billion in his first budget, the largest reduction in state history. He called for cutting about $127 million from schools in the first year of his most recent budget, but the Republican Legislature rejected that. Walker’s position has varied on Common Core academic standards. He never explicitly advocated for them, but in his first state budget in 2011 he called for statewide tests that were tied to the standards. By the middle of 2013, Walker was calling for a halt to further implementation of the standards, and in July 2014 he called for a repeal even though it’s up to local school districts whether to adopt them. His budget this year prohibits the state superintendent from forcing local school districts to adopt the standards and calls for new standardized tests.

LABOR UNIONS

Walker proposed, just six weeks after taking office in 2011, that public employees except for police and firefighters pay more for pension and health care benefits, and only be allowed to bargain collectively over base wage increases no greater than inflation. Outrage over passage of that law led to Walker’s 2012 recall election, which he won. This year, Walker signed a right-to-work bill into law, after saying during his re-election campaign that the issue would not come up because it was a distraction. Right-to-work laws prohibit unions from requiring workers to join or pay dues. Walker this year also proposed eliminating tenure protections for University of Wisconsin faculty and staff from law as part of a broader proposal to make the university independent from state oversight and regulation. Walker has referred to that as the higher education version of the law he signed affecting state workers four years ago.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Walker has not made climate change a focus of his campaign, but he has spoken at the Heartland Institute, a group that denies man-made climate change. Walker also joined more than a dozen other coal-reliant states suing the Environmental Protection Agency to block the so-called Clean Power Plan, which would require states to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Walker has also signed the “no climate tax” pledge to oppose any legislation that would raise taxes to combat climate change. Walker’s administration called for the firing of scientists who work at the Department of Natural Resources on issues related to climate change.

Are you missing out on our ticket giveaways and free discount coupons? Simply like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Obama touts federal overtime rule in Wisconsin

President Barack Obama put a political edge on his push for more overtime pay for U.S. workers on July 2 by touting it in Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker has made a name for himself by clashing with labor unions.

Walker, who is expected to officially announce his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination the week of July 13, greeted Air Force One as it landed in La Crosse.

They shook hands and chatted amiably on the tarmac.

But Walker has already criticized the overtime proposal Obama’s Labor Department made earlier this week.

The plan would make nearly 5 million more American workers eligible for overtime pay.

Early in his tenure as governor in 2011, Walker burnished his credentials with conservatives in his party by pushing for a law to limit the collective-bargaining rights of public sector employees. He survived a union-backed recall election in 2012.

Obama’s proposed overtime rule is widely opposed by businesses and could face legal challenges, but it was heralded by workers’ groups. Labor unions are a traditional ally of Obama, a Democrat, though that relationship was tested in June in Congress in a struggle over international trade.

Carrying the overtime-rule fight into Wisconsin gave Obama a chance to mend fences with unions, which last month unsuccessfully opposed his quest for “fast-track” power to craft a proposed 12-nation Pacific Rim trade treaty.

“The change in this overtime rule in a way that could potentially allow up to 5 million Americans to get a more fair paycheck, again, is an illustration that most of the time, when it comes to fighting for middle-class workers, the Obama administration and organized labor are on the same side,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on July 1.

Editor’s note: Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton.

Labor is an equality ally

Wisconsin has received worldwide attention over the massive protests against Gov. Scott Walker’s so-called “Budget Repair Bill.” Although its name suggests the bill is budget-related, the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau found many elements are nothing more than sweeping policy changes that are not related to the budget at all.

The item receiving the most attention is Walker’s attempt to essentially eliminate 50 years of collective bargaining rights for public employees. The LGBT community has had a steady friend in Wisconsin’s labor movement and it should take a stand for labor in its hour of need.

Labor unions in Wisconsin were among the first to join Fair Wisconsin and others in fighting the 2006 constitutional amendment banning marriage equality and civil unions. AFSCME, one of the largest public employee unions, was the first of many to pass a resolution opposing the discriminatory amendment. Other unions also showed their support for equality in many ways that were critical to that fight.

In 2009, labor unions were again quick to rally to the side of equality in supporting our landmark domestic partnership registry. It is no wonder that Fair Wisconsin executive director Katie Belanger recently declared solidarity with Wisconsin’s unions to a national television audience on MSNBC.

Many unions have been on the forefront of fighting for their LGBT union brothers and sisters and making sure they are treated fairly. This includes the continuing fight for domestic partner benefits for LGBT workers. Those benefits were won for City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee Public School workers only after Equality Wisconsin organized union members to demand them in collective bargaining.

Equality Wisconsin notified its 5,000 supporters that if Walker’s bill passes, unions will no longer be able to bargain for domestic partnerships. In fact, the unions’ ability to meaningfully bargain on anything will essentially be eliminated.

Many of the same people who charged that national healthcare reform was being “rammed down our throats” after a year of debate now suddenly support fast-tracking Walker’s bill to eliminate 50 years of labor law. The Republicans’ original plan was to pass the measure in only five days. Republican legislators held a public hearing but ended up cutting off people and not allowing others to speak.

The process was slowed when all 14 Democratic state senators left the Capitol and the state in order to prevent a needed quorum. This has provided the public with more time to examine this extremist legislation.

And the longer it’s examined, the more damaging it appears.

If Walker’s bill becomes law, it will destroy the strength of Wisconsin labor unions, among the LGBT community’s strongest allies for equality.