Madison, Wisconsin -- The Capital Times reported on Tuesday that Koch Industries had quietly opened a lobby shop in Madison. This news comes amid concerns about the influence of the company and the billionaire brothers who lead it, and the bankrolling of multi-million dollar ad campaigns like the one that helped sweep controversial governor Scott Walker into office.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker did not campaign for office calling for the destruction of public unions, but a closer look at his past actions shows that he acted rashly toward union workers before, with disastrous and costly results.
In early 2010, when Walker was Milwaukee County Executive, he fired 26 union security guards who worked at the Milwaukee County Courthouse. They were public employees and were represented by a union, but he fired them anyway, in favor of hiring private security guards. The county board opposed Walker's security-outsourcing move, but he pressed ahead with it anyway, claiming the action was needed due to a budget crisis, to help ameliorate a potential 2010 year-end deficit of around $7 million. After firing the guards, Walker hired private security contractor Wackenhut G4S to provide security services at the Courthouse, as well as two other venues in the county, under a $1.1 million contract.
Madison, Wisconsin -- It's midnight Monday. A quiet snow is falling outside the Wisconsin State Capitol, and clean-cut fire fighters are rolling out their sleeping bags and getting ready to sleep on hard marble floors with students who looked a bit shaggy after five nights of the same. Since Tuesday, February 15, tens of thousands of Wisconsin residents have been flooding the State Capitol in Madison in protest of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's proposed budget "repair" bill that would savage Wisconsin's 50-year history of collective bargaining for state, county and municipal workers. Tuesday, February 22 will be a critical day in the fight. The Wisconsin Assembly will take up the bill, introducing over 100 amendments, starting at 11:00 a.m. and the Republicans in the Senate will attempt to lure their Democratic colleagues back into the state from their undisclosed location by scheduling votes on the bill the Democrats deplore. (Watch floor action on the www.wisconsineye.org Wisconsin Eye website).
In an email sent this week, the "Tea Party Nation" urged members to impersonate SEIU organizers at upcoming labor rallies in an attempt to embarrass and discredit the union and the protestors. Former Tea Party leader Mark Williams urged the plan, according to Think Progress.
The plan includes signing up with the Service Employees International Union, wearing SEIU T-shirts, and then approaching television crews and camera operators with signs that say things like "You OWE me" and "Screw the taxpayer." It also urged tea partiers, in disguise, to make outrageous comments to reporters to make the gathering look "greedy," and undermine the protestor's credibility with the press.
The plan even suggested that it would not matter if Tea Party Nation's planting of operatives became public because "the quotes and pictures will linger as de facto truth."
11:00 p.m. - RUSTBELT REBELLION! LEGISLATORS DESCEND ON THE LAND OF LINCOLN
News reports indicate that legislators in Indiana have crossed state lines to protest votes on legislation that would savage the right of working people to collectively bargain. McClatchy Newspapers summarizes the rustbelt rebellion: "In Wisconsin, where the state Senate has been paralyzed because Democrats fled to block Gov. Scott Walker's attempt to strip collective bargaining rights from government workers, the governor warned he would send 1,500 layoff notices unless his proposal passes. In Indiana, Democrats in the state Assembly vanished, depriving that body of the quorum needed to pass a right-to-work law and limit government unions' powers. And in Ohio, an estimated 5,500 protesters stood elbow to elbow in and outside the Capitol chanting "Kill the bill!" as a legislative committee took up a proposal that would similarly neuter government unions."
Rick Ungar of Forbes.com draws a direct line from the Koch Brothers to the effort to kill public unions in Wisconsin. The Center for Media and Democracy, Mother Jones and other news outlets have already reported that much of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's campaign financing came from the Koch Brothers. After successfully getting Walker elected, the plan to kill unions is next on the Kochs' To Do list. Koch-funded groups like Americans for Prosperity, the Reason Foundation and Competitive Enterprise Institute have all been openly hostile toward public sector unions. For those who still doubt that what is happening in Wisconsin is part of a coordinated, national attack on unions, on February 18, the executive director of the Wisconsin Public Workers Union sent a message to Governor Walker's office saying the union agreed to the cuts in pensions and benefits Walker seeks in his "budget repair" bill. The governor's response? No, not good enough. He is still holding out for nothing less than an end to collective bargaining rights for public unions. Why are the Koch brothers so keen on Wisconsin? They have major business interests in the state, including a coal company, six paper-related plants and a large pipeline network. Even worse for Wisconsin citizens, the Kochs have been laying off workers from their Wisconsin-based businesses even while deriving an extra $11 billion in income from their company, Koch Industries.
It is both ironic and symbolic that Wisconsin's governor is the most visible one leading the way to dismantle workers' rights in the U.S. Wisconsin has been a pioneer in achieving workers's right in America, making Governor Scott Walker's efforts in this state particularly poignant.
In 1959, Wisconsin became the first state in the union to guarantee collective bargaining rights for public employees by enacting a law that protects municipal workers from being fired or otherwise discriminated against for engaging in union-related activities. That law was further strengthened in 1963 to give either the union or the employer the right to call in a "fact finder" to help resolve bargaining disputes. In 1965, Wisconsin's state employees won a limited right to bargain collectively, and those rights were further broadened over the next six years.
TOM MORELLO IN MADISON, THE NIGHTWATCHMAN AND LEAD GUITARIST, RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
MOVE ON CALLS OUT GOVERNOR WALKER
Move On, the Internet activist group, came to the aid of Wisconsin today, calling Walker out for saying he had received "19,000" emails in support of his proposal to end collective bargaining when some 200,000 people had taken to the streets this past week. Move On sent an alert to its Wisconsin members asking them to send an email to Walker letting him know how they feel, stay tuned for the count. Excerpt from the Move On alert:
Madison, Wisconsin -- The Associated Press (AP) has been covering the Wisconsin protests this past week, in a way.
With the wave of cutbacks at papers across the nation, big and small circulation papers rely on the AP for wire stories that are re-published in local papers. It describes itself as "the largest newsgathering organization" in the world. With few national outlets having reporters located in Madison or Wisconsin, the AP is a dominant vehicle for sharing information about what is happening in the state with the rest of nation. The AP is also the dominant news feeder for Yahoo News, and Yahoo is now one of the top five most-trafficked websites in the world. So it matters whether the AP is fairly covering the news, in the headlines and in the bodies of its stories. (The Center for Media and Democracy is on record as a strong critic of corporate media, like the AP.)
In the report Scott Walker Runs on Koch Money, the Center for Media and Democracy's Executive Director Lisa Graves pointed out how the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity helped elect Scott Walker as Wisconsin governor, and how his attack on public sector unions looks like a return on the Kochs' investment. While suppressing workplace democracy will certainly benefit corporate interests by allowing business managers to focus exclusively on increasing shareholder returns (and not getting distracted by employee demands for safe and productive working conditions), attacks on unions will also eliminate barriers to absolute corporate control of our political democracy.