I proudly endorse ironworker, U.S. Army veteran, and cancer survivor Randy Bryce for the Democratic nomination in the 1st Congressional District of Wisconsin, which is currently held by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan. Normally, when I endorse a political candidate, I mention the candidate’s background and/or political ideology, as well as criticize his or her political opponents. However, I’m simply going to share this web video from the Bryce campaign instead, since it’s one of the best web videos I’ve ever seen a campaign for public office in the United States produce:
Tag: organized labor
I haven’t written much about Illinois state politics in recent months, largely because there’s not much going on due to the ongoing state government shutdown.
However, the website of The New York Times has published this report on how a handful of wealthy individuals, some of which aren’t Illinois residents, are holding the state of Illinois hostage by way of big-money politics:
In the months since, Mr. (Kenneth C.) Griffin and a small group of rich supporters — not just from Chicago, but also from New York City and Los Angeles, southern Florida and Texas — have poured tens of millions of dollars into the state, a concentration of political money without precedent in Illinois history.
Their wealth has forcefully shifted the state’s balance of power. Last year, the families helped elect as governor Bruce Rauner, a Griffin friend and former private equity executive from the Chicago suburbs, who estimates his own fortune at more than $500 million. Now they are rallying behind Mr. Rauner’s agenda: to cut spending and overhaul the state’s pension system, impose term limits and weaken public employee unions.
Many of those giving, like Mr. Griffin, come from the world of finance, an industry that has yielded more of the new political wealth than any other. The Florida-based leveraged-buyout pioneer John Childs, the private equity investor Sam Zell and Paul Singer, a prominent New York hedge fund manager, all helped elect Mr. Rauner, as did Richard Uihlein, a conservative businessman from the Chicago suburbs.
In short, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, who spent tens of millions of dollars of his own money on his gubernatorial campaign last year, also spent millions upon millions of dollars of money from a handful of wealthy individuals, and now Rauner is holding Illinois hostage by demanding a Scott Walker-style far-right economic agenda that would hurt Illinois’s economy in return for a functional state government.
To the Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly and the people of Illinois, I have two words for ya’ll: No surrender! Illinois cannot afford busting unions, driving down wages, making it harder for working Illinoisans who are injured on the job to get workers’ compensation benefits, cuts to pension benefits, and every other item of right-wing economic policy that would hurt Illinois’s economy by taking away disposable income from Illinois consumers. Illinois cannot afford surrendering to Bruce Rauner and his big-money cronies from the finance industry.
On this Labor Day, the 122nd Labor Day commemorated as a federal holiday, the state of the American worker is not good.
Over the past few decades, the American worker has had to deal with stagnant wages that haven’t kept up with inflation or increasing productivity, free trade policies that have cost America millions of jobs, union-busting efforts at all levels of government, a lack of true workplace equality, and increasingly rampant income inequality.
The wages of the American worker have been stagnant, while prices of goods and services have risen, and the productivity of the American worker has risen. Simply put, the amount that workers are paid in this country hasn’t kept up with the costs of providing for their families or their own productivity. I support raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and indexing the minimum wage to productivity, in order to set a minimum wage that values work, instead of valuing a low-wage economy.
The “global trading regime”, as anti-worker U.S. Representative Ron Kind of Wisconsin once described free trade policies, has resulted in the loss of millions of American jobs to foreign countries over the past few decades. Free trade agreements like NAFTA and other free trade policies like Most Favored Nation status for China have resulted in American companies moving jobs to countries like Mexico and China, so that those companies can pay workers low wages. I support repealing free-trade policies and restoring the constitutional ability of the federal government, as outlined in Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution, to unilaterally set tariffs and other U.S. international trade policies.
Over the past few decades, politicians, most of them Republicans, have tried, both successfully and unsuccessfully, to bust unions and weaken the power of the American worker. Some of the more notable examples of this include the busting of the air traffic controllers’ union by then-President Ronald Reagan in the early 1980’s and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker stripping collective bargaining rights from Wisconsin public employees four and a half years ago. I strongly support the existence of labor unions and the right of unionized workers to collectively bargain for higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions. However, the right-wing wage theft agenda also includes other measures to weaken the power of the American worker, such as repealing prevailing wage laws. I strongly support prevailing wage laws and other laws designed to protect the American worker.
The American workplace is still far from equal. Working women are, on average, still paid considerably less than working men, and unemployment rates for black and Hispanic workers are still considerably higher than those for white workers. Even worse, many employers are still discriminating in their hiring practices based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and, believe it or not, military service. I strongly support strengthening equal pay for equal work laws and prohibiting all forms of workplace discrimination.
Over the past few decades, income inequality has become one of the most serious issues facing our country. The top 1% of income-earners in this country now control nearly half of the nation’s wealth, while the middle class is being destroyed, and more and more people are entering the ranks of the poor. Government policies like tax cuts for the wealthy and corporate welfare for large corporations and major sports teams are major reasons why income inequality has become a serious issues in this country. I support raising the federal income tax rate on those who make over one billion dollars per year to 70% and eliminating federal income taxes on those who make less than $25,000 per year.
Because of the weakening of labor unions, corporate greed, and government policies that bust unions and encourage corporate greed, the state of the American worker is not good. However, enacting more progressive policies when it comes to the minimum wage, workers’ rights, international trade, workplace equality, and wealth distribution, we can rebuild America’s middle class, lift millions of Americans out of poverty, and make the American worker better off!
Megan Sampson, an English teacher at Wauwatosa East High School in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, has repeatedly been used by Republican Wisconsin Governor and presidential candidate Scott Walker as the face of his union-busting Act 10 bill. Act 10, among other things, stripped teachers and most Wisconsin public employees of the vast majority of their collective bargaining rights.
However, Walker has been using Sampson’s story, which I’ll explain in detail in the following paragraph and only mention once on this blog, without permission from Sampson. Sampson has repeatedly denied Walker permission to use her story because she doesn’t want to be seen as a political figure, and she’s offended by Walker using her as a posterchild for Walker’s far-right political agenda.
In 2010, Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) laid off Sampson, and Sampson was hired by the Wauwatosa school system not long afterwards. Both of those events occurred before Act 10 became law in Wisconsin in 2011. After she was hired to teach in Wauwatosa, MPS offered Sampson to return to MPS as a teacher, but Sampson refused the offer because she was employed to teach in Wauwatosa.
Walker has claimed that Sampson was hired in Wauwatosa after Act 10 became law in Wisconsin. As I stated in the above paragraph, this claim by Walker is false. Additionally, Walker has claimed that Sampson was honored by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) with a Outstanding Teacher of the Year award for her work for MPS. In reality, DPI gave four Wisconsin teachers outstanding teacher awards for 2010, but not Sampson, and Sampson received an outstanding first-year teacher award from the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English (WCTE), a non-profit organization whose membership is composed of English teachers in Wisconsin who wish to join the organization.
Since I started blogging a few years ago, there have been instances where people have contacted me and asked me not to use their name, likeness, quotes, stories, etc. in my blog posts, and I have respected their wishes. The fact that Scott Walker has continued to use the story of Megan Sampson in an inaccurate manner and, more importantly, without her permission proves that Walker has zero respect for his fellow Wisconsinites. If Walker can’t respect the people of his own state, he’s not going to respect the American people if he’s elected president.
At the end of June of this year, AFSCME Local Council 31’s contract with the State of Illinois expired, leaving workers represented by the largest public employee union in Illinois without a contract. Since then, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has only made nominal efforts at negotiating with AFSCME, refusing to concede much of anything to AFSCME and not acting serious at all about collective bargaining.
However, Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly have an opportunity to end Rauner’s cavalier attitude toward the public employees in Illinois and collective bargaining, once and for all…they can override Rauner’s veto of Senate Bill 1229 (SB1229), legislation that would authorize an arbitrator to decide the contract that would go to AFSCME Local Council 31-represented state employees to be voted on.
As it turns out, Democrats may have enough votes to override Rauner’s veto, especially in the state senate:
Senate President JOHN CULLERTON, D-Chicago, has already said the Senate will vote this week on an override. Presumably, the chamber could succeed. The Senate voted 38-17 to approve the bill. It would take 36 votes to override.
The House is a different story. The vote there was 67-25 in May. It takes 71 votes in the House to override.
But 17 House members, all but two of them Republicans, took a walk. They didn’t vote on the bill. That includes most of the Republicans from the Springfield area, who represent large numbers of state workers. They can always take another walk on an override, but in the meantime, they’ll probably get pressure from constituents to support an override — just as they’re likely to get pressure from Republican leadership to support their governor and vote against it.
Looks like the fight on whether or not to put an end to Rauner’s cavalier attitude toward the largest public employee union is in the state house. If you live in Illinois, this is a great opportunity to contact your state legislators and tell them to vote YES to override Rauner’s veto of SB1229. This bill does not violate the Illinois Constitution, nor does it undermine democracy. What it would do is put a mechanism in place to prevent strikes by, and lockouts of, public employees by allowing an arbitrator to decide on a contract if the governor and a public employee union can’t agree on one, in this case, due to the governor refusing to seriously negotiate with the largest public employee union in Illinois.
Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) are agreements between a governmental body, whether it be the federal government, a state government, or a local government, and one or more labor unions that gives the unions the ability to collectively bargain for wages and benefits for workers on a publicly-funded project, such as road construction or construction of government buildings.
In Glen Carbon, Illinois, a coal mining community-turned-St. Louis, Missouri suburb in Madison County, Illinois, workers had to fight for their right to a PLA after anti-union forces tried to repeal an ordinance authorizing PLAs not long after the original ordinance was enacted.
On June 9th of this year, the Glen Carbon village board (Glen Carbon is legally incorporated as a village under Illinois law) voted to require PLAs on village construction projects by a 4-2 vote, despite the fact that the village president, Rob Jackstadt, has publicly opposed PLAs. Jackstadt responded to the vote for PLAs for scheduling a vote to repeal the pro-PLA ordinance for July 14, and that’s when the unions showed up before the Glen Carbon village board to tout the benefits of PLAs.
The unions’ primary argument in favor of PLAs was that they prevent labor stoppages from delaying work on public projects. Mark Johnson, the president of Operating Engineers Local 520, cited an example of union workers working without a PLA on a private-sector construction project (specifically, a Sam’s Club bulk-item store in Edwardsville) in his defense of PLAs:
You’re looking at 11 labor agreements trying to function on the same job site…It works, but it doesn’t work as well as these PLAs do. Instead of 11 agreements, you have one blanket agreement covering everybody.
Another argument that the unions used in defense of PLAs is that workers on projects covered by a PLA are paid more than non-union workers in the same type of work. Raymond Hunt, an ironworker from Glen Carbon, said this before his hometown’s village board:
The unions are the best thing going…They take care of their people. The non-union people – they work for nothing. They can be fired in a second. If the boss doesn’t like what they’re doing, doesn’t like them personally, they just get rid of them. I’ve seen a lot of it happen. The union people are dedicated and do a good job.
Only two people showed up at the Glen Carbon village board meeting to argue the anti-PLA position. One of them, Jamie Wilkinson, was an official of some kind for Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC), a trade association that has backed Republican politicians and publicly opposed union construction. Wilkinson publicly dissed union workers by saying that he thought that they were not the only qualified labor force.
Thanks in no small part to the brilliant campaign waged by unions and union workers to keep PLAs in Glen Carbon, the Glen Carbon village board voted 4-2 to keep the pro-PLA ordinance they had enacted a little more than a month earlier on the books. PLAs result in fewer workplace disputes and put more take-home pay in the pockets of hard-working workers.
By my definition of a “fascist”, Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker is a fascist. That’s because Scott Walker meets every single one of the 14 points of fascism, as compiled by political scientist Dr. Laurence Britt in 2004:
- Powerful and Continuing Expressions of Nationalism – In his presidential announcement speech (transcript here), Walker repeatedly talked about his patriotic love for America and used it to advocate for a far-right political agenda. While being patriotic in and of itself isn’t fascism, constant displays of nationalism, combined with all 13 of the other points of fascism that I’ll list below, is fascism.
- Disdain for the Importance of Human Rights – As Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker has repeatedly disregarded the human rights of the people of Wisconsin, including stripping rights from workers, women, political dissidents, and voters. Since this point largely goes hand in hand with several of the other points of fascism, I’ll explain this in more detail in points 5, 8, 10, 12, and 14.
- Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – Walker and his political allies have repeatedly used progressives and others who have protested Walker’s policies in a non-violent manner as a scapegoat to justify their far-right agenda and (falsely) portray Walker as a strong leader. In fact, Walker himself has openly compared non-violent protesters who have criticized his political agenda to the Islamic fundamentalist terror group Islamic State (IS, commonly called ISIS).
- The Supremacy of the Military/Avid Militarism – During his presidential campaign announcement, Walker repeatedly used veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces to defend his far-right agenda. While Walker and his political allies were enacting legislation stripping collective bargaining rights from public employees in Wisconsin, Walker publicly threatened to use the Wisconsin National Guard, a reserve component of the U.S. Armed Forces, against state legislators that opposed Walker’s legislation.
- Rampant Sexism – As Governor of Wisconsin, Walker and his allies enacted numerous laws that specifically targeted women, including a law prohibiting women who have been illegally paid less than their male counterparts by their employers from suing in the state court system, as well as numerous laws that determine what kind of reproductive health care women can and can’t receive.
- A Controlled Mass Media – While there isn’t formal state control of the mass media in Wisconsin, the corporate-controlled mass media in Wisconsin covers political news in an manner that is very biased in favor of Walker and regularly smears political opponents of Walker.
- Obsession With National Security – Since he started being taken seriously as a prospective presidential candidate, Walker has displayed an obsession with national security, including, as I described above, comparing non-violent protesters to Islamic fundamentalist terrorists.
- Religion and Ruling Elite Tied Together – Throughout his political career, Walker has repeatedly shown complete disregard towards the separation of church and state that is supposed to be mandated by the U.S. Constitution, and Walker often deploys a religious tone on the campaign trail. Walker has repeatedly claimed that God is guiding him through his political career, and he and his allies have expanded school voucher programs designed to give taxpayer money to religious schools as Governor of Wisconsin.
- Power of Corporations Protected – During his time as Governor of Wisconsin, corporate interests have had virtually complete control of Wisconsin’s state government, including writing state laws through a far-right political organization known as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
- Power of Labor Suppressed or Eliminated – I mentioned this in point 4, but Walker has suppressed the power of workers as Governor of Wisconsin, including stripping collective bargaining rights from public employees and allowing non-union workers at unionized places to effectively steal wages and benefits negotiated by a labor union without paying for them in the form of union dues or some other type of payment to the union.
- Disdain and Suppression of Intellectuals and the Arts – Walker and his political allies have repeatedly shown a deep-seeded hatred of intellectuals and the arts, most notably stripping University of Wisconsin System (UW System) professors of tenure protections and cutting hundreds of millions of dollars of funding from UW System institutions of higher education.
- Obsession with Crime and Punishment – As Governor of Wisconsin, Walker’s Wisconsin Capitol Police have illegally and repeatedly arrested non-violent protesters for singing in the rotunda of the Wisconsin State Capitol, which is legally a public forum. Additionally, Walker has refused to even consider issuing pardons to convicted criminals.
- Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – As Milwaukee County Executive and Governor of Wisconsin, corruption and cronyism have been and are absolutely rampant on Walker’s watch. Political allies of Walker have frequently been appointed to various government posts on the basis of being political allies of Walker, and, as Milwaukee County Executive, five of Walker’s allies were convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, crimes involving stealing taxpayer money intended for providing for veterans and their families, campaigning on government time, and illegally funneling campaign donations to Walker’s gubernatorial campaign.
- Fraudulent Elections – As Governor of Wisconsin, Walker has enacted voter ID laws designed to keep political opponents of him from voting. Additionally, Walker and his political allies gerrymandered Wisconsin’s congressional and state legislative districts in a manner that his political allies get a considerably higher percentage of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and both houses of the Wisconsin State Legislature than his party’s percentage of the statewide vote.
To fully clarify, in order for one to meet my definition of a “fascist”, one must meet all 14 points of fascism that I displayed above. As I explained point-by-point, Scott Walker fully meets my criteria of a fascist.
Approximately 19 seconds into Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s presidential campaign announcement video, an unnamed narrator for the Walker campaign said that Walker “beat the special interests” over a video clip of progressive protesters supporting the unsuccessful recall attempt against Walker in 2012. At around the 39-second mark of the video, Walker himself spoke in front of the camera and talked about taking “power out of the hands of big government special interests”.
In reality, Walker compared the people of his state to special interests, while allowing special interests like big business interests and the school voucher lobby to benefit from the very big government that Walker rails against.
For Walker to compare Wisconsinites to special interests is not only false, it’s also offensive. More specifically, Walker compared Wisconsin progressives to special interests, and, having followed many of them on blogs and social media for the past few years, I can certainly say that they are not special interests. They’re people who want to make their state and their country a better place to live. They care about their communities, and they support workers’ rights, women’s rights, the middle class, open government, equality, and other progressive ideals. As Meghan Blake-Horst, a co-founder and the market manager of the MadCity Bazaar flea market in Madison, Wisconsin, put it, “Yes, we have special interests in feeding, educating and providing our kids a healthy place to grow up. And running our small businesses.” Comparing people like Blake-Horst to special interests dehumanizes people.
The truth about Walker’s record is that he and his political allies in Wisconsin have given special interests, such as big business interests and the school voucher lobby, effective control over Wisconsin’s state government. Those special interests have, in turn, helped Wisconsin’s state government, among other things, hand out tax breaks to the wealthy, give out tons of corporate welfare to businesses, privatize and cut funding from public K-12 education, cut funding from higher education, strip tenure away from college professors, make it harder for Wisconsinites to vote, make it harder for Wisconsin women to get the reproductive health care they want, bust unions, drive down wages, hurt Wisconsin’s economy, run up massive state budget deficits, and destroyed Wisconsin’s reputation. Martha Laning, the Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW), didn’t mince words one bit in her statement criticizing Walker as he launches his presidential campaign. Laning stated that Walker’s record “is one of unprecedented corruption, division, extremism and a failure to foster economic growth and opportunity”. Laning also took Walker to task over “stagnant” wages in Wisconsin, “job growth that’s dead last in the Midwest and trailing most of the nation”, a corporate welfare agency “that’s known more for scandal than economic development”, and a massive Wisconsin state budget deficit “created by his failed policies”.
While Scott Walker compares the people of his home state to special interests, the truth of the matter is that Walker is beholden to real special interests that own him and his political allies, and they’ve completely wrecked Wisconsin’s economy, reputation, and quality of life. If Walker is elected president, Walker, his political allies, and big-money special interests will turn America into a third-world country by enacting the same far-right political agenda they enacted in Wisconsin.
My fellow Americans,
Sometime tomorrow, Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker will formally launch his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
As someone who has blogged about Walker on a regular basis for the past few years, I’ve come to know Walker as a horrible politician who, with the help of his political allies in the Wisconsin State Legislature, has destroyed Wisconsin’s economy, reputation, and quality of life. In a sane world, Walker’s record as Governor of Wisconsin would be an immediate disqualifier for any future campaign for public office. To give you a description of Walker’s style of politics, if one combined the worst elements of Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, Herbert Hoover, Jerry Falwell, and Grover Norquist, you’d get Walker.
Since taking office as Wisconsin’s chief executive four and a half years ago, Scott Walker has, among other things:
- Stripped collective bargaining rights from public employee unions
- Enacted wage theft laws allowing non-union workers at unionized workplaces to refuse to join a labor union and/or pay union dues despite receiving union-negotiated wages and benefits
- Drastically cut the pay of public employees
- Made it harder for Wisconsin women to seek legal recourse if they’ve been denied equal pay for the same work as their male counterparts
- Established a corporate welfare agency in Wisconsin that is rife with corruption, cronyism, and mismanagement
- Cut funding from public elementary, secondary, and higher education
- Expanded Wisconsin’s school voucher programs that funnel taxpayer money to religious schools
- Made it harder for Wisconsin women to get the reproductive health care they want
- Given out tax breaks to big businesses and the wealthy
- Weakened environmental protections
- Arrested people for singing
- Enacted discriminatory voter ID laws designed to keep Wisconsinites from voting
- Stripped local control from counties and communities in Wisconsin that usually vote for Democratic candidates
- Openly compared the people of Wisconsin to terrorists
- Blatantly violated campaign finance laws
- Given wealthy right-wingers and big business interests virtually complete control of Wisconsin’s state government
Walker’s policies and actions have, among other things:
- Driven down the wages of Wisconsinites
- Stifled economic growth in Wisconsin
- Has made Wisconsin one of the most corrupt states in the entire country
- Lowered the percentage of middle-class Wisconsin households
- Left Wisconsin with severe budget problems
- Made Wisconsin the laughingstock of America
However, we don’t live in a sane world. Walker has been elected Governor of Wisconsin three times in a four-year period against weak, uninspiring corporate Democrats. I believe that, if Democrats do not nominate Bernie Sanders for president, Scott Walker will become the next President of the United States, and, given how he’s wrecked Wisconsin over the past four and a half years, that is a truly scary thought. If Walker is elected president, what little remains of the American middle class and American sovereignty will be completely destroyed, big business interests will completely take over the federal government at every level, America’s federal budget deficit and national debt will grow massively, social safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare will be privatized or outright eliminated, America’s economy will crash again, and corruption will run amok in the federal government.
You can read about Scott Walker’s horrible track record here, here, here, here, and here, among many other places. Furthermore, if you ever get in touch with these people either in person or by other means, you can ask people like Lori Compas, Wendi Kent, Karen Vieth, Kati Walsh, Chris “Capper” Liebenthal, Zach Wisniewski, Kelda Roys, Chris Taylor, Melissa Sargent, Kathleen Vinehout, Rebecca Kemble, Fred Risser, Kelly Westlund, Barbara With, Randy Bryce, Sara Goldrick-Rab, Heather DuBois Bourenane, Ingrid Laas, Sachi Komai, Laura Komai, Jenni Dye, JoCasta Zamarripa, Laura Manriquez, Mandela Barnes, LaTonya Johnson, Angela Walker, Christine Sinicki, Lisa Mux, and Mike McCabe, just to name a few, about what they think about Scott Walker…they’re all Wisconsinites, and they know how horrible Scott Walker’s policies and actions have been for Wisconsin.
As a lifelong Illinoisan and proud progressive, I would walk through fire to vote for the Democratic opponent to Scott Walker if he were to be nominated by the Republican Party for the office of President of the United States if that’s what it took for me to get to the polls.