Tag: union busting

No surrender

No surrender

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.

Advertisements

Scott Walker is the WCW of presidential politics

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post contains some terms that are used by professional wrestling insiders, such as heel, face, shoot, kayfabe, and stable, that are not used in a normal context. A glossary of professional wrestling terms is available here.


The sudden fall of Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s presidential campaign has caught me, and many other political observers, by surprise. Since not long after Walker survived a recall attempt against him (full disclosure: I was a vocal recall supporter from a neighboring state) in 2012, I pretty much assumed that Walker was going to win next year’s Republican presidential nomination in a cakewalk and be a formidable general election opponent to whoever Democrats nominate. However, in recent polling, Walker has only been polling at a few percentage points in Iowa, where Walker lived part of his childhood.

Molly Ball of The Atlantic magazine has a great piece about Walker’s floundering campaign here. Normally, I would link to Ball’s piece on Twitter and say that anything else I could add is redundant, but I do have something to add. The fall of Scott Walker’s presidential campaign, and possibly the beginning of the end of Walker’s political career, seems eerily reminiscent of the fall of the scripted professional wrestling promotion World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. What I’m about to write is, in professional wrestling vernacular, called a “shoot”, or something (in this case, a blog post) that is unscripted and not part of “kayfabe”, which is the presentation of storylines and matches in a professional wrestling promotion as being real, when, in reality, they’re scripted.

While WCW being in deep debt by early 2001 and AOL Time Warner (now called Time Warner), which was WCW’s parent company in its last years, no longer being interested in professional wrestling actually brought WCW down, WCW lost its way, and much of its audience, in the late 1990’s for a number of reasons:

  • WCW was essentially caught flat-footed by a World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now called World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE) that began using their adult-oriented “attitude” programming style to boost TV ratings for its flagship weekly program, Raw.
  • WCW began rehashing the New World Order (nWo) stable and storyline, which worked very well for WCW for a couple of years in the mid-to-late 1990’s, in a number of different iterations to the point of being repetitive.
  • WCW began alienating its traditional fan base in the southeastern part of the country. In one notable instance, a storyline in which the West Texas Rednecks, a group of wrestlers (stable) with a country music-themed gimmick, were supposed to be the antagonists (heels) to a protagonist (face) stable called the No Limit Soldiers, which was led by rapper Percy “Master P” Miller. However, the storyline backfired on WCW after their fans cheered the Rednecks and booed the Soldiers.
  • On one 1999 episode of WCW’s flagship weekly program, Nitro, WCW announcer Tony Schiavone (under orders from WCW executive Eric Bischoff) gave away the result of a WWF Championship match that aired on a tape-delayed episode of Raw (Mick “Mankind” Foley defeated Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to win the title) on Nitro, which caused many Nitro viewers to tune into Raw in order to see the WWF title match. The Nitro main event that night featured the infamous “fingerpoke of doom”, in which Kevin Nash deliberately laid down after Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea poked Nash in the chest with his finger, and Nash allowed Hogan to pin him and take the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. This is often cited as the beginning of the end of WCW, which folded in 2001.

There are some interesting correlations between what led to the fall of WCW and what has led to Walker’s fall in the Republican presidential caucus/primary polls:

  • Walker (and a lot of other Republican presidential candidates) have been caught flat-footed by the Donald Trump presidential campaign, which has used overt racism and other forms of bigotry to appeal to many of the same racist, far-right voters that Walker would need to win the Republican nomination. Trump’s campaign is, in this regard, analogous to the late 1990’s/early 2000’s edgy programming of the WWF (now WWE).
  • Walker has rehashed his infamous 2011 fight against Wisconsin labor unions repeatedly as a presidential candidate to the point of being repetitive. Walker’s campaign message is, in this regard, analogous to the late 1990’s/early 2000’s WCW rehashing the nWo stable and storyline under various iterations to the point of being repetitive.
  • Walker has dodged questions on, refused to take a stand on, and/or flip-flopped on a number of issues, most notably immigration. This has alienated many conservatives from Walker’s campaign and is somewhat analogous to the late 1990’s/early 2000’s WCW using storylines and gimmicks that their fans did not like or respond in the way that WCW wanted.
  • In a desperate attempt to pander to Trump’s far-right supporters, Walker tried to tack to Trump’s right on immigration by suggesting building a border fence along the U.S.-Canada border. This was quickly viewed as desperate pandering to Trump’s supporters on Walker’s part, and is somewhat analogous to the “fingerpoke of doom” that led to WCW’s demise.

With increasing evidence that Scott Walker’s presidential campaign is tanking (such as recent polls showing low support for Walker within his own party and Walker cancelling a scheduled appearance at the California state Republican convention), Walker has become the WCW of presidential politics.

The State of the American Worker

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!

Scott Walker completely ignores request from Wisconsin teacher to quit talking about her story

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.

As he launches his presidential campaign, Scott Walker compares Wisconsinites to special interests

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.

La Salle County, Illinois Board overwhelmingly opposes Bruce Rauner’s wage theft agenda

With 23 members of the La Salle County, Illinois Board voting in favor of a non-binding resolution opposing Bruce Rauner’s wage theft agenda, 2 members voting in opposition, and 4 members not voting either in favor or in opposition for whatever reason, the La Salle County, Illinois Board has officially adopted a resolution opposing Bruce Rauner’s wage theft agenda:

The La Salle County Board overwhelmingly expressed its opposition to “right to work” laws by passing a resolution with a 23 to 2 vote.

Before the meeting, a crowd gathered outside of the Ottawa Knights of Columbus in support of the resolution. The meeting started about 15 minutes late as supporters of the resolution were filing through security after holding signs outside the meeting.

Many of those labor union supporters, including some wearing green American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees shirts, packed the audience.

The law would give employees the right to decide whether or not to join or financially support a union.

La Salle County is located between Peoria and Chicago, including communities like Ottawa, La Salle, Mendota, Marseilles, and most of Streator. The Illinois River runs through the middle of La Salle County, flowing from east to west in that portion of the state.

The “right-to-work” laws that the La Salle County Board referenced in their resolution are what I like to call wage theft laws, as they allow non-union workers at unionized workplaces to effectively steal wages and other benefits negotiated by labor unions by not paying union dues or other types of fees. To put that another way, wage theft laws are the moral equivalent of shoplifting, and I’m glad that the La Salle County Board told Rauner that a majority of their members oppose his wage theft agenda.

Bruce Rauner gets ZERO support in the Illinois House for his wage theft agenda

Democratic Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan scheduled a vote in the state house on Republican Governor Bruce Rauner’s wage theft agenda, and not a single member of the Illinois House of Representatives voted for the legislation, although most of the Republicans voted “present” instead of actually voting against it, presumably because they’re too scared of actually taking a stance on whether or not they support driving down wages and busting unions or not.

Here’s the official roll call on the legislation. The final tally was 0 Yeas, 72 Nays, 37 voting present, 7 not voting, and 2 excused absences. Democrats have 71 members in the 118-member house, the remaining 47 members are Republicans, and all of those who did not vote at all or had excused absences are Republicans, indicating a nearly party-line vote in which all or nearly all Democrats voted against it and the vast majority of the Republicans voted present.

To put it mildly, this is a massive victory for Illinois workers and a massive defeat for Rauner and his agenda to drive down wages, bust unions, and leave Illinois worse off than when he was sworn into office as governor. I hope the General Assembly remains a strong opponent of the Rauner agenda, as the Rauner agenda is something Illinoisans simply can’t afford.

Illinois State Representatives should vote NO on wage theft bill

On Thursday, the Democratic-controlled Illinois House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on whether or not Illinois should become a right-to-work state, or what I like to call a wage theft state. In a wage theft state, non-union workers at unionized workplaces would be legally allowed to steal wages and other benefits negotiated by the union without paying union dues or some other form of payment. Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has publicly called for legislation allowing for local governments to enact local wage theft ordinances, which Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan believes would violate federal labor laws.

I strongly encourage members of the Illinois General Assembly to vote NO on the Bruce Rauner-Mike Madigan wage theft scheme.

While Madigan, the Democratic state house speaker, hasn’t advocated for the passage of the legislation, the fact that he’s scheduled a vote on wage theft is downright alarming. Wage theft legislation would do absolutely nothing to improve our state’s economy or fix our state’s fiscal problems. Instead, it would drive down wages, make workplaces less safe, create an even bigger burden on taxpayers, cost our state thousands of jobs, and severely hurt our state’s economy. That’s because when wages are driven down, workers have less to spend on groceries, gasoline, and other goods and services, resulting in both the state and the private sector making less revenue.

Bruce Rauner wants to put Illinois in the same league as third-world countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh, from an economic standpoint. Illinoisans simply can not afford Rauner’s corporate agenda of driving down wages, busting unions, and destroying what little of our state’s middle class remains.

Wisconsin Democratic chairperson candidate Jason Rae employed by firm founded by individual that provided money to Koch-funded organizations

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I have made edits to the blog post and title to accurately reflect Nation Consulting founder Thad Nation’s use of a 501(c)(4) organization to give money to right-wing organizations and Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson candidate Jason Rae’s employment by Nation Consulting.

I’ve found information that proves that Thad Nation, Wisconsin Democratic chairperson candidate Jason Rae’s boss at Nation Consulting, has provided money to at least seven right-wing organizations, including at least four that are funded either directly or indirectly by the Koch Brothers. Nation himself was listed in a 2012 IRS 990 filing as the principal officer of Coalition for the New Economy (CftNE), a 501(c)4 organization that opposes government-run broadband internet services in areas where private-sector firms currently provide broadband internet service. CftNE has also given money to at least several right-wing political groups that have actively opposed Democratic and liberal political candidates, have actively supported Republican and conservative political candidates, and/or have advocated for far-right policies that would have a negative impact on America. Here’s the organizations that CftNE has given money to, according to page 17 of the 2012 IRS filing by that organization:

  • $15,000 for “general support” to the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), a right-wing anti-tax organization that has, among other things, effectively supported allowing the U.S. federal government to default on the national debt. NTU has received a total of $32,500 from the Koch Family Foundations from 1998 to 2008, including $5,000 from Charles Koch’s own foundation in 2008.
  • $5,000 for “general support” to the Center for Individual Freedom (CIF), a right-wing organization that spent $1.9 million in television advertising in an attempt to help Republicans win U.S. House races that were seriously contested by both major parties in the 2012 elections. CIF spent a slightly larger amount of money on a similar effort in the 2010 elections.
  • $5,000 for “general support” to Americans for Prosperity (AfP), a far-right political organization founded by the Koch Brothers themselves. In Wisconsin, AfP spent $866,000 in ads designed to help Scott Walker win the 2014 Wisconsin gubernatorial race and approximately $2.9 million in ads in opposition to the 2012 recall effort against Walker that was strongly supported by Wisconsin progressives.
  • $10,000 for “general support” to FreedomWorks, a far-right organization that has, among other things, ran several anti-union campaigns in states like Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and supported far-right extremist Chris McDaniel, who, among other things, blamed rap music for many of our country’s problems, in his unsuccessful 2014 Republican primary challenge to U.S. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi.
  • $5,000 for “general support” to Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), a right-wing organization that was founded by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) and, among other things, opposes taxation and supports privatizing Social Security. IPI has received $35,000 from the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, which is identified by the Center for Media and Democracy’s SourceWatch as one of the four Koch Family Foundations. IPI is the only one of the organizations listed in the CftNE filing that is a 501(c)(3) organization; all of the others are listed as 501(c)(4) organizations.
  • $15,000 for “general support” to the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA), a right-wing organization that has, among other things, attacked the federal government over the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, two of the largest cable television providers in the country.
  • $14,740 for “general support” to the 60 Plus Association (60 Plus), a right-wing organization funded by Koch Brothers-funded organizations like Freedom Parners and American Encore as part of a complex web of Koch Brothers-funded organizations. In Wisconsin, 60 Plus ran this advertisement attacking now-Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin for supporting the Affordable Care Act (ACA), federal legislation that provided millions of Americans with health insurance.

That’s a total of $69,740 that Thad Nation has, through CftNE, provided to right-wing organizations that have supported Republicans like Scott Walker, ran smear campaigns against Democrats like Tammy Baldwin, and have supported far-right policies that would make America a much worse place to live. Thad Nation is also the same person who employs Jason Rae as a senior associate at Nation Consulting, and Rae is running for Chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. If Rae is elected DPW Chair, it would be at least an apparent conflict of interest for someone like Rae to be the head of a state-level Democratic organization if he were to remain employed at Nation Consulting, because the founder of that organization was the head of a 501(c)(4) organization that gave money to groups that support Republicans and their destructive far-right agenda.

Let me finish this post by saying two things about Rae and his supporters. One, Rae’s supporters are some of the most vile people I’ve ever interacted with online. Two, Rae completely lacks the temperament to be in a Democratic Party leadership position of any kind.

Scott Walker’s new wage theft law is shipping Wisconsin jobs to Minnesota

You want to know how bad wage theft (i.e., right-to-work) legislation is for states that enact them? Well, Wisconsin, which is the most recent state to enact a wage theft law thanks to Scott Walker and his Republican allies in the Wisconsin State Legislature, just lost some construction jobs to Minnesota due to Wisconsin becoming a wage theft state:

Before Walker signed the wage theft bill into law, Pat Garofalo, a Republican member of the Minnesota House of Representatives who has publicly opposed right-to-work laws, authored an official letter inviting Wisconsin companies who are owned by people who oppose wage theft for whatever reason to move their jobs to Minnesota, where workers’ rights are more protected than they are in Wisconsin. Now, because of the wage theft legislation in Wisconsin, at least one company that I’ve been made aware of has moved their jobs from Wisconsin to Minnesota.

Busting unions and driving down wages does absolutely nothing to create jobs, and Scott Walker’s Wisconsin is proof of that.