Tag: union

Scott Walker compares progressives to right-wing terrorists and touts junk science about Ebola

Wisconsin Governor and likely Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker compared progressives and labor union members to ISIS, a right-wing Islamic fundamentalist terror group at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an annual gathering of conservatives in the United States:

We need have someone who leads and ultimately will send a message that not only will we protect American soil, but…freedom-loving people anywhere else in the world. We need that confidence,” (Walker) said. “If I can take on a hundred thousand protesters, I can do the same across the world.

First off, regarding Walker’s claim that his political base consists of “freedom-loving people”, a claim that he’s made multiple times since he’s made it 100% clear to the people of his home state of Wisconsin that he wants to be president, Walker has made it clear to me that, if elected President, he wants to continue the Republican tradition of supporting freedom for people in foreign countries while taking freedom away from the American people. That’s not freedom-loving, that’s hypocrisy!

More importantly, I found Walker comparing progressives and labor union members to a group of Islamic fundamentalists who have beheaded Americans in the Middle East downright offensive and absolutely absurd. The 100,000+ people who descended on the Wisconsin State Capitol four years ago to protest the union-busting bill now known as 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, or Act 10 for short, weren’t out to kill anybody; they were out to voice their opposition to driving down wages and busting unions. To compare progressives and labor union members to a group of right-wing terrorists is false equivalence, pure and simple!

Additionally, as progressive blogger and possible 2016 Wisconsin State Senate candidate Chris “Capper” Liebenthal pointed out, Walker also claimed at CPAC that Ebola, a deadly virus that spreads through contact with bodily fluids, can be cured with aloe, a common ingredient in shampoo and skin moisturizer. In reality, Walker’s claim is false, since there is currently no cure for Ebola (although research to find a cure is ongoing), and methods of treating Ebola are currently very limited. I certainly wouldn’t want Walker making health care decisions for me or anybody else!

Scott Walker has made one absurd claim and comparison after another since he’s made it clear that he wants to be president. What’s next for Walker? Claiming that the U.S. should appease Israel more often because Robin Vos and Scott Fitzgerald helped him implement a far-right agenda in Wisconsin? Claiming that he can take on Vladimir Putin and Russia because he watched the movie Rocky IV? Claiming that he can take on Kim Jong-un and North Korea because he mandated forced ultrasounds for Wisconsin women who want to have an abortion? Walker frightens me!

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The Progressive Response to the State of the State of Illinois Address

Earlier today, Bruce Rauner, the Republican governor of our state that we instinctively know as Illinois, outlined his plan to drive down wages, infringe on the rights of Illinois workers, and destroy an already weak Illinois economy.

Prior to giving his State of the State address, Rauner went around the state using PowerPoint slides to publicly bash our state’s public employees, whine about public employees being, in his view, overpaid, spread lies about worker’s rights and public employee pay, and blame public employees for our state’s fiscal problems. Additionally, it was reported yesterday that Rauner strongly hinted that he wants to eliminate collective bargaining rights for our state’s public employees. Given that Rauner has given his top administration officials pay raises and appointed a $100,000/year chief of staff to his wife despite the fact that his wife has no official duties whatsoever, for Rauner to give his cronies pay raises while wanting to drive down public employee salaries is blatantly hypocritical.

In his State of the State address, Rauner called for gutting our state’s workers’ compensation system, lowering property taxes while our state and local governments have billions of dollars in unpaid bills, allowing local governments and/or voters to bust unions at the local level, prohibiting project labor agreements, eliminating prevailing wage laws, and privatizing public education to benefit his political cronies. Rauner did have a few good ideas that he talked about in his address to the people of Illinois, such as banning trial lawyer donations to judicial campaigns, merging the offices of state comptroller and state treasurer, and increasing funding for early childhood education.

While there is no disputing the fact that our state is in a fiscal mess for a large number of reasons, the primary reason why our state is in such a fiscal mess is because the wealthiest Illinoisans, such as Rauner himself, don’t pay enough state income taxes thanks to an ridiculous provision in the Illinois Constitution that prohibits the General Assembly from passing legislation to tax the incomes of wealthier Illinoisans at a higher rate than the incomes of poorer Illinoisans. The flat tax requirement in the Illinois Constitution prohibits our state from raising the revenues that would be needed to pay off our state’s unpaid bills and put our state on solid financial footing. I would strongly support a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution to allow the General Assembly to levy a progressive state income tax in order to raise income taxes on the wealthiest Illinoisans, cut income taxes for the poorest Illinoisans, and put our state’s finances back on track. Additionally, I would strongly support eliminating all tax breaks for businesses, such as the ridiculous tax break that Sears and CME Group received a few years ago, as this would also bring in more revenue to the state that can be used to pay off unpaid bills.

Regarding public employee pensions, another reason why our state is in a fiscal mess, I would strongly support a pension reform proposal that would phase out the current public employee pension systems in our state, but still allow public employees who have paid into the current pension systems to still receive the benefits they’ve earned once they retire, and require all new state and local elected officials, appointed officials, and hired public employees who receive a full-time salary but had not previously paid anything into the current public employee pension systems in our state to pay into a newly-created public employee pension system that is designed to be fully-funded and provide our state’s future elected officials, political appointees, and public employees with a steady retirement income once they retire. Make no mistake about it, I will strongly oppose any pension reform proposal that cuts benefits for those who have currently paid into the pension systems, creates a 401(k) system for public employees, and/or turns an existing pension system into a 401(k) system.

Regarding cutting spending, I would support an audit of the entire state government and every single county, township, city, town, village, and other type of local government entity in our state in order to find actual wasteful spending and propose common-sense solutions to cut actual wasteful spending and help save the state money in both the short term and the long term. Make no mistake about it, I will strongly oppose cuts to public education, social services, and other government services that reduce the quality of service by our state and local government agencies.

Regarding strengthening our state’s economy, I strongly support raising the state minimum wage here in Illinois to $15/hour and indexing automatic, annual minimum wage increases to productivity. Additionally, I strongly support creating a North Dakota-style economic development bank here in Illinois to issue and/our guarantee loans to factories, farms, small businesses, and other types of businesses that have to be repaid in full with interest. These two proposals would lift thousands of Illinoisans out of poverty, establish a minimum wage that values work, and help entrepreneurs start up new businesses and create jobs without pocketing government benefits to simply pad profits. Busting unions and driving down wages is something I strongly oppose because those policies would do absolutely nothing to strengthen our state’s economy or empower Illinoisans.

Regarding campaign finance, ethics, and government reform, while a federal constitutional amendment to repeal the Citizens United v. FEC U.S. Supreme Court decision that helped Rauner and his cronies buy the last gubernatorial election would be required to allow Illinois to enact meaningful campaign finance reform, I strongly support eliminating the conflicts of interest that are currently allowed by our state’s campaign finance system, such as a couple of conflicts of interest that Rauner mentioned, prohibiting unions from donating to candidates for public office that they’d have to collectively bargain with if said candidates are elected and prohibiting trial lawyers from donating to judicial candidates, and one that Rauner did not mention because he’s effectively opposed to it, prohibiting business owners and managers from donating to candidates for public office that could use the public office in question to directly benefit said business owners and managers if elected. Additionally, I would support setting the maximum campaign contribution for a statewide office here in Illinois at $250 and enacting even lower limits for state legislative and local offices. Additionally, I strongly support implementing a pair of public campaign finance systems, one for judicial elections and one for other non-federal elections. The judicial public campaign finance system would prohibit judicial candidates from receiving campaign contributions from other people and/or funding their own campaigns, require that all judicial candidates receive a set amount of campaign funds from the state, and require that judicial candidates receive the same amount of campaign funds from the state that their opponents receive. The public campaign finance system for other offices would allow candidates for those offices to receive $4 of state funding for every $1 they receive in contributions and/or self-fund their campaigns with. Additionally, I would support enacting what I like to call the Bruce Rauner Rule, which would outright prohibit candidates for statewide office here in Illinois from donating or loaning more than $100,000 of their own wealth to their campaign, and set even lower self-funding limits for other offices. On term limits, I would support limiting the offices of governor and lieutenant governor to one elected term, limiting the other state executive offices to two elected terms, limiting state senators to five elected terms, and limiting state representatives to eight elected terms, and anything stricter than that would receive my opposition. Some other government reform ideas I support include allowing Illinois voters to recall all non-federal elected officials, converting the Illinois General Assembly into an unicameral legislature with at least 177 members via a state constitutional amendment, and amending the Illinois Constitution to establish a truly non-partisan redistricting process for congressional and state legislative districts.

Regarding reforming the criminal justice system, I strongly support legalizing, taxing, and regulating recreational marijuana, which would reduce the incarceration rate in our state and provide our state with much-needed tax revenue. Additionally, I’m open to various ideas to reform the criminal justice system in order to make our prison system more about rehabilitating convicted criminals instead of simply punishing them and make our criminal justice system more fair. For example, one idea that I strongly support would be requiring independent investigations of deaths that occur in the hands of state and local police here in Illinois.

Regarding education, I strongly oppose implementing school voucher programs here in Illinois, expanding charter schools, or any other school privatization scheme. I strongly support repealing Common Core State Standards and replacing them well-rounded, developmentally appropriate K-12 academic standards developed by the state and are held accountable by measures other than assessments and standardized tests. Additionally, I strongly support getting rid of the emphasis on career preparation in K-12 education, since I believe that career preparation should be the responsibility of higher education institutions, not the K-12 system. Also, I strongly support increasing funding for public schools in our state and making our state’s K-12 school funding system fairer to poorer school districts.

Illinoisans are worth more than speeches, political buzzwords, and PowerPoint presentations about driving down wages, busting unions, and making our state’s economy even weaker than it currently is, and Illinoisans are certainly worth more than Bruce Rauner’s far-right policies to drive down wages, bust unions, and destroy our state’s economy. It’s time for Illinoisans to push for progressive policies to protect workers’ rights, strengthen our state’s economy, put more money into the pockets of poor and working-class Illinoisans, provide a world-class education system for our state’s K-12 and college students, and provide for a more perfect Illinois.

A tale of three Wisconsin Democrats on economic messaging

Most, if not all, Democratic members of the Wisconsin State Legislature are opposed to so-called “right-to-work” legislation that allows non-union members to benefit from union contracts without paying union dues, but, when it comes to conveying their opposition to right-to-work legislation that Republicans intend to propose in Wisconsin sometime after the new state legislature is sworn in, some Democrats are using different messaging than others.

Peter Barca, the Minority Leader of the Wisconsin State Assembly from Kenosha, is mostly railing against political polarization in his opposition to right-to-work legislation:

After (Republican State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald) indicated the Senate would move quickly on right-to-work, Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca called on Gov. Scott Walker to bring discussions to a halt.

Barca, a Kenosha Democrat whose district includes a portion of Racine County, said the issue would be too polarizing when the parties should focus on working together.

“I call on Gov. Walker to put the brakes on this divisive issue that clearly will damage Wisconsin’s middle class,” Barca said in a statement. “As the governor himself previously indicated, this would be an extremely polarizing policy at a time when we should be working together to improve Wisconsin’s economy.”

Jennifer Shilling, the Minority Leader-designate of the Wisconsin State Senate from La Crosse, is trying to play the “Republicans in disarray” card in her opposition to right-to-work legislation:

Both Barca and Shilling are using the wrong kind of messaging when it comes to opposing so-called “right-to-work” legislation, since they’re mostly talking about things like political polarization and division (or perceived division) within the Republican Party of Wisconsin and not talking about how terrible the legislation would be for Wisconsin. In fact, I’ve seen far too many Democrats try to duck certain economic issues entirely in their messaging.

One state legislator in Wisconsin who is using messaging that actually attacks right-to-work legislation is Melissa Sargent, a very progressive Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Assembly from Madison. Earlier this month, Sargent slammed right-to-work legislation by calling it “wage theft” legislation and referred to consumers, who, by spending money on goods and services, are responsible for the vast majority of economic activity in this country, as “profit creators”:

By referring to so-called “right-to-work” legislation as “wage theft”, Sargent is criticizing right-to-work legislation itself for what it really is: a right-wing plot to drive down the wages and benefits of workers. By referring to consumers as “profit creators”, Sargent is emphasizing that, when workers earn money at their jobs, they stimulate the economy by spending it on groceries, gasoline, and other goods and services. Sargent is using the recommended messaging of the Forward Institute, a Wisconsin-based progressive think tank led by, among others, Scott Wittkopf and Julie Wells, when it comes to opposing right-to-work legislation, and Sargent is the only Democratic state legislator in Wisconsin that I know of who has used at least some of the Forward Institute’s economic messaging.

There are both right ways and wrong ways to oppose right-to-work legislation, which is the moral equivalent of legalizing shoplifting because it allows non-union workers at any given workplace to benefit from the wages, benefits, etc. negotiated by a labor union without paying for the wages, benefits, and so on in the form of union dues.

Wisconsin Republican state legislator plans to introduce right-to-work-for-less bill, calls for general strike begin

Chris Kapenga, a far-right Republican member of the Wisconsin State Assembly from Delafield, intends to officially propose a right-to-work-for-less bill sometime after the new Wisconsin State Legislature is sworn into office next month, although Kapenga hasn’t set a timetable for when he’ll introduce the legislation in the state assembly. Furthermore, Republican leaders in both chambers the Wisconsin Legislature have signaled that they’re open to making passing a right-to-work bill a priority in the 2015-2016 legislature.

Let me make this absolutely clear: Right-to-work-for-less legislation would do absolutely nothing to help Wisconsin’s economy and business climate. As I’ve stated before, right-to-work-for-less legislation, if enacted, would drive down wages, put thousands of Wisconsin families into poverty, decrease the amount of revenue that Wisconsin receives from taxpayers, drive an even bigger hole into the Wisconsin state budget (which already has a huge budget deficit), hurt economic growth in Wisconsin, and cost Wisconsin thousands of jobs.

Already, there’s calls from supporters of worker’s rights in Wisconsin for a general strike if and when right-to-work-for-less legislation is enacted:

Make no mistake about it, Wisconsin Republicans want to bust unions even further as part of their plan to enact every bit of their destructive far-right agenda. This isn’t a time for compromise for Wisconsin Democrats and progressives, this is a time for fighting for progressive, pro-worker, and pro-middle class values!

It’s official: Wisconsin right-wingers now pushing for right-to-work-for-less legislation

It’s official: The right-wingers in Wisconsin are now pushing for even more union busting in Wisconsin.

Lorri Pickens, a former political operative for the Koch Brothers front group Americans for Prosperity (AfP), is now leading a front group called Right to Work Wisconsin, whose mission is to convince the Republicans that control the Wisconsin State Legislature to pass a so-called “right-to-work” bill. Other individuals behind this group include Chris Martinson, Kenosha School Board member Bob Nuzzo, and 2014 Wisconsin State Treasurer Republican primary candidate Randy Melchert. This group may have the backing of the Koch Brothers and other big-money Republican/conservative donors.

If enacted in Wisconsin, a “right-to-work” bill would allow public-sector and private-sector workers who are not members of a union to benefit from collective bargaining agreements between management and union workers without joining the union or paying union dues, effectively allowing non-union workers to benefit from the wages, benefits, etc. of union contracts without paying for the benefits. To put that another way, “right-to-work” is actually the moral equivalent of legalizing shoplifting, since allowing non-union workers to not pay for benefits negotiated by unions is just like allowing shoppers at department stores to not pay for clothes, toys, video games, and so on. Additionally, a “right-to-work” bill would drive down wages in Wisconsin, put thousands more Wisconsin families into poverty, decrease the amount of revenue that Wisconsin receives from income taxes, hurt economic growth in Wisconsin, and cost Wisconsin thousands of jobs.

I hope enough Republicans in the Wisconsin State Legislature come to their senses and oppose a “right-to-work” bill, because Scott Walker would sign it into law in a heartbeat if it were to hit his desk and Wisconsin can’t afford it.