Tag: wage theft

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.

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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.

Repealing prevailing wage laws: A blatant effort to drive down wages

The Republican-controlled Indiana General Assembly recently passed legislation to repeal that state’s common construction wage law, efforts are underway in Wisconsin to repeal that state’s prevailing wage law, and Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has made repealing our state’s prevailing wage law a major priority of his right-wing corporate agenda. Prevailing wage laws require construction and other types of workers on taxpayer-funded projects to be paid the prevailing wage in the area in which the work is being done.

While Republicans and conservatives claim that repealing prevailing wage laws would save taxpayers money, Iowa, which neighbors both Illinois and Wisconsin, has proven that to be absolutely false. In Iowa, a state that does not have a state-level prevailing wage law, the per lane-mile cost of maintaining state-maintained roads was $5,732 in 2012. In Wisconsin, which currently has a state-level prevailing wage law, the per lane-mile costs of maintain state-maintained roads was $4,341, or $1,391 less expensive per lane-mile than Iowa, in 2012.

Prevailing wage laws do nothing more than drive down the wages of workers on road construction and other publicly-funded projects and allow construction companies to pad their profits at the expense of workers and taxpayers. Driving down the wages of workers, whether it be construction workers and other types of workers, also hurts the overall economy, because workers whose wages drop have less money to spend on goods and services, which results in businesses not being able to make as much money selling goods and services.

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.

Wisconsin Democrats and progressives, I’m proud of you all

Sadly, the Wisconsin wage theft (i.e., right-to-work) bill has passed both chambers of the Wisconsin State Legislature and is expected to be signed into law by Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

However, I’m proud of how Wisconsin Democrats and progressives spoke out and fought against the wage theft legislation.

I’m proud of Scott Wittkopf, Julie Wells, and the rest of the team at the Forward Institute, Wisconsin’s progressive think tank, for encouraging progressives to use better messaging against horrible wage theft legislation. You have been wonderful advisers of the Wisconsin progressive movement, and I hope that more progressives take your group’s advice.

I’m proud of Lori Compas of the Wisconsin Business Alliance, Wisconsin’s progressive business group, for exposing the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the main right-wing business group in Wisconsin that supported the wage theft legislation, as an organization that represents very few of its own members. You are truly the heart, soul, and brains of the progressive movement in Wisconsin, I wish there were more people on the face of this Earth that are as cool as you are.

I’m proud of Rebecca Kemble of The Progressive magazine for filming testimony and state legislative speeches in opposition to the wage theft legislation. You have truly been the eyes and ears of the progressive movement in Wisconsin, and I hope you win your election to the Madison Common Council next month.

I’m proud of those who protested, testified, blogged, posted on social media, and/or otherwise spoke out against the wage theft legislation in Wisconsin. Those who spoke out against wage theft include Heather DuBois Bourenane, Lisa Mux, Cheri Goetz, Jeff Smith, Randy Bryce, Jennifer Epps-Addison, Phil Neuenfeldt, John “Sly” Sylvester, John Nichols, Jenni Dye, Zach Wisniewski, Chris “Capper” Liebenthal, Meg Gorski, and countless others. Thank you all!

Last, but certainly not least, I’m proud of Wisconsin State Legislative Democrats for strongly opposing wage theft legislation from the moment Republicans signaled their intent to enact the legislation until the final vote was cast in the state assembly. Your opposition to the wage theft bill in Wisconsin is some of the strongest opposition to anything I’ve seen from Democrats in a long time.

I’ve never been prouder of a group of people than I am of Wisconsin Democrats and progressives who strongly opposed the wage theft legislation. To use a phrase that the odious Joe McCarthy turned into an epithet many decades ago, I’ve been a fellow traveler of the Wisconsin progressive movement despite being a lifelong Illinoisan who has never been to Wisconsin. I would love nothing more than to be able to visit Wisconsin someday in order to meet those wonderful Wisconsinites who stand for progressive values.

PROVISIONAL ENDORSEMENT: Jeff Smith for Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson

I’m provisionally endorsing Jeff Smith’s campaign for Chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW). Please note that my endorsement of Smith for DPW Chair is only a provisional endorsement and not a full endorsement at this time, since I’m only endorsing Smith provided that a potential candidate for DPW Chair, Lori Compas, does not enter the race for DPW Chair. If Compas runs for DPW Chair (which is not likely, since it’s been a while since she stated that she was considering a run and hasn’t said anything about whether or not she’ll run since then), I will pull my endorsement of Smith and endorse Compas instead, while, if Compas does not run for DPW Chair, my provisional endorsement of Smith will automatically become a full endorsement of Smith.

Smith has some excellent ideas for reviving the currently moribund Democratic Party of Wisconsin, which is barely relevant in Wisconsin politics nowadays due to current DPW Chairman Mike Tate and others in the failed Democratic establishment badly mismanaging the state party, and making the party, whose list of former statewide elected officials includes people like Gaylord Nelson, Bill Proxmire, Pat Lucey, Tony Earl, and Russ Feingold, great once again. Some of Smith’s ideas include more support for Wisconsin College Democrats chapters to help the party reach out to young voters more effectively, making the DPW’s messaging more progressive, and making the DPW less dependent on political consultants who are more interested in getting payoffs from the party and its donors than doing anything to actually help Democratic candidates.

Mike Tate, who is not running for re-election for DPW Chair, is one of many individuals in the DPW who are responsible for the DPW being in so much disarray. Tate was the one who hand-picked corporate hack and Jim Doyle crony Mary Burke to run against Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker last year, and, in the process, Tate single-handedly turned Burke, who tried to run for governor as a political outsider, into the ultimate political insider, which destroyed what little chance she had of defeating Walker. Sadly, that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Tate’s mismanagement of the DPW.

While I’m not a Wisconsin resident (I live in Illinois, and we could certainly use better, more progressive Democratic leadership here, although trying to pry the Illinois Democratic Party out of the hands of Mike Madigan is nearly impossible), the election for Chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin has massive national implications, because Wisconsin could very well determine which party wins control the White House and the U.S. Senate in next year’s elections. Of the candidates currently running, I believe that Jeff Smith is the best candidate for DPW Chair, and that’s why I’ve provisionally endorsed Smith’s campaign. This year’s DPW Convention, which will select the next DPW Chair, will be held on June 5 & 6 at the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee, and DPW members who are selected as delegates to the state convention by their home county’s Democratic Party chapter will be able to vote for DPW Chair.

Only 6.4% of members of a pro-wage theft business group in Wisconsin support wage theft legislation

Scott Manley, an official with the right-wing, pro-wage theft business group Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, claimed in a public hearing held by a Wisconsin State Senate committee that 300 of the WMC’s 3,800 members responded to some sort of inquiry by the group as to whether or not they support right-to-work-for-less legislation, also known as wage theft legislation, and that 81% of them support the legislation.

81% of 300 members in a group that has 3,800 total members is, rounded to the nearest tenth of a percent, only 6.4% of the total membership of the group. Yes, you’re reading that correctly…only 6.4% of the total membership of the main right-wing business organization in Wisconsin support the Wisconsin Republicans’ wage theft bill.

In case you’re wondering how I came up with that figure, I didn’t pull it out of my rear end. Instead, I made two calculations with Windows Calculator:

  • 0.81*300 = 243, meaning that 81% of 300 is 243.
  • 243/3800 = 0.0639473684210526, meaning that 243 of 3,800 is 6.4%, when converted to a percentage and rounded to the nearest tenth of a percent.

To put that another way, one of the largest organizations that is pushing the Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Legislature to allow non-union workers to effectively steal wages and other benefits negotiated by a labor union without paying for those benefits in the form of union dues or fair-share fees with support from only 6.4% of its members. This is not lost on many Wisconsinites, in fact, Lori Compas, the executive director of the Wisconsin Business Alliance (WBA), the main progressive business organization in Wisconsin, called local chambers of commerce in seven Wisconsin State Senate districts that are represented by Republican state senators, the 1st (Frank Lasee), 2nd (Robert Cowles), 10th (Sheila Harsdorf), 11th (Stephen Nass, who ended the public hearing early over rumors that an Hispanic group in Wisconsin was going to exercise the group’s First Amendment right to free speech in a public place), 13th (Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald), 23rd (Terry Moulton), and 29th (Jerry Petrowski, currently the only Republican state senator who intends to vote against the wage theft bill), and Compas could not find a single local chamber of commerce in those seven Wisconsin State Senate districts that was publicly willing to support the Wisconsin wage theft bill. Compas’s piece on her findings, which she published to the WBA’s website, is a fine example of investigative journalism. In fact, Compas’s piece has been republished in full by Steve Hanson of the progressive blog Uppity Wisconsin and featured in an online article published by the Milwaukee-area alternative newspaper Shepherd Express.

Let me make this point 100% clear: Very few people and groups in the Wisconsin business community are advocating for wages to be driven down and unions to be busted, in fact, it appears to me that the only individuals and groups in the Wisconsin business community that are advocating for wages to be driven down and unions to be busted are those individuals and groups who have a considerable amount of political influence over the Republicans that control Wisconsin’s state government.

A tale of three Wisconsin Democrats on economic messaging, part two

You may remember a blog post I wrote late last year on here in which I compared the political messaging of three Democratic members of the Wisconsin State Legislature, State Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, and State Representative Melissa Sargent, when it comes to so-called “right-to-work” legislation, which is actually wage theft legislation since it allows non-union employees at a shop in which wages and other benefits are determined by a collective bargaining agreement between organized labor and management to effectively steal wages and other benefits without paying for them in the form of union dues.

Now, that Wisconsin Republicans are formally pushing to implement wage theft legislation in Wisconsin, I’d figure I’d analyse the press releases that Barca, Shilling, and Sargent sent out earlier today.

Here’s the key part Barca’s press release:

“Governor Walker has called so-called ‘Right to Work’ legislation a distraction and apparently that’s exactly what he wants. By rushing to pass Right to Work in less than a week, clearly the governor and Republican legislators want to distract from how destructive their budget is for Wisconsin’s workers, students and middle-class families.

“Wisconsin is already lagging behind most of the nation in jobs and wage growth and ‘Right to Work’ would only make things worse. In fact, the average worker in Right to Work states makes between $5,000 and $6,000 less than the average worker in other states. And calling an extraordinary session will make the budget disaster Republicans have created worse since we’re already scheduled to be in session the following week anyway. What’s the emergency?

Here’s the key part of Shilling’s press release:

Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling released the following statement regarding the call for an extraordinary session of the Legislature to take up so-called “Right to Work” legislation:

“It is absurd that Republicans would fast-track legislation to interfere with private business contracts and lower wages for all Wisconsin workers at a time when our state is facing a massive $2.2 billion budget crisis.

Here’s the key part of Sargent’s press release:

“Let’s call this what it really is. Plain and simple, this is a wage theft bill,” stated Rep. Sargent.

[…]

“It is important that the treatment of our workers reflects the challenges and dangers that they face on a daily basis. This proposal would also suppress wages for the true profit creators, the workers, which are already growing at a slower rate than the national average, and further polarize our state,” continued Rep. Sargent.

“People struggling to find work and stay in the middle class do not need this divisive legislation. Instead, we should be supporting workers’ rights and helping to build the economy. I know that workers deserve the freedoms that unions provide. The freedom to take a sick day if they need to get well or help take care of a family member, the freedom to earn a family sustaining wage, and the freedom to work in a safe environment are things that I will always fight for.”

While Barca and Shilling are talking about the negative effects of wage theft legislation, such as driving down wages and interfering with negotiated contracts, they’re still primarily referring to the legislation as “so-called right-to-work” legislation, which does nothing more than reinforce the right’s absurd talking point about union busting and wage theft. Sargent, on the other hand, is referring to right-to-work legislation as “wage theft” legislation, which reinforces the notion that such legislation allows non-union workers to effectively steal union-negotiated wages and benefits without paying for them, is referring to workers and consumers as “profit creators” (after all, without people earning salaries, there’d be nobody to buy goods and services and help businesses prosper), and is talking about the various freedoms that unions and workers’ rights provide. I find Sargent’s messaging, which is recommended by the Forward Institute, a Wisconsin-based progressive think tank, to be far more effective than the messaging that most other Democrats use.