The hunt for a union-friendly, Democratic candidate committed to restoring collective bargaining rights to pre-Gov. Scott Walker status is under way, with the state’s largest unions — reportedly to a much greater extent than ever before — working together on plans to throw their collective weight behind one candidate.
“Right now, there is communication occurring between unions to coalesce around one candidate, much more so than has ever been done in the past,” says Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin and a lieutenant with the Madison Fire Department. “In the past, unions have independently talked to their members and then made endorsements. But this time, the unions will endorse who they think is the best … a candidate that will restore collective bargaining rights.”
While Mitchell’s name was floated for some time as a possible candidate for governor, he said Monday he is more inclined to run for lieutenant governor. Along with Walker, organizers also gathered signatures to recall Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch as well as a number of Republican state senators.
Marty Beil, executive director of the state’s largest public employees union, says the unions are “looking for someone who will champion the fight … and the fight is to restore dignity and respect to Wisconsin’s workers and to return Wisconsin to the people. We need someone with a spine, a backbone, who will take the lead in championing the rights of workers in this state and the interests of the middle class.”
Although there was at times surprisingly little talk about Act 10 (the bill that repealed most public employee bargaining rights) and unions in the recall campaigns against some state senators this past summer, potential Democratic candidates against Walker say it will be central in a gubernatorial recall election this year. Barca says he “would be astounded if anyone would run and not make it a cornerstone of their campaign.”
But collective bargaining isn’t the only issue on the minds of Walker foes.
Jim Palmer, head of the 8,000-member Wisconsin Professional Police Association, says: “We need a candidate that can beat Scott Walker. But having said that, that candidate’s platform can’t just be about restoring collective bargaining rights. Restoring collective bargaining rights should be the cornerstone of the candidate’s campaign, but their platform must be broader.”
It’s a message Erpenbach says he has been stressing in his meetings with union leaders. He says that while collective bargaining is by far the “most important issue,” as it’s a move he sees as a dangerous step toward privatizing state government, there are numerous other problems with Walker’s first year in office.
Among those are efforts to kick thousands of families off BadgerCare, changes in state law to put more power in the executive office, cuts in state aid to public schools and the passage of the voter ID law.
Unfortunately for the unions, the people of Wisconsin have had the chance to see that the reforms implemented in the last year are working. So no matter who the unions choose to be their puppet (notice its not people who are Democrats choosing), the people of Wisconsin will see through the “straw man” arguments put forth in the coming months by their candidate.
- Wis. Democrats still searching for Walker opponent (mercurynews.com)
- Scott Walker and Rush Limbaugh – Transcript (freedomeden.blogspot.com)
- Why Cheer For Scott Walker (brvanlanen.wordpress.com)