By Tracy Leone, Iowa Federation of Labor
On Tuesday and Wednesday, February 24-25th, AFLCIO members in Iowa and across the country phone banked to Wisconsin to encourage voters to contact their state senators and ask them to oppose the just-introduced Right-to-Work Bill.
Governor Walker had claimed during his re-election campaign last November that he was not interested in passing a RTW Bill. But that all changed last Friday when Republican Senate Leader Fitzgerald introduced Senate Bill 44, and announced that he would fast-track it through the Senate in an extraordinary session. An extraordinary session expedites the legislative process and limits the amount of time allowed for debate or amendments. It also limits the amount of time opponents to a bill can organize and lobby their legislators against a bill. Which is exactly what was intended when it was introduced on a Friday and scheduled to be voted on in the Senate the following Wednesday.
Despite this attempt to sneak the bill through without public scrutiny, on Tuesday when the Senate Labor Committee held a hearing to collect public testimony, those registered in favor of the bill were 25, five were neutral, while 1,751 were opposed. However, most of the opponents’ testimony was unheard, as Senate Republicans ended public testimony 30 minutes ahead of schedule.
On Wednesday, as the bill was being debated in full Senate, callers in the Quad Cities and Waterloo made hundreds of calls into Wisconsin. CWA 7108 Steve Abbot, CWA 7777 member Sheila Lieder, CWA 7110 member Sofia Simons, USW 105 members Amber St. Clair, Brad Greve, Jay Saxon and Jennifer Trout, Illinois AFSCME 1132 Dan Deshane and UA 25 member Joshua Schipp made calls throughout the day and into the night urging Wisconsin voters to contact their Senators to oppose this bill.
Thanks to theirs and others’ efforts, one Republican Senator, Jerry Petrowski, did vote against the bill saying that he was “not convinced the supposed benefits of passing this bill will materialize and offset a potentially disruptive impact on our economy.”
Unfortunately, his single vote across the aisle wasn’t enough. At just passed 9:35 pm Wednesday evening, after more than 8 hours of debate, the Senate voted 17-15 to pass the bill. The State Assembly will take the bill up next week, and Governor Walker says he’ll sign it.
CALLS WILL CONTINUE INTO WISCONSIN: In the coming days, the AFLCIO will continue to contact voters in Wisconsin urging them to contact their State Representatives who will debate the bill next week. If you are interested in calling into House Districts in Wisconsin to urge them to oppose this bill, please contact Tracy Leone: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2011, Governor Scott Walker and the Republican controlled General Assembly pushed through a bill that gut public sector bargaining rights. At the time they claimed it was not union busting, that it was about balancing the budget, and that they were not going to come after private sector union rights. We knew then that was a lie, that the so-called Budget Bill, was nothing more than an attack against the public sector unions in Wisconsin.
It led to months of protests that saw an occupation of the Capitol Building and tens of thousands of people streaming in and out of the Capitol, from unions across the country, standing with their Brothers and Sisters in Wisconsin. It was an incredible show of solidarity that reignited the Labor Movement in the US. The story got so much press that even people in Egypt, which was experiencing its own pro-democracy uprising, sent messages of solidarity and ordered pizzas to be delivered to the people who occupied the Capitol.
Following is the text of a speech delivered at the AFLCIO Rally for Workers Rights, held at the Wisconsin State Capitol Building steps, February 25, 2015, by Phil Gruber, Machinists Union, Midwest Vice President.
[watch video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vP6B6FeKPAk&feature=youtu.be]
It hasn’t been easy these last four years in Wisconsin. We’ve endured some of the worst times that labor has seen in decades. And we just keep waking up to that same damn nightmare.
Twenty-three days short of four years past, I stood on these very steps of this capitol on a cold winter’s day and said to you, “Make no mistake, my brothers and sisters, if Scott Walker is allowed to crush collective bargaining for public employees in Wisconsin, it will only be a matter of time before the private union sector is attacked and the dominoes will fall.”
Well, here we are. The dominoes have fallen, and all of organized labor is under a full scale attack. This will end up being one of the darkest chapters in organized labor’s history if Wisconsin becomes the 25th state to succumb to the right to work for less law. Their goal, their ultimate goal, is to eliminate your voice, and that’s bullshit.
We as the union, Brothers and Sisters, are the last bulkhead keeping them from total control. And the only way that we are going to stop the right to work laws and the other forms of legislation that hurt the middle class is to stand still.
That’s right, I said stand still. I think it’s about time that we stop the production in this country. Let’s stand still.
Let’s stop the trucks from moving freight across this country. Let’s stand still.
Let’s stop the planes and the trains from moving people. Let’s stand still.
I’m getting sick and tired of coming to these rallies, singing Kumbaya, and end up getting screwed. It’s time we take action, Brothers and Sisters. It’s time we take action.
These politicians will take every damn thing left away from us, and I’m not gonna let that happen to me. Every person that carries a union card, or used to carry a union card, we need to band together and stop this crap from happening.
Are you with me? Are you with me? Let’s do something and stop just talking about it.
Solidarity Brothers and sisters!