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Collective Bargaining Rights Threatened Across the Country

It's not quite clear what makes this year different from all other years when it comes to worker's rights, but states across the country are making moves to "restrict or eliminate collective bargaining rights of public workers," with a force that has not been seen before. In an interview with NPR, Jeanne Mejeur

The fight in Wisconsin has led to recall efforts of 6 GOP state senators, where the law has not been enacted yet, but similar laws have been passed in other states as well.

Legislation in regards to collective bargaining does not have to be an all or nothing issue. Nebraska could serve as a positive role model for other states battling with collective bargaining bills, as legislators and public employee unions were able to work together to draft legislation that truly was a compromise. While public employees still made quite a few concessions it protected the practice of collective bargaining and upheld the Commission of Industrial Relations as "an unbiased third party that, when asked, will review the facts and render a fair ruling." If more states could follow this cooperative model, perhaps it could eliminate some of the "bitterly partisan" tension that's surrounds the upcoming recall elections

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Wisconsin Senate Passes Restrictive Voter ID Bill

The state Senate in Wisconsin voted today to approve a bill that would require voters to show photo identification at the polls, a law which, if signed by Governor Walker as is expected, could be in effect for the upcoming recall elections in July and August.

The bill will make major changes to voting rights, including the requirement for photo identification that will be the most restrictive in the country. The bill also limits the period for absentee voting to two weeks prior to an election (currently 30 days), in addition to other changes. Read more about the bill here.

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From Wisconsin to DC: Gov. Walker is on the Move

It all started in Wisconsin. Now Governor Walker and his cronies are on the march to DC to join forces with the ultra conservative DeVos family and other donors who are working to privatize and dismantle our public education system.

Where will it end? We can’t allow these kinds of efforts to go unanswered, so we’ve launched a public tribute where people can stand by our teachers against these attacks. Click here to join us.

Governor Walker specifically talked about expanding his proposal to privatize schools and encourage parents to take vouchers rather than send their kids to public schools. We were there on Monday with hundreds of other activists in DC when Gov. Walker took the stage alongside the infamous Michelle Rhee. Gov. Walker was invited to give a keynote address at a conference about privatizing education. Check out the pics below to see what was waiting for him when he got there.



We all know Gov. Walker’s history of attacks against middle-class families and unions. Walker’s target list is ever-growing and now he’s focused on our teachers and our public schools-- trying to deny teachers a voice and trying to strip them of their rights and their jobs.

Our teachers help us find our passion, inspire us, and push us to do better. They play a big part in our life, and many of them stay in our hearts long after we leave their classroom. They deserve our public support, and they need to know we’re standing by them in this fight.

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GOP Attacks Falter but Progressives Must Press On

A Wisconsin Circuit Court judge has issued a temporary restraining order against Governor Walker's anti-collective bargaining bill.

Judge Maryann Sumi was appointed by Republican Governor Tommy G. Thompson which should offset any spirited conservative complaints that her decision was strictly partisan.  Instead, it's quite the opposite.  She points out that the violation of the open meeting law in passage of this bill--which was, of course, a strictly partisan attack--will likely invalidate it.  Conservatives are planning a swift appeal as April 5th looms on the horizon.  On that day, it is expected that Wisconsin citizens will return to the voting booth and issue a referendum on Walker's policies.  Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, a passionate and uncommonly vocal supporter of Governor Walker, will be on the ballot for reelection.  This is a strong opportunity for Wisconsin's best to rally together and stand up against the conservative overreach. 

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New Legal Measures to Help FL and WI Govs get off Scott-Free

Alongside efforts to stifle voices of reason and to destroy current campaign financing laws, conservative forces are also forcing measures that rapidly expand their power to control the philosophy of other areas of government.

Florida Governor Rick Scott and the conservative legislature are considering measures that will split the Florida Supreme Court into two separate tribunals, one dealing with criminal proceedings and the other with civil.  If enacted this bill will allow Governor Scott to appoint three new justices, ensuring that the conservative power players in Florida's executive and legislative branches can protect their actions by creating three brand-new conservative voices on the Supreme Court.  With current efforts to cripple collective bargaining rights and force burdens onto the poor, the foresight to guarantee Supreme Court cooperation is as shrewd as it is sickening.

Unpopular Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has likewise expanded his ability to establish new political appointees to include the legal counsels in civil service jobs.  With a Walker appointee in place, citizens' efforts to gain access to government documents will be susceptible to the whims of the Governor himself.  Like Governor Scott, Governor Walker is providing himself with future legal cover to accomplish whatever his Koch-influenced agenda dictates, in spite of his lack of public support.

It may be unfair to call these power grabs unprecedent -- they're sadly far too commonplace in the political arena -- but they're certainly dangerous.  And before we know it, these governors may just get off scott-free.

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Wisconsin Rallies Spread

As Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's approval ratings collapse, union forces around the country are preparing to mobilize in what some writers hail as a "Labor renaissance." In spite of the disapproval of 60% of Wisconsin voters, Walker remains adamant in his quest to stifle and limit the rights of state employees and is sassily dismissing requests to converse and cooperate from Democratic leaders.

Meanwhile, in Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida, union supporters are rallying together in solidarity for Wisconsin and to oppose their states' GOP tactics that are designed to punish unions under the guise of balancing budgets. Bills designed to tax the poor, cut funding to education, and inhibit the jobs of police officers are all in the works alongside corporate tax breaks. Rather than heed President Obama's call to invest in the future through education and infrastructure, Republican governors seem content with reverting to tactics of a bygone era. To illustrate the GOP's foolhardy approach to expanding long term growth, consider the following example:

In response to the success of Amazon's Kindle and other e-readers, Barnes and Noble trimmed the fat and closed stores but also set aside necessary funding for technological innovation and advancement. The short term costs and red lines on the budget paid off in their recent development of the Nook. A similar company, Borders recognized the trend toward technology but decided that rather than prepare for the future, it was important to first balance the budget and get their financial affairs in order. They closed store after store in a desperate attempt to limit expenses despite the fact that they were not creating any new opportunities to take in revenue. Barnes and Nobles remains a successful company because they invested in the necessary technology and education to provide for the coming years. Meanwhile, Borders faces bankruptcy. The so-called business minded GOP governors need to take a cue from their counterparts in the private sector and reinstate funding for education and technology. Otherwise, they may find themselves like many of the people they've laid off-out of a job.

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A Message from AV President Joan-Fitzgerald on the Struggle in Wisconsin

Dear America Votes Supporter,As you watch events unfold in Wisconsin, please be aware that the very same scenario is ready to play out all across the Midwest. In many respects the Democratic members of the Wisconsin Senate that have fled the tyranny of their new governor are doing it for working people in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Indiana. But America Votes and our partners aren't going to let this happen without a fight (link to video). If the right to collective bargaining is eradicated with the stroke of Governor Walker's pen, the core of the middle class will be at the mercy of hostile legislatures who can change the terms of their contracts and working agreements for any reason.Our state director in Wisconsin has been working non- stop, without sleep, to coordinate the efforts to stop this bill from going forward. Phone banks have been set up and manned to get calls out informing people of the effort at the Capitol. Sites have been chosen for marches and demonstrations and America Votes' partner organizations are supplying the volunteers. We are proud to be a part of this effort to stop the erosion of worker's rights in Wisconsin.America Votes' directors in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan are readying themselves and their partner organizations for this struggle as well. We have worked in these states for the past 7 years and can bring a broad coalition to stop this effort to undermine the middle class. Please help me today to bolster our work in these critical states. Your donation of will go a long way to support these people who are standing up for all of us. We are providing much needed water and food to volunteers.As we are inspired by the resolve of the people of Wisconsin, we must be prepared in other states where these bills are ready to be introduced. Your help will strengthen our work, which allows greater coordination in this struggle.In the words of Mother Jones who spent her entire life fighting for the dignity of the working man in the face of the murders of the Ludlow Massacre:"Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living!"In solidarity,Joan Fitz-GeraldPresident, America Votes

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Harold Meyerson takes Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to task in the Washington Post today for his inconceivable attack on public employees' rights.

Meyerson writes:

In Egypt, workers are having a revolutionary February. In the United States, by contrast, February is shaping up as the cruelest month workers have known in decades...

Last Friday, Scott Walker, Wisconsin's new Republican governor, proposed taking away most collective bargaining rights of public employees. Under his legislation, which has moved so swiftly through the newly Republican state legislature that it might come to a vote Thursday, the unions representing teachers, sanitation workers, doctors and nurses at public hospitals, and a host of other public employees, would lose the right to bargain over health coverage, pensions and other benefits...

The real goal of the American right is to reduce public employee unions to the level of private-sector unions, which now represent fewer than 7 percent of American workers. Walker's proposal not only confines public-sector unions to annual bargaining over wage increases but restricts the increases for state employees to raises in the consumer price index and compels every such union to hold an annual membership vote to determine whether the union can continue to represent workers. It clearly intends to smash these unions altogether.

Progressives are fighting back in Wisconsin.  Thousands rallied in Madison in support of public employees.  The Madison public schools are closed today, as teachers called off sick in droves to come to downtown to protest.  While Republicans have control of the state legislature and the governorship, they won't be able to ram through such an attack on public employees without a fight.

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