A funny thing may in fact have happened in the course of attempting to bust public sector unions in Wisconsin. Lets take a look:
1.) It’s now seen to be more then blatantly fraudulent on the part of Scott Walker to make the claim that his efforts to strip away collective bargaining rights were solely motivated by fiscal reasons. State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald appearing on Fox News revealed that the motives were largely political. To wit: “In an interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly moments ago, State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-WI), one of Walker’s closest allies in the legislature, confirmed the true political motive of Walker’s anti-union push. Fitzgerald explained that “this battle” is about eliminating unions so that “the money is not there” for the labor movement. Specifically, he said that the destruction of unions will make it “much more difficult” for President Obama to win reelection in Wisconsin. In Fitzgerald’s own words: ”If we win this battle, and the money is not there under the auspices of the unions, certainly what you’re going to find is President Obama is going to have a much difficult, much more difficult time getting elected and winning the state of Wisconsin.” “Scott Fitzgerald publicly admits that the purpose of killing unions is fully political”; http://solidaritywisconsin.com/content/scott-fitzgerald-publicly-admits-purpose-killing-unions-fully-political See also : WI Senate GOP Leader Admits On-Air That His Goal Is To Defund Labor Unions, Hurt Obama’s Reelection Chances; http://thinkprogress.org/2011/03/09/scott-fitzgerald-obama/
Quoting political commentators Sam Stein and Amanda Terkel “It was also a 180-degree reversal by Walker and state Senate Republicans, who have insisted for the past three weeks that the collective bargaining provision was designed to help alleviate the state’s budget problems. State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) had previously said he would not attempt to pass any portions of the bill without Democrats present.” Wisconsin GOP Senators Pass Stand-Alone Anti-Union Bill Without Democrats Present; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/09/wisconsin-gop-plan-advance-anti-union_n_833796.html Thus the legislation was separated from the budget measure on Wednesday to break a three-week stalemate created when the Democratic senators all went to Illinois to deny the chamber the 20-member quorum required to take up bills that appropriate funds. As it has now been shown, the anti-union element of the Walker effort never had anything to do with fiscal matters after all, it was all an elaborate subterfuge. ”Wisconsin Assembly Approves Bargaining Curbs” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/11/us/11wisconsin.html?emc=eta1
2.) Legal challenges are underway and could possibly stymie Walker in the short term. To wit: “Dane County officials have directed county attorneys to take legal action over the state Senate’s passage of a bill taking away collective bargaining rights from public workers. Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk said Thursday that state officials don’t get to choose which laws they’ll follow and when.” ”Hold on: Republican Senators Broke the Law on Turf of Kathleen Falk” http://bluecheddar.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/hold-on-republican-senators-broke-the-law-on-turf-of-kathleen-falk/ Moreover: “Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, filed a complaint Thursday morning with the Dane County district attorney charging that the Joint Conference Committee that convened at 6 p.m. Wednesday and passed an amended version of Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill is in violation of the open meetings law. The complaint states that Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and his brother, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and others “knowingly attended the meeting in violation of the Open Meetings law” and are subject to penalties identified in state statute. The complaint asks that the actions taken at the meeting be declared void.” “Officials file complaints with DA and AG on controversial Capitol vote”; http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_edd8ffae-4b3f-11e0-9f0f-001cc4c03286.html Appearing on tonight’s News Hour on PBS, Frederica Freyberg of Wisconsin Public Television said that as of this afternoon, Wisconsin unions are planning to file suit against last night’s rushed through bill on the basis of labor law violations. Freyberg also said, that the bill could be challenged on the basis of terminology as well.
3) Recall efforts are well underway and gaining steam. Recall efforts have actually been underway since before last nights “Ash Wednesday Ambush.” Wisconsin Voters Launch Recall Campaign Against Eight GOP State Senators; http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=102×4754076. The particulars of what can be done in the near term are as follows: “Because the recall statute allows elected officials to serve for a full year before they are subject to recall, Walker himself is immune until January of 2012. Eight of Walker’s Republican allies in the state senate have served at least one year of their current term, however, and thus are eligible for a recall petition right now. If just three of these Republicans were to be replaced with Democrats, the state senate would flip to a Democratic-majority body.” Eight GOP State Senators In Wisconsin Can Be Recalled Right Now; Gov. Walker Can Be Recalled In January; http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=103×588854 A Wisconsin Democrat appearing on tonight’s Newshour claimed that the Democrats may already have enough signatures to trigger the recall process. See also: Early Recall Polling Shows Strong Opposition to Republican 8 Senators http://solidaritywisconsin.com/content/early-recall-polling-shows-strong-opposition-republican-8-senators and: Poll: Majorities support recall of two Wisconsin GOP senatorshttp://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2011/03/poll_majorities_support_recall.html
At this point one could truly say the Scott Walker and the far right have appeared to have won a battle, perhaps if only in a qualified sense. However, the wider war between pro-union progressives and the Tea Party backed far right may just be getting underway. That war may in fact be short lived, in Wisconsin, if the recall of the state’s Republican state senators take place in the very near future. If a recall is successful, it’s a whole new ball game as Scott Walker and his allies will then be at a strategic disadvantage. One can only wonder if the battles now being waged in Wisconsin constitute the high water mark of right wing political extremism, or does the lurch to the right have further to go before the self correcting forces of America’s centrist politics reasserts itself.
Steven J. Gulitti