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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 11, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 10
Republicans drag Wisconsin back to 19th century
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Republicans drag Wisconsin back to 19th century

Sixty LGBT organizations pledge solidarity with workers

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

In a move former Labor Secretary Robert Reich called a 'coup d'etat,' Wisconsin Republicans stripped state workers of their right to collective bargaining on March 9.

Collective bargaining is the process of unions negotiating labor contracts with employers on behalf of their members.

The vote was 18-1 in the Wisconsin Senate, with only one Republican voting no and all the Senate Democrats still absent out of state.

'In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin,' Senate Democratic leader Matt Miller said from a location in Illinois.

The Wisconsin Assembly has already passed a similar bill, and it is expected to approve the Senate bill as SGN goes to press on March 10.

In response, 60 LGBT organizations joined Pride At Work in a pledge of solidarity and common action with Wisconsin workers.

Pride At Work, an LGBT labor organization affiliated with the AFL-CIO, was joined by Wisconsin's leading LGBT rights organizations - Fair Wisconsin and Equality Wisconsin - and national organizations like the HRC, NGLTF, Lambda Legal, NCLR, the National Black Justice Coalition, National Minority AIDS Council, the Transgender Law Center, and the Stonewall Democrats.

In a joint statement sent out by Pride At Work on March 10, they said, 'As national, state, and local organizations for LGBT equality, we stand in solidarity with the teachers, firefighters, nurses, and all workers across this country fighting for their basic rights - for all of our rights. We are one.'

The 60 LGBT organizations promised to 'mobilize LGBT community support for these unprecedented labor battles' by engaging their own members, affiliates, and local allies in 'solidarity campaigns for workers' rights.'

The LGBT groups also noted that 'labor unions have been on the front lines of the fight for social and economic justice for all people. Workers have negotiated and won union contract language to ensure safe work places, to prohibit employment discrimination, and to include vital provisions such as domestic partner benefits, equal access to FMLA, bereavement, and sick leave.'

While Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker continued to insist that he only wanted to balance the state budget, Senate Republican leaders removed all the fiscal provisions from Walker's 'budget repair bill' so they could get around constitutional quorum requirements and strip state workers' collective bargaining rights.

Democrats had held up action on the bill for four weeks by leaving the state to deprive the Senate of the 20-member quorum necessary to pass Walker's budget bill.

Labor leaders, who had organized daily rallies of upwards of 100,000 people to protest the bill, vowed to continue their struggle to defend the rights of workers to form unions and bargain contracts.

In a statement issued on March 9, the Wisconsin AFL-CIO said, 'Scott Walker and the Republicans' ideological war on the middle class and working families is now indisputable, and their willingness to shred 50 years of labor peace, bipartisanship, and Wisconsin's democratic process to pass a bill that 74 percent of Wisconsinites oppose is beyond reprehensible.'

'Scott Walker did not win,' AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters on March 9. 'This isn't over 'til we say it's over.'

Trumka repeated his stand in a letter sent to local AFL-CIO affiliates on March 10.

'This assault on workers' freedom will not stand,' he vowed.

'It's time for politicians to pay attention to the people they represent. Workers in Wisconsin and in Ohio and across America have had enough. If these attacks continue in statehouses across America, we will be even stronger and bigger, with more of the public - ordinary Americans who are being attacked - joining us to balance out-of-control corporate greed,' Trumka promised.

Fair Wisconsin has already begun recall drives aimed at Republicans who supported Walker's bill. Republicans have also initiated recalls against Democratic senators who left the state to stall the bill.

According to Wisconsin state law, an official may be recalled after he or she has served at least a year of his or her term. Of the 18 legislators who may be recalled this year, all 18 have had recall petitions filed against them.

Walker was elected in the 2010 election, took office in January this year, and will be eligible for recall in 2012.

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