MADISON, Wisc. — Are labor rallies in support of collective bargaining rights effective? Can the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund make a difference?
Do trains run on tracks? Do buses operate on highways?
As for Wisconsin, the proof of the value of labor rallies was reflected in balloting for state supreme court justice, as a previously almost unknown state Democrat, JoAnne Kloppenburg, almost upset a presumed shoo-in April 5 — incumbent conservative Republican David Prosser, who had been “expected to coast to a victory for a second 10-year term,” according to the Madison Capital Times newspaper.
Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin voters, vocally outraged at the state’s Republican governor and Republican-controlled legislature for their vicious attacks on public-employee collective bargaining, flocked to the polls in record numbers in support of the underdog Kloppenburg.
The balloting was widely viewed as more of a referendum on the anti-union attacks of the state’s Republican governor and Republican-controlled legislature than a vote for supreme court justice.
Said the Capital Times: “It is rare to unseat a sitting supreme court justice [and the close vote that followed] would almost certainly never have happened had Democrats, unions and other liberal groups not channeled anger against Gov. Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature into support for Kloppenburg.”
Prosser was viewed as a supporter of Walker and his anti-union agenda. The New York Times quoted Prosser as having said he was proud of his membership among the state supreme court’s “common sense 4-3 conservative majority.”
The Wisconsin law revoking public-employee collective bargaining rights is on hold pending a judicial challenge that is expected to reach the state supreme court. Had Kloppenburg prevailed, the state supreme-court’s seven-member majority will shift from conservatives to liberals.
Although neither candidate has expressed an opinion on the controversial collective bargaining law and how it was enacted — by the Republican majority after Democrats boycotted the legislature — it is widely recognized that the vote was, in large part, a referendum on the anti-union politics of Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the right-wing led extremist legislature.
Labor union members from across Wisconsin have rallied in opposition to Gov. Walker’s and the legislature’s anti-union attacks. The UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund is helping to supply UTU rally participants with signs and T-shirts with slogans — and other materials are on order for continued rallies nationwide that help to attract and focus public opposition to attacks on collective bargaining rights and labor unions.
Hundreds of labor-union members — including dozens of UTU members — were on hand at polling places in Wisconsin to collect thousands of signatures from voters on petitions to recall eight Republican lawmakers who voted to revoke public-employee collective bargaining rights.
Many of the lines to sign the petitions were said to have been as long as the lines to vote, in what was described by the media as an unusually large voter turnout.
UTU members interested in joining a rally in support of collective-bargaining rights should contact their state legislative director.