October 31, 2014

Union-busting efforts face glare of sunlight

Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis coined the term, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

Indeed, sunlight cast by labor-union members on the dark-of-night action by political extremists in the Wisconsin legislature is having a meaningful impact in Wisconsin and beyond.

Recall that the Wisconsin legislature’s Republican majority voted in March — in violation of the state’s open meetings law — to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees. They gathered on less than two hours’ notice in the dark of night to vote without a single Democrat in the chamber.

State Judge Maryann Sumi last week granted a permanent injunction against the law’s implementation, and chastised those Republican lawmakers for the method in which they conducted the vote.

Judge Sumi called the action a trashing of “transparency of government,” adding that “one of the core principles of democracy [is] the right of the people to monitor the people’s business.” In the wake of the injunction, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear arguments on the bill in June.

Some of the credit for Judge Sumi’s ruling belongs to the UTU’s Collective Bargaining Defense Fund and similar efforts by other labor organizations.

Almost immediately after that now infamous in-the-dark-of-night Wisconsin senate vote, union members began demonstrating against union-busting by political extremists — demonstrations joined by tens of thousands of citizens that led to extensive media coverage and editorials criticizing the political extremists.

Public sentiment quickly turned against the political extremists in Wisconsin and in other states. A lawsuit followed, seeking the injunction issued by Judge Sumi; and public outrage resulted in petitions for a recall of the extremists, who now must face Wisconsin voters in a special election in July. Hundreds of UTU and other union members fanned out across the state seeking signatures for the recall petitions.

Also significant following the union demonstrations against union-busting was a surprise result in a race for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The conservative incumbent, seen as a shoo-in, barely squeaked by as Wisconsin voters flocked to the polls in record numbers to support a moderate challenger. The Madison, Wis., Capital-Times newspaper said the close vote “would almost certainly never have happened had Democrats, unions and other liberal groups not channeled anger against Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature into support” for the moderate challenger.

In Ohio, where extremists passed a similar union-busting law, union demonstrations also induced public outrage, and petition signings that have put the Ohio union-busting measure on hold pending a voter referendum on the law in November.

The UTU’s Collective Bargaining Defense Fund has one objective: Reminding elected officials that organized labor is a potent political force able to mobilize millions of voters, and to set the stage for recall elections of anti-union lawmakers.

To learn more about the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund, click on the following link:

http://utu.org/collective-bargaining-defense-fund/