The ongoing downward spiral for Wisconsin continues this week as Scott Walker and his Republican allies continue to ramrod through so-called "Right to Work" legislation in an extraordinary session of the state legislature.
On Monday, labor leaders, community leaders and business owners converged on the Capitol to speak with state senators but were denied access.
On Tuesday, thousands of Wisconsinites went to Madison, some driving five and a half hours, to attend the sham of a public hearing. Scores of Wisconsinites did not get to testify but the Republican clowns made sure that out of state special interests got to say their piece:
It's a rare citizen who would rush to testify that the higher wages, benefits, and training that unions bring are a bad idea. Fortunately, the Wisconsin GOP had the full support of the Koch-funded "think tanks" that are a critical part of the right-wing infrastructure.
James Sherk, an attorney for the D.C.-based Heritage Foundation, flew out to pile on. Sherk's innovative legal effort to devise a local right to work strategy and peddle it though the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was featured on the front page of the New York Times recently in an article entitled "Foes of Unions Try Their Luck at the County Level." The Heritage Foundation received $650,000 in 2012 from the Claude R. Lambe Foundation, which was one of the Koch Family Foundations before it closed in 2013. The Lambe Foundation contributed at least $4.8 million to the Heritage Foundation between 1998 and 2012. See our SourceWatch profile here.
Sherk waxed lyrical over the fact that right to work legislation would "drive down labor costs." Sen. Larson translated for the audience: "You say labor costs. You know, I would call that wages."
Greg Mourad from the National Right to Work Committee, which received $1 million from the Koch brothers' secret bank Freedom Partners in 2012, was not keen to discuss where his paycheck comes from.
"Have you never asked yourself why some of the richest people in the country are spending so much money on your group -- people pushing an extreme anti-worker and anti-environment agenda?" Sen. Larson asked Mourad. He had not. The National Right to Work Committee has been a national leader in the effort to destroy public and private sector unions by pushing anti-union legislation at the state and federal level and by bringing lawsuits, such as the 2014 Harris v. Quinn case in the U.S. Supreme Court attacking unions in Illinois. The three groups associated with the Committee reported over $25 million in revenue in 2012. CMD's Sourcewatch profile of the group can be found here.↓ Story continues below ↓
F. Vincent Vernuccio flew in all the way from Michigan, where workers were "freed" to make lower wages in 2013. Vernuccio works for Michigan's Mackinac Center, one of the largest state-based think tanks in the nation, and part of the $84 million dollar State Policy Network, a sister organization to ALEC. The Mackinac Center received $1,494,000 from the Koch conduits DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund between 2010 and 2012. See CMD's ;SourceWatch profile here.
Last year, Vernuccio masterminded a coordinated campaign attacking teachers in Michigan. Together with the Koch-founded group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and the National Right to Work Committee, Mackinac released targeted Facebook and Google ads, built webpages, published op-eds in local and state newspapers, and flooded Michiganders with mass mailings and robo-calls -- all with the aim of destroying the teachers' union by creating a mass exodus of members.
There was one Wisconsinite ready to testify. Scott Manley, representing Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), bemoaned the fact that Wisconsin is lagging in new job creation compared to right to work states (the Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks Wisconsin 32 out of 50 states in new job creation). But just a few months ago, during Walker's campaign for reelection, WMC aired TV ad after TV adpraising Governor Walker for the state's blockbuster economic performance.
It should be noted that Manley was also forced to admit that only 7% of the companies he is supposed to be representing actually support this. The vast majority of companies in Wisconsin resent this intrusion into how they conduct their business.
The Republicans and their corporate bosses weren't done making a mockery of democacy.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a quick story saying that the unions were planning a protest for the end of the hearing. State Senator Steve Nass, who was the day's ring master, conflated that to a threat to their safety and called an end to the meeting more than a half hour before it was scheduled to end.
Even though this Nass-clown supposedly felt in fear for his life, he did make sure to take the time to take a roll call vote, passing this piece of ALEC written legislation for Wednesday's session. It should be noted that it passed on a 3-1 vote. The other Democrat, Senator Chris Larson, was not given the opportunity to vote.
And as far as that threat goes, there was none, unless one considers dissent to be a threat:
During the meeting, the source for the Journal Sentinel report, Bruce Colburn of the Service Employees International Union state council, stood up in the middle of the committee hearing and told Nass that there was no threat or need for concern. Colburn and AFSCME Council 48 Executive Director Boyd McCamish later told the Journal Sentinel that the newspaper's report was accurate but that they disagreed with Nass' contention that their plans constituted a "threat," calling that argument a "sham."
"There was no threat," Colburn said. "We wanted to ensure that people had a right to speak."
"They used it as a straw man to get out of a very uncomfortable position," McCamish added. "It's an act of political cowardice."
Union supporters reacted with disbelief and anger to the sudden vote, shouting, "Shame! Shame! Shame!" as police escorted Republican lawmakers from the hearing room. A spokesman for the Walker administration and Capitol Police said there was one arrest before the Capitol closed.
It is expected that Wednesday will present with a continuation of this farce as the corporate-controlled Republicans do their masters' bidding in ramming this through. It can also be expected that the Republicans will squelch the speech of the Democrats as much as possible.
The Republicans really, really don't want the people to know what they are about to do to them.