Six Genuine Democrats Defeat Fake Democrats in Wisconsin Primary

By Richard Thayer

I know it’ll be hard, but for a moment or two let’s try to take our eyes off the impending train wreck that is the onrushing debt ceiling and try to focus on something more positive. We’ll come back to the train wreck in a forthcoming posting.

As we head into the weekend and after a week of bad news, I thought it might be nice if we ended the week on a hopeful note, some encouraging news.

This is for those of us who watch the bad news unfold daily and wonder in our heart-of-hearts, “Do I have a voice in this at all? Is it possible to fight City Hall and win? Or Washington?”

Take heart, my friend, despite the turmoil and havoc that is being wreaked around you, your voice still matters. And even though there are forces at work to destroy our democratic form of government, we still live in a democracy.

Since much of the media likes to focus attention on possible apocalypses, like the pending debt ceiling crash of August 2, news stories of courage, determination, resilience and pure, unadulterated spunk, often go under-reported, or not reported at all.

Like the recent news out of the Badger(ed) State, Wisconsin. Earlier this year, Governor Scott Walker and his Republican cronies passed a union-stripping bill thinking they could get by with it without any repercussions.

Well, as it turns out, there have been repercussions. Massive repercussions.

Really HUGE repercussions.

Thanks to the tens of thousands of Wisconsin citizens who weren’t going to take all of this lying down, more than enough petitions were gathered to recall six of the state’s Republican senators.

That recall election was to have taken place this month, but in an effort to thwart the democratic process, the Republican leadership in the state had six “fake” Democrats run against those challenging the six Republican recallees, thus forcing a primary election this month. By running these Democrat imposters, Republicans would (1) force the Democratic challengers to spend money that could have been spent in the general election, (2) give them an extra month to run negative ads against the real Democrats, (3) confuse voters as to who was legitimate and who wasn’t, (4) give the Republican recallees an opportunity to raise more money for the general election in August, and (5) allow the leadership to push through a redistricting plan that would tilt the state in their favor for the next decade.

If you’re thinking all of this is just a tad “wrong,” you’d be right. But that seems to be the route the Republican leadership has chosen to take of late.

Stephen Thompson, Executive Director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin attempted to justify the chicanery by issuing this statement (in part): “Republican senators are again busy doing their jobs crafting a fiscally responsible state budget that promotes economic growth, which puts them at a distinct disadvantage…Because of this disadvantage, and the outrageous nature of elected officials facing recall for standing up for a balanced budget, the Republican Party of Wisconsin has advocated that “protest” (emphasis added) candidates run in Democratic primaries to ensure that Republican legislators have ample time to communicate with voters throughout their districts after the state budget is approved.”

If you’re wondering (as I was) how much these unnecessary primaries are costing the state of Wisconsin. It will be around $428,000. According to jsonline.com, the unanticipated primary costs created problems for local officials who hadn’t put these costs into their budgets.

Said Darlene Marcelle, Brown County Clerk, “When I prepared my budget last year, there was no way I could have seen this coming. I just wish that (state election officials) had combined these elections so the financial burden wouldn’t have hit the counties so heavily.”

Had the Republican leadership not employed fake Democrats to thwart a July general election, they could have saved their state nearly half a million dollars.

Now here’s the good news.

The Democratic challengers in each of the six districts, the “real” Democrats, despite Republican efforts to baffle the voters, won their primary elections. Most of them in a landslide.

The voters weren’t fooled.

They weren’t fooled in the unnecessary primary with fake Democrats, they weren’t fooled earlier this year when their public unions’ bargaining rights were taken away, they weren’t fooled into thinking they had no other options but to grin and bear it.

And they won’t be fooled by misleading Republican political ads between now and the August 9 general election.

If the Democrats win just three of those six senatorial seats, just three, they will take the majority control away from the Republicans.

Next year, when he becomes eligible for recall, Governor Scott Walker will be forced to run again for his seat.

Up next in Wisconsin, the primary election to recall three Democratic senators on Tuesday, July 19.

Thankfully, the Democrats won’t be running fake Republicans in that one.

They won’t have to. As we have seen over the past seven months, many of the Republican “leaders” (emphasis added) are fake anyway.


Check Out These Videos on Collective Bargaining,the Economy and Protests in Madison

By Richard Thayer

The AFL-CIO has launched a new website that “serves up facts, fun and real-world stories about what the power to bargain means to working people.”

Then site features a trio of videos “designed to convey the importance of collective bargaining, showing just how bad things can get if workers don’t have a voice at the bargaining table.”

Among the videos on display is one where working men and women tell what collective bargaining means to them.

The new website is called “Collective Bargaining: Real People, Real Impact.”

Another video that will be of interest to activists is one of AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler speaking this past weekend at the Netroots Nation convention in Minneapolis. In this clip Shuler talks about the attacks being waged on collective bargaining and the importance of workers organizing. Her presentation begins at the 35 minute mark.

Our third recommended video of the day features former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. Entitled “The Truth About the Economy,” Reich explains, with illustrations, the problem with our economy is 2 minutes and 38 seconds.

And last, but certainly not least, a video featuring musician and proud union man, Tom Morello, at this past February’s union protests in Madison, Wisconsin as he gives a stirring speech before a crowd of protesters and sings “Standing Up and Standing Strong.”

Check ’em out.


With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?

By Richard Thayer

It seems like wherever you turn these days, politicians are busy hatching plans that will irrevocably harm working class families under the guise of “helping us.” Some helping hands, huh? If we were drowning, these are the kinds of friends who would throw us an anvil instead of a life-preserver.

As you may recall our Republican “friends” in the House of Representatives passed a bill  before taking two weeks off for Easter recess that would privatize Medicare and Medicaid. This was done for our “good,” in order to protect us from Big Government. Under this “Road to Prosperity” plan, instead of the government providing these “entitlements,” it would be handed over to our “friends” in the insurance industry. Now doesn’t that make us feel all warm and fuzzy.

The Road to Prosperity winds through Social Security as well, upping the retirement age. Maybe not too bad if you’re a congressman or a bean counter, but if you actually do hard, physical labor, it could present a bit of a problem. How would you like to work in a coal mine until you’re 70? Or, for that matter, how many of you would like to deliver mail and put up with your supervisor’s snotty attitude for 40 or 50 years? Then you live a couple of years and die. Talk about hell on earth.

This coming Thursday (April 28) at noon, there will be a “Say No to Working ‘Til We Die Rally.” The title pretty much says it all. This will be held at the Social Security Building at 4701 Old Wake Forest Road in Raleigh. The purpose of the rally is to convey to our representatives that they should keep their cotton-pickin’ grubby paws off of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

There’s a video out now that addresses the retirement issue entitled “Work ‘Til We Die.” It runs just 60 seconds. You’ll find it especially enjoyable if you’re a “Twilight Zone” fan. I can understand how the producers of the video would make the connection between our current congress and a screwed up alternate universe.

The North Carolina State AFL-CIO has also partnered with Action NC for a picket outside the North Carolina Republican Party’s headquarters on Friday morning (April 29) at 10 a.m.

For more information on these two events you can contact Jeremy Adam at 919-833-6678.

Unfortunately, our “friends” on Capitol Hill aren’t the only ones who are trying to help us by throwing us an anvil. We also have “friends” in the North Carolina General Assembly who are as busy as little beavers trying to help working class folks as well. They have introduced a bill in the House and the Senate that, if made into law, would have a negative impact on every worker in North Carolina. They are House Bill 709 and Senate Bill 504 and they both have to do with the way Workers’ Compensation would operate in the future. You can get the lowdown on these two bills by clicking on the two underlined bills above.

You are also encouraged to contact your Representative and Senator today and urge him or her to oppose these two bills. Tell them that working families are counting on them to protect our workers’ compensation system and that they should make protecting injured workers a priority rather than the interests of corporations and insurance companies.

You can find more information on this by going to here.


Maine’s Governor Publicly Rebuked for Disrespectful Comments

By Richard Thayer

Here’s a story that you may not see on the evening news, but it’s certainly one worth reporting.

Amanda Terkel reports in The Huffington Post that Paul LePage, the governor of Maine, drew a rebuke Monday from eight of the state’s senators. The chastisement came as the result of comments LePage made concerning protests to his having a large mural removed a week ago from the state’s Department of Labor building. The painting depicted Maine’s labor history. When a reporter asked LePage how he might respond to the protesters forming a human chain around the mural he replied: “I’d laugh at them, the idiots.”

In the op-ed sections of both The Portland Press Herald and the Kennebec Journal on April 4, the eight politicians took the portly governor to task, expressing their “discomfort and dismay” with his derogatory comments.

The article says in part: (“We find ourselves) responding to yet another example of our chief executive picking a personal fight not worth fighting….Government by disrespect should have no place in Augusta (Maine), and when it happens, we should all reject it.”

Now you may be wondering, How is this news worthy? Rhetoric like this happens every day. Especially lately. Members of one party do something and then members of the other party respond to it.

That’s where this story is different.

You see, the state senators chastising the governor, are members of the same party. They’re all Republicans.

Chris Hall, a lobbyist for the Portland Regional Chamber, told The Portland Press Herald that in his 21 years as a lobbyist, this is the first time he’s seen a group of politicians write such an openly critical opinion piece of a governor who’s a member of their own party.

We would hope that other legislators in other states would take a cue from those in Maine and speak out against those of their own party when they are performing acts that are not only detrimental to their party but to the country as a whole. It’s hoped that Maine’s legislators, at least those eight, would set the example for others to follow.

This is by no means the first time that Governor LePage’s inflammatory rhetoric has gotten him into trouble. Back in January he made it known that he had no intention of attending a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event and that if the NAACP didn’t like it, they could “kiss my butt.”

Well, there may be some butt kissing going on in Maine, but the NAACP and those eight courageous GOP senators aren’t the ones doing it.


April Fools

By Richard Thayer

I rolled out of bed early this morning with the intention of posting a blog celebrating 2011’s April Fool — a public figure or institution that I deemed worthy of being labeled the biggest fool so far this year. Quite an accomplishment since this year is only three months old.

The first name that popped into my head was Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, the new Republican governor of that Rust Belt state who has managed to make a fool of himself by attempting (by hook or crook, as they say) to strip public-sector employees of their collective bargaining rights. In so doing, he has stoked the fires of the labor movement that had been un-stoked for many a year.

Then I got to thinking, are the Republican lawmakers in the Wisconsin legislature any less deserving of the April Fool award than their illustrious leader? After all, several of them have put their jobs on the line and face recalls in November. The good governor, on the other hand, can’t be recalled until 2012.

But what about Governor John Kasich of Ohio who just this past Thursday signed into law union-busting legislation that would also strip public sector unions of their bargaining rights? Is he any less a fool because he succeeded where Walker has thus far failed?  Plus, his law is even more far-reaching than Walker’s.

There is also Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan. Earlier this year Snyder cut corporate taxes by a whopping 86 percent while increasing taxes on working families. Of course the tax breaks he gave his corporate buddies was much greater than the money generated from taxes on the average Joe and Josephine. Foolish. And then, on top of that, he signs into law this past week legislation that cuts state unemployment benefits from 26 to 20 weeks. This is an incentive to make these people find a job, I suppose.

And let’s not forget Governor Paul LePage of Maine. Last weekend LePage had a 36-foot mural stripped out of the state’s Labor Department building. It was obscene. Well, evidently it was obscene to the anonymous person who faxed LePage complaining about the artwork. Did it contain nudity? No. Were there dirty words? No. The mural, completed three years ago, depicted Maine’s proud labor history. Imagine that? In a Labor Department building, too. Mr. LePage, not one to rest on his past achievements, is now busy as a little beaver crafting a bill that would weaken Maine’s child-labor laws. Certainly a worthwhile project for a fool.

Also in contention was Governor Rick Scott of sunny Florida. Like the others, he’s a jewel too. Although he’s only been in office for a scant three months he’s racked up some rather impressive successes. Among these is his uncanny ability to alienate everyone around him, both Democrats and Republicans alike. He’s the guy who said Florida didn’t need a high speed railway system in Florida. Didn’t need the money, didn’t need the jobs. We’re just fine down here, thank you. Keep your money in Washington. He is quickly becoming the poster child for “Buyer’s Remorse.” The latest poll  shows that if the people of Florida could have a do-over in elections, Democrat Alex Sink would win by a 20 percent margin. It’s a shame there can’t be a do-over today. It’ll have to wait.

The freshman congressman out of Wisconsin, Sean Duffy, was also a contender for my April Fool award. Not long ago congressman Duffy told a group of attendees at a town hall meeting that he, like them, was struggling to pay his bills too. Asked how much he gets paid a year as a freshman congressman Duffy replied, without cracking a smile, “$174,000.” Yes, congressman Duffy would certainly be a worthy recipient of the April Fool award.

Then other names flooded into my head: Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachman, Donald Trump, the Tea Party, and several Mideast dictators who now find themselves under siege because they have been…foolish. All well-deserving of the April Fool award.

And it hasn’t just been political figures who have crowded into my head, waving their signs, shouting to be heard. Celebrity names have also popped in demanding attention, names like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity of Faux News Channel fame. They too would be worthy recipients of my award.

And the more I sat here trying to narrow it all down to just one name, more names flooded into my head. I became dizzy and nauseus.

So who, dear reader, was to receive this blog’s first annual April Fool award?

I finally decided that it would be….

None of the above.

I finally decided that the award should go to…..

Us.

You and me. If…..

If we don’t do something about those who have been elected to represent us. They have been elected to represent you and me, not the big corporations, not Wall Street, not the Koch brothers, not themselves and their interests — us. They have been elected to represent you and me. If they are incapable of doing that, then we need to elect people who will. In the meantime, until the next elections roll around — although they may be months away — we must make our voices heard, just as they have been heard in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Maine, Florida and other states where middle-class America is under attack. “We Are One” rallies celebrating the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and showing our solidarity with our union brothers and sisters in the public sector, will be held this coming Monday, April 4. For details on these, you may go to the North Carolina State Association of Letter Carrier’s website at nclettercarrier.com.

If we sit idly by and do nothing, we, not them, are the fools.


Unions vs. Corporate-Backed Politicians: A Golden Opportunity

By Richard Thayer

In Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his Republican-held legislature rammed through a law stripping public-sector unions of their bargaining rights despite the lack of a quorum and a judge’s temporary restraining order.

Over the weekend in Maine, Governor Paul LePage removed a 36-foot, 11-panel mural from the state’s Department of Labor, a mural depicting….laborers.

In the nation’s capital, Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill that would achieve nationally what several state legislatures are attempting to do individually: reduce unions to nothing more than a few pages in the history books.

All of this frantic (and in many cases, covert) activity begs the question: Are they succeeding?

Well, it looks like some of the corporate-backed puppets, like Walker and LePage, may have won some skirmishes. But at what price?

It seems that these battles over collective bargaining and the rights of workers have generally had the same effect on unions that water has on a gas fire: they have spread rapidly and strengthened in intensity.

A recent article on the AFL-CIO blog has labeled this as a “watershed opportunity for working people.” The author of the article, James Parks, notes in his blog that efforts by politicians like Governors Walker and LePage to decimate unions has, at least for now, created growing support for unions.

In the article, Joseph McCartin, director of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor and associate professor at Georgetown University, is quoted as saying that these efforts to take away union’s bargaining rights have opened the flood gates of opportunity for workers.

Referring to a New York Times poll showing that more than 40 percent of those polled had neither a positive or a negative view of unions, professor McCartin noted that this response indicated that the public’s opinion of unions is in flux and added:
“Suddenly you have an opportunity to explain…why unions are necessary; why they are vital in a democracy; and to do it in a way that connects to people’s realities. Walker has given you an opportunity to make a case that you haven’t had an opportunity to make on the national stage in a while….You must seize this opportunity and make the most of it.”

As I noted in an earlier posting, the current attack on working people has produced a lot of commentary, articles and letters to the editor concerning bargaining rights in particular and unions in general. I’ve noticed over the last few weeks that my local paper, The High Point Enterprise, has published several commentaries on unions, the majority of which have been negative. As a result, I saw it necessary to add my two-cents worth. My letter is in Tuesday’s paper and above it in bold type is this headline: “Unions Helped Build Our Nation’s Middle Class.” That’s a fact that’s hard to dispute (but, of course, there are those who will).

I would encourage those of you who are pro-union (and I hope the majority of you who read this are), would write a letter to your local paper letting the public know what unions have done for this country and for middle class workers. As professor McCartin points out in his column, we, as concerned unionists, must seize this opportunity and make the most of it.

And while I’m on the subject of union activism, I’d like to remind you that numerous activities are being planned for Monday, April 4, all over the country in support of those workers whose rights are under siege and in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was assassinated on that date 43 years ago in Memphis, Tennessee. It’s called “We Are One.”

If you would like to participate in one of those events being planned here in North Carolina, please go here.

If you would like to read Professor McCartin’s article, “Turning Point: An Address to the AFL-CIO Executive Council,” you may go here.

I’ll close today with this quote from Dr. King, they are words worth remembering:

“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”


As Go the Unions, So Goes the Middle Class

By Richard Thayer

I’ve noticed recently more and more anti-union sentiment in our local paper here, The High Point Enterprise. There have been several columns in the last several weeks, a number of letters to the editor and a couple of news articles deriding public-sector unions in particular and all unions in general. I’m confident that this is happening in newspapers all across the country.

Someone has said that a lie repeated often enough will become the truth, or something to that effect. This means that if a lie goes unrebutted, people will perceive it to be true. Those of us who are unionists, cannot allow this to happen as far as unions are concerned. There is a concerted effort right now by certain politicians to destroy public-sector unions. If they eventually succeed, they will do more than destroy unions, they will also destroy the middle-class. I’d hate to see that happen. And I know you would, too.

I would like to use today’s post to encourage you, whenever you see a anti-union article or letter in your local paper, to respond to it with the facts.

Let me share with you some information you might find useful when responding to anti-union rhetoric in your local news outlets.

Here are a few things that labor unions have done for America over the last century, laws that benefit not only union members but non-union members as well. Remind people of these things.

Because of unions we now have:

Child labor laws.

The 8 hour work day.

The 40 hour work week.

Paid overtime.

Weekends off.

Worker’s compensation.

Unemployment insurance.

Paid sick leave, vacations and holidays.

Health insurance for many workers.

Pensions or 401Ks.

Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Improved workplace safety.

The push for Civil Rights Acts and laws forbidding job discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

Family Medical Leave Act.

The push for a livable minimum wage.

Without the work of union activists over the years, many, if not all, of these things would not be in existence today. Remind the paper’s readers of this.

Below is a letter I just sent to the High Point Enetrprise:

I am writing in response to several anti-union columns, articles and letters that have appeared in the Enterprise in recent weeks. First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to all of our public-sector employees. Thank you for the invaluable service you provide daily for our state and our local communities. We appreciate you. My family and I do not believe, as some do, that you’re under-worked and over-paid. Nor do we believe that your pay and pensions have contributed to our current economic woes. We believe that the people on Wall Street caused this problem, not you, and we also believe that they should be the ones to correct it, not you.

Secondly, I would like to point out that the current debate being waged in the news media about public-sector unions isn’t just an attack on the collective bargaining rights of public-sector employees, it’s an attack on all middle-class workers, unions and non-unions alike. What some people forget is that the middle-class—the life-blood of this nation—came about as the result of unions in the early twentieth century. Without unions there would be no middle-class. There is a direct correlation between the decline of unions over the last 35 years and the decline of the middle-class. As go the unions, so goes the middle-class.

If the present trend continues, like the one in Wisconsin and other states, America will eventually be comprised of two two classes of people: the wealthy and the poor; the haves and the have-nots. When that happens, America will no longer be the nation we have grown to know and love, it will then become a third world country.

Personally, I don’t think that time is too far off.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Letters to the Editor section of your paper should have guidelines on how to submit your letter. If those guidelines aren’t adhered to your letter might not get printed, so read them carefully. For example, the maximum length of letters to the High Point Enterprise is 300 words and you have to wait two weeks before submitting another one. At the rate anti-union bias is being published in this paper, I’ll be submitting something every two weeks for the next several months. You be persistent, too. Don’t let attacks on unions and working people go unanswered.