Before Scott Walker, There Was Russ Decker
While Gov. Scott Walker’s getting all the flack in Wisconsin for his anti-labor push, Democrats and union members should remember another name — Russ Decker.
Wisconsin State Journal, December 16, 2010 (pdf):
After 18 months, more than $100 million in concessions, and negotiations that were painfully close to completion, union leaders again find themselves back at the table — and they’re not happy about it.
When outgoing Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, D-Wausau, reversed course Wednesday night and voted against union contracts for some 39,000 state employees, he doomed unions to continue talks that have already taken longer than any in recent memory.
Union leaders on Thursday expressed anxiety about future labor unrest and rage at the man they say has betrayed them. Decker, a former bricklayer with union ties, voted for the contracts in the Legislature’s joint employee relations committee hours before he cast the deciding vote against them in the Senate.
"Russ Decker is a whore," said Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, which represents 22,000 state employees. "Not a prostitute. A whore. W-H-O-R-E."
Decker said the clock had simply run out for the current administration and the matter should be left to the next governor. Beil called the reversal a betrayal.
Behind the rhetoric is a palpable fear of what comes next for unions. New contract negotiations will have to run a GOP gantlet bracketed by Gov.-elect Scott Walker and a hostile Republican Legislature, both of which promise to take a hard line, demanding employees contribute significantly more toward their pensions and health care benefit.
Decker’s reversal was widely seen as a punishment of unions for not being supportive enough of Decker’s losing campaign. In other words, a petty dick move. Look where it got us.
Wisconsin Democrats would be smart to see to it that Decker never has a place in the party again, because unions aren’t going to forget him any time soon — even if the media already has.
Progressive groups are going up today with a compelling new ad that features ordinary Wisconsinites making the case for the recall of multiple GOP state senators, and while the national media has largely stopped covering this story, the minute-long spot succeeds in capturing the grassroots energy and drive that continues to make it so interesting and remarkable…
The spot, which is being paid for by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America and will run in multiple media markets, can be viewed as chapter two in an ad campaign that began with a spot that featured Wisconsinites making the case against Governor Scott Walker. Now it features them arguing for the recall of a half dozen state senators who enabled him, directing viewers to a new recall Web site.
What, No Do-Over?
New developments in Scott Walker’s union-busting bill, currently on life support in the courts:
In a case that appears bound for the state Supreme Court, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen on Monday asked the state appeals court to lift a Dane County judge’s hold on a law sharply curtailing public union bargaining.
The Court of Appeals panel in Madison quickly responded Monday by asking for information from the prosecutor on the other side of the case by the end of Tuesday, but didn’t explicitly say it would take the appeal.
Justice Department lawyers argued that Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi’s ruling was an overreach against the Legislature as a separate branch of government. “In the interests of the administration of justice, it is necessary - nay, it is imperative - that this court step forward and undo this inappropriate action,” the request reads.
Rightwing pundits, bloggers, and talking heads have been casting Judge Sumi’s decision as a temporary setback. After all, the finding was based on the legislature’s inadequate and illegal lack of notice for the vote. All Republicans have to do, the argument goes, is reschedule the vote with proper notice and hold the vote again. Presto-chango, you’ve got a law and Sumi’s injuction is irrelevant.
So why aren’t they? Again, I argue that it’s because the votes are no longer there. The legal route is the GOP’s last hope here. The piece says the fight is likely to go to the state Supreme Court, which makes this an excellent time to plug voting for JoAnne Kloppenburg on April 5. It seems unlikely that this will go to the high court before then.
Analysis of Walker’s Email Claim
In trying to find a link to a story showing Gov. Walker’s claim that the email he was getting supported his union-busting, I ran “Walker email support” through Google. The very first result tells the story here — a post titled “Send An Email To Support Gov. Scott Walker & WI Senators” from the South Florida Tea Party.
See, a new analysis of the emails shows that Walker was correct in his claim — but that supporting emails were “significantly boosted by emails from pro-Walker senders from outside Wisconsin.”
The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism analyzed a computer-generated random sample of 1,910 emails from the more than 50,000 that flooded Walker’s office in the week after he unveiled his plan on Feb. 11. Nearly all were related to the bill.
At the request of Isthmus [a Madison weekly involved in an open records lawsuit to release the emails], the Center analyzed the emails. A team of reporters logged each of the emails in the sample as for or against the bill, unclear or unrelated. They also noted the location of the sender when possible.
Of the emails related to the bill, 62 percent supported it, while 32 percent opposed it. The margin of error for the Center’s sample size is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.
And it’s here where things get interesting.
- Of the 1,493 emails on the bill where the sender’s location was apparent, the Center found that a third of Walker’s support came from outside the state.
- Eight-nine percent of the emails against Walker came from Wisconsinites.
- Out-of-state emailers overwhelmingly supported Walker, 85 percent to 15 percent, or a margin of nearly 6 to 1.
- When the Center looked only at emails from Wisconsin, the margin was much slimmer, with 55 percent favoring his bill and 42 percent opposed.
And even these numbers probably don’t tell the whole truth, says Dhavan Shah, who runs the Mass Communication Research Center at the UW-Madison. “Here is the analysis I would love to see,” he says, “whether the numbers shift away from Walker in the weeks that follow, which I strongly suspect they do.”
UW Political Science Professor Charles Franklin also notes that the numbers are “inverse of what we saw in the opinion polls.”
“That’s because far from being a random sample of citizenry, these emails came from people who were motivated to write to Walker,” the report tells us.
So what’s the final verdict on Walker’s claim that most email he received was in support of him?
Mostly true, but mostly meaningless. Still, the media tends to boil these things down to two word soundbites, so expect to see “Walker’s Right” headlines. A little context tells a better story.
As a lifelong republican, I’m ashamed to have you representing me. I will state that this is the last time in my life I’ll vote anything for Republicans. Your lies, insults, shortsightedness, and your seeming inability to take the time to actually look into an issue before going of half-cocked and making sweeping pronouncements to the media concern me greatly. … At this point, you are the Democratic party’s biggest weapon in the fight for control, and when (not if, but when) the pendulum of control swings back their way, it will be because of your extremism alienating anybody left of the extreme right.
-Email from a Wisconsin State Department of Corrections employee to Gov. Scott Walker.
Thousands of emails to Walker have been released in an open-records lawsuit settlement involving the Associated Press and Madison weekly, The Isthmus.
A Setback for the Walker Administration’s Union-Busting
When Gov. Walker’s union busting bill was passed by the state legislature and signed into law, there was only one thing standing in the way — Secretary of State Doug La Follette. The law would need to be published by the office of Sec. La Follette and the Secretary decided he’d publish it at the latest date allowable by law, which was ten days after signing.
This was, apparently, nothing new. “I’m doing what I normally do,” he explained to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which was publish the law at the latest possible date, in order for opponents to have a chance to file legal challenges. La Follette estimated at the time that this was the case with 96% of the bills that come through his office. If it’s not an emergency, it cools off for a bit.
It turned out to be a good practice today, as a judge put a halt to implementation of the law:
Wisconsin State Journal:
A Dane County judge Friday issued a temporary order blocking implementation of Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial measure limiting collective bargaining rights for public employees, saying a legislative committee likely violated the state Open Meetings Law when it rushed passage of the bill March 9.
Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi issued the order around 10:30 a.m. in a lawsuit brought by Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne.
Of course, Rep. Peter Barca tried to warn Republicans that this was coming.
As you can see, they ignored his warning. Wisconsin law requires twenty-four hour notice be given prior to this sort of a vote, with an exception made for emergency legislation — which still has to have a two hour warning. Even if you could argue that banning collective bargaining constituted an “emergency” — and it’s extremely difficult to see how you’d do that — Republicans were in such a rush to get this done that they published notice one hour and fifty-five minutes before the meeting took place.
The moral of this story, children, is if you’re going to skirt the law, stick as closely as possible to the absolute minimum requirements of that law.
So, what happens now? There seem to be two possibilities; the Walker administration fights this in court or the legislature gives twenty-four hour notice and votes all over again.
In the first case, the outcome isn’t exactly guaranteed and — at this point at least — seems to lean against Republicans. In the second… Well, that’s probably less foreseeable than you’d first imagine.
See, it’s because of this bill that eight Republican senators are facing possible recall elections and it’s because of this bill that as many as three to five of them could lose their seats. This whole “bust the unions” thing is what got them in hot water in the first place — now you want them to do it again? Nuh-uh, buddy. If three Republicans bail on the law or even skip the vote, the whole thing goes down.
I suspect that one of the reasons why they originally had to vote on it now, now, now, now, now was that a few GOP senators were wobbly and in danger of tipping over. It was reported as a sudden, surprise vote to the absent Democrats, but I think it also might have come as a surprise to more than one Republican. Republican leadership wanted to get the vote done while every one of their caucus was still on paper as a supporter.
If I’m right — and granted, this is all deduction, not fact — then the votes won’t be there this time around. The only way I can be proven wrong is if a re-vote is scheduled and the bill passes again — and it doesn’t sound like anyone’s extremely confident of that.
"This legislation is still working through the legal process," a spokesperson for Gov. Walker said in a statement. “We are confident the provisions of the budget repair bill will become law in the near future.” A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald declined to comment, calling it “an ongoing legal issue.”
So, it seems a legislative fix has been ruled out for now. It is strictly a legal issue. The window of opportunity for passing this dog of a bill seems to have closed.