Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has signed a bill to strip away collective bargaining rights from most of the state’s 175,000 public service workers, including 60,000 AFSCME members. With the stroke of a pen, he’s done away with over 50 years of rights for thousands of nurses, teachers, correctional officers and other hard-working public employees.
The measure passed the state’s Assembly on Wednesday in the wake of three weeks of massive protests, as tens of thousands of Wisconsinites from all walks of life rallied both at the Capitol in Madison and across the state. The Republican majority at the state Senate had already plowed the bill through earlier this week, paving the way for the union busting initiative to become law.
Besides doing away with bargaining rights, the bill requires public sector unions to hold a decertification election every year, limits collective bargaining agreements to one year in duration (and may not be extended), and caps pay increases for public service workers (if any) by inflation.
But AFSCME members in the Badger State are not taking it lying down. As AFSCME President McEntee says, “We are not going to allow a small group of radical politicians in Wisconsin destroy what Americans have fought generations to win. The events in the last few weeks have inspired us to pull together and turn the next several months into our union’s finest moment.”
Even before Walker signed the bill into law, AFSCME members and thousands of teachers, nurses, bus drivers and EMTs began a massive, grassroots campaign to recall Republican lawmakers who supported this attack against the middle class.
Supporters have 60 days to collect the required number of signatures. While they vary from district to district, the amount needed to trigger a recall will range from 15,000 to 21,000 signatures per recalled senator.
After successfully collecting all the signatures, a “do over” election is ordered. The incumbent will automatically be a candidate, with Democrats nominating a challenger. The winner of a recall election is seated as soon as election results are certified.
Walker himself will be eligible for a recall in January 2012. With his approval ratings plummeting, removing him from office remains a possibility. A recent Bloomberg National Poll finds that 64 percent of Americans reject Republican efforts to curb collective bargaining rights of unions whose power they say is dwarfed by corporations.
Wisconsin was not only the birthplace of AFSCME in 1932, but the first state to grant collective bargaining rights to public service workers in 1959. This setback is particularly painful for us, but also a strong enough reason to fight like never before. As AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Lee A. Saunders told The Washington Post, “It’s not over. This may be a battle that has been won by the governor, but we are in this for the long haul.”
AFSCME members are still fighting, but they need help to pay for transportation, media outreach and provide much-needed support for fellow members.
You can do your part in this fight and make a contribution to the Workers’ Rights Emergency Response Fund via a secure form, or mail checks payable to AFSCME Council 11 to: 8033 Excelsior Dr., Suite A, Madison, WI 53717.