Monday, February 28, 2011

Impressions from Madison

Dear Brothers & Sisters:

(Saturday, February 26) Despite a temperature of around 12 degrees and a steady snowfall, a crowd estimated at over 70,000 gathered around and inside the capital building in Madison, Wisconsin to protest Governor Walker’s plan to strip public workers of their right to collective bargaining. This was day twelve of demonstrations against the governor’s DSC04396_02531proposal, approved by the Republican-dominated State Assembly in a vote that was permitted to only last a few seconds at 1:00 a.m. on Friday, February 25. This measure remains stalled in the Republican controlled Senate due to that body’s inability to achieve a quorum, as the Senate’s 14 Democrats continue their support of public workers in Wisconsin by their holdout from an undisclosed location in Illinois.

Another reason for the Democrats’ actions are too slow down movement of the bill to allow Wisconsin residents to learn more about its contents. For example it has now become known that a provision in the bill empowers the governor to "sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids." This has lead to speculation these provisions were included for financial benefit of the multi-billionaire Koch Brothers, owners Koch Industries significant donors to the Walker for Governor campaign.

Claims by the governor that his proposal was necessary due to budget problems were shattered when public worker unions agreed to meet the governor’s demand for an increase in pension and health benefit contributions in exchange for dropping the union busting portion of the bill. The governor has continued his refusal to compromise. Besides ending collective bargaining, other provisions in this measure would end union dues deductions from payroll and require public sector unions to be re-certified by their members each year. When the governor took office in January, Wisconsin had a surplus that he quickly turned into a deficit by enacting tax breaks for companies at a cost of $117 million. 

Attendance at the daily protests in Wisconsin’s capital has continued to increase since they began on February 12. In my 34 years as a member and officer in the APWU, I have never witnessed such a harmonious and diverse gathering of not only union people but really a cross section of everyday Americans coming together for a common cause – to stop the assault on the middle class. Amid chants of “Tell me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!; I say recall…you say Walker! and many others, as well as labor songs filling the cold Wisconsin air, there were: teachers, librarians, firefighters, police officers, bricklayers, prison guards, municipal workers, university professors, postal workers, electricians, laborers, painters, communication workers, teamsters, theatrical workers, democrats, republicans, former republicans, nonunion workers, small business owners, religious groups, retiree organizations, students, and many others all marching together in solidarity.

Although some mainstream media outlets reported that the daily gathering in Madison is comprised of a bunch of “union thugs,” myself and my wife Cathy along with APWU of Wisconsin Editor John Durben and his wife Mona were unable to find any thugs during the four hours we participated in the demonstration. On the contrary, everyone, and I mean everyone we encountered was friendly and courteous. Overall, the atmosphere was rather festive. It was also remarkable at the number of children and infants in attendance.

One could also not help notice the large number of offices and restaurants around the capital that are displaying messages of support for public workers and unions in their windows. Late last week a Madison radio station reported that since the demonstrations began, individuals from all 50 states and 52 foreign countries (in a show of support) have phoned pizza establishments near the capital ordering pizzas for the demonstrators.

While it is uncertain how the standoff in Wisconsin will end, one residual result is that the pushback from this incident could trigger the rebirth of the Labor Movement in America. Aside from the continuing demonstration in Madison, protests also took place in all 50 states this past weekend with more planned. Please visit the APWU website ( for a listing of upcoming demonstrations and for a message from APWU President Guffey about the importance of APWU members lending their support by participating in these gatherings.

I invite you to visit the PPA website ( for a slide show of Saturday’s gathering in Madison. An extensive collection of photos are also posted in the “Photo Gallery” that can be found in the upper left column on the site’s main page. Also on the main page is a video of the Madison protest produced by

In solidarity,

Tony Carobine

President, National APWU Postal Press Association

Click on photo to enlarge (Note: Subjects in photo L-R : John Durben, APWU of WI State Editor, Mona Durben, Cathy Carobine, National PPA APWU Postal Press President Tony Carobine)

Friday, February 18, 2011

First they came…

First They came... - Pastor Martin Niemoller

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Wisconsin Labor Jams Capitol To Resist Governor’s Attacks

Howard Ryan |  February 16, 2011

capital w_cap copyWisconsin’s new Republican governor inadvertently issued a wake-up call to the state’s labor movement by announcing legislation February 11 that would crush public employee unions.

Scott Walker made the proposals just two days after similar measures were unveiled in Ohio.

Wisconsin’s labor movement and allies mobilized three days of emergency rallies in Madison, the state capital, ahead of an expected vote in the legislature February 17. Thirty thousand drumming, chanting protesters descended on the Capitol February 16. Some made plans to camp out there that night.

Building trades members planned to set up a grilling operation to feed bratwurst to workers and students there.

Madison schools had closed that day when about half the teachers called in sick. About 800 Madison high school students walked out of class and marched to join protests. University of Wisconsin students, who had planned an action around university funding, turned instead to workers’ rights and brought an estimated 1,000 protesters to the Capitol.

A thousand teachers and supporters stopped traffic as they walked from Wisconsin AFL-CIO headquarters to Walker’s house near Milwaukee. Two hundred protesters turned out when the governor spoke in Eau Claire.

A massive phonebanking and door-knocking campaign urged voters to contact the more moderate Republicans in the state senate. In the face of such massive resistance, Republican legislators signaled a willingness to back off late Wednesday.


Jim Cavanaugh, president of Madison’s 90,000-member South Central Federation of Labor, described an outpouring of solidarity. An AFL-CIO news conference brought private sector union leaders to declare their support for embattled public employee unions.

In an email, Dave Poklinkoski, president of a utility workers local, said, “The breadth and depth of the solidarity at these rallies is beyond anything witnessed in Madison in living memory.” He invited friends to come “be a part of history.”

Walker would eliminate collective bargaining for public employees on all matters except wages. Any wage increase surpassing the consumer price index would have to be approved by voters. His plan calls for state employees to contribute much more to their pensions and health insurance costs—the equivalent of an 8 percent pay cut.

For good measure, Walker added that he had briefed the National Guard, so it would be ready to address any potential disruption of services caused by union protests. A veterans group slammed the governor, asking if he understood the military is not a “personal intimidation force to be mobilized to quash political dissent.” A spokesman later said soldiers would only replace prison guards.

Police and firefighter unions would be exempt from the new law. Both of Milwaukee’s uniformed unions endorsed Walker’s gubernatorial bid last year, leaving other unionists in the state muttering about backroom deals. But firefighters, to great applause, joined the throngs descending on the Capitol.


Walker is selling his anti-bargaining proposal as part of a “Budget Repair Bill” aimed at addressing the state’s immediate $136 million deficit as well as a larger deficit of $3.6 billion projected for the next two-year budget cycle. He says his proposals on health and pension contributions would save $30 million and help avert wide layoffs of state employees.

But AFSCME Council 24 points out that state employees have already sacrificed for years, taking unpaid furlough days and heavier workloads. Late last year, they offered a contract containing $100 million in concessions—an offer legislators rejected and the governor ignores.

The Economic Policy Institute think-tank said Wisconsin public employees actually earn 5 percent less in wages and benefits than private-sector counterparts, when workers with similar experience and education levels are compared.

Much of the governor’s proposal does not concern the state budget at all, but serves to cripple public employee unions. It would prohibit collecting member dues through payroll deductions and end any requirement that employees pay union dues at all. It would require union bargaining units to hold an annual certification vote in order to maintain representation.

Cavanaugh believes Walker may have overreached politically and that, assuming the immediate threat can be turned back, the labor movement can reap benefits.

“We’re getting a lot of people off their butts, seeing what these right-wing fanatics are capable of,” he said. “We’re achieving more union solidarity than we’ve seen in a long time.”


Message from Labor Cartoonist Mike Konopacki

"For the last week, working people in Wisconsin have staged a rebellion against a brutal attack on the rights of workers by a governor and legislature dominated by sociopathic Republicans. These plutocrats want to destroy collective bargaining for all public employees and turn Wisconsin into a right to work state for private employees.

Gary Huck and I both grew up in Wisconsin. Gary was raised in Racine and I grew up in Manitowoc. Both towns are on the shores of Lake Michigan and both towns were manufacturing centers. Racine and Manitowoc were devastated by the Reagan recession of the 1980s and are still part of the Rust Belt. 

I've lived in Madison since 1971 when I came here to finish college. Wisconsin was the birthplace of Fightin’ Bob LaFollette, the founder of the Wisconsin progressive movement. Progressivism merged into the New Deal and Wisconsin was influential in the creation of laws and culture that respected working people. This is from the Wisconsin Historical Society : “Wisconsin's workers and reformers made significant contributions to the history of labor in the United States, helping to enact legislation such as workers' compensation and unemployment insurance that served as models for similar laws in other states. The study of labor history itself also began in Wisconsin when University of Wisconsin economist John R. Commons set out to document the history of work and labor in America at the turn of the twentieth century. Commons and his associates also joined labor leaders, the business community, and politicians to bring about some of Wisconsin's groundbreaking social policies.”

Wisconsin was also the birthplace of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, formed in 1932. They created what would later become Wisconsin State Employees Union/Council 24. We are proud to say that Council 24 is one of our subscribers. The progressive pro-labor culture dominated the state until the dismal 1950s when Joe McCarthy was elected and launched the McCarthy era of brutal repression of working people.

We are now experiencing another period of repression. The workers of Wisconsin know their history and know what is at stake. Again, robber barons are trying to destroy our traditions and the history that our forbearers fought and died for. We are determined to preserve our proud history and fight against the forces of decay.

In the election of 2008 we thought that change was coming. But change never comes from the top down. It comes from the bottom up. Allow me to use a football metaphor. The Green Bay Packers won this year’s Super Bowl. The Packers, the smallest market city in the NFL, are named after a meat packing plant in Green Bay. They are not owned by a plutocrat, they are a non-profit owned by the community. To Wisconsin, Packer football is as much a part of our tradition as the labor movement.

In the Super Bowl the team, devastated by injuries all season, lost two of their top players to injury in the first half. The game went back and forth, and in the fourth quarter the Packers found themselves in trouble. Kevin Greene, outside linebackers coach, pulled linebacker Clay Matthews aside and told him that the time had come to take control of the game. “It is time!” He said. Matthews helped cause a fumble that lead to victory.

For those of us who believe in dignity of workers, and believe in fighting for the least among us, IT IS TIME. Wisconsin workers are up to the challenge."


Thursday, February 17, 2011

One Heck of a Move By the Dems… I salute you…

By: John E. Durben, Editor

I salute the Democratic Senators who decided to call in sick (more or less) before the big vote on Walker’s attack on Wisconsin workers. I know it had to be a hard last Durbenminute decision with their constituent’s welfare in mind.

Walker and his cronies are trying to ramrod a bill through that would strip Wisconsin  Public Employees of their collective bargaining rights. These are rights that have been in place for years and years. The issue is not that they pay more into their retirement or pay more for healthcare. It’s the stripping away of their negotiating rights.

Much is said about private sector employees (the have-not's) paying more than their share because of the bad economy that we inherited from the previous Administration. With the various situations mentioned - Harley, Mercury etc.; At least these employees had an opportunity to negotiate the take-aways and perhaps got something else in return (We know the the State fattened the pot a bit with our tax dollars  otherwise they’d be gone to Mexico or someplace with cheap labor and taxes and no environmental concerns.)  If they (the employees) don’t get something in return today, perhaps in the future or perhaps a non monetary gain might have been negotiated.

Corporate America is calling the shots now since they where able to contribute limitless funds to Legislative Representatives who would support their personal agenda during the recent elections last year. This is where the payback begins.

Wisconsin Public workers are symbolized as the “haves” while private sector employees are the “have not's”.The” haves” (public employees) are depicted as a special group that has not been paying their fair share. Has anyone remembered that they are already getting docked 16 days of pay a year with their furlough days?

Their salaries are mostly public if you want to check the internet and there is nothing really out of line. My concern would be why can’t we get everyone’s salary and benefits uplifted rather than trying to tear someone else down to a poverty level. That’s because these so-called haves and the “have-not's" can’t afford to buy their legislators

Another concern I would have is: Why are only certain Wisconsin Public Worker groups targeted? Why aren’t the Workers who supported Walker in his bid for the Governor included?

My other question is: What about the two percent or so that control most of the assets in the Country? If Wisconsin Public employees are called the “Haves”, what are these people… Gods? When are they going to pay their “FAIR” share?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wisconsinites organize to block Gov. Walker's unionbusting

Wisconsin is the state to keep an eye on this week, as Republican Gov. Scott Walker has declared open war on his state's public workers' unions.  Last week, Walker even went so far as to alert the National Guard to be ready in case of mass protests. Calling him the "cheesehead Pharaoh," writer Harold Meyerson compares Walker to autocrats like Hosni Mubarak, and wonders how far his repression of workers will go.

The response from the people of Wisconsin has been unequivocal: show teachers and state social workers and administrative staffers some respect and stop threatening them with budget cuts and the National Guard.  Students, teachers, firefighters, private sector union workers, and thousands more showed up Tuesday and Wednesday mornings at the state capitol building in Madison to stop Walker in his tracks.

There's a roundup of Wisconsin rally schedules and news reports over at We Party Patriots. At least two separate campaigns span across labor and progressive groups, and each has a Facebook and Twitter presence: StopScottWalker and NotMyWisconsin.  Check them out, and see if you think Walker will be able to stay true to his threat not to bargain with unions.

The scene yesterday inside the state capitol, Madison, WI. Photo by @millbot via Twitter.

Source: ILCA Insider Newsletter

Statement from Senator Hansen: Governor is misleading state. Issue is not benefits, but Governor’s assault on workers’ rights and middle class families

(Madison)—State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) called on Governor Walker to stop misleading the public on the contents of his budget “adjustment” bill saying that the issue is not employee contributions for benefits, but the Governor’s assault on the rights of Wisconsin workers:

“The Governor’s actions are a lie by omission. He is trying to convince the people of this state that there is nothing extreme in his bill, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Governor Walker knows that public employees are willing to contribute to their benefits. He is trying to eliminate over 50 years of collective bargaining rights that allow workers and their employers to negotiate over issues involving workplace safety, patient wellbeing and educational opportunity for our children.

Wisconsin has a long, proud history of working together to resolve our problems. We face our challenges together. We don’t divide our citizens against each other and vilify working men and women, especially not for political gain as Governor Walker and Republican leaders are doing with this legislation.”

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What I Saw Today

By: Mike Tate

Today, I went to our Capitol and saw something more magnificent than the gilded bronze or the carved marble there. I saw average Wisconsinites standing up. I saw the rebirth of a movement. Nurses from Burnett County. Snowplow drivers from Shawano. Ironworkers from Waukesha. Firefighters from Madison. Union and non-union alike, from big cities like Milwaukee and Appleton, and small cities like Siren and Belmont.

All of them unified with one voice against Scott Walker's big-government power grab that's going on right now that threatens not merely public employees, not only members of the union movement that have made Wisconsin great, but every single person in this state.

Today and tomorrow, individuals and groups from all around the state are converging on the Capitol in an awakening that has rarely been seen in our state as Walker's overreach is being ramrodded through a lockstep Legislature.

Walker has shown political cowardice by using a budget bill to make radical policy, in this case ending seven decades of collective bargaining by public employees and using a divisive campaign against the nurses and lunch ladies, teachers and corrections guards that are our friends and neighbors.

I believe that what I saw today is just the beginning of a movement that will help stop Scott Walker's extreme and partisan efforts to roll back protections for the middle class and to stunt Wisconsin's modern economy.

What I saw today gave me great hope, and it should give you great hope, too.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Amid Proposals to Attack State Employees, Non-Partisan Study Finds Wisconsin Public Employees are Undercompensated

(Milwaukee, Wis.) – The Economic Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank, has released the results of a vigorous study that compares the compensation of Wisconsin public employees to the compensation of Wisconsin private sector employees and finds that – despite pervasive myths to the contrary – Wisconsin’s public employees are in fact undercompensated.  This simple “apples to apples” study controls for education, years of experience, gender, race, citizenship and organizational size. 

“Public employees – such as firefighters, teachers and nurses – provide quality services that protect and enrich Wisconsin’s families, for less than their private sector counterparts,” said Phil Neuenfeldt, President of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO.  “Unfortunately, politicians’ attacks on public service workers not only hurt the middle class – they hurt the children and families that depend on these vital public services.”

According to the report done by University of Rutgers Professor Jeffrey H. Keefe, the annual wages of public sector employees are 14.2 percent lower than wages for comparable workers in the private sector.  Even when benefits, such as health care and pension plans are also considered, total public employee annual compensation is still 8.2 percent lower than their private sector counterparts. 

“Wisconsin public service employees take great pride in the services they provide that keep Wisconsin’s families safe and our economy working,” said Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO.  “We want to work with the governor to find balanced solutions that will create jobs and protect – not attack – the middle class.”

The complete report from researcher Jeffrey H. Keefe is available at the Economic Policy Institute’s website:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

As Storm Approaches Thank a Public Sector Worker

Sheila Cochran, Secretary-Treasurer of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, reminds us to remember the hard-working men and women of Wisconsin who keep our cities safe in inclement weather.

Today as the snow falls and we prepare for the upcoming blizzard, many people will expect and know that we will get through the blizzard conditions.  Many people stayed home today and are preparing to go home early as I write.

I just want to remind you all and say thank you to those who will help us today. Our mail has already been delivered and the deliveries will continue; the streets are being salted and plowed; fire, police and emergency management are kicked into gear; the Deputy Sheriffs have been assisting in emergencies on our roadways, and many other public servants and officials are doing all we expect them to do.  The airport might have delays but it will get plowed and flights will get out.

Our children are being sent home and their teachers and Principals will do their best to make sure they are home safe. I am certain there are a host of others who are working very hard to make sure that we get through yet another snow emergency, these are services provided by public sector workers.  Many will not ever know that they are appreciated or even thought of today.

This is why I am a taxpayer in the state of Wisconsin and proud of it. I know and expect certain things will just happen and they do.  So when you think about the services you receive and the ones you take for granted, thank a public sector worker!  They are worth every dime we pay for them and more.