Photo: Morry Gash/AP
By Cynthia McCabe
Outrage over the maneuvering by Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans in Wisconsin to ram through a bill silencing workers’ voices went out in shockwaves from Madison Wednesday night and reverberated across the country.
Wisconsin’s Republican lawmakers met in the dark of night, in a near-empty Capitol, and stretched their authority to the breaking point in an attempt to ram through legislation that the public does not support and that will harm thousands of the American working class. Its legality is dubious. Its intent is mean spirited. It is perhaps the most grievous example of how democratic decision making should not take place. The governor and his legislative minions should be ashamed of what they’ve done.
In exercising the nuclear option to impose their will on Wisconsites, Governor Walker and Senate Republicans attacked middle class families, from students to seniors, in their state. This is an affront to teachers, nurses, students, firefighters, construction workers and other everyday people who stood up, spoke out, and learned how much their voice mattered to their elected leaders. The response will be unified and the collective voice of millions of working Americans from all across this nation will only grow louder.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV):
I am disappointed in the Wisconsin legislature’s decision to trample on the rights of teachers and other public employees. I have always supported workers’ rights in Nevada and across this nation. In these tough economic times, when state budgets are strained to the breaking point, everyone must make sacrifices. That includes public employees, many of whom have already conceded to unpaid furloughs, pay cuts and salary freezes, and some of whom have even lost their jobs. Workers in Wisconsin were willing to make sacrifices and tighten their belts, like families around the country. But Governor Walker and Wisconsin Senate Republicans have stubbornly refused to negotiate or compromise, refusing to budge from their extreme proposal.
Last night’s vote to strip Wisconsin workers of their collective bargaining rights wasn’t about tough budget decisions. Republicans simply scapegoated hard-working people who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and launched an ideological assault on the right of working people in America to organize and collectively bargain. The workers affected by this decision aren’t getting rich teaching children to read or cleaning floors in the State House. Republicans should stop attacking middle-class people working hard to put food on the table for their families.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine:
The decision by Governor Scott Walker and Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature to use procedural gimmicks and a straight partisan vote to press on with legislation that would take away collective bargaining rights held by Wisconsin public employees for over 50 years is contrary to the state’s political traditions, is punitive in nature, and does nothing to address the budget issues that he and his fellow Republicans claimed were at the heart of this legislative dispute.
Villainizing public sector workers or other hard working Americans isn’t going to get us any closer to addressing the budget issues facing our states or the country as a whole and does nothing to lay the foundation for a more prosperous future.
In these tough budget times everyone needs to share in the sacrifices necessary to bring budgets into balance and to spend taxpayer resources wisely and leaders of both parties have to come together to find common ground. Its very disappointing that Republicans are preventing that from happening in Wisconsin.
Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, chair of the Democratic Governors Association:
The shameful display we saw in Wisconsin last night embodies some of the worst partisan politics that we have seen on the state-level in recent memory. After weeks of attempting to ram through a ban on collective bargaining under the guise of balancing their state budget, Wisconsin Republicans – led by Governor Scott Walker – showed that they are more interested in destroying the right of workers to organize and enacting partisan retribution than they are in practicing fiscal responsibility.
Every governor is tasked with balancing a budget and leading their state through these challenging times. But let’s be clear: Governor Walker’s push to undermine worker’s rights—against the will of the people of Wisconsin—will not put his state on sounder fiscal ground, create jobs, or expand opportunity.
Democratic governors are faced with the same challenges facing Republican governors like Scott Walker, but we understand that our primary goal should be bringing people together to create new jobs and opportunity now. With their singular focus on settling old political scores at the expense of everything else, Republican governors are practicing the worst, Washington-style politics and only serving to prolong our nation’s economic recession.
Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva and Keith Ellison:
These dead-of-night tactics are a common theme in the Republican war on working families. Just as Washington Republicans passed their slash-and-burn budget bill at 4:40 a.m. on a Saturday morning, Wisconsin Republicans passed their anti-working family bill last night without a single Democrat in the room.
The New York Times tells the story: a tiny group of Republicans acted against the will of the people, without debate and without public representation. Last night they demonstrated their disrespect for Americans who only want to do good work, support their families and pay their bills. Instead of creating jobs, which they promised the nation they would do, Republicans have spent the last three months firing hard-working Americans and taking away their rights and freedoms.
The Republican war on working families is far from over. The Progressive Caucus is standing with everyday Americans every step of the way, fighting to stop Republicans’ shameless power grabs and layoffs.
To the working people of America we say: Stay strong. We stand with you. This is only the beginning of a long road that leads to a better America.
Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Executive Director Michael Sargeant:
Gov. Walker and Republican Senate Leader Scott Fitzgerald have perverted the legislative process to ram through their extreme attack on Wisconsin’s working families,” said Sargeant.
Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald’s comments earlier today on how his ultimate political goal is to defund labor unions and defeat President Obama laid bare the GOP’s true motivations in their so-called attempt to repair the state budget. By using this ploy to ram through the budget bill provisions that eviscerate workers’ rights, the Republicans have betrayed not only the legislative process, but all of Wisconsin’s working families.
The Senate Democrats have tried time and time again to negotiate a compromise with the GOP leadership to resolve the state’s budget issues without damaging workers’ rights or further burdening those hurt most by the recession. Tonight’s maneuver makes it clear that Wisconsin Republicans never had any intention of working out a good-faith agreement.
This is power-play politics at its most cynical. Policy-making by deception has no place in our statehouses.
Wisconsin Republican legislators who participated in tonight’s legislative manipulation should be ashamed.
AFSCME Wisconsin President Marty Beil:
Gov. Walker and his puppets have taken a baseball bat to the rights of Wisconsin workers. They have left no doubt that their highest priority is to take away rights from all Wisconsin public employees.
Their assault on workers and the democratic process has nothing to do with balancing the state’s budget.
After arguing for weeks that radical changes in public employee rights were an integral fiscal cog in his budget repair bill, Gov. Walker’s allies abruptly separated out the union bashing provisions and abruptly passed them with no prior notice and no debate.
Early on, our members agreed to every fiscal concession in the governor’s proposal. We have always insisted that Walker’s attack on our rights has nothing to do with the budget. By separating these provisions, Walker’s puppets have proved our point – this isn’t about money, it is about undermining workplace democracy.
This is a dark time for Wisconsin. This is not how Wisconsin works.
Walker has driven the state far away from its core values. But after each dark night, there comes a new day. And this new day starts today, as Wisconsin citizens across the state answer this insult by pouring their energy into recalling Wisconsin Senators who have sold their souls to the highest bidder.
AFSCME County and Municipal Employees Councils 24, 40 and 40:
Governor Walker’s power grab is an affront to democracy. The voters will not stand for denying the rights of Wisconsin’s public employees – and they will be held accountable for their actions at the ballot box,” said Bob McLinn, President of AFSCME Council 24, and a correctional officer at Waupun Correctional Institution.
Governor Walker and eighteen Republican senators handed us a setback, but we will win this war. This attack on the working and middle class will not stand – and we will take back our democracy in recall elections,” said Brian Stafford, President of AFSCME District Council 48, and chief repair person for water distribution, City of Milwaukee.
This is a sad day for democracy and for Wisconsin. But our state’s nurses, teachers and EMTs will overcome. We will take back our government from the big moneyed interests and reverse this attack on workers’ rights,” said Jim Garity, President of AFSCME Council 40, and Jefferson County Highway Department equipment operator.
SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry:
Tonight, Scott Walker made it crystal clear to the people of Wisconsin — and the entire nation– the extent he will go to in order to pay back billionaires such as the Koch Brothers and bad actor corporations that want to destroy the middle class. This legislative gimmick proves Walker’s attack on the middle class was never about balancing the budget; it was always about stripping workers of a voice and rewarding the cronies who helped finance his campaign.”
It was so important for Walker to move this legislation in the dead of the night, that he and Republican legislators may have illegally denied the people of Wisconsin their right to adequate notice to be involved in this process. In the end, Scott Walker turned a deaf ear to the tens of thousands of courageous nurses, environmentalists, students, faith leaders and others who stood up for a brighter vision of Wisconsin that values fairness, rewards hard work, and provides quality services to those who need them.
From denying working people the right to have a voice, to failing to create the jobs that Wisconsinites so desperately need, Walker has proven time and again that his first priority is rewarding the Koch Brothers and corporate interests, not the people of Wisconsin.
Scott Walker and Wisconsin Republican senators may have rammed this anti-middle class legislation through tonight, but over the past three weeks they ignited a movement in Wisconsin and nationwide that remains even more committed to creating a stronger, more fair and promising vision of America. No amount of legislative maneuvers will ever quell their determination to stand up for that vision.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW):
Joe Hansen, UFCW International President, said, Tonights late-night actions by Wisconsins Republican Senators will not stand. Working families and the broader community in Wisconsin and across the country have overwhelmingly stood up for the right to bargain collectively. Governor Walker’s true motives have been made clear that this was never about balancing the budget, but rather to exact political revenge on the hard working teachers, firefighters and public workers that make Wisconsin a great state.
And for those politicians who seek to emulate Governor Walker, rest assured, these attacks on middle class families has unified and inspired an even stronger grassroots movement for change in this country.
UFCW members work in some of the nations largest supermarket chains and major food processing and meatpacking plants. UFCW members put food on Americas dinner table and with a voice at work and the right to bargain with their employer, they are able to bring middle class jobs to every neighborhood in America.
UFCW Local 1473 member Tricia Hawkins, who was inside the Wisconsin capitol building when the vote was taken:
I work at Hormel Foods in Beloit and I have a good job because I have a seat at the bargaining table. I know collective bargaining works because our members work with management to reach the best agreement to make a stronger company and a good place to work. She continued, Working people understand that hard times call for shared sacrifices but Governor Walker proved tonight that his motivation was never about shared sacrifice. He is out for political revenge.
U.S. Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN)
Yesterday, by voting on a non-fiscal measure to strip the people of their right to collectively bargain, Wisconsin Republicans proved what we have known all along. This has never been about the budget. It’s been about limiting the rights and the voice of ordinary, working Americans.
But you can’t silence Americans by cutting them out of the political process when it’s convenient or even by banning them from entering their own state capitol. I have every reason to believe the people of Wisconsin will continue to raise their voices for freedom and I applaud their efforts.
U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN):
We were all shocked by what happened in Wisconsin Wednesday night. Eighteen Republican state senators broke faith with the people who elected them. They broke their word. They may have even broken the law. They wanted to bust public sector unions — the last line of defense for the rights of teachers, police officers, firefighters, nurses, and other public servants — so badly that they were willing to cheat the system.
Let’s be clear: They did this in the hopes that, with the bill passed, the crowds would dissipate and we’d let this go.But they were wrong. We’re not going to let this go. We’re going to help the people of Wisconsin fight this bill — and the illegal power grab it took to pass it — every step of the way. We’re going to help them hold accountable the elected officials who sold out workers and subverted democracy.
And, most of all, we’re going to make sure that this is the end — not the beginning — of the right wing’s attempt to destroy the middle class. It took a power-hungry, corporate-backed governor and 18 senators with no respect for the law or the struggle of working families to bring this issue to national attention. But the fight to stand up for the middle class against corporations and the politicians they own has always been a national fight. It’s up to us to make sure we win that fight for the working families whose voices — whose livelihoods — are at stake.
U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI):
I am extremely disappointed in the late night, dishonest actions of Governor Walker and Republican state legislators. Not only have they put an end to 50 years of workers’ rights in Wisconsin, but their shameful move shows that they have no respect for the voices of working families or the democratic process in our state.
I’m saddened by the disregard for public employees and their willingness to negotiate on important state budget challenges. The fact that legislators stripped the bill of fiscal details to jam through the destruction of worker rights by itself shows once and for all that this stunt was not about balancing the budget – it was a partisan power grab.
This is not the way we do business in Wisconsin. We can’t accomplish anything when it’s all about politics. Right now, we need leaders in the state who are willing to get together and listen to each other, in the honor of Wisconsin democracy, to find the common ground that I know exists for the future of our state.
U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI):
Tonight’s vote by the Wisconsin State Senate is sad and shameful. It demonstrates total disrespect for the law and for the people of our state. Our fight to reclaim our democracy is energized, not over.
U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI):
Last night, Wisconsin Republicans proved what we have been saying for a long time – Governor Walker’s desire to eviscerate collective bargaining in Wisconsin is about ideology not about the budget.
We’ve already seen a lot of buyer’s remorse in Wisconsin. It’s no wonder that Governor Walker wants to move beyond this. But instead of negotiating in good faith with workers and listening to Wisconsinites, he rammed this through the State Senate with no debate.
Over the years, Wisconsin’s state health care programs have been among the most successful in the country. In one action in the dark of night, Wisconsin Republicans have jeopardized the health of women, children, and our seniors. With Governor Walker in the driver’s seat, we can kiss goodbye the more than 30 years of bipartisan history in Wisconsin of protecting women’s health – ranging from breast exams to STD tests to birth control.
He may think our memories are short, but we will not forget this. It’s despicable.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) :
…With a swift procedural maneuver, Governor Walker made one thing perfectly clear last night: his party’s goal has absolutely nothing to do with the Wisconsin budget and everything to do with union busting. If Governor Walker truly cared about the budget, he wouldn’t have added millions to Wisconsin’s deficit with tax breaks for the wealthy – just a few short months after he was elected.
What is happening in Wisconsin makes absolutely clear that this battle is really about Republicans’ insatiable quest to deny working Americans the right to negotiate through collective bargaining. Republicans want to deny basic negotiating rights to thousands of state workers, including teachers, nurses, and all the state employees who work every day to protect the health, safety and well-being of Wisconsin’s residents.
The Republicans’ incredible overreach is not limited to Wisconsin; it is playing itself out in state houses all across the county and also in Washington. I, for one, will continue to push back, and to fight for workers’ rights alongside legions of Americans who have mobilized against the Republican assault on the middle class and working families. The Republican assault is undemocratic, it is un-American and together we will reject their efforts.
Michael Moore, documentarian: Today was the 78th birthday of the New Deal. That these “laws” would pass in MI & WI on this day is a disgrace & the people will respond.
Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine: Hey Scott Walker: this is not your air traffic controllers moment, it’s your Waterloo.