Monday, April 9, 2012

Barrett gains endorsements from pro-labor legislators

Recall will require candidate that addresses both collective bargaining AND other issues

Former U.S. Congressman Dave Obey endorsed Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to take on Gov. Scott Walker in the upcoming recall later on this spring. Obey, who chaired of the the House Appropriations Committee, had harsh words for the union that recently published a web video decrying Barrett as a poor choice:
"Blaming Tom Barrett for the actions in the Milwaukee budget that were forced by Gov. Walker is like blaming a surgeon who does surgery after a patient is hit by a truck," Obey told reporters. "It's just misdirected and unfair and it disserves every union member who receives that information, because they have a right to have accurate information in making up their own minds in who they’re going to support."
The video erroneously references an interview with Barrett, heavily edited to make it sound as if the mayor had supported Walker's move to end bargaining rights for state employees. In fact, Barrett was against the move, and stated in the very same interview (though omitted in the union's video) that he would have voted against it himself.

Obey joins current U.S. Rep. Ron Kind and State Sen. Jon Erpenbach in voicing their support for Barrett. Erpenbach was one of the 14 Democratic senators who fled Wisconsin in order to delay passage of Act 10, the bill that ended collective bargaining. Other state representatives, including Sen. Tim Cullen (also part of the Wisconsin-14), Rep. Tony Staskunas and Rep. Terese Berceau, also endorsed Barrett.

Unions have overwhelmingly supported Barrett's main Democratic challenger, Kathleen Falk. That's their right to do, politically, and no one is challenging that. But while unions are endorsing a candidate whose electability is questionable, Barrett is receiving endorsements from pro-labor lawmakers, a move that is beneficial for two reasons.

Number one, it indicates that Barrett IS pro-labor. He might not be the most ardent supporter of fiscal causes for state workers, supporting cuts to pay for employees. But he does support the larger issue at hand, that state workers deserve the right to bargain collectively their contracts and terms of their employment.

Number two, the endorsement of unions might have an adverse affect on the eventual recall nominee. This isn't to say that the issues important to unions (or that unions themselves) should be discounted, but rather that the recall needs to be more than about the issue of collective bargaining.

We've seen jobs decline in our state, the worst losses throughout the nation; we've seen a terrible attack on women, including on their reproductive and economic rights; we've seen drastic cuts to services and programs, including unprecedented cuts to education; and we've seen a distorted tax policy, granting billions of dollars in breaks to the wealthy and to corporations, while raising taxes on Wisconsin's working poor.

These issues are but the tip of the iceberg of what Walker & Co. has done to our state in just over a year's time. If we're to select a candidate that's going to win the recall, we're going to need one that will address the issue of collective bargaining AS WELL AS all of these other problems that have been introduced since Gov. Walker was inaugurated.

That candidate may be Kathleen Falk. It may also be Kathleen Vinehout and even Doug La Follette. But the notion that it can't be Tom Barrett is completely false, an idea worth dismissing immediately.

Barrett is proving that he's capable of being on the right side of all issues within this recall, including collective bargaining rights for state workers. His recent endorsements from pro-labor legislators are proof-positive of it.

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