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Wisconsin recall effort comes up short
by Michael Hirsch | September 8, 2011 New York Teacher issue
Republicans will retain a razor-edge 17-16 margin over Democrats in the Wisconsin state Senate in the wake of nine fiercely fought recall elections that were triggered by Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s assault on collective-bargaining rights for public-sector workers last spring.
Democrats won two of six recall efforts against Senate Republicans in an effort to take back the state Senate and reverse the governor’s draconian anti-labor laws. The GOP failed in its efforts to recall three Democrats who fled the state in a failed effort to stymie the legislation.
The recall effort against Republicans was a dry run for an anticipated recall effort against Walker in 2012. Walker could not be targeted earlier, because state law mandates that an official be over a year into a term before he or she is eligible for recall.
The momentum for the recall effort originated in mass demonstrations and an occupation of the state Capitol in the winter and spring by union members who opposed the governor’s push to eliminate virtually all collective-bargaining rights for most public-sector workers, require substantial increases in employee contributions to health care and pensions, and stop collecting union dues from employee paychecks.
Walker touted the legislation as a way to close the state’s large budget deficit, though critics said its aim was solely to eviscerate labor’s clout. An editorial in The New York Times opined, “Voters around the country who oppose the widespread efforts to undermine public unions — largely financed by corporate interests — should draw strength from Tuesday’s success, not discouragement.”
Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt said the balloting showed that the state’s voters “are looking for a check on Scott Walker’s reckless and radical agenda.”
The Nation online, Aug. 17
AFL-CIO Now, Aug. 17
Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 17
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