We noted on Friday that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, working with a Republican-led state legislature, had taken the extraordinary step of repealing the state’s enforcement mechanism for pay discrimination lawsuits.
But it turns out that’s not all. Daily Kos points out that along with equal pay repeal, Gov. Walker signed what reads like a wish list of bills from the Religious Right:
The first bill bans abortion coverage through policies obtained through a health insurance exchange, set to be created under the federal health care reform law starting in 2014. The only exceptions would be in cases of rape, incest or medical necessity. [...]
The second bill requires a woman seeking an abortion to undergo an exam and consult with a doctor alone, away from her friends and family. The doctor must determine whether someone is pressuring the woman into the procedure. Doctors who break the law could be charged with a felony. [...]
The sex education bill requires teachers in schools that offer sex education to stress abstinence as the only sure way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
The bill also declares that sex education teachers do not have to address contraception. That's a dramatic shift from current state law, which requires teachers to instruct students on birth control options.
And it doesn’t end there. Walker has now decided to stop defending a law that gives gay and lesbian couples the right to visit each other in the hospital, a law that an anti-gay group is disputing in court.
That’s right. After making it harder for women to sue for pay discrimination, setting up demeaning hurdles for women seeking legal abortions, and giving the go-ahead for ineffective sex ed, Gov. Walker is going out of his way to try to keep same-sex couples from visiting each other in the hospital.
In July 2009, Wisconsin passed a law making it easier for victims of pay discrimination to seek justice in court.
Today, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill repealing the segment of the law:
The 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act was meant to deter employers from discriminating against certain groups by giving workers more avenues via which to press charges. Among other provisions, it allows individuals to plead their cases in the less costly, more accessible state circuit court system, rather than just in federal court.
In November, the state Senate approved SB 202 , which rolled back this provision. On February, the Assembly did the same . Both were party-line votes in Republican-controlled chambers.
SB 202 was sent to Walker on March 29. He had, according to the state constitution, six days to act on the bill. The deadline was 5:00 p.m. on Thursday. The governor quietly signed the bill into law on Thursday, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau, and it is now called Act 219.
Wisconsin voters have put Gov. Walker up for a recall election this summer, along with his lieutenant governor and four of their allies in the state senate. Two of the state senators up for recall, Terry Moulton and Pam Galloway, were a primary sponsors of the repeal. The other two, Scott Fitzgerald and Van Wanggard, voted for its passage.
The repeal of the Equal Pay Enforcement Act is just the latest extreme measure pushed through by Gov. Walker and his Tea Party allies, including an attack on collective bargaining rights, a measure to take away care from 12,000 low-income women served by Planned Parenthood clinics, and a restrictive Voter ID law that has already resulted in voters being turned away from the polls.
But Walker denied that his move was “anti-union” and said he was committed to creating jobs by “building infrastructure, roads and bridges and rail and things of that nature,” which is ironic since Walker rejected funding for a high speed rail line connecting Milwaukee and Madison. “I put the power back in the hands of the taxpayers,” Walker told Brody. “What I did is also very pro-worker.”
Brody: What is your response to folks that say you are anti-union? When you hear that, what do you think?
Walker: Well, you know on two counts, it’s just completely wrong. In the private sector, I’ve got great partners in unions. You look at unions like the operating engineers; they endorsed me, they are still very supportive of our efforts. Why? Because their guys are back to work, they’re working again. Unlike my predecessor who made it very difficult for people building infrastructure, roads and bridges and rail and things of that nature we put the money back in that had been raided there. You look at other big issues that we’ve done in terms of infrastructure in the state, we’ve had the support of other private sector unions, because they want work. They want their guys to go back to work, and those unions in the private sector have largely been my partners in economic development. The other part though, even on the public employee standpoint, it is kind of interesting, I may be anti-big government union bosses, because I think in the past, one of our problems has been they’ve been the ones calling the shots, instead of the hard working taxpayers in the state of Wisconsin. I put the power back in the hands of the taxpayers. What I did is also very pro-worker.
In yesterday's primary election in Wisconsin -- a major defining event in the long, often ugly GOP presidential contest -- less Wisconsin voters turned out to vote in the Republican primary (under 720,000) than signed the petition to recall Gov. Scott Walker (roughly 1 million). The actual turnout fell short of what it was projected to be by a whopping 12 points.
Turnout in Wisconsin's presidential primary election was just over 23 percent, falling short of predictions it would be 35 percent.
With 98 percent of precincts reporting Wednesday, just over 1 million people voted in the presidential primary. That was the only race statewide, although President Barack Obama had no opposition.
About 719,000 people voted on the Republican side and about 290,000 voted on the Democratic side.
That equates to about 23.2 percent of the state's 4.3 million eligible voters.
The Government Accountability Board had predicted 35 percent turnout, the same as it was in the 2008 presidential primary when Obama and Hillary Clinton were battling it out. The board also factored in high interest in numerous local elections around the state.
Cain responded by warning that if Walker is recalled, businesses in Wisconsin will leave the state and unions "will continue to destroy the state." Cain then went on to assert that when he was in charge of Godfather's Pizza, his employees had every right to try and form a union, just as he had every right to fire them for trying to do so.
That last bit might come as a surprise to the National Labor Relations Board, which states quite clearly that it is illegal for an employer to fire employees for attempting to form a union:
The National Labor Relations Act forbids employers from interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of rights relating to organizing, forming, joining or assisting a labor organization for collective bargaining purposes, or from working together to improve terms and conditions of employment, or refraining from any such activity. Similarly, labor organizations may not restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of these rights.
Examples of employer conduct that violates the law:
Threatening employees with loss of jobs or benefits if they join or vote for a union or engage in protected concerted activity.
If Governor Walker is recalled, the unions win and Wisconsin loses. I already know businesses in Wisconsin that say if the unions prevail and Governor Walker loses, they are packing up and leaving. We will have the first look at what America will look like if we do not stop this mess ... If the unions win, that means that they don't want balanced budgets, they still want to continue to destroy the state and we will be looking at the first instance, along with California, of what America is going to look like if we don't push back and start to win against some of these forces.
When I ran Godfather's Pizza, my employees had every right - every right - to unionize if they wanted to. The good news is, because of the kind of work environment we created, they didn't want to unionize. But they had every right to unionize. Now, if they had decided to unionize, I could also decide to fire all of 'em.
Tomorrow morning in Waukesha, WI, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, among others (Gov. Scott Walker is listed as an invited speaker), will rally with corrupt former lobbyist Ralph Reed and the state chapter of his Faith & Freedom Coalition, which Reed created to rehabilitate his image in the wake of his deep involvement in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Here are the event details:
It is our distinct pleasure to invite you to the Wisconsin Faith & Freedom Presidential Kick-Off, sponsored by the Wisconsin Faith & Freedom Coalition, to be held at the Country Springs Hotel on Saturday, March 31st in Waukesha, WI. Come hear from CONFIRMED speakers Governor Mitt Romney, Senator Rick Santorum, and Speaker Newt Gingrich.
When Romney and Santorum – the standard–bearers of the GOP – appear on stage tomorrow with Reed, they’ll be embracing a corrupt hustler who has survived scandal after scandal by delivering cash and foot soldiers to Republican leaders (and not for the first time).
It wasn’t long ago that Ralph Reed was damaged goods in Republican circles, and for good reason. Reed came to national prominence as the first executive director of Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, beginning in 1989. However, by 1997 the groups finances were collapsing, the FEC had found that the group violated federal campaign finance laws in 1990, 1992, and 1994, and federal prosecutors were investigating allegations of financial misconduct made by the organization’s CFO. So Reed resigned and moved to Georgia to become a lobbyist.
In 1999, Abramoff hired Reed and ultimately paid him $1.3 million to generate opposition to legalizing video poker and a state-sponsored lottery in Alabama. The money came from the Choctaw Tribe, which runs a casino in nearby Mississippi. Reed used his extensive Religious Right contacts and engaged James Dobson and the Alabama Christian Coalition, which had a policy against being the “recipient of any funds direct or in-direct or any in-kind direct or indirect from gambling interests.” He funneled $850,000 to the group, but made sure to launder it through his longtime friend Grover Norquist’s organization, Americans for Tax Reform.
Before the wheels came off Jack Abramoff’s criminal lobbying enterprise, he described Reed to his business partner as “a bad version of us.” Abramoff, explaining the comment after being released from prison, said that Reed was “a tap dancer and constantly just asking for money.” And Abramoff knows more than a thing or two about Reed. He gave Reed his first job after college and, along with Norquist, formed what some called the “triumvirate” at the College Republican National Committee.
After the Abramoff scandal broke, Reed claimed that he had “no direct knowledge of [Abramoff’s lobbying firm’s] clients or their interests,” but the Senate Indian Affairs Committee determined that Abramoff told Reed as early as 1999 that he was taking casino money. In an interview last year with Alan Colmes, Abramoff called Reed’s denial ridiculous:
Abramoff: It's ridiculous. I mean, even the tribes that had other business, 99% of their revenue came from gaming. But a lot of those tribes had nothing but gaming.
Colmes: So, in other words, Ralph Reed was saying "hey, I'll work with you but I don't want to be paid with gambling money, I'm too clean for that." But are you saying that conversation never happened?
Abramoff: No. Never happened. Ralph didn't want it out that he was getting gambling money and, frankly, that was his choice and I think it was a big mistake.
Reed went on to become the chair of the Georgia Republican Party in 2001 and ran for lieutenant governor in 2006. However, the Abramoff scandal had broken by then, and Reed “suffered an embarrassing defeat” in the primary. The New York Timesdescribed Reed as a “close associate of Jack Abramoff” whose “candidacy was viewed as a test of the effects of the Washington lobbying scandal on core Republican voters.”
In 2009, Reed founded the Faith & Freedom Coalition to help resurrect his image and stature in the movement. Faith & Freedom, which Reed described as a “21st Century version of the Christian Coalition on steroids,” is really just a Tea Party-stained version of the original, and much smaller despite the steroids.
However, Reed is an operator in the truest sense, and knows how to “tap dance” and “constantly ask for money” with the best of them. He has apparently earned, and I do mean earned, his way back into the good graces of Republican leaders. It’s unclear, however, how long Reed can go without another scandal.
Last year, Wisconsin voters recalled two state senators who had backed Gov. Scott Walker’s attacks on working families. This year, Wisconsinites have put the governor himself up for recall, along with four of his anti-worker allies in the state legislature.
More than a million Wisconsinites signed a petition to get Gov. Walker’s recall on the ballot. If the recall succeeds, it will be the first major victory of 2012 against the Tea Party-controlled GOP.
Polls show that the recall elections, which will likely take place on June 5, are going to be close. Already, right-wing groups are pouring money into the state in an effort to protect Walker: the Republican Governor’s Association released an ad this week attacking two possible Democratic challengers to Walker. And we can expect to see much more where this came from – last year, out of state conservative groups spent millions of dollars to defend Walker’s friends in the legislature.
But the energy behind the recall effort is even stronger. Last year, tens of thousands of Wisconsinites took to the streets to protest Gov. Walkers anti-worker policies and showed up at the polls to vote out two of his supporters.
People For the American Way will be helping to mobilize support for the recalls in Wisconsin in the coming months, through staff on the ground, targeted advertising, and direct voter contact. You can read more about our efforts here.
We’ll be closely following the news out of Wisconsin and posting weekly updates on the PFAW blog.
For information on some of the power players behind Gov. Walker's war on working families and labor rights, check out these clips from the new Robert Greenwald movie, Koch Brothers Exposed.
Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch appeared Monday on the American Family Association (AFA) radio network with host Sandy Rios. AFA, which has been classified a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, recently added Rios to its lineup.
Rios gained notoriety early last month when an incredulous Bill O’Reilly suggested she was engaging in McCarthyism for calling on J.C. Penney to fire Ellen DeGeneres because she’s gay. Earlier she wrote that accepting Ellen would lead to “the complete eradication of the traditional family and the acceptance of any sexual choice anyone wants to make.” This month she lamented that “the Jewish vote in this country is so confused” and said that secular Jews have been some of “the worst enemies of the country.”
This kind of thing is nothing new for Rios, as Kleefisch had to know. Last year, debating the Obama administration contraceptives mandate, Rios equated birth control and abuse counseling with pedicures and manicures. She also compared unions and the Obama campaign to a terrorist group, writing that “Organizing for America, the SEIU, the NEA and many of America’s labor unions have … more in common with the violence and intimidation of Hamas than with protecting ‘workers.’”
Rios, introducing Kleefisch, spoke of her Chicago roots and fondness for Wisconsin. Then, wasting no time, she began attacking Wisconsin workers and students:
You probably saw it every night on your television. You saw union members holding out in the state capitol. You actually saw them trash the state capitol. It was just an amazing thing. Playing music, there’s nothing wrong with music. It was just strange behavior. They even got out from school to do this. […]
They were furious. As a matter of fact, they took some steps. They threatened State Senator Dan Kapanke with recall, they did recall him. They staged protests outside of his home. They issued death threats. They sent his wife disgusting letters in the mail. They spread nails and glass all over his driveway, and they managed to get him out of office.
Following that introduction, Kleefisch gave an update on the recall effort and echoed Rios on how mean and nasty the union supporters were. Both used the despicable actions of a few to tarnish a broad-based citizen movement:
Folks spent their entire winters collecting these signatures in hopes of recalling us, essentially trying to remake a decision that the majority of voters in Wisconsin just made in fall of 2010. And voters overwhelmingly elected the governor and me because we said we’d do a budget without raising taxes. And in 2008, the Great Recession hit Wisconsin hard. People are still being pinched by it, and that’s why there was this desperate need to do a budget without raising taxes.
Well, the result of that is what you’ve spent the last couple minutes describing. We all got death threats, and our capitol was trashed. People were intimidated right and left. It was scary times. Even my little kids were scared to go to the capitol. People would shout at them, and you know, it’s kinda creepy when you work in a situation like that.
Kleefisch mostly let Rios do the dirty work for her, like in this exchange:
Rios: I’ll try to be clearer now about what this means. Basically unions in all of the states have been able to, through their union leadership, have been able to raise their salaries, their pensions just on and on, and their benefits without any kind of restraint.
Kleefisch: Well, that’s what’s called collective bargaining. And so we’ve put some restrictions on collective bargaining.
Rios sounded the alarm that “union folk from Chicago are flooding” into Wisconsin, with the backing of the Obama administration, to throw the election. Kleefisch, however, expressed confidence in her prospects, saying “I think we’re gonna win. I think we’re gonna win because if you go to the ballot box, and you vote on the facts, then you vote for us every time. Because the facts are, it worked.”
As Kleefisch noted repeatedly during the interview, Wisconsin is very purple state. It’s unclear, then, why she thinks appearing on a right-wing show with a notorious host will help her prospects.
Over the past few weeks, more progressive elected officials are not just voting against ALEC inspired legislation that would privatize public services and make a few people very rich, they are calling it out by name and raising awareness of how ALEC serves as a vehicle to enact a corporate wish list into law in states across the country.
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton recently vetoed a set of ALEC-modeled tort-reform bills that originated from an “ALEC Boot Camp” for state legislators. Here’s his statement:
“Exactly who did the Republicans in the legislature listen to? Well, three of the four bills come right from this manual, Tort Reform Boot Camp, published by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. This is the same group who reportedly provided legislators last week with all-expense paid trips to a posh Florida hotel for what they call an “education policy conference.” It is an extremely conservative group, funded largely by large corporations, big business associations, insurance companies and very wealthy individuals. I’ve found that Minnesotans do not want their laws written by the lobbyists of big corporations.
“Since these Republican bills so closely follow ALEC’s instructions on tort reform, and since ALEC’s opinion on these subjects are evidently more important to Republican legislators than mine, their fellow legislator’s or the Supreme Court’s, perhaps they would share with us all of the other ALEC boot camp manuals, so we can know in advance what to expect from them for the rest of this session. If Republicans want to continue to prove to Minnesotans that they are too extreme to lead, they should continue to throw ALEC’s ideology at us. If they want to begin to govern responsibly, and work collaboratively, pass real jobs legislation – and my three measures have not even been taken up – real jobs legislations that will put Minnesotans back to work, then I’m ready to work with them. And I’m waiting.”
Just last week, Wisconsin State Representative Mark Pocan (D) decided to take action as well. He joined ALEC to gain access to the bill templates, and then took to the floor to expose the origins of AB110, a bill that would damage the public education system by giving special taxpayer subsidies to private schools for special needs children.
“This is part of dismantling public education in Wisconsin, and Florida, and Ohio, and every single state it’s introduced in,” Pocan explained. “This bill doesn’t come from this body, this bill is an identical bill that’s been introduced brought by special interests by ALEC and introduced state by state by state.”
ALEC’s secret jig is up. The American people don’t want their laws to be written by corporations, and they’ve made their voices heard. Now, our elected representatives – that is, the ones who are actually representing us, not wealthy special interests – are taking a stand too. ALEC’s pro- corporate agenda can only advance if kept secret. Kudos to those elected officials with the courage to shine the spotlight on this undemocratic organization.
Wisconsin state senator Glenn Grothman went on the Alan Colmes show on Friday to discuss a controversial new bill he authored that would require the state’s Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board to officially label single parenthood as “a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.”
The bill was seen as a slap in the face to single parents in Wisconsin, who are raising 31 percent of children in the state.
Grothman told Colmes that the country’s out-of-wedlock birth rate is the “choice of the women,” who should be “educated that this is a mistake.” When Colmes countered with statistics about the high number of pregnancies that are unintended, Grothman said that many women are “trained” to lie and say that their planned pregnancies are actually unintended:
Grothman: There’s been a huge change over the last 30 years and a lot of that change has been the choice of the women. There’s a reason why in the 50s and the 60s you had less than ten percent of the births illegitimate, and now we’re over 40 percent. It’s not that there weren’t abusive men in the 40s or there was a problem with child support. It is the popular culture, led by the social service professions, who are saying…
Colmes: Well tell me what you would change.
Grothman: I think the first thing we do is that we should educate women that this is a mistake.
Colmes: You think women need to be educated, are they not smart enough on their own?
Grothman: They do have to be educated, because right now the culture encourages a single motherhood lifestyle.
Colmes: You think women choose to be single moms…
Grothman: Oh absolutely
Colmes: You think women want to have homes without fathers? You think women look to the opportunity to have to raise kids and not be able to get work because they have to stay home and take care of the kids. Women want to do this?
Grothman: I think a lot of women are adopting the single motherhood lifestyle because the government creates a situation in which it is almost preferred.
Colmes: According to data published in USA Today, at least four in ten pregnancies in every state are unwanted or mistimed. According to the analysis that was released last May, more than half of pregnancies in 29 states and the District of Columbia were unintended, 38 to 50 percent were unintended in the remaining states. This mitigates against the argument that women are purposefully wanting to have kids. Their unintended for the most part. They’re unintended pregnancies, which is the argument for health care services and birth control for women.
Grothman: I think you undersell these women.
Colmes: Undersell them?
Grothman: Undersell them. I think when you have an epidemic of this great proportion, people are not so dumb that it’s surprising when they get pregnant. I think people are trained to say that ‘this is a surprise to me,’ because there’s still enough of a stigma that they’re supposed to say this.
Today on Truth that Transforms, John Rabe of Truth in Action Ministries and Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission agreed that idolatry and the worship of government is to blame for the recent protests and recall movement in Wisconsin over Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s push to eliminate the collective bargaining rights of public workers, calling it a “theological issue.” Rabe said that the Wisconsinites who have rallied against Walker’s move are people who have made government “a replacement for God” and even went on to claim that government employees shouldn’t look to government to provide for them.
Rabe: It does seem that there is a theological issue at stake here as well. When we are trained to look to government to supply our every need, it is very tempting for that government to become a replacement for God in our lives. You know, we tend to worship our idols and I think we’ve seen from the uprisings in places like Greece and frankly even in the United States in the Wisconsin state capitol last year, what happens when that god stops providing.
Yesterday, Democratic Wisconsin State Senator Dave Hansen was reelected over opponent David VanderLeest in the first of nine Wisconsin Senate recall elections. Six Republicans and three Democrats are up for recall elections this summer, following nationwide outrage over Wisconsin Republicans’ eliminating collective bargaining rights for public employees.
Randy Borntrager, Political Director for People For the American Way, released the following statement:
A circuit court in Wisconsin said state senators used illegal tactics to pass Governor Scott Walker’s signature piece of legislation: an immensely unpopular bill that removed nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers. The ruling invalidates the law.