Sen. Ted Cruz, who won the endorsement of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker this week in the lead-up to the state’s Republican presidential primary, told a Wisconsin radio host yesterday that he was “inspired” by Walker’s notorious stand against unions in his state.
In 2011, Walker signed legislation stripping public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights, survived a recall election, and came back to severely weaken private-sector unions as well. The right-wing celebrity that this brought Walker was not enough, however, to win him the Republican presidential nomination, although he did say that battling union members had prepared him to fight ISIS.
In an interview with Wisconsin talk radio host Charlie Sykes yesterday, Cruz expressed his support for so-called “right-to-work” laws that are designed to weaken unions and said that Walker’s battle with union members had “inspired” him.
“Absolutely, I think right to work, it’s a fundamental right,” Cruz said, “and I think we need to have government that sides with the working men and women of this country rather than with special interests, rather than with union bosses.”
He added that “when Gov. Scott Walker and millions of men and women across Wisconsin stood up and took on the union bosses, it was powerful, it inspired people across the country, it inspired me.”
He told Sykes that “what y’all have done in the state of Wisconsin is exactly what we need to do in Washington, is we need a president who stands with the working men and women of this country against the special interests and lobbyists in Washington. “
A new report released today by People For the American Way Foundation explores how the Supreme Court’s extreme pro-corporate agenda over the years has been matched by increasingly dangerous attacks on working people.
“Corporations, Unions, and Constitutional Democracy” by PFAW Foundation Senior Fellow Jamie Raskin explores how the Roberts Court’s right-wing majority has established a precedent for privileging corporations over individuals, while at the same times twisting First Amendment doctrine to undermine the right of workers to band together to win fair treatment in the workplace.
“In recent years, we’ve seen an increasingly extreme pro-corporate agenda from the Supreme Court, most notably in Citizens United,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way Foundation. “What hasn’t received as much attention is the Court’s relentless attacks on working people. Today, the Friedrichs case represents the most deliberate attempt yet to replace the Court's longstanding precedent with an ideological pro-corporate agenda."
As Raskin writes in the report:
“The First Amendment has become the fulcrum of major constitutional decision-making related to both corporations and unions. It is the magical source of the unprecedented new political rights and powers conferred on corporations by Citizens United. It is also the putative basis of legal and juridical attacks on unions and their right to collect agency fees from workers they represent. It will be the terrain of struggle over growing efforts to grant dissident shareholders opt-out rights and objector rebates equivalent to what union objectors enjoy today.”
Raskin, who serves as a constitutional law professor at American University Washington College of Law and a Maryland State Senator, in addition to his role as PFAW Foundation Senior Fellow, is available to discuss the report and the Supreme Court’s recent decisions. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an interview.
Corporations and unions are fundamentally dissimilar, but conservatives in Congress and on the Supreme Court have tried to equate them in an attempt to enlarge corporations' political rights. This equation has sunk into our legal, political, and social consciousness, weakening the sense of unions as organic democratic institutions while aggrandizing the political power of CEOs of large companies.
Add this to the good news/bad news mix from the Supreme Court's healthcare decision: Because of the good news (Chief Justice Roberts voted to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act), we get the bad news that his standing among the nation's Democrats has significantly increased. This collective amnesia about who John Roberts is and what he has done is disturbing, especially since the direction of the Court is one of the most important issues upon which Democrats should be voting in November.
A new Gallup Poll shows wild fluctuations in Democrats and Republicans' assessment of Chief Justice John Roberts since their last poll in 2005, a change Gallup attributes to his role in upholding the Affordable Care Act. Roberts' approval rating among Republicans has plummeted 40 percentage points from 2005, falling from 67% to 27%. In contrast, his favorability among Democrats has risen from 35% to 54%. That the healthcare decision is a catalyst of this change is supported by a PEW Research Center poll last week showing that between April and July, approval of the Supreme Court dropped 18 points among Republicans and rose 12% among Democrats.
Yes, John Roberts upheld the ACA, but only as a tax. At the same time, he agreed with his four far right compatriots that it fell outside the authority granted Congress by the Commerce Clause, leaving many observers concerned that he has set traps designed to let the Court later strike down congressional legislation that should in no way be considered constitutionally suspect. He also joined the majority that restricted Congress's constitutional authority under the Spending Clause to define the contours of state programs financed with federal funds.
Just as importantly, Roberts's upholding the ACA does not erase the past seven years, during which he has repeatedly been part of thin conservative majority decisions bending the law beyond recognition in order to achieve a right wing political result. John Roberts cast the deciding vote in a number of disastrous decisions, including those that:
Oh, and then there's that little 5-4 Citizens United opinion that has upended our nation's electoral system and put our government up to sale to the highest bidder.
With a rap sheet like that – and this is hardly a complete a list – no one should be under the illusion that John Roberts is anything but a right-wing ideologue using the Supreme Court to cement his favorite right-wing policies into law.
Next term, Roberts is expected to lead the judicial front of the Republican Party's war against affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act. Whether he succeeds may depend on whether it is Mitt Romney or Barack Obama who fills the next vacancy on the Supreme Court.
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.
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.
In the Wisconsin elections last night, Republicans barely held on to their majority by cashing in on their massive corporate support in the post-Citizens United era. But we changed the game and seized momentum heading into the next battles.
Hundreds of workers’ rights supporters gathered in front of the offices of the BGR Group lobbying firm to welcome Wisconsin’s Republican legislators to Washington in response to the lawmakers pushing through a union-busting bill last week despite widespread protests against the legislation.
On Wednesday night, Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate rammed a union-busting bill through the Senate. The bill is opposed by 74 percent of Wisconsin citizens and has inspired protests throughout the nation.
Thousands of public employees in Wisconsin are protesting this week in response to Gov. Scott Walker's attempt to strip public employee unions in the state of their collective bargaining rights and to reduce benefits to public workers.