Wisconsin Vote on Unions Corrupts Democracy, Trumka Says

AFL-CIO President Richrd Trumpka
Richard Trumka, president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). Photographer: Michael Reynolds/Pool via Bloomberg

The Wisconsin Senate’s action to strip collective bargaining rights for most government unions is a “corruption of democracy,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.

The Wisconsin vote without any Democrats yesterday to curb collective bargaining shows how far Governor Scott Walker and Republicans will go to “pay back their corporate donors,” Trumka said today at a labor meeting in Washington. He heads a federation of unions with 12.2 million members.

Walker’s “overreaching” has ignited labor unions, and may help them focus on creating jobs, Trumka said. He urged the U.S. government to increase investment in public projects such as roads and airports to spur employment opportunities. President Barack Obama has so far failed to meet his job-creation goal, Trumka said.

The AFL-CIO is considering legal action to challenge the vote in Wisconsin because lawmakers violated several laws, including failure to provide proper legal notice, Trumka said in an interview after the speech.

“Scott Walker didn’t win,” Trumka said. “It’s not over until we say it’s over.”

The labor federation will be involved in efforts to recall elected officials. Trumka said. State laws also may have been violated in Ohio on its collective bargaining bill, he said.

Wisconsin Senate Republicans voted 18-1 yesterday to pass a measure stripping government unions of most collective bargaining power. Democrats had sought to block action by leaving the state on Feb. 17. Republicans control the chamber 19-14.

Walker has said his bill would save $30 million for the state this fiscal year.

Union Protests

Unions protested the proposed cuts to collective bargaining, and the effort led to protests in states where similar legislation is under consideration. The Ohio Senate passed a bill last week curbing collective bargaining for government employees with a 17-16 vote. Democrats and six Republicans objected.

The campaign to create jobs will draw strength from the union rallies in Madison, Wisconsin, and in Indiana and Ohio, Trumka said at the Summit on Jobs & America’s Future, sponsored by the Campaign for America’s Future, a Washington-based group that backs what it calls progressive change.

Public workers have rallied against Republican governors seeking to curb collective bargaining and shore up budget shortfalls. Forty-four states and the District of Columbia face a $125 billion deficit for fiscal 2012, according to the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities.

‘Spinning Deficits’

“Every day that politicians spend spinning deficits is another day they ignore our jobs problem,” Trumka said.

Republicans led by U.S. House Speaker John Boehner have proposed cutting $61 billion from the federal budget, which Trumka said also will eliminate 700,000 jobs.

Trumka said the AFL-CIO will fight Republican-proposed cuts in Social Security and Medicare. Boehner said his budget will curb Medicare and Social Security, according to an interview published in the March 4 Wall Street Journal.

Obama in February named Trumka and business leaders such as Kenneth Chenault, chief executive officer of American Express Co. and Richard D. Parsons, chairman of Citigroup Inc., to a 23-member Council on Jobs & Competitiveness that will provide advice on bolstering the economy and creating jobs.

Unemployment through January exceeded 9 percent for 21 straight months, the longest stretch since records began in 1948. It fell to 8.9 percent in February, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The fire in Madison was sparked by intense fear and anger and insecurity about jobs,” Trumka said. “We sent Barack Obama to the White House to win change we could believe in. To the American people, that meant jobs. But we have been in a jobless recovery.”

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