MacIver News Service | August 17, 2011
[Madison, Wisc..] Just because state employees can no longer be forced to be members of public employee unions doesn’t mean the unions will refrain from contacting them using their government emails.
Thousands of Wisconsin state employees were met with a highly political email from their union when they came to work Wednesday morning.
“Walker thinks he can cripple our union by making payroll deduction for union dues illegal,” the email solicitation, sent by AFT-Wisconsin Communications Representative Jill Bakken, began. “By re-committing to our union, we are standing strong and sending a message: Walker doesn’t decide whether we have a voice – we do.”
AFT-Wisconsin is a labor union that had 17,000 public employees in the state of as members before the recent labor reforms became law.
Some thought such overt politicking in the workplace was a thing of the past, or that since they were no longer having dues forcibly deducted from their payment, they were no longer members of the union. Wednesdays email raises questions as to whether public employees are still considered ‘members’ of a union if they no longer are paying dues.
“Under the new laws, I thought I would be freed from this union harassment and propaganda,” said one state employee who wished to remain anonymous avoid harassment in the workplace. “I should not have to proactively opt out of an organization to which I never wanted to belong in the first place, but since I have to in order to avoid getting their spam emails, I certainly will.”
MacIver News Service’s call to AFT-Wisconsin for comment on the matter was not returned.
The email warns that “This is a member-to-member communication from AFT-Wisconsin to its members pursuant to Wisconsin State Statutes 11.29. Members should check workplace rules regarding political action in the workplace before responding.”
State officials tell the MacIver News Service that there is no way for them to prevent an email from coming into a state email account, however they warn that state workers shouldn’t be responding to or forwarding any non-work related emails using government resources while on the clock at their government jobs. Furthermore, according to the Wisconsin Department of Adiminstration’s Internet and Email Usage Policy “No employe may use department’s Internet or e-mail facilities for personal financial gain or for political activities.”
AFT used the occasion of yesterday’s Democratic victories in two recall elections to send the solicitation to state employees who previously had membership dues automatically deducted from their paychecks, a practice that is no longer legal in Wisconsin. While union membership is now an option for most government workers in the state, the unions still have access to their former members’ personal and business contact information.
“Today, voters in Senate Districts 22 and 12 voted decisively to keep state senators Jim Holperin and Bob Wirch in Madison. Wirch and Holperin had been targeted for recall because, along with the other “Fab 14” Democratic state senators, they left Wisconsin last winter for three weeks to try to prevent the passage of Gov. Walker’s union-busting bill,” the email read in part. “Both senators also fought fiercely against the deep cuts the governor’s budget imposes on our neighborhood schools, our health care, and our communities.”
“I just want to do my job and move beyond this bickering but the union is hell bent on driving wedges between co-workers and families,” said the recipient who forwarded the email to the MacIver News Service. “What’s done is done. I’m grateful for the freedom to choose whether or not to be in a union and I don’t want any part of their cynical take on current events.”
The entire email, with the recipient’s contact information redacted:
Sent: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 11:15 PM
To: XXXXXXXXX REDACTED STATE EMPLOYEE .GOV EMAIL ADDRESSXXXXXXX
Subject: PSA: Holperin and Wirch win!
Walker thinks he can cripple our union by making payroll deduction for union dues illegal. By re-committing to our union, we are standing strong and sending a message: Walker doesn’t decide whether we have a voice – we do.
Click here to visit our website and continue your commitment to our union. We can build our union and take back our state. Who decides? WE decide.
Holperin and Wirch win, giving anti-Walker Dems a 5-4 victory in summer’s recalls
Today, voters in Senate Districts 22 and 12 voted decisively to keep state senators Jim Holperin and Bob Wirch in Madison. Wirch and Holperin had been targeted for recall because, along with the other “Fab 14” Democratic state senators, they left Wisconsin last winter for three weeks to try to prevent the passage of Gov. Walker’s union-busting bill. Both senators also fought fiercely against the deep cuts the governor’s budget imposes on our neighborhood schools, our health care, and our communities.
In a race where some speculated turnout might be low, clerks in both districts reported that voters came out in force—and true Wisconsin values prevailed. Wirch shut out challenger Jonathan Steitz by 58-42 percent. As of this writing, with 79 of the vote it, and Holperin leads challenger Kim Simac by 54-46 percent.
Both Wirch and Holperin won by significant margins against candidates trading on the Walkerite politics of division and fear. Holperin faced Kim Simac, a Tea Party leader whose rhetoric was long on anger and short on ideas. (Asked in a WRJO radio forum which specific pieces of legislation she would support or oppose if elected, Simac could not think of a single one, replying that she was “stumped” by the question). In campaign speeches, interviews, and one now-infamous blog posting, Simac tried to demonize teachers, public employees, and just about any group that protests the Walker regime.
Bob Wirch faced Jonathan Steitz, a corporate lawyer for a Chicago firm who repeatedly attacked Sen. Wirch for standing up for public employees’ constitutional right to have a union.
Simac and Steitz did their best to flack Walker’s extremist agenda, but voters weren’t buying it. Wirch and Holperin won—Wirch by double-digit margins—despite millions in spending on these races from extremist right wing groups such as the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity.
Holperin’s victory is especially sweet: he was considered the most vulnerable Democrat in the recall races, and his district was won by Walker in November 2010 with 57.4% of the vote, while 10 of its 11 counties went for conservative Supreme Court Justice David Prosser in April. But this time, voters in the 12th District echoed the swing away from Walker Republicanism that was also apparent in the six recall elections last Tuesday, in which Democratic challengers gained in every single Republican district over Walker’s performance in 2010, averaging a 4% boost in each.
Tonight’s results are a tonic for many who are tired of hearing the misleading, defeatist media take on last week’s recalls. That storyline claimed that because pro-working-family candidates didn’t flip the balance of the state senate, the recalls were a loss for anti-Walker Dems. The real story? Dems gained ground, taking two seats in Republican strongholds that went for Walker in 2010, and winning five out of a total of nine recall election races. Five of the six Republican incumbents actually lagged Walker’s 2010 performance.
As a result of the recalls, Walker Republicans now hold only a razor-thin 17-16 margin in the state senate—a margin that includes moderate Republican Dale Schultz, the sole Republican who courageously voted against Scott Walker’s anti-union bill.
Just as heartening, the Republican-to-Democrat voter swing in the August 9 elections indicates that Walker could easily lose in a recall. Perhaps in response, Gov. Walker is already adopting a more conciliatory posture—though many doubt its sincerity. (As the Capital Times observed, “He’s not the kind of a guy who generates much trust.”)
The two senate seat wins today were one more expression of a surging Wisconsin progressive movement that has galvanized more than 12,000 volunteers who reached out to more than 1 million voters. That movement is still growing by leaps and bounds.
These two races bring us another step closer to our goal: halting and reversing the damage done by Scott Walker and his followers, and winning back the Wisconsin we love.
As a member of AFT-Wisconsin, you have been registered to receive The Public Service Advocate. If you have story ideas or suggestions on how to make the publication better, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a member-to-member communication from AFT-Wisconsin to its members pursuant to Wisconsin State Statutes 11.29. Members should check workplace rules regarding political action in the workplace before responding.
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