State Budget Fights Fire Up Union; Obama Involved

WASHINGTON (AP) — Organized labor is trying to re-energize and take advantage of the growing backlash from the wave of anti-union sentiment in Wisconsin and more than a dozen other states.

President Barack Obama and his political machine are offering tactical support, eager to repair strained relations with some union leaders upset over his recent overtures to business.

The potent combination has helped fan the huge protests in Wisconsin against a measure that would strip collective bargaining rights from state workers. The alliance also is sending a warning to other states that are considering the same tactic.

“I think it’s a clear message,” said AFL-CIO political director Karen Ackerman. “If you take on middle-class people and try to solve the budget crises on their backs, there’s a price to pay. Many thousands of people will be energized to fight back.”

For Obama, stepping into a confrontation with a governor has its risks. The president is in a struggle of his own to tame spending, and siding with unions may cast him as a partisan even as he talks about setting a new tone in Washington.

For the labor movement, which suffered a bitter split in 2005, the brash moves by GOP lawmakers such as Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., have brought unions together in a way unthinkable a few years ago.

Nearly every major union leader — both public and private sector — has united behind an ambitious $30 million plan to stop anti-labor measures in Wisconsin and 10 other states.

The group at the new “Labor Table” includes AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka working with leaders such as Teamsters president James Hoffa. Until recently, the two barely were on speaking terms.

“There’s nothing like the possibility of extinction to focus people’s attention,” said former Rep. David Bonior, D-Mich., who spent more than a year trying without success to reunify the labor movement.

“They’ve got everything to lose here and they’re either going to do something or they’re not,” Bonior said.

Congressional Republicans are accusing Obama of trying to muzzle governors who were making efforts to rein in government. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Obama was helping fuel “Greece-style” protests in the United States, a reference to the demonstrations that followed Greek efforts to cut government programs.

“His political organization is colluding with special interest allies across the country to demagogue reform-minded governors who are making the tough choices that the president is avoiding,” Boehner said.

The president waded into the fight between Walker and unions when he told a Milwaukee television station that any effort to make it harder for public employees to engage in collective bargaining “seems like more of an assault on unions.”

Obama’s political arm at the Democratic National Committee, Organizing for America, helped mobilize demonstrators in coordination with unions. Democratic Party officials also are watching government-labor disputes in Ohio and Indiana to see if the party should step in there, too.

Such visible support for public sector workers signals an effort by Obama’s organization to smooth a sometimes rocky relationship with some in the labor movement. Unions have sought reassurance from the White House that Obama is not pulling away from them as he ratchets up his overtures to business.

Union leaders have criticized Obama’s proposal to freeze federal wages and they were disappointed that the White House didn’t push harder to pass “card check” legislation when Democrats ran Congress. That measure would have required every employer to recognize a union if a majority of workers signed cards instead of holding secret ballot elections.

Labor is split on Obama’s proposed trade deal with South Korea. The United Auto Workers backs it, but the AFL-CIO and others say it will just lead to more American jobs going overseas.

Unions are among the better organized foot soldiers of the Democratic Party, and party officials are wary of weakening their political motivation.

“I think Democrats here are upholding the right principle,” said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman. “Failing to give support to this principle would be a real problem as far as the Democratic constituency is concerned.”

Besides lobbying and public demonstrations, the unions are considering ballot initiatives, costly legal fights and even launching recalls against newly-elected GOP lawmakers. They are planning to seek help from like-minded progressive groups, immigration activists, environmentalists and religious leaders.

They expect momentum from the protests to spill into the 2012 election cycle, when they can try to punish Republicans they accuse of overreaching. Unions are focusing on the states with the most serious attacks and where they have the strongest ability to fight: Florida, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

The blessing of the White House could help mend relations with the American Federation of Teachers, which has criticized Obama’s support of charter schools and teacher merit pay. The group’s Wisconsin affiliate is helping lead the protests in Madison.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan weighed in this past week by promising teachers’ unions during an education summit in Denver that he would stand by them in states where governors have pledged to shut down teachers’ collective bargaining rights. He specifically cited Wisconsin.

The efforts by the administration and Democrats are not without risk.

Obama and the national party are challenging a cost-cutting governor even as Obama comes under attack for not trimming enough in the federal budget. White House spokesman Jay Carney said Friday that Obama was not trying to undermine efforts to rein in state spending, but was only objecting to approaches that would curtail bargaining rights.

With unemployment at 9 percent, the public is not particularly sympathetic to public sector employees.

“On the politics, we worry that this will be seen less as an attempt to help the middle class broadly and more as an attempt to help a union or an interest group,” said Matt Bennett, a vice president at the centrist but Democratic leaning Third Way. “That does not have a deep wellspring of support among the middle class at the moment.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • richard

    Democrats and the President FOR working and middle earners.

    Repubs FOR insurance companies, wall st., drug companies and the truely wealthy (top 2/3%).

    Nothing new here!

    As usual, the repubs are laying it all on the working people.

    • reagan

      Richard your a clueless lefty.

      • mickey12345

        and reagan you are indeed a moron.

      • Papa K

        reagan, reagan …. did you read the whole article?

        You MAY win this battle but it over … really over and anyone dumb enough not to understand this just watch 2012 ,,,,

    • Lucy

      If Obama had gone after the Wall St criminals instead of putting them in his administration I may have agreed. No, Obama is not doing anything for the average folks, just more regular oligarchy.

  • what?

    How are wages in the private sector in any way performance based? The last 30 years has shown nothing but an economic uncoupling of productivity from compensation.

    Oh, and at the same time union density in the private sector have been decreasing. I wonder if there’s a correlation?

    • Lucy

      The reality of free trade and global competition brought to you by BOTH parties. This reality now must be faced by the public sector because it is supported by the broken backs of all the rest of us. Can you say unsustainable?

    • Jason

      Well if you continually underperform you will be let go.

  • Cache

    Public Unions have shown their colors and they are not red, with and blue…Just red for Socialist greed and taxpayers blood…for their selfish wants…Public union are now in their death throes and soon will be an event of past decadence!

    • mark from

      @Cache well said

      • Paul

        Cache and Mark You 2 need to stop smelling the tea! Public Unions are as American as apple pie baseball and Chevrolet if we keep letting the rebublicans give welfare to corporations then we won’t have jobs the will all be in third world countries!! NOT all Union workers greedy or make hundred of thousands of dollars I work for the State of Minnesota I made less that 40 thousand last year our insurance has gone up EVERY year that Pawlenty was in power and we didn’t receive raises ! I have worked for the state for 12 years !! so get you FACTS correct before you spout off about Union workers

      • Kevin

        Paul…mass murders are also American as apple pie….and as for third world countries….try to find anything thats made in Amercia…Unions are one thing….but Govt workers are paid by tax payers….I have had given till I bleed with this recession….we all need to make sacrafices…isnt that what Obami told us? You keep sucking Kool Aid from your sippy cup….Ill drink the Tea….oh and didnt Obami talk about stopping the violent bs after the AZ shooting? Then why are these teachers holding signs with Hilter and cross hairs on them….and again….silence from the liberal medai…see both Republicans and Democrats SUCK…..and Unions are as evil as Corparations….its all about money and power…..I believe that Education should be private……if it was…we might be ranked higher than #37 in the Nation in MN…..

      • How's life at Lake Minnetonka?

        Mark’s comments are just proof that he has never actually had to hold down a real job and is living off the backs of others. He does NOTHING to fight tax waste except spew lies about people just trying to get by in life. What exactly is the point of your website? There’s nothing there but ads for garbage haulers. You use this comment section as free advertising to pad your pockets some more off the backs of people with real jobs??

  • Think about it

    My issue here is not their benefits, or their union, it is when “The Government” found their rights to be inconvenient, they re-wrote the law. That is the most alarming to me, for at that point, where does it end?

    • B Dylan

      Wake up! Laws are re-written all the time. That is actually the job of elected officials. OK, now you can go back to your dreamland.

  • mark from

    OBAMA needs to balance the Federal budget , and stay out of states problems. He can keep his Socialist agenda out of Minnesota. Obama should be more focused on protecting our southern states from illegals and the crime they bring with them

  • dav ee

    “… and then they came for the trade unionist…
    …and then they came for me”

    • mark from

      Really dav ee, What was that?

      • dav ee

        Taken from a writing of Pastor Martin Niemoller(1892-1984) which is used as a popular model for describing the dangers of political apathy.

      • How's life at Lake Minnetonka?

        Mark’s comments are just proof that he has never actually had to hold down a real job and is living off the backs of others. He does NOTHING to fight tax waste except spew lies about people just trying to get by in life. What exactly is the point of your website? There’s nothing there but ads for garbage haulers. You use this comment section as free advertising to pad your pockets some more off the backs of people with real jobs??

      • mark from MNTAXWASTE>COM

        @Hows Life on Lake MInnetonka Good, very good though it took me some time to get here. About 60 hours a week going to school, and the 3 jobs I worked to get that part done. Moving on I worked 70+ hours a week to run a business that I started myself without one single hand out from the government. So I earned every penny and I didn’t belong to a union that uses outside thugs brought into Madison, or threats to elected officials. So how am I doing you ask? Dam Good because I earned it. I earned all the rewards because I started from nothing and want to give my family everything they want. So you just work the system and enjoy your life, I do.

      • mark from MNTAXWASTE.COM

        @dav ee Yes, I know where it came from, I just thought it was a bad spin

      • How's life at Lake Minnetonka?

        How about answering the real questions in the previous post? bragging about “working the system” off the backs of real working people is pretty pathetic! Are you gullible enough to believe that busting the unions will lower taxes? Freeze your brain in Lake Minnetonka, did ya??

  • Gordy

    This is about campaign money for elections, unions vs corporations. Republicans support corporations rather than people. If they can eliminate the unions then there will be only one voice influencing elections. God Help Us and our country!

    • True

      That is true. Unions contribute to DFL against MANY private large sponsers who contribute to the GOP. If they can eliminate or diminish Unions they eliminate DFL sponsers.

    • Bob

      As if the banksters like Goldman Sachs don’t give big bucks to the Dems. Yeah, they do. What about big ag? Unions in the private sector do not give money to their management yet that is exactly what public unions do when they give money to politicians.

  • Radiator

    Open up all these jobs to the private sector for bids. Then the public will get their money’s worth. Competition guarantees it!

    • Huh?

      Radiator these jobs are open to the public. Huh? If you want a public goverment job, go apply.

      • Oh I see...

        Oh, I see. What you mean is that we should allow the private sector to bid to do a job that the goverment does. The truth is that they do indeed do that. The goverment will outsource work to the private sector. We pay them to do the work that goverment would do. When you hear the GOP say they want to reduce the goverment workforce this is what they mean – they want to migrate those jobs to the private sector. When they do they say they reduce goverment. There are pros and cons of that. The DFL rather would have goverment workers do the job. They have taken back some of those jobs that were outsourced. In response, the GOP says the DFL is growing goverment. Not really. You pay either for goverment to do the work or you pay the private sector to do the work. I like outsourcing goverment jobs for things so long as we don’t pay more to do it.

    • Mike

      I’ve seen what the private sector bid state jobs for. I saw one job, about 6 yrs ago, where the state didn’t want to pay their employees an extra $1500 total for overtime, decided to outsource the work to a private firm. That firm chared the state $400,000 to do the job in 30 days. When the the 30 days were up, they wanted another $800,000 and another 60 days. The state employees would have needed 40 hours to complete the job.

      • Bob

        Yeah, even if true, the State saves on benefit pay to contractors. We’re being eaten alive with paying for solid gold benes for gov’t workers. I see this every day with my in-laws. One worked 17 yrs for govt and one worked 35 yrs as a private sector architect. Guess whose benes they live well on???

      • My 2 Cents

        Now you see how some of these morons get elected….Surely you don’t think those large campain contributions are received with NO STRINGS attached.

    • Y be against people who work?

      MN bids out their road construction jobs to private companies. A friend of mine works for one of the biggest road construction companies in the 5 state area and makes $47 an hour. All for building State highways. He drives an earth mover, has winters off, collects unemployment while ice fishing and laughes all the way to the bank. He’s not union. Why! He and his fellow employees know the State will take care of them! I don’t begrudge him because it’s a crappy job, hard work and I don’t want to do it. It’s not just union members making good money in MN

    • More Kool Aid Please

      Mn opens bids to private companies all the time! A friend of mine works for one of the largest PRIVATE road construction companies in the State. He makes $40 plus benefits building STATE highways. He operates an earth mover, gets winters off, collects unemployment (oh no, a private sector working getting state benefits, this can’t be true!!) while he’s ice fishing and playing cards and laughing all the way to the bank.

      • More Kool Aid Please

        Oops! Should say he’s make $40 PER HOUR. Oh, and he’s not union. He doesn’t have to be–he gets paid too much!

  • Kevin

    Fire them all…..the Teachers and teh cowards in hiding….what a joke….next time I have a meeting at work I will simply jump in my car and go out of state and hide…..I would be fired…THEY NEED TO BE FIRED!!!!!!!!!!

    • Guy L

      It’s all about the KIDS! Right. Pull the other one.

  • Mike

    Codified by the First Amendment and upheld over time as one of our most basic rights as Americans, the right to assemble, protest, and petition. Read your Constitution!

  • Ben

    Those that have benefited the most from this recession want those that make the least to pay for it!!!!

  • Jim

    When a governor tries to stop illegal immigration, Obama speaks out against it. When a governor has the courage to tame spending and balance a budget, Obama speaks out against it.
    As you can see, he is clearly trying to lead the country. Only question is where is he leading us to?

  • mark from

    I hope these teachers are fined for these SICKO days they are taking

  • D

    Alex De’Tourqville stated in the Social Contract, approximately 100 + years ago, Demoncracy works only if the Government does not take over everything. That’s what has happened to America. The American Government overtaxes the people, wastes tax dollars on weathly government officials, government programs for education, ineffective programs that should be evaluated for waste. All this while controlling everything we own and do. A permitt for this a license for that.

    We need to wake up and understand what is happening to our great country. Why does our government have to be the big brother for the world? The money that our government sends to support other countries, when our own people are in great need is outrageous. Why are we fighting a no win war? All this and we cannot pay our Teachers benefits or a decent salary? The government wants to spend money in other countries and give bonuses to Banks. The Government is the largest ripp off of the American people. Its call ignorance.

  • Hannah

    The teachers should be fired and the state senate democrats who are hiding should be impeached!!!

    • D

      Hannah, please look at the big picture. Teachers are in the cross fire of government ineffectiveness. Teachers are doing exactly what the State Department of Education are telling them to do. Teachers are tested, observed, evaluated, up date for licensure, and told what to teach. How many professions have such high standards as our American Teachers. Yes, we sometimes do get a few Creepers in education, as do Policemen, Priests, and government officals. Don’t mix Teachers in with the poor quality of Senators that have been voted into office.

  • Jealous Guy

    I officially now regret voting for Obama. I now think that McLame would not have been as bad. The voters in Wis spoke and Obama and Co. are subverting the will of the people.
    I’ve got no issue with unions in the private sector where there are actual negotiations between labor and management. The public unions are not in the public interest and the taxpayer has never been fully represented in negotiations. Public unions have not given squat compared to their private sector counterparts and the private sector can no longer afford to overpay for public pay and benefits. Sorry, those are the facts.

  • ME

    People that think they can teach their own children, should keep them home and do so…..Teachers put up with a lot of crap…from poor administration to sickening parents. Republicans can have their private schools! What a bunch of bull. Go Teachers Go!!! Down with Republicans

  • Wes

    Big Business is in bed with Barrack Hussein Obama. Google has worked with him on spying for the federal government and intentionally promoting Democrat agendas at the top of Google search results. General Electric’s Jeffrey Immelt has received billions from Obama in government contracts like the secondary engine for our new jet fighters, even though they are not wanted by the Pentagon. Immelt was hired by Obama to Head the Economic Advisory Panel. Intel CEO Paul Otellini has been hired by Obama to become Chief of his Jobs Task Force. Obama OWNS Government Motors and Chrysler… those executives have given themselves millions in bonuses even though they have not even started to pay back the principal owed to us, the taxpayers.

  • B Dylan

    Oh yeah, there were really strong public worker unions back in 1780. The writers of the Constitution are rolling in their graves today.

  • Smile, unions help ALL workers

    Just a question to all of those anti union people. How much of the benifits that you do have, even in non union work places, do you think are BECAUSE OF WORK DONE FOR ALL WORKERS BY THE UNIONS? Also, why blame theh wrokers for trying to get better benifits and wages? Is it not the job of the negotiators for whatever business involved to do the right thing. How about blaming management for making BAD DECISIONS?

  • My 2 cents

    I have no problem with unions and collective bargaining. I DO have a problem with being held hostage by school teachers and public employees who think they are ENTITLED to tenure and non merit raises that are paid for by MY TAX DOLLARS. No benefit or raise is ever enough.

  • Jon

    Sounds like Wes has been drinking the Beck coo-coo aid.Tabloid news I mean fox news sure have a lot of people believing the garbage they put out.defeat unions so Corp. America can Buy the next election!

  • RJ

    I am Amazed! Can you people be so blind and foolish. The republican Governor is the one trying to help middle wage earner. Where do you think the money for the government worker benefits come from? Taxpayers pockets. And people want to claim that the wealthy are getting the tax breaks so that means it is coming from our pockets. I work in the private sector and I am a middle class American. In this economy my salary has decreased by 10%, my employer contribution to my 401K has been eliminated and my health insurance cost have increased. It is time for public employees to experience the same reductions as all of us. People the free ride is over in this country. I for one am tired of supporting others. I am willing to help but I want more money in my families budget, not to just keep giving more to the government workers and those that do not want to work for themselves. When I need more I work harder, I do consulting work on the side, I even have taken part time jobs in the past. Please start opening your minds and brains to the realities of the world, or this that to much to hope for.

  • Jason

    Public unions represent the public employee, who represents the taxpayor. This is why we cant have unions in the government. Now many states are broke, and cannot continue paying what they have been. 2 outcomes 1. take consessions 2. people get fired. Simple

  • Bob

    What happened to democracy, did the GOP bail when the dems were in majority ??? What we have here is brinksmanship pure and simple…..

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