AFL-CIO Works To Keep Wisconsin Protests Going

WASHINGTON (AP) — AFL-CIO leaders, sparked by the strength of pro-labor protests in Wisconsin, are deciding how they can help keep the crowds large and the pressure high as demonstrations enter a third week.

Officials at the nation’s largest labor federation said Monday they are looking for a more strategic approach to keep the protests going strong.

“This thing rose from the streets of Wisconsin, and if you’ve got any brains as a leader, you see a parade, you get out in front of it,” said Greg Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers and a member of the AFL-CIO’s executive council.

“Before this thing starts to diminish, we need to make sure it gets a shot of vitamins at all appropriate times,” he said.

Junemann and other AFL-CIO officials were in the nation’s capital for the federation’s annual winter meeting, where strategy sessions on the three-day agenda include “The Battle of Wisconsin: Lessons and Opportunities.”

AFL-CIO officials have been helping organize protests in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and other states where GOP officials seek to curb union rights.

Demonstrators in Madison, Wis., are trying to pressure Republican Gov. Scott Walker to abandon a measure that would severely restrict collective bargaining rights for nearly all the state’s public workers. Walker says it will help close a projected $3.6 billion deficit in the state’s budget.

The issue has helped galvanize union members nationwide, as labor leaders argue the proposal is a political maneuver meant to undermine unions and weaken a core Democratic voter base.

Junemann said union leaders want to make sure large and small unions are all working in tandem “to make absolute best use of our resources, and that means people power.” He said they are even trying to get Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to address the crowd. Rodgers, the Super Bowl MVP, is the Packers’ union representative in negotiations with the NFL.

On Tuesday, the labor federation will hear from David Plouffe, senior adviser to President Barack Obama. That meeting, like most others over the three-day session, is closed to reporters. White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage declined to comment on what Plouffe was expected to say.

At a meeting of the nation’s governors on Monday, Obama urged state leaders not to vilify their own states’ public workers while struggling with spending cuts. He previously said that limiting bargaining rights “seems like more of an assault on unions.”

Some labor leaders have complained that, other than a couple of comments, Obama has not come out strongly enough to support the pro-union protesters.

“What you see is the typical ‘Can’t we all get along?’ Obama mantra from this administration,” said Rose Ann DeMoro, a member of the AFL-CIO executive council who also serves as executive director of National Nurses United and the California Nurses Association. “He’s trying to be the ultimate pragmatist.”

But AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has said he’s satisfied with Obama’s response.

“I think he’s doing it the right way,” Trumka said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

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

  • lib

    I certainlly hope these people are not getting paid while they are protesting? If so that just proves that they are unecessary and should all be fired.

  • ohoh

    WEll at least they have managed to get rid of the sleeping bums and were able to clean the Capitol, I am sure the protestors didn’t do the cleaning, they wouldn’t know how to hold a broom.

    • Wide awake in NW WI

      No, the protestors were busy supporting one another. While I was there standing with over 70,000 of my fellow Wisconsinites, a gentleman in front of me got dizzy from low blood sugar. The nurses a few rows back stepped in to help him out and make sure he was okay. I would never dream of taking away another person’s job by doing it myself. If I would have cleaned a bathroom or mopped a floor, that would have meant less work for the employee. What if that employee isn’t guaranteed 40 hours per week like most of you?? I just took away 15-30 minutes of his work day. Technically, they could send him home with lack of work. Then, he’d get paid less. What if he couldn’t pay his bills because we all did his work for him. Clearly, you do not understand the purpose of unions. My guess is that you either have a salaried job or are paid for 40 hours regardless of how productive you are during those 40 hours. There are those of us out there that are paid by the hour and if there is no work or if we are not being productive, we are sent home. Tough luck to us who have medical bills to pay, a mortgage that doesn’t just go down when we don’t get paid as much.

  • merks

    what a deal public union workers have. taxpayers pay their salaries and benefits. the workers pay their dues. the union heads donate to democrats for their campaigns. democrats appoint the negotiator for contracts. who in turn give nothing but concessions to the unions.
    Where can I get in on this racket?

    • Wide awake in NW WI

      Apparently, you have forgotten that these people work hard for what they earn. Not that only teachers are affected, but as a frequent volunteer at our school district and the local PTA president, I see teachers that come in at 7 am, work all day, supervise kids on the playground during their “break”, sit with the kids at lunch, then stay until 4 pm to get set up for the next day. Our teachers grade papers at home at night instead of watching TV and at their child’s b-ball games and practices. Then, they are REQUIRED to volunteer for 2 school events EACH MONTH. That means reffing a game, ticket sales, running the scoreboard, or taking care of our kids during the after-school program. I bet many WI residents don’t volunteer twice a month. I bet most WI residents haven’t even volunteered at their local school. They volunteered to take a pay cut, pay into retirement, and pay premiums for their benefits. It is the Republicans that cannot stop by just getting that money the teachers agreed to pay. If it was just about saving money, then they would have removed the clause about unions and take the $$ that was conceded. After all, that is what they say they are doing it for — the $136 million. Those union dues would not be paid in to the state if they weren’t taken out of their paychecks. What they really want is to strip public workers of their rights. They want that $$ that was put toward union dues in order to make the Democratic party suffer for funding. Did you ever think that maybe those BIG companies want to break unions so that they can come in with lower paid workers and fire all those that have the masters degrees and experience? Ask any worker at Paper Converting Machine Co. in Green Bay. Their new owner took away their retirement, cut their pay in half, and laid off 2/3 of the workers only to replace them with 20-year olds that he could pay just above minimum wage. What’s going to happen to you when the same thing happens in your work place? Wake up! It will happen to you before you even realize it.

    • Truth will prevail

      Actually, taxpayers DO NOT PAY FOR PUBLIC WORKERS’ BENEFITS AND RETIREMENT. Do the research before you tell lies in a public format.

  • ohoh

    Was on a job site, and we needed to get behind a pop machine, couldn”t do it wasn’t allowed to unplug the pop machine, we had to wait for a union electrition to unplug the pop machine and of course he couldn’t get there that day. Everyone just stood around for the rest of the day.

  • jello melts

    Obviously … these comments are from paid Tea Party members that will lose their leaders like Michelle Bachmann and Rahn Paul in the next election. I’m so glad you have stirred up the pot. We obviously got complacent in the last election but I doubt it will happen again.

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