Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Quack, quack

An AFSCME Brother & Sister who attended AFSCME Lobby Day last week Wednesday gave the Laborchicks an update on our favorite Oshkosh Lame Duck State Representative, Gregg Underheim. Two years ago, when AFSCME members were visiting his office, he complained that they had not thanked him for everything he had done for them (ya, supporting the 5 month delay on a contract is real support). When he got tired of the questions about TABOR, he kicked the entire group out of his office. Several months later, he added insult to injury when he shunned the Labor Council and AFSCME Locals at a Candidates Forum. He had important work in Madison that night, yeah, attending a Republican Fundraiser. He paid dearly for that one, his empty chair on the video of the event on OCAT and the Northwestern endorsing Gordon Hintz in the Assembly race. Anyhow, this time, rather then meeting with his constituents, he was seen "ducking" out the back door of his office to avoid the questions. Probably didn't want to miss out on the fun at the WMC shindig at Monona Terrace.

Great work Gregg!

Winnebago County Labor Council Solidarity Dinner



6:00PM TILL 10:00PM

Special Guest Speaker TBA
(Past speakers have included: Peg Lautenschlager, Spencer Black, Marc Pocan, & David Newby)


Name: ________________________# of tickets______________________

Address: ______________________________________________________

Union: ________________________ Total Enclosed: $ _________________

Please Mail by April 18th, 2006 to WCLC 2211 Oregon Street, Suite A3 Oshkosh, WI 54901

Lipstick, pigs and TPA/TABOR

From WisPolitics:

Greater Wisconsin Committee: Radio Ad - "Taxpayer Protection Amendment" is New Name for Same Bad Idea

CONTACT: Michelle McGrorty 608/279-5199

The Greater Wisconsin Committee, an issues advocacy group, launched a radio campaign today warning listeners that the ill advised constitutional amendment once called “TABOR,” is back with a new name, the “Taxpayer Protection Amendment.”

The ad says that you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig, and is punctuated by pig grunts and squeals.

“This was a bad idea the first time around and this new version is just as bad. People will not be fooled,” said Michelle McGrorty, the group’s executive director. “Wisconsin doesn’t need gimmicks to protect taxpayers. We need legislators who are willing to stand up to special interests and make tough decisions about spending priorities” McGrorty said.

In Colorado, a similar proposal led to larger class sizes, decreased access to health care, job losses and devastating cuts to critical services. Recently, voters there passed a referendum that limits TABOR after experiencing its devastating effects.

Wisconsin newspapers, including the Beloit Daily News, Oshkosh Northwestern, Capital Times, Wisconsin State Journal, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Appleton Post Crescent and Marshfield News-Herald all have editorialized against the amendment.

The commercial says that local officials, seniors, nurses, firefighters, teachers and retirees are all opposed to this amendment, because they know it will squeeze and cut the delivery of vital services to the people who need them most.

“We just don’t need the amendment. We need legislators with the backbone to say no to wasteful spending,” said McGrorty.

The Greater Wisconsin Committee ran a radio and telephone campaign that helped defeat the original TABOR amendment in 2004. The organization also has run grassroots lobbying and media campaigns on raising the minimum wage, protecting lead paint poisoning victims, supporting state budget vetoes to protect school funding and freeze property taxes, and upholding the governor’s veto on concealed weapons.

The commercial started running statewide in targeted legislative districts on Tuesday, urging citizens to call their legislators and oppose the amendment. Greater Wisconsin declined to disclose how much it was spending or how long the spot will air.

Script Follows

“LIPSTICK” Greater Wisconsin Committee

They say you can put lipstick on a pig – but it’s still a pig. (SOUND EFFECT: OINK!)

An ill-advised constitutional amendment, once called TABOR, is back with a new name, the Taxpayer Protection Amendment.

But it has the same flaws as the earlier version, the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern says.

Taxpayers need protection, all right – protection from this same old bad idea.

The Beloit Daily News calls it “gimmicky nonsense.”

The Appleton Post-Crescent says it’s “an example of wrong-thinking government.”

Local officials, seniors, nurses, firefighters, teachers, and retirees are opposed to the amendment. They know it will cut vital services for the people who need them the most.

Wisconsin doesn’t need a constitutional amendment to hold down spending. It needs state legislators who will make some tough decisions.

Call your legislators today at 1-800-362-9472. Ask them to oppose the so-called Taxpayer Protection Amendment. (SOUND EFFECT: OINK!)

Paid for by Greater Wisconsin Committee

In memoriam (LC1 here)

On this Mardi Gras 2006, I would just like everyone to take a moment to remember those union workers who lost their lives last year in the hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast. May their souls find eternal rest.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Forget D.C.—the Battle is in the States

This is the opening of an interesting article. The group ALEC, referred to in this one of the right wing groups that is pushing for the passage of TABOR Amendments and other anti-union/worker issues. The article talks about how unions and other groups are fighting back.

Speaking to a packed room of 2,000 state legislators and business lobbyists gathered in Grapevine, Texas, last fall, George W. Bush thanked the crowd for its work on behalf of the conservative agenda. He wasn't talking about work they'd done on Capitol Hill, but about their collaboration to push the corporate agenda forward in statehouses across the country. The meeting was the 32nd annual gathering of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a membership association for conservative lawmakers. As its chairman, Georgia State Rep. Earl Ehrhart, said of the president's speech: "It was like the governor of a state talking to his legislative leaders." This is the critical point: The highest echelons of the conservative movement and corporate America treat state legislators not as members of 50 different institutions, but as a single set of leaders who can be mobilized on a national basis. Recognizing this reality, the Progressive Legislative Action Network (PLAN) was formed in fall 2005 to create a counterforce to the right in statehouses across the country. Supported by groups like MoveOn and the Center for American Progress, along with unions like SEIU, AFSCME, the AFL-CIO and the Steelworkers, PLAN is working with state legislators across the country to move both a united agenda and strategic plan to take on ALEC and its allies throughout the country

View the entire article at:


Municipal Collective Bargaining Under Attack-Please Help

Senate Labor Committee Moving Forward With Bills Undermining MERA

On Wednesday, March 1 the Senate Committee on Labor and Election Process Reform will take public testimony on two bills that threaten to undermine Wisconsin’s Municipal Employment Relations Act (MERA), which has maintained labor peace for decades. The two pieces of legislation, Assembly Bill 268 and Assembly Bill 857, were authored by Representative Mark Gottlieb (R-Port Washington) and gut collective bargaining rights for public employees.

What Do These Bills Do?

AB 268 – Allows employers to privatize public services without bargaining the effects of privatization with public employees.

AB 857 – Caps final offers to arbitrators in the collective bargaining process at a level equal to or less than revenue limits placed on local governments. Essentially, if this bill became law, when combined with a property tax freeze and/or TABOR, it would create a Qualified Economic Offer (QEO) on all public employees.

What Can You Do?

Contact your State Senator and tell them to…, oppose AB 268 and AB 857 and any and all proposed changes to Wisconsin’s Municipal Employment Relations Act.


If you are available come to the hearing Wednesday, March 1 at 1:00 pm in room 400 Southeast of the State Capitol, and testify or register against AB 268 and AB 857.

How Do I Contact My Legislators?

Call the legislative hotline at 1-800-362-9472 and leave a message for your State Senator.


go to http://www.legis.state.wi.us and click on ‘Who Represents Me’ to get their email address or direct Capitol office phone line

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Comments on Labor Council Endorsements-LC2

I just spent the last few minutes reading the comments on other blogs regarding the Labor Council endorsements. I wasn’t surprised. As expected, there are some that are having “issues” with the endorsements.

The Labor Council endorsed Mark Madison, a progressive candidate who is in favor of the Five Rivers development. I might add that Mark is a member of AFSCME, the largest group of represented employees in the City of Oshkosh and Winnebago County. But, that is not the only basis for his endorsement. There seems to be a belief out there that to be a labor supporter, or should I say “the working man’s candidate”, you have to be tight fisted and against progress. B.S.! Development creates jobs…. construction of the magnitude of Five Rivers will give work to many in the trades. It is important that we have individuals on the City Council that understand the value of development and the importance of using contractors who are union. There were several of the candidates that didn’t understand the concept of prevailing wage, and even after having it explained couldn’t say whether or not they supported it. This included one of the other candidates who is a union member. Mark also understands TIF districts…which I can’t say is true of many of the other candidates. Folks want to believe that it is the TIF districts that drive up the property taxes, but this is not true.

Some of the other candidates that we interviewed were willing to look at Privatization as an option, and several didn’t understand the issues involved with contracting out services. It was obvious that Mark had “done his homework” on labor issues and also understands the issues within the city.

There is concern that we did not endorse another candidate who is a union member. It was pretty clear to me that this candidate did not understand the issues as they relate to organized labor, or at least that was not reflected in his answers. My suggestion is that perhaps, if you are a loyal union member, you should attend you local meetings (if you aren’t) and learn about current labor issues. I was also concerned about the “parochialism” displayed by this candidate. We should only care about Oshkosh residents, we shouldn’t be concerned about trying to get folks from other places to come and visit Oshkosh. With that kind of attitude, we may as well give up on any kind of development other than building a really big toilet along 41 so people can make a rest stop between Fond du Lac and Appleton.

There is discussion on several other Blogs about Paul Esslinger not attending the meeting. Neither did Dennis McHugh. Dennis McHugh did not respond to his invitation. Paul Esslinger wanted all the union members to be present at the meeting. The endorsement process does not work that way. Just as the citizens of Oshkosh elect individuals to represent them on the City Council, the unions in Winnebago County have representatives for each of their locals on the Labor Council. I don’t think the City Council would get much work done if the entire city was involved in the decision making process and the same is true of the unions. If our members don’t like the decisions we’re making, then we can be replaced, just like City Council members. If Mr. Esslinger wants to truly be the “working persons” candidate, he needs to learn how organized labor really works. As I’ve said before, as a union leader, I don’t appreciate it when others, who are not in organized labor think they speak for us. Enough said about Mr. Esslinger.

As to Jef Hall’s endorsement… We did not hold a question and answer for County Board candidates. Jef requested our support, and answered the questions we provided. Sometimes, we endorse based on the candidates actions. Jef has been a supporter of union issues and union activities in the past and we felt his history spoke for itself. We made the same call when the Winnebago County Labor Council was among the first to back Peg Lautenschlager for AG. If there are other County Board candidates who would like the Labor Councils endorsement, they should follow the same process and we will consider their request. Our next meeting will be on March 28th.

Finally, several individuals have said that the Labor Council endorsements are worthless and just another rubber stamp. Hmmm…there sure is a lot of angst and hand-wringing out there over who we did endorse. I’ll leave it at that for tonight…..

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Is WMC afraid of AFSCME????

From the 2/24/06 AFSCME Political & Legislative Tidbits...BUS LOADS OF AFSCME GREEN MAKE IMPRESSION AT THE CAPITOL

Over 300 AFSCME members from all three Councils joined in solidarity this past Wednesday to send a clear message to the legislature. The messages were clear: TABOR is unacceptable; don’t erode our collective bargaining laws; and health care for all. An interesting side note is that the Wisconsin Association of Manufacturers and Commerce had scheduled their lobby day on the same day as ours. Apparently, upon hearing about ours, they decided to invite legislators to Monona Terrace, rather than compete with us in the Capitol for legislators’ attention. It was “big green” vs. “the suits”. We need to keep the pressure on. Keep contacting your legislators about ill-advised legislation, such as TABOR (now called the “Taxpayer Protection Act”). Thanks to all who gave their time and energy to come to Madison and participate in this outward sign of solidarity and strength.

Authority: Martin Beil, Executive Director, AFSCME Council 24

Friday, February 24, 2006

Winnebago County Labor Council endorsements for Spring 2006 elections

LC1 here....

The Winnebago County Labor Council interviewed and voted to endorse candidates at the monthly meeting last night. Here's the press release:

Press Release
Winnebago County Labor Council AFL-CIO
Contact: Stephen Dedow
Email: winnebagolabor@hotmail.com

Winnebago County Labor Council Endorses Candidates for April Elections

The Winnebago County Labor Council, the local AFL-CIO chapter, held its annual candidate forum on Thursday, February 23rd for the purpose of endorsing individuals running for local offices.

The following candidates were endorsed by the WCLC:

City Council: Mark Madison
Oshkosh School Board: Dennis Kavanaugh, Lee Wilson and Amy Weinsheim.
Winnebago County Board District 17: Jef Hall

The forum questions included individual positions on the Tax Payers Bill of Rights (TABOR), tax incentive accountability and economic development, new ideas for attracting and maintaining good paying jobs, the right to organize, shared revenue reductions, privatization, gender equity, and prevailing wage laws.

Candidates in attendance included: Burk Tower, Amy Weinsheim, Wayne Traska, Kent Monte, Dennis Kavanaugh, Brian Poeschl, and Mark Madison. Michelle Monte and Jef Hall requested and submitted questionnaires for consideration, while Paul Esslinger and Dan Becker respectfully declined the invitation to attend.

Council President Stephen Dedow stated that all the candidates in attendance gave thoughtful, honest and considerate answers to our questions. I believe that the intentionally loose format of the forum created an atmosphere of openness which allowed all those who participated to exchange ideas freely. Most of the candidates had similar view points such as the nearly unanimous opposition to TABOR. The individuals we ended up endorsing simply were closer philosophically to our overall position as organized labor and as such would represent our concerns effectively.

The current endorsements follow earlier recommendations in support of Peg Lautenschlager for Attorney General and Karen Siefert for Judge in Branch 4.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Just received the email below, haven't taken a look at this yet....

Today, we are announcing the official launch of AFL-CIO Now, our new blog for America’s working families. Please take a few minutes to check out AFL-CIO Now:


On AFL-CIO Now, you’ll find the latest news about the issues that matter most to working families—health care, wages, job exporting and more. You’ll learn about efforts to protect our freedom to form unions and bargain. You’ll read about what workers, their unions and allies are doing to stop greedy corporations and anti-worker politicians from making life harder for working families, and how you can get involved.

Visit AFL-CIO Now today for this special preview of our new blog:


AFL-CIO Now is unique. It’s a news blog with attitude, pulling together information from every part of the country affecting every type of worker. We post breaking news and updates all day long, every day—so you’ll want to check back often. AFL-CIO Now is THE source for the news and information you need about the issues shaping your life on the job, in your community and in the national economy. And you can send us important stories that you think we should feature.

More on TABOR-LC2

TABOR reared it’s ugly head again at the State Capitol earlier this month. This time, the Republicans want to fast track this amendment through the Legislature so there is little time for debate and education among the masses. It’s obvious this is their plan, since they held a so-called hearing on Feb. 15, by invitation only. There may be a public hearing on the issue down the road, according to one of the bills authors, but I’m sure the sponsors will try to keep it under covers as long as possible. Heaven forbid that people understand and have the opportunity to speak out on what they might have to vote for down the line. Not only do the Republicans want to rush it through, but, I’m assuming they’re campaign support from the evil empire of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) is riding on their performances in getting this passed.

The authors claim that this is different than the original TABOR, so the decision was made to rename it as the Taxpayer’s Protection Act. They also want to separate it from all the negative connections to Colorado’s flawed and dying TABOR (see my earlier posting on this). Taxpayer’s Protection (TP) is actually a great name, since this belongs in the toilet anyhow. The bottom line is, no matter what it is called, this is still the same design that will essentially shrink the size of government and slowly erode the services that the citizens of Wisconsin have grown to expect. But, what difference will that make, in 20 years, we’ll all be rolling in the dough because we won’t be paying those high taxes. Oh goody, goody. No one will be around to pick up the garbage, plow the streets or renew your drivers license, but we’ll all have lots of money.

A professor, Andrew Reschovsky, at the LaFollette School of Public Affairs at UW Madison did a quick study of how the amendment would have affected state revenues if it had been enacted 20 years ago. According to his work, state revenues in 2005 would have been $5.2 billion lower than they actually were. This is more than the state spent on the UW System and medical assistance combined in the current budget. So where would this money probably be cut from in the future? I can only guess things like K-12 education, the University and medical assistance, in addition to the above mentioned services.

Reschovsky’s study concluded, as presented in an editorial in the Marshfield New Herald, “Property taxes aren’t out of control, and neither is government spending in relation to personal income, state and local government taxes are lower today than they were 10 and even 20 years ago.”

According to an article in the Capital Times that discussed Reschovsky’s study, Senator Glen Grothman, one of the authors of the new TABOR amendment, doesn’t really have an idea how much savings the amendments limits would create. I guess he just knows that things would be better than what they are now. In fact, at this point, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau can’t even predict the affect of the amendment. So, we should just trust Grothman, WMC and company and vote for something that could send Wisconsin into the dumper (or toilet if you will).

An editorial in The Marshfield News Herald shares, “Because TPA would limit growth of government revenue to inflation, it would result in ever-shrinking government services. Why? Inflation measures increasing prices among all consumer goods and services—groceries, day care, refrigerators, clothes, you name it.”

“But government spends most of its money on goods and services such as health insurance and gasoline, with price increases that have far outpaced inflation. So TABOR would result in massive program cuts.”

“’(The) impact of the amendment would be to continuously reduce the level and quality of public services provided to the residents of Wisconsin,’ Reschovsky concluded.”

In addition to the economic piece of the Taxpayers Protection Act, the amendmenet also includes a change in the State Constitution to only require one vote in the legislature before a Constitutional Amendment is voted on by the voters. Fortunately, that won’t be in place for the vote on the TABOR/TP. This proposed change would make it easier to put what should be legislation into the Constitution, handily sidestepping the Governor’s veto ability. So, if you can’t get an override on Concealed Carry, what the heck, just put it in the State Constitution.

On the local scene, Senator Carol Roessler is one of the major fencesitters on the TABOR amendment. To date, she has not committed one way or another on which way she leans on this issue. You can bet Sen. Roessler will be getting a lot of pressure from constituents to vote against this flawed plan.

Stay tuned…..the fun is just beginning.

Friday, February 17, 2006

A backward look at TABOR

In 2004, I wrote this about TABOR in Colorado and shared it with the members of my local. A shorter version was later published in our unions state newspaper. After reading it over today, I thought it was just as appropriate to share today as it was back then. Fortunately for Colorado, they voted this fall to suspend some of the TABOR restrictions, because of the serious effects it has had on the status of many services in the state.

In this piece, I refer to friends in Colorado. A year or so, I was talking politics to one of them, and he said, no matter what, don't let TABOR pass in Wisconsin, it's the worse thing that can happen to a state. Taking that to heart, I'm trying to make folks aware of this bad legislation. We need to have as many people as possible speaking out against TABOR, Taxpayers Protection or whatever name they want to call it. I have much more to say about TABOR, but for now, here is my summary of TABOR in Colorado in 2004


The State of Colorado passed a Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) in 1992 at the start of the “economic boom”. Until the recession started, TABOR didn’t have a lot of effect on the state, but, since the economic downturn that has changed. Colorado’s TABOR amendment causes the state to struggle to pay for basic services while the government is forced to return “surplus” tax money to residents. As a result of the cuts in services Colorado has sunk to 48th in high school graduation rates and 49th in job growth. According to an editorial in the Denver Post, the “state university system is nearing economic collapse”. At this point in time, the Colorado legislature is looking for ways to work around the constitutional amendment to resolve their economic crisis.

The Wisconsin Legislature is embarking on a “son of TABOR” journey. For the Republican majority in the Legislature, the hope is that the concept of surplus money being returned to the tax payers will be enough to allow this constitutional amendment to be approved by the citizens of Wisconsin. First, the bill must be passed by the Legislature during two sessions. Now is the time to stop the legislation, before taxpayers are lulled into a sense of false economy.

Several weeks ago, I contacted two friends who live in Colorado. One works in the library at one of the state universities, the other works for a state agency. I asked them how TABOR has affected their work and lives. Here are some of their comments:

“Our library lost around 12 positions last year due to the combined bad effects of TABOR, and two other Colorado amendments….We are cutting all the time. We are meeting this week to discuss programs that can be cut further”

“The benefits afforded classified staff in the state have not kept up with the industry. We pay more for health care now than ever before…I pay $550 per month [for my spouse and I]. Not too long ago, I carried both of us for less than $250. The state says that is because the average age of a state classified worker is 45. Well, the younger folks don’t want to work for the state because the pay and benefits are pitifully low”

The Denver Post editorial indicated TABOR “will affect everything from roads and highway maintenance, to government programs and services and the criminal justice system. In other words, bigger potholes, fewer hours at the local Department of Motor Vehicles office, and fewer criminals getting caught. If the ratcheting-down effect of TABOR continues to drain the amount of money left in the state coffers each year, it could ultimately lead to such drastic measures as letting inmates go free.” These sentiments were reflected in the comments made by my friend, talking about staff reductions in state agencies and departments across the board, including Higher Education and the Dept. of Corrections where they have cut back on probation programs. They go on to say that everyone working in state government is doing as best they can with the limited resources, but the resources only stretch so far and work gets backlogged or not done at all.

Having watched our Legislature deal with the budget over the past two years, these stories from Colorado sound all too familiar. Unfortunately, passing a TABOR amendment in Wisconsin would make our recent experiences the norm rather than the exception for dealing with reduced budgets. What we have experienced and seen would only be the beginning of the downgrade of the quality of life and services in Wisconsin.

Here are some sobering statistics to consider….

Wisconsin ranks 33rd in the nation in proportion of adults with a high school education.

Wisconsin ranks 30th in the country in wages

Wisconsin lost 82,000 manufacturing jobs over the last three years. Overall there has been growth in the number of jobs, mostly in the service industries, which in general pay less then the lost jobs in manufacturing.

Where will a Wisconsin TABOR amendment take us to on this road to mediocrity?

Although 41% of Wisconsin high school graduates go on to a four year college, many of those graduates leave the state after graduating. If TABOR is implemented in Wisconsin, how will the University of Wisconsin System look in 10 years? How many of those high school graduates will even want to attend? Will we lose them before they even start college?

Considering 31% of Wisconsin’s population are “baby boomers” and have already started retiring, what will our jobs look like in 10 years? Look at your coworkers, who will be left 10 years from now, and how will those retiring be replaced?

We have the opportunity to make sure that down the road Wisconsin is not facing the same hurdles that Colorado is up against. We need to let our legislators know that this is not the solution for Wisconsin or any other state. Please contact your legislators today and tell them what a bad idea this is, not just as a state employee, but a citizen of the state.

The Denver Post editorial warns, “If the rest of the nation will be watching Colorado, the least we could do is give them a warning: Do not implement a budget-hampering plan like TABOR”.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

What's happening???

LC2 here...

I hope that we can give Oshkosh labor a voice in the blogosphere. Sometimes we've read or heard folks who think that they're speaking for us, but, really don't, so we hope we fill that void. I thought it would be appropriate to let you know what's going on right now. A fairly uncontroversial first post, I might add....

If you're not out this weekend enjoying all the new fallen snow that we're going to get tomorrow, you might run into the brand new season of "Wisconsin Labor Today" as you're channel surfing with your remote. This is the third season for the cable access program produced by the Winnebago County Labor Council (aka WCLC ) and hosted by our very own President Steve Dedow. This year we have a brand new set and some great guests. The new season should have started this week. Among the topics this season is an update on TABOR, renamed the Taxpayers Protection Plan (aka TP---appropriate). That program includes a video on the TABOR experience in Colorado and commentary by AFL-CIO VP Sara Rogers. Other guests will include representatives from the Wisconsin State Employees Union and IWW. Should be an interesting season. The series is on Oshkosh Cable Channel 2:


Also, speaking of the WCLC, our February meeting will consist of our candidate interviews for local offices that will be elected on April 4th. We will probably be the first to talk to the candidates following the primary on Feb. 21st, so it will be an interesting evening. This event is not public, but we will share our endorsements shortly after the meeting. So, stay tuned!

That's all for now.....let it snow!

Good morning Oshkosh!

Good morning Oshkosh! Labor Chicks is on the air!

We created this blog because we felt there is a dearth of information and discussion out there in blog-land on union issues. There is a lot about politics, which we also would like to make comments on in our blog, but alas, unions get ignored a lot. So, here we are.

The reason we included politics in our blog is that, at least in our union, politics and our union(and our jobs) are intricately intertwined and often cannot be separated one from the other.

We hope you enjoy what we write. Oh, and because we like to have the bully pulpit, we are not allowing comments on our posts. If you have a comment, email us. Maybe we'll get back to you, maybe we won't. Depends on our mood at the moment. Remember, we ARE girls!