One undiscussed part of the Wisconsin situation is the number of legal fights that could be pursued. I was at a meeting of progressives which went line by line through Walker’s prank phone call with “David Koch” and discussed the potential legal, ethical and campaign law violations contained therein. For example, in one part at the end, Koch offers to bring Walker out to California once he finishes “crushing the bastards,” and Walker says something to the effect of “sounds great.” That could be construed as the acceptance of a gift, according to former Democratic Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager. And there are several more examples.
In addition, the unions are angered by Walker’s refusal to negotiate. He represents management in what is essentially a labor dispute. And by refusing to negotiate, today AFSCME (which started in Wisconsin in 1932) filed an unfair labor practice claim against Walker. Eddie Vale, spokesman of the AFL-CIO, sends this over:
On behalf of AFSCME workers their attorney is filing an unfair labor practice against Walker. Alleging that he has violated his legal duty to bargain in good faith. The workers have agreed to ALL of Walker’s concessions on wages, benefits and pensions but he is refusing to sit down to bargain a compromise to get Wisconsin moving forward again and creating jobs.
There’s a part of the Koch call that gets to this as well. Walker basically says he’s going to threaten to use public employee layoffs as a bargaining chip. He at one point says he would “ratchet up” the layoffs if he doesn’t get his way. That’s illegal under current labor law.
Now the interesting thing here is that all of the current contracts basically expire on March 13, per a state order from the Director of the Office of State Employment Relations. So after that, really all bets are off as far as any labor action, including a strike. But until then, AFSCME will fight this out in the courts. Walker is refusing to bargain with public workers, in violation of the current right for public employees to bargain collectively, under the law. AFSCME has formally sent letters to Gov. Walker asking for the resumption of bargaining. Walker may be trying to kill collective bargaining, but for now he’s obligated to do it. So they’re filing an unfair labor practice. Here’s what they are trying to get out of this:
WHEREFORE, based on the foregoing, the complainant Wisconsin State Employees Union, AFSCME Council 24, respectfully requests the entry of remedial orders whose terms and conditions:
a. Declare that the respondent State of Wisconsin has denied its employees their rights under Wis. Stats. §§ 111.82 and 111.97;
b. Declare that the respondent State of Wisconsin committed an unfair labor practice within the definitions of Wis. Stats. §§ 111.84(1)(a) and (d) and 111.97(1)(a) and (d);
c. Require the respondent State of Wisconsin to bargain collectively with the complainant WSEU;
d. Extend the provisions of the contract extension until this controversy reaches resolution;
e. Prohibit this and similar types of unlawful conduct in the future;
f. Require the posting of conspicuous compliance notices;
g. Require such further relief as may be deemed appropriate in these circumstances.
Ultimately, where this is going is to get the collective bargaining restrictions in the budget repair bill, should it ever pass, thrown out in court. Those challenges will occur the moment the bill is signed. “And I think we still have some good judges in this state,” said The Nation’s John Nichols to a crowd of progressives yesterday, “that will give us an injunction, to slow this down.”
This is the first step of that.