A public employee union leader in Wisconsin has declared that organized labor will dedicate its efforts to recalling state Senate Republicans this year, and recalling Gov. Walker next year, in response to Walker’s newly-passed bill curtailing public employee unions. He says they are not talking about strikes.
Rich Abelson, executive director of AFSCME Council 48 in Milwaukee, appeared Friday on the local public affairs show UpFront with Mike Gousha, with guest host Kent Wainscott.
“Obviously this was a very disappointing loss for us, with regards to the collective bargaining changes that were made. However, it’s not the end of our fight,” said Abelson. “We have — we’re a union. What we do is we represent workers at the workplace, give them a voice, and we will continue to do so. It is our mission, it is what we believe, it is who we are.
“And now it’s time to redirect those efforts, it is time to take back the Wisconsin Senate. We are very much engaged in the recall efforts that are taking place with the eight Republican senators. We think a significant number of those are gonna be successful recalls, we think by summer we will have changed the face of the Wisconsin Senate.”Abelson acknowledged that rolling back the law would be “a much longer term struggle” than just winning the state Senate for the Democrats, as Republicans would still control the Assembly and the governor’s mansion.
“But again, I want to just make this very clear. If the intent was by Governor Walker and his fellow De– Republicans, excuse me, in the legislature, to destroy the union movement in the public sector in WIsconsin, it’s going to fail,” he said. “We are going to change, and we are going to adapt, and we will continue to do what we do, and that is represent people in the workplace. And if the bargaining table is taken away from us, we will replace that with much more political and legislative activity.”
Wainscott asked Abelson whether one particular activity could be undertaken by public unions: strikes.
“No. I mean, look, public sector workers in Wisconsin are committed and dedicated to the citizens we serve,” said Abelson. “And there has been no talk of a general strike, there has been no talk of targeted strikes, or job actions or anything else. Our dispute is not with our employers. Our dispute is with the Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate, the Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly, and Governor Walker.”
He later added: “We think this energy and the dedication that people are showing now is gonna continue into next year, and we think that it is a very strong likelihood, as difficult as it is, that we will be successful in recalling Governor Walker next year.”