If you haven’t been following the story of the people’s revolt against GOP/teabagger government in Wisconsin, you’re missing one of the most riveting tales of democracy on the hoof since the American Revolution.
Despite mainstream media (with the exception of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow), either ignoring this story or providing unwarranted favourable coverage to teabaggers and the GOP, as well as active interference on Twitter by Koch Brothers funded professional astroturfing trolls, ‘Sconnie democracy activists are taking back their government.
The story so far:
* A complacent electorate and unlimited corporate political funding (due to the Citizens United case, where corporations were deemed by the US Supreme Court to have the same 1st Amendment speech rights as actual people) from the oil billionaire Koch brothers allowed extreme-right GOP candidates to take over the Wisconsin state Senate and governorship.
* Newly elected Governor Scott Walker decided the time was right to enact corporation-driven legislation that stripped collective bargaining rights from unionised public employees and did so with dubious if not outright illegal parliamentary procedures. Walker pretended that union-busting was necessary to ‘repair’ the debt-ridden Wisconsin state budget. 14 Democratic senators fled the state to deny Walker a quorum and thus halted the passage of the ‘budget repair’ legislation. GOP senators attempted to intimidate the 14 by (illegally) calling for their arrest to bring them to the Senate chambers to force a vote on Walker’s union-busting bill.
* Unionists and sympathisers staged a protracted, noisy occupation of the Wisconsin statehouse in Madison in protest of Walker’s union-busting. During the statehouse protest, people from all 50 US states and 50 countries phoned in orders to Ian’s Pizza for pies to be delivered to the statehouse to feed protesters.
* Walker eventually modified the ‘budget repair’ bill to remove all fiscal components, leaving in the stripping of collective bargaining rights from unionised state employees- an admission that union-busting has no effect on the state budget. The legislation could purportedly then be passed by GOP senators in absence of a quorum. However, the Walker administration failed to provide appropriate notice to all legislators under Wisconsin’s Open Meetings law, which may render the legislation void. A lawsuit filed on the basis that the union-busting legislation violates Wisconsin’s Open Meetings law has resulted in Dane County Judge Marianne Sumi issuing a temporary restraining order preventing the union-busting legislation from taking effect. Walker has since been forced to admit under oath during testimony before the US Congress that the union-busting had no effect whatsoever on Wisconsin’s state budget.
* Judges are elected in Wisconsin. A ‘non-partisan’ April 5 election for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court between incumbent Walker sympathiser David Prosser and challenger Joanne Kloppenburg turned into a referendum on the Wisconsin GOP’s union busting and has become quite the cause celebre for Wisconsin Democrats and unionists. In the primary election leading up to the actual election, Kloppenburg got 25% and Prosser got 55%. On the morning of April 6, the Wisconsin election board announced Kloppenburg as the victor with a razor-thin margin of about 200 votes. 2 days later, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus, who has a decade-long history of dubious practises in managing elections in her county and a prior employment relationship with Prosser, announced that she had ‘found’ some 14,000 untabulated votes, resulting in a roughly 7300 vote lead for Prosser. Nickolaus explained she had ‘failed to hit save’ in Microsoft Access (which automatically saves data without user intervention) when recording the votes for one burg in her county. This resulted in a 0.488% margin of victory for Prosser. Wisconsin law provides for recounts when the margin is under 1%. When the margin is under 0.5%, the state will pay for the recount. Kloppenburg has now exercised her right to ask for a recount, the details of which are under negotiation as we speak, but in many wards, votes will be recounted by hand to eliminate any errors introduced by electronic tabulation methods.
* Wisconsin law provides for citizen initiated recalls of elected officials. Once a legislator has been in office for one year, petitions may be filed for a recall election. Volunteer Democrats and unionists have so far succeeded in obtaining signatures and filing petitions for recall of 5 of 8 eligible GOP senators, in each case obtaining 130-160% of the number of signatures needed for the state to conduct a recall election. In retaliation, paid GOP activists attempted to obtain signatures to recall some of the 14 Democratic senators who left the state to deny Walker a quorum. Absent genuine public support for recalling the ‘Fab 14,’ GOP activists have resorted to some truly nefarious tactics to obtain signatures to recall Democratic senators, including buying shots of liquor in exchange for signatures and misleading people about what they were signing. Petition signatures may be challenged- and that’s exactly what the Democrats are doing right now. A call was put out on Twitter via the #wiunion hashtag for volunteers to come to Democratic HQ with their laptop computers for the purpose of validating the signatures on petitions to recall Democratic senators. So many people turned up that Dem HQ ran out of workspace and had to turn people away. Ian’s Pizza is again taking orders for pizzas to be donated to the ‘#datadefenders’ at Dem HQ.
The Democrats need to gain 3 seats in the Wisconsin Senate to take back majority control- and at this point, it’s a sure thing that recall elections against at least 5 GOP senators will be held. A large majority of the signatures required have been obtained for the recall of a 6th GOP senator- and Walker himself becomes eligible for recall in January 2012.
If you’re on Twitter and want to follow the action, watch the #wiunion hashtag.
I’ll be utterly dumbfounded if someone doesn’t step up and make a documentary film about the Pepperoni Revolution. Definite Oscar potential. You listening, Mike Moore?
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