Wisconsin Showdown: Unions Back Democrat Burke to Oppose Walker

MADISON, Wis. (PAI)–In what will be one of the marquee political races of 2014, the Wisconsin AFL-CIO and two major Wisconsin teachers unions endorsed Democrat Mary Burke, a  corporate executive, to oppose Right Wing GOP Gov. Scott Walker.

The early endorsement means unions can gear up their forces to try to defeat a governor who pushed through a controversial law killing collective bargaining rights for almost all public workers, denying them automatic dues checkoff, increasing unionists’ pension contributions and forcing unions to seek recertification every year.

It also comes as polls show Wisconsin is still polarized over Walker’s policies, with a 45%-45% tie between Walker and Burke in the latest survey.  Walker, the former Milwaukee county executive, barely beat the city’s Democratic mayor in 2010, and then defeated the mayor again in the union-pushed recall vote last year.

“Mary Burke has a proven track record of creating good jobs with family-supporting benefits for Wisconsin workers,” said state fed President Phil Neuenfeldt.  He called her “the best candidate to represent working people across Wisconsin.

“Burke knows respecting workers’ rights to organize…is good for the economy and good for workers.  We need a governor that will stand with workers and fight to raise wages so we can grow our economy from the bottom up and middle out…Burke can grow business and create jobs while respecting workers’ rights,” he said.

The state fed backed Burke even though, the Associated Press reported, she supports the section of Walker’s law that increased the pension contributions.  In the 2011 fight over the law, unions had offered to yield on that point if Walker would drop his union-busting.  He rejected that and shoved the law through the GOP-led legislature – over massive protests that drew up to 100,000 people into the state capitol building.

State fed Secretary-Treasurer Stephanie Bloomingdale said Walker is worsening income inequality while  “Burke is ready to go to bat for the middle class.  She is ready to put Wisconsinites, not the Koch brothers, first.” The multi-millionaire Koch brothers, Right Wing oil barons, were Walker’s biggest financial backers in 2010 and in the recall.

Madison Teachers Inc., the AFT’s affiliate in the state capital, and the Wisconsin Education Association also backed Burke.  Walker’s budgets cut state aid to local schools, besides yanking collective bargaining from teachers.  “With Burke as a candidate, this race is winnable,” added WEA President Betsy Kippers.  She said Burke “values and respects” of teachers and staff and will lead school change “through collaboration and fairness…with the best interest of children at heart.”