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Fight in Wisconsin Shifts to Recall Effort

There are few events in U.S. history that leave an imprint on the American psyche for generations to come. It looks like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's assault on public employees and working families could be one of those historic events.

A massive recall effort aimed at state Senate Republicans who used a backdoor maneuver on March 9 to eliminate public employee collective bargaining without quorum is under way in the state; and less than two weeks since papers were filed to initiate the recall, the Washington Post reports that signature-gathering is nearly 45 percent complete. Recall petitions must be signed by electors equal to at least 25 percent of the vote cast for governor in the district of the officeholder being recalled.

"The public understands that when you take away a contract, you are taking away people's rights," said AFT vice president Candice Owley, president of the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, during a March 13 telephone town hall meeting with leaders. "Support of union workers is higher than I've seen in my 30-year history."

Enactment of the anti-bargaining measure moved the battlefront from the Statehouse in Madison to the communities of eight Senate Republicans who are eligible for recall. (Lawmakers must be in office for one year before a recall can be initiated.) The eight Republicans are Robert Cowles of Green Bay, Alberta Darling of River Hills, Glenn Grothman of West Bend, Shelia Harsdorf of River Falls, Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac, Dan Kapanke of La Crosse, Mary Lazich of New Berlin and Luther Olsen of Ripon.

Members of AFT-Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals are central to the recall effort. Volunteers have spent nights and weekends going door-to-door in their communities to gather signatures, among other activities. If just three of these Republicans are unseated by Democrats, the state Senate will flip to a Democratic majority. Recall elections could commence as early as June or July, says Scott Spector, AFT-Wisconsin's government relations director.

Supporters of Walker's agenda have launched a recall campaign against the eight Senate Democrats who are eligible to be recalled.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, in the 103 years since Oregon first adopted the recall process, only 13 state legislators have been recalled nationwide.

More information about what's going on in Wisconsin is available on the AFT website. [Kathy Nicholson, AFT-Wisconsin]

March 15, 2011