Setting the record straight about Tom Barrett

Image courtesy Barrett for Wisconsin
There’s no doubt in my mind I’ll come under fire in some circles for what I’m about to write, but I think it’s important that as the Democratic gubernatorial primary swings into full gear some Democrats/progressives/liberals don’t rush to form a circular firing squad in order to attack Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (pictured, left) for his supposed “sins” when it comes to his dealings with organized labor.

Though I’ve not committed to supporting any of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates, I think the attacks that have been leveled against Mayor Barrett by WEAC, AFSCME, and “Sly” Sylvester of WTDY-AM’s “Sly in the Morning” show are not only unfair, they’re also not completely accurate.

When Republican Gov. Scott Walker eliminated collective bargaining rights for public employees under Act 10, Mayor Barrett took steps to balance his desire to protect city workers with his need to fill the $15 million cut in state aid to the City of Milwaukee, a need made more difficult by tax levy limits imposed by Act 10. Despite the challenges faced by the City of Milwaukee, the $15 million shortfall was addressed without layoffs of any city employees and without forcing employees to take pay cuts, in contrast to Dane County employees who were recently forced to accept wage concessions.

Though Act 10 eliminated collective bargaining for public employees, Mayor Barrett worked to provide city employees with rights by implementing “meet and confer” language to require labor/management cooperation and discussion. What’s more, Mayor Barrett also extended civil service protections to employees who lost their rights under Act 10, making him one of a handful of Mayors across Wisconsin who took these actions to protect workers.

As former Democratic U.S. Representative Dave Obey has said, “Blaming Tom Barrett for the actions in the Milwaukee budget that were forced by Gov. Walker is like blaming a surgeon who does surgery after a patient is hit by a truck. It’s just misdirected and unfair and it disserves every union member who receives that information because they have a right to have accurate information in making up their own minds in who we’re going to support.”

In a recent video that made the rounds of the intertubes, AFSCME attacked Mayor Barrett for supposedly supporting passage of Act 10 based on statements made by Barrett that were taken out-of-context. In the heavily edited video, Barrett can be heard saying, “Collective bargaining changes are not fiscal … the Fiscal Bureau and others have said they are not fiscal. You could vote on those without those missing senators. You could vote on those tomorrow morning.” The video then adds this Barrett statement: “And the bill would pass. And the bill should pass.”

However, thanks to the wonders of editing, here’s a Barrett statement left out of the video: “I would vote no on the changes in collective bargaining.”

The creative editing of AFSCME’s attack video earned AFSCME a “FALSE” rating from PolitiFact, but that hasn’t stopped detractors from continuing their attacks on Tom Barrett for supposedly being no friend to organized labor.

As I wrote at the beginning of this entry, I think the attacks on Tom Barrett by AFSCME, WEAC, and some on the left are not only unfair, but it certainly seems they’re also not entirely accurate. While Tom Barrett’s record when it comes to dealing with labor unions may not be as perfect as they’d like, I’d take Gov. Tom Barrett over Gov. Scott Walker every day of the week and twice on Sunday.


Related Articles

41 thoughts on “Setting the record straight about Tom Barrett

  1. The unions knew that they would have to take a hit when Walker was elected. Hence they agreed to the pay cuts. They had no idea that Walker had planned on ending the unions.

    Elections have consquences so you can argue that they should have taken a hit because Walker won. However these paycuts did not have to be forced upon the unions to help us balance the budgets.

    So for Barrett to say that he would keep these paycuts enforced and he agreed with them tells me enough about him as a candidate that I support Kathleen Falk.

    Has he mentioned anything about Ending the 2 billion dollars in taxcuts that the republicans gave away to begin the year? anything about reversing any of the walker clans lunatics other bills? nope just that he thinks the janitor who makes $12/hr should have taken a $4 grand paycut and screw him if he cant afford his $120,000 house now…..

    1. And Falk’s pledge to veto any budget that does not include a return of collective bargaining tells me a lot about her as a candidate, because if she vetoed a budget that didn’t include collective bargaining, the state would continue to operate under the previous budget, which of course includes no collective bargaining for public employees.

  2. That’s Barrett’s talking point. The only bill that the legislature is required to pass is the budget. They can’t just sit on it like any other bill they don’t like.

  3. Capper, your battle is with the union members who authorized Beil and Bell to offer the very same concessions to Walker. (I am presuming that Beil and Bell would not have acted as they did without a membership vote, or at least some authorization from members’ representatives.)

    Barrett did not come up with this offer; he is recognizing the offer that the unions made — a recognition that Walker never gave them.

    If you can’t see this as a strategy of Barrett’s that it is significant to the unions, then you are lost — and will lose this election for them. And the rest of us.

    Please. Read some labor history to realize the significance of this clever step in recognition of unions’ rights and power in this strategy. (I have hesitated to write this, lest the JS or others of its ilk too stupid to see it now will attack it, too. But you need to stop doing damage to the larger cause of winning in June, not just in May — and winning back the unions’ rights.)

    1. As I said before, I am not interested in just changing the name of the governor. I want to win the election AND make changes. I don’t believe that Barrett is the best person to do that.

      And I’m sorry, I didn’t know that my 17 years of being involved with AFSCME wasn’t enough to let me know anything about unions.

  4. And Barrett is absolutely correct to not tie rights to budgets. That is wrong both legally and morally. Have you forgotten that’s what Walker did? We cannot allow that again.

    1. Yes, of course you’re right. We should just accept having our rights taken away and be good little serfs. It’ll be OK as long as there’s a D behind the governor’s name.


  5. Correct, Jeff, regarding collective bargaining rights; what remains is ridiculous — but we have to recognize that Walker can and will claim this, technically. So, again, we have to be informed on the details to argue against his claim. Why? WE WILL NEED MORE VOTERS to win. We will need the independents, the latents, even moderate Republicans willing to look closely to understand this situation.

    Remember, union members are only 14 percent of us. To win, we need far more non-union members, most of whom will not have followed this closely. And the time is close. . . .

  6. Gee people get it. When 150,000 people stormed the Capitol last year they were not all union. I would say the majority were not, but they understood what was happening.

    In the end this election is about Scott Walker and only scott walker. Not falk, not barrett, not vinehout. I am with Capper though, when we do fire walker i do not want walker light in office.

  7. Capper, when you attributed a quote to Tom Barrett in a link and then no such quote existed, I’m having difficulty listening to any of your other points. Sorry.

  8. It is the state-wide moderates who will decide this election, although, for the Life of me, I cannot imagine someone holding anything but a clear Up or Down opinion on Scott Walker. So, if Ms. Falk cannot win, and win Big, with WI moderates, as responder Maria and others seem to be saying, she is not the right candidate. If Mr. Barrett can, he is. If Sen. Vinehout Could be, but no one knows her or her positions, we will all be the worse for that fact, but a fact it will remain.
    BUT, state Democrats will decide this for themselves in the primary. ALL the Democratic candidates must emphasize their own electability as a prime feature of their candidacies. Sen Vinehout could be the strongest in this regard, never having lost a statewide race, if only more people knew who she is! Mr. Barrett has more statewide credibility in the middle of the road, a path Jim Doyle inhabited for three terms, with flawed, uninspiring management, but he was there doing the job every day. Mr. Walker is gone alot these days, having such a busy schedule of fundraising and speaking outside the state, where people seem to want to hear his notions more than they do on his home turf.

Comments are closed.