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.