Tom Barrett, February 2011

Cory Liebmann has an excellent take on the attacks being leveled against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, attacks that have come from folks like John “Sly” Sylvester of WTDY AM’s “Sly in the Morning” show as well as from AFSCME directly.

If the people asking this question can’t remember Tom Barrett’s role during those crucial weeks, allow me to take you down memory lane.

Tom Barrett Comments on Collective Bargaining February 2011

“The budget adjustment bill pits general City of Milwaukee employees against the fire and police unions,” – Tom Barrett [2/16/11]

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett voiced strong support Thursday for the state Senate boycott by fellow Democrats trying to save public employees’ collective bargaining rights. [MJS 2/17/11]

“Instead of talking with teachers, nurses, and law enforcement personnel to work together on a solution to our budget crisis, Scott Walker is dividing Wisconsinites by attempting to end the collective bargaining rights Wisconsin public employees have had since 1959.” – Tom Barrett [MJS, 2/22/11]

“I fundamentally disagree with the attack on the right to organize,” – Tom Barrett [MJS, 2/22/11]

Barrett offered a budget-repair bill alternative that removed the attack on collective bargaining [MJS, 2/25/11]

“It’s now clear to us that this is an ideological war, and it’s a national ideological war, and the purpose of it is to take away the rights of people who work for the government” -Tom Barrett [MJS, 2/25/11]

“It is time we return to our Wisconsin, the Wisconsin where we can sit down at the table and work out our differences…” -Tom Barrett [MJS, 2/25/11]

I understand that these statements made in the past by Mayor Barrett won’t assuage the concerns of some or stop the attacks against Barrett’s record in regards to public employees in the City of Milwaukee, but despite my several qualms about Mayor Barrett’s record in regards to public employees in the City of Milwaukee, I don’t doubt that Tom Barrett understands the importance of (and would work to reinstate) collective bargaining for public employees.

For the record, I haven’t made a final decision on who I’ll support among the four Democratic gubernatorial candidates, but the kinds of attacks being leveled against him by AFSCME and its surrogates certainly doesn’t make me want to support Kathleen Falk, AFSCME’s hand-picked candidate.


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39 thoughts on “Tom Barrett, February 2011

  1. Actions speak louder than words and his actions towards his city employees concern me as a public worker. He had the opportunity to show a different and contrasting style of leadership last year and did not take up that mantle. I would love to believe in him but bringing in Rahm was a move in the exact wrong direction to assuage my concerns

    1. I understand your concerns, but at the same time I don’t think AFSCME and WEAC did us any favors by hand-picking Kathleen Falk as their preferred candidates. That’s an attack ad that writes itself, and it will only serve to reinforce the conservative talking point that “union bosses” are really behind this movement, rather than the folks in the grassroots who are really the backbone of this effort.

      1. If the recall wouldn’t be happening without the unions, and it wouldn’t, why is it a conservative talking point to say they are behind this movement? I realize there are other folks with their grievances towards Walker, but to say that the unions are the backbone of this effort only reinforces ….. the truth.

        1. Zach was addressing Paul’s comment. I am addressing your comment. You have apparently failed to understand or simply refuse to see the clear distinction Zach made, and, you are taking your misunderstanding (or willful ignorance of the distinction) and trying to pose an argument based on your mistake. The boogey-man, “union BOSSES,” supposedly absolutely in control of the rank and file union members is the distinction Zach points out and is the bogus argument that right-wing politics keeps trying to push. The false Republican argument Walker and his minions continually proclaim, beat their drums and shout about is that there is no grassroots union movement. Geez, please do us a favor and try to grasp the concepts before you try to argue them.

          1. Zach made a distinction? Between what and what? I must have missed it. If the “boogey-man union bosses” narrative is false, as you claim, how is it that the attack ad “writes itself”, as Zach claims? Also, I believe the union bosses endorsed Falk without input or at least votes from the rank and file union members. Wouldn’t that be controlling behavior? Want a distinction? Grass roots movements are bottom to top while top down movements are by definition hierarchical. When a handful of union leaders pick a candidate that the others will support, does that resemble a grass roots movement or a hierarchical one? Questions not rhetorical.

  2. But Barrett appears to believe Walker’s first lie, that Wisconsin is broke. Wisconsin is not broke and the public sector give-backs just fund corporate tax cuts. I hope that who ever runs against Walker at least understands the issues clearly.

    1. What has Barrett said that gives you cause to say he appears to believe that Wisconsin is broke. I ask out of curiosity…

  3. For example, at the town hall this evening Tom was the only one to oppose mandatory sick leave provisions in the state for fear it would chase out companies. He buys in to the race to the bottom mentality that leads to union busting. As far as I am concerned a company so cheap it would leave the state before giving 5 sick days a year is welcome to leave and take the cowardly politicians who want to appease them along

  4. I dont get what the problem of the endorsements is? They have been endorsing in elections since they have been an organization. Why do they not have the same rights to endorse, especially in a race about collective bargaining the unions should weigh in.

    As for the attach ads does it matter? If the candidate was rahm(heaven forbid) the righties would run ads of him being under he control of “big union bosses”. Reality and republicans have very rarely occupied the same space.

    1. The problem with the endorsement of Falk (offered without a rank and file vote if I remember correctly) is that the government union members have it pretty good despite the recent changes and your average Wisconsin voter has probably soured a bit on the government unions. As such, it will probably improve your prospects of winning the recall if you can hide the obvious influence of the union folks.

      The problem for the Dems is that the Pub attack ads about being under control of the union will be obviously true with respect to Falk.

  5. I’m with you, Zach. I’m a state employee, and when I heard that AFSCME and WEAC endorsed Falk right out of the gate my stomach turned. I thought, “what would happen if a better candidate came out to run in the recall?” What if that candidate was Feingold? Would they attack him, too?
    I support Tom Barrett. I think he’d be an excellent governor, and I am sickened by the attacks against him. It makes me dislike AFSCME and WEAC and FALK (and I am considering now, based on the negativity, of withdrawing my support to the union). Let’s divide ourselves further… it’s what the GOP wants.

    1. The union leaders all talked to ALL of the candidates and potential candidates and then made their announcement. They called up Russ Feingold and flat out asked him if he was going to run. He said no so they moved on.

      You guys act like this is a normal campaign. We have a limited time to campaign and run this campaign. Kathleen Falk recognized that and has been acting accordingly. Barrett did not want anything to interfere with his re-election to Milwaukee Mayor. He is far from being aggressive or even having the appearance that he is serious about running.

      The Unions did the right thing and so did Kathleen Falk!

  6. Denis because Scott Walker thinks completely for himself and does not pander to any donors?

    The problem for you guys is that the Unions who Kathleen Falk woos in her campaign are made up of Wisconsin citizens and voters, your friends, neighbors and family. Unlike the people influencing her opponent.

    1. Jeff, ultimately candidates must get support at the polls. The notion that Walker has no support from “Wisconsin citizens and voters, your friends, neighbors and family” has been belied by the results of the last election, has it not?

      1. Also, My point was while WEAC and AFSCME are made up of Wisconin Workers, I do not think Foster froes or bob perry or the De Vos family live in WI…do they?

  7. Falk’s failure to step up and tell AFSCME to back off on what are basically untrue attacks tells me a lot, especially because this sort of thing could be done with a statement from Falk of “we don’t stand behind these attacks” and still giving a wink and a nod to the unions she made a deal with. Her act is going to make it very tough for Falk to win a high-turnout primary.

    I also think it makes Barrett look better to act somewhat above these attacks because the record shows that these charges leveled aren’t true, and it’ll make him tougher for a general election, if he gets that far.

    Hilarious to see Denny trolling this thread and trying to say that this is all about unions. A. It’s not, it’s about a much wider issue that union rights are a part of. B. The Walker that was elected in 2010 isn’t what Walker the Governor became. Hence, the recall, and hence, the election of a new governor in 60 days. Sit back and enjoy it Denny.

    1. I have only recently begun participating (what you call trolling) here at bb. In just a short amount of time, I have been ridiculed, assigned a nickname, accused of being a paid harasser (is there really someone who pays people to harass others?) and so on. All this from the tolerant, diversity loving left.

      1. Oh, I’ve received that sort of treatment at plenty of right-wing blogs, too. There’s a cross at my left if you’d like to climb up here and join me. It’s a lovely morning.

    2. “Falk’s failure to step up and tell AFSCME to back off on what are basically untrue attacks tells me a lot, especially because this sort of thing could be done with a statement from Falk of “we don’t stand behind these attacks” and still giving a wink and a nod to the unions she made a deal with.”

      Oh, so you want her to lie. Nice.

      1. Quote just one of the sentences in that paragraph and pose a false premise, NOT based on the entire context of the idea of the two sentences together. Brilliant. Jake didn’t say he wanted her to lie.

        1. Nonquixote, I have noticed a tendency on your part to defend other people’s arguments. When you say one thing publicly with a “wink and a nod” to the unions, whatever would you call that but dishonesty? I think Jake ought to defend his comments if he so chooses.

    3. Falk’s failure to step up and tell AFSCME to back off on what are basically untrue attacks tells me a lot

      I think in general, that’s one of the worst things about the current state of affairs of politics & elections. Not sure if it’s worse in Wisconsin or just seems that way. But third party bombs lobbed in – often outright lies – do all the work of sliming a candidate without the risk of blowback. I struggle with the degree to which I want to hold responsible candidates who sit idly by and not call out such things. On one hand, it’s not necessarily fair to expect them to step forward & respond to every claim somebody else makes. On the other – sitting back & watching lies knock down your opponent – benefiting from such things while doing nothing is to me, a sign of a character flaw. I choose to expect more even if I’m always disappointed.

      1. So why is Kathleen Falk being held to a higher account because a union put together a video about one of her opponents.

        This is supposedly “evidence” that she can not beat Scott Walker who spends his time running around the country begging despicable people like Bob perry(speaking of outright lies in vidoes) and Foster froes for as much money as they can give?

  8. The recent poll of likely voters by the Republican-leaning pollster Rasmussen, has Walker losing the election to a generic Democratic candidate 52% to 47% with only 1% undecided. Not exactly a ringing endorsement from the public is it?

  9. There is no doubt that democracy needs AFSCME, UAW and other unions. There is no doubt they’ve been a big part of the democratic movement in this state and this country. And there is no doubt that they have been vilified and made the scapegoat for past economic failures along with the corporate and financial frauds. But what have they done to combat vilification? How have they helped their workforce retrain workers and make them more valuable in a rapidly changing environment? If they have, it hasn’t been made known. How have they elevated their members in the eyes of the public and the eyes of employers? Union leaders showed their disdain for their rank and file, and by extension the public, by trying to take advantage of anger and distrust to unilaterally endorse a puppet candidate. As a city mayor, Baker and Emmanuel have had to deal with such preemption.

  10. I’ll give you this Denis; you do stick to your guns (no pun intended). That you have been called names is unfortunate but given the charged atmosphere it shouldn’t be unexpected. btw: The “diversity thing” is old. John is right. The comments at many righty blogs toward liberal commenters is reprehensible. And, oddly, most of those commenters are banned; not for name-calling but for the excuse of presenting non-refutable facts.

    Now me personally: I do not have a very good track record I am ashamed to say, but I am trying to change. I have embraced Buddhism; I have a ways to go.

    Anyway, I still disagree with your arguments but hope you keep commenting. And I will keep trying to be more peaceful and at ease.

    1. I’m banned almost everywhere on the right and I don’t resort to personal insults.

      Most recently, I was tossed from Wigderson’s because of excessive ridicule of MacIver and “too many links” to supporting evidence. Ridicule plus facts equals ban-hammer.

    2. Thank you OS. I come here expecting a different take on things. That can be done without vitriol, though I realize it is tempting. The “diversity thing” may well be old but has been proven here in just a few days. Of course I suspect that it is not typically ideological diversity that the left is after. Anyway, I appreciate your invitation for more comments as well as your efforts to engage respectfully.

  11. In a previous post Zach noted that unions need to push from behind, that the recall effort must transcend collective bargaining in order to succeed (Z – correct me if I misinterpret your position).

    I agree, and that assertion ties nicely to Paul’s observation concerning Barrett. I find no appreciable distinction between the right to work for less and the right to bargain for less. Both Falk and Barrett fall into the latter category. There is no sharp contrast between the right to bargain for less or Barrett’s opposition to mandatory sick leave and Walker’s “tools” for municipalities – and the RGA has been quick to point it out.

    And I’d point out that during his debates with Walker, Barrett suggested that the citizenry isn’t concerned with the ideological direction of its leaders provided quality services are received. That’s a slippery slope arcing toward privatization if you ask me. Barrett is an adequate public steward in many respects, but not a visionary challenger to Walker. He doesn’t value government as an institution and a “tool” as strongly as Walker devalues and seeks to marginalize government. Nor do I find any substantive shift in direction from Walker’s Wisconsin that is “open for business” and Barrett’s M7 that is “attractive to business” with its tax give aways and forgivable loans to companies foreign, out of state or in-state. Barrett has never struck me as one who is is committed to preserving, and more importantly, dramatically reinvigorating the public sector or supporting vibrant localization rather than globalization of Wisconsin’s economy. For my two cents – doing so is key for economic recovery.

    Both Falk and Barrett talk about turning back the state, but from what I can glean – only to the status quo – with no recalibration or paradigm shift in the nature of, or role of government in, economic development. Vinehout, on the other hand, appears to be the most “grass roots” candidate (if “grass roots” is the goal for candidate selection – not arguing that it is). She references Fighting Bob, Gandhi, and the Native American perspective in her pitch for support. She advocates restoring union rights through the legislative process rather than executive order. Not sure what that would mean in terms of outcome, but it is the more democratic approach.

    Falk and Barrett are both are Democratic centrists. In the main, this is a position that is closely adjacent to fiscal conservatism, not to the strengthening or expansion of unionization. Barrett’s comments noted here belie how tepid his position is, not how strongly he supports unions or the public sector. Falk’s $10 million in taxpayer savings through union negotiation is hardly laudable, and is underscored by the same assumptions that informs Walker’s rhetoric as the “taxpayer savior.” Neither Falk nor Barrett deserve union endorsement.

    During the recall process, I’ve seen no competing narrative on the part of potential challengers to elicit serious debate about the issues at hand. Triggering a recall isn’t enough. It’s futile if there’s no coherent, cohesive position to supplant Walker’s ideological stance. Greens, Blues, and for their part, unions all dropped the ball in that regard. In my opinion it is far too late in the process to begin candidate selection and to sort out “who’s who” and “who’s for what” and far too late to be asking “what is it that we want?” At this point, opposition to Scott Walker has devolved into revolving platitudes about his failures with no coalescing leadership presenting innovative and plausible solutions. “Repeal and Replace” comes to mind… relentless opposition with no thoughtful, responsible alternative.

    Precious time has been wasted. Is the electorate not in the very same position it was in during the 2010 race for governor? I think so, and it shouldn’t be. After all the hard work that volunteers have put forth in securing the recall election, it is shameful that the Democratic establishment has put forth little more in strategy than the RNC – “get fully behind the nominee no matter who it is.” To me it signals weak leadership with no more capacity for strategic governance than the GOP. Removing Walker from office shouldn’t be THE single most important consideration here. If it is, he will retain his seat. Not only that, but chicken-littling, and hawking the politics of fear will ensure a second term.

  12. Millions of Koch dollars have already been spent to burnish Walker’s image but still 52% of likely voters in a Republican poll are sick of Walker, his lies, his corruption and his megalomania. After all that spending his numbers have only deteriorated. Spin it any way you want to, but voters can smell this skunk a mile away.

  13. Denis N, April 6, 2012 at 8:32 am

    I have only recently begun participating (what you call trolling) here at bb. In just a short amount of time, I have been ridiculed, assigned a nickname, accused of being a paid harasser (is there really someone who pays people to harass others?) and so on. All this from the tolerant, diversity loving left.

    DN I am just finishing my coffee (break) and luckily did not splurt it out on the keyboard while reading this. I apparently missed all the negativity you claim was heaped upon you. Hardly a clever or original use of the buzz phrase, “tolerant and diversity loving left.” Dredging it up here in an attempt to belittle a group, but offering no context to frame the words other than your perceived, but groundless bad treatment here, falls entirely short of actual sarcasm. Doesn’t even rate a nice try.

    1. Being tolerant and in favor of diversity, as I am or at least try to be, is not an insult. It might expose hypocrisy if one’s actions don’t match their self assessment.

  14. I was part of one of three separate statewide conference calls of WEAC local leaders held with Mary Bell & top WEAC leaders on the night before WEAC officially endorsed Falk. While I understand the logic behind that early endorsement,(Barrett wouldn’t commit whether he would enter the race), I was adamant that WEAC should survey its paying members on whether to make the early endorsement of Falk.

    Reasons given was the cost of ballot distribution & collection and the time involved to do so-3 weeks. I argued unsuccessfully that this endorsement in the most important election in our lifetimes would be the ONLY endorsement made without giving our members an individual voice. I am a strong union member, but I understand that there was nothing I or any of the other local leaders could have said that night that would have stopped the Falk endorsement.

    While I didn’t personally collect a lot of signatures, I facilitated the collection of well over a thousand signatures by teachers in my school district. Now that Barrett is in the race, I’m supporting him 100%. While that puts me at odds with WEAC, I want to send our strongest candidate up against Walker. Because of the unions’ endorsement of Falk, Tom Barrett is definitely that candidate.

  15. Despite what Denis says, I have found many conservatives have one-ply skin thickness, if that.

  16. I stand by what I said earlier. Why would you assume Falk would be lying if she said ‘What AFSCME put out is not what I believe, and I ask my supporters not to pull tactics like this. ‘ She has chosen not to do that, and in doing so has pretty much guaranteed that I won’t vote for her, because I wanrt a candidate who won’t be a self-absorbed sleaze like Scott Walker, and AFSCME’s act and Falk’s silent approval is too close to that line.

    There’s a right way and a wrong way to draw contrasts, and AFsCME/Falk chose the wrong way.

  17. Maybe Kathleen Falk hasnt put out that statement because she also recognizes the core truth to the claim that Mayor Barrett has been a political opportunist who withdrew from all links to the recall and fight over workers rights in the same way as the DNC and is now trying to take advantage of the months of hard work put in by union members, activists and a few politicians with courage and integrity?

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