A central city community center in Racine played host to spotlight a gubernatorial candidates’ forum featuring the four major Democrats, one Republican and the lone independent. All four Democrats have pledged to restore collective bargaining for public workers, a labor tool all but eliminated by Governor Scott Walker.
Tom Barrett claimed Republicans are targeting private sector unions next. “Scott Walker and his allies want to make this a right to work state,” said the Milwaukee mayor. “If anybody doesn’t think this is a divide-and-conquer strategy, you are dead wrong.
Kathleen Falk touted her cooperation with labor when she was Dane County executive: “I worked every single day for 14 years with eight unions. We got the job done.”
Secretary of State Doug LaFollette said the concentrated attacks on unions go back to the days of President Reagan and the air traffic controllers. LaFollette said it’s important the public realize that union organizing “trickles down” to also benefit non-union workers.
State Senator Kathleen Vinehout got applause when she reminded the crowd she went to Illinois to stop the collective bargaining bill, Act 10.
Republican Arthur Kohl-Riggs said he hopes after the election, public sentiment will pressure lawmakers to support a collective bargaining reinstatement.
Independent Hari Trivedi said not having the labor right leads to low employee morale and less productivity, but he said it’s important for both sides to be willing to compromise on pension and health care costs.
Other issues covered included job creation, health care and retirement. Last night’s gathering also served as a “get out the vote” rally for Racine’s minority community.