Minnesota union members give Wisconsin recall campaigns a boost


Last spring Wisconsin’s working families took to the streets to protest an unprecedented legislative attack on union rights.  Next Tuesday, voters in six Wisconsin Senate districts will take to the polls, voting in recall elections targeting six Republicans who supported Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to strip public employees of their right to bargain collectively. The campaign to replace those six GOP senators with labor-endorsed, Democratic challengers is getting a boost from union activists in Minnesota, who are lending a hand in two districts along the states’ shared border: Senate districts 10 and 32.

In District 10, which includes Hudson, Menomonie and River Falls, labor-endorsed Shelly Moore is seeking to unseat Sen. Sheila Harsdorf.

The Minnesota AFL-CIO will run buses of union volunteers into the district Aug. 8 and 9, assisting get-out-the-vote efforts on Moore’s behalf. And the Minnesota State Council of the Service Employees International Union already is operating phone banks out of its St. Paul headquarters.

“We are calling into Wisconsin Senate District 10 to encourage people to turn out and vote for Shelly Moore and recall Sheila Harsdorf,” said the SEIU’s statewide director, Brian Elliott.

Moore, a teacher from River Falls, is making education funding the primary focus of her campaign, targeting Harsdorf’s vote to slash state funding for schools in her own district by more than $62 million, while increasing funding for Milwaukee private schools by $35 million.

In District 32, which includes LaCrosse, Jennifer Shilling is running a strong campaign – with union support – to unseat Sen. Dan Kapanke.

A member of the State Assembly from LaCrosse, Shilling voted against Walker’s plan to strip teachers and other public workers of their union rights – a plan Kapanke supported in the Senate.

Headquartered in Rochester, the Southeast Minnesota Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO, is coordinating efforts to shuttle activists into District 32 in support of Shilling, according to Laura Askelin, the council’s president.

“I am bringing down about six people to LaCrosse from southeast Minnesota to do get-out-the-vote work on Saturday,” Askelin said. “We’re also working on getting some folks down there again on Election Day.”

The campaign to recall several Wisconsin lawmakers began in March, when Walker and Republican majorities in the Legislature pushed through a “budget repair bill” that laid bare their party’s extreme anti-union agenda.

The measure forced most public employees – police, firefighters and state troopers excluded – to pay half the cost of their pension contributions and a higher percentage of their health insurance premiums.

More, it eliminated most collective bargaining rights for state, county and local government employees (again, exempting police and firefighters), eliminated “closed shops,” where union membership is a requirement of employment and forced bargaining units to win annual membership votes in order to remain organized.

To reserve a seat on the bus shuttling volunteers into District 10 on Monday and Tuesday, call the Minnesota AFL-CIO at 651-227-7647. For more information on SEIU phone banks, contact Amy Bodnar at 651-203-0401 or 763-458-0021.

Michael Moore is the editor of the St. Paul Union Advocate