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Union Endorsements May Not Mean Much in the Voting Booth

Several unions have thrown their backing behind Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Kathleen Falk in the primary election. Despite the endorsements, the sentiment among rank-and-file members may be different from their union leaders.

The Wisconsin AFL-CIO and the Wisconsin Educators Association Council have thrown their support behind Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Falk, while the Iron Workers District Council of North Central States and Operating Engineers Local 317 are backing her chief rival, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in Tuesday's recall primary.

The union endorsements — and other — are a big deal to both candidates. After all, getting the backing of labor unions typically translates into more cash in the campaign coffers and more volunteers to knock on doors and make phone calls.

In Falk's case, she's getting a big boost from a group called Wisconsin for Falk, a group backed by WEAC and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees that has spent more than $4 million on ads on her behalf.

Barrett's labor endorsements also include the Wisconsin Professional Police Association and Transit Workers ATU Local 998.

Falk has a much longer list of union endorsements. In addition to the WEAC and AFSCME — the two largest public employee unions in Wisconsin — she is supported by SEIU, SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin, AFT, United Food and Commercial Workers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Locals 158 & 159, and the Building and Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin.

What will union members do on Tuesday?

Despite the big bucks and the formal endorsement of those unions, the question remains: Will the rank-and-file union members follow the lead of their unions in the voting booth in Tuesday's primary?

That’s a big maybe.

Despite her long list of union endorsements and the money being spent on her behalf, Falk trails Barrett by 17 percentage points .

Some union members Patch talked to have vowed complete solidarity with their union, while others have decided to vote for their own candidate.

Ron Clone, a teacher who lives in Oak Creek, said he didn’t feel pressured by WEAC to vote for Falk. He's voting for Barrett because of how close the race was between the Milwaukee mayor and Republican Gov. Scott Walker in 2010.

“I also think he has more experience, both in Milwaukee County and at the federal level,” Clone said. “It does pay to have some good connections, good or bad.

"My choice has nothing to do with who WEAC tells us to vote for," said Clone. "I think both of them will support unions and, I hope, bring back collective bargaining.”

Racine teacher toes the union line

Allen Levie, of Racine, teaches in the Racine Unified School District. He says he’s 100 percent behind Falk.

“If my union is for Falk, I’m for Falk,” he said. “It’s that simple. But I’ve heard her and she’s for what we need. We want someone who is going to stand strong for working people. She’s made it very clear that she’s on our side. She’s for rolling back many of the cuts that Walker initiated.”

Amy Cerar, of West Allis, works at Harley-Davidson and is a member of the United Steel Workers Local 2209, which is part of the AFL-CIO.

Cerar is voting for Barrett because of his experience in Milwaukee County, she said.

“I know more about him than Falk,” she said. “Not that I wouldn’t back her, but I don’t know enough about her. In my union, there’s not a strong pressure to vote a certain way.”

Cerar say she’s voting for Barrett because he’s pro-collective bargaining and believes that people who want to be in a union should have that option.

“What Walker did to those people in the public unions was horrible,” she said, referring to the passage of Act 10, which eliminated bargaining rights for most public employees.

“Barrett stands behind those people and for people to have family sustaining jobs.  And he believes in the 40-hour work week," Cerar added. "A lot of people don’t have health insurance right now and they are working two and three jobs, and they are killing themselves.”

Bren May 05, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Cheating to win...nice. I'll vote for whichever candidate emerges as the challenger. Any would do better than Scott Walker.
Bren May 05, 2012 at 02:34 AM
lavelle you have to be kidding...
Bren May 05, 2012 at 02:37 AM
Steve, the idea of a mine wasn't the issue as has been clarified quite a few times. If the Walker administration had been forthright in presenting all of the facts, hadn't tried to pull a fast one with that egregious mining bill, we might have closer to having a mine. Don't blame Democrats for "no mine." Blame the Republican legislature. I doubt they have learned the lesson "Honesty is the best policy."
Bren May 05, 2012 at 02:39 AM
Lexi, this article is titled, "Union endorsements may not mean much in the voting booth." Perhaps this is why there is discussion about unions and the election? Let's keep it real, please.
Bren May 05, 2012 at 02:39 AM
Anarchy, enicar?
Bren May 05, 2012 at 02:44 AM
I don't disagree that "...WALKER HAS ACCOMPLISHED MUCH IN THE MONTHS HE HAS BEEN OUR GOVERNOR!!" However, what he has accomplished is promotion of a sedition-for-profit agenda and "selling us down the river" in craven hopes of being rewarded with national office.
Bren May 05, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Greg, as at least a few of us have pointed out (which you did not see or chose to ignore) nothing could happen immediately, for the reasons you point out. Those of us who support the recall have a fair grasp of the legislative process. We interpret the statement "I will restore/work to restore collective bargaining" that this is a process. Make sense?
Bren May 05, 2012 at 02:50 AM
That's a reasonable salary in my opinion. What's the fuss?
Bren May 05, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Ah, the middle. I like the middle. I agree. Let's go back to the middle!
Bren May 05, 2012 at 02:54 AM
According to Glenn Beck, "Forward" is a Communist slogan. Why do you hate America, AWD? ; ) We'd better change our state motto to "ALEC" just to be on the safe side, however. Turn that arm and hammer into a hand and rubber stamp.
Robert May 05, 2012 at 05:54 AM
I have filled out "the Paperwork" 3 different times in the years of my involuntary unasked membership with AFSCME. Never once got a response but the money kept being taken from my pay every month , and very nicely done for free by the municipality. Being a member of a Gov union is the exact opposite of free in every sense. I have every co worker in my shop that was turned to the Dark Side voting for Walker in June , with the exception of the shop steward and he wont vote because Barret and Falk are disgusting jokes. Some people might not like Scott Walker but its in the same way as a teenager hating his parents for being so strict ,they find out later he was right.
Truth Be Heard May 05, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Teachers made concessions in pay for years in lieu of saving decent benefits. No one seems to remember that. Teachers are highly trained professionals that often work in very difficult conditions, at a rate lower than an equally or lesser trained worker in the business world. Teachers also work many hours beyond the scheduled work day correcting papers, prepping for class, tutoring kids for no additional pay, recognition or respect. We easily put in 12 months of work in 9 months. Walker is doing everything in his power to demonize hard-working, dedicated educational professionals & the public education system in Wisconsin -- one of the reasons you enjoy good home values & companies want (or now wanted, past tense) to bring their families & employees here. If Walker is allowed to continue to attack education you will see the devastating effects next year when all the band-aid measures and emergency funds schools had to resort to this year run out. Just like they are still mopping up Walker's messes he made during his time as County Exec we will be mopping up this disaster for years to come. I feel for the students and their compromised education and for the lack of competent workers our communities will suffer. Perhaps Walker would find more value in education if he had finished college himself or didn't have deep pocket criminals backing him and had to succeed on his own, limited merit.
Truth Be Heard May 05, 2012 at 11:35 PM
It drives me crazy that some people don't think teachers don't work beyond the 180 contracted days. Teachers are expected to train, take classes, learn to use new technology, prep for new courses, take classes toward renewing their licenses and more during the summer. Some work a second job to help support their family. I know very few teachers sitting around eating bon bons all summer...
Bob McBride May 05, 2012 at 11:45 PM
You know what drives me crazy? Endless complaining from teachers.
Craig May 06, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Sadly Bob, it seems it believes its own BS.
Robert May 06, 2012 at 02:46 PM
I didnt go to college and I run $3 million worth of high tech equipment. Bill Gates a lefty hero to you didnt go to college. Scott Carpenter the Astronaught didnt go to college. Walt Disney didnt go to college. Mark Zuckerberg didnt go to college. J Paul Getty didnt go to college. You sure like to elevate yourself above everyone else with a degree that a lot of people didnt want or chose they didnt need. The sheeple of WEAC need that comfort or they fall to the level of all the lesser class
Robert May 06, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Im sorry..... didnt finish college. I didnt either.
Dirk Gutzmiller May 06, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Let enicar333 and Steve be an example of the very extreme right. slightly beyond the usual tea party babblerousers,.Anarchy, actively pursued, can take the form of terrorism. Crash and Burn, Starve. I get the idea, though, that they lack the personal commitment and integrity to do anything like they advocate. Just egg others on to get in trouble. Look at the infrastructure bombers recently captured in Cleveland, labeled anarcists.. The FBI takes great interest in anarchists, and the IRS also.
Alfred May 06, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Dirk Diggler here and Bren are fine examples of moochers who live off of us working fork.. They both are parasites, not contributing to society, simply suckling off of the teats of the taxpayers.
The Anti-Alinsky May 06, 2012 at 07:36 PM
It may be a reasonable salary to you Bren, but for hard working people paying their taxes, $90,853 for 180 days of work is anything but reasonable. And out of that 180 days, how much time is actually spent in the classroom? Many teachers get 1-2 hours in "prep time" and lunch breaks. And don't give me that bull about "putting in long hours outside of school hours getting ready and learning new techniques" bull. That may be true of a new teacher, but once they have found the "learning trench" they want to live in, they don't need to do a whole lot more.
The Anti-Alinsky May 06, 2012 at 07:36 PM
But to Greg's point, anyone that needs the union to think for them doesn't deserve 9,000 a year, let alone 90,000.
The Anti-Alinsky May 06, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Wrong Dorothy, Tom Barrett has done something. He has dumped another 100 BILLION gallons of raw sewage into the Lake.
The Anti-Alinsky May 06, 2012 at 07:45 PM
A union member saying he doesn't want his dues going to support a political candidate/party is like a taxpayer saying he doesn't want his taxes to support a war. It all goes into the same pot. No one knows who put in the 3 million individual dollars that went to Kathleen Falk. Nor do they care
The Anti-Alinsky May 06, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Of course you like the middle right now Bren. Just like a tug of war team that is on the brink of losing, you are about to go into the mud head first. If only you could start back at the middle you could win... The problem is you don't want to stay in the middle. You want the other team to go head first into the mud. Face it, Diamond Jim Doyle and the Democrats almost pulled this state into the mud two years ago. Every day more and more Wisconsinites are seeing that Governor Walker's reforms are a better way to go and jumping onto his end of the rope.
Luke May 06, 2012 at 09:00 PM
@Truth Be Heard. You are absolutely right that teachers work more than 180 days per year. All three teachers in my neighborhood own businesses (roofing and gutter cleaning, landscping, painting and welding) or work a second job for someone else. So they work all summer, in ADDITION to getting paid for being a teacher. Others teach summer school and get addtional pay. My teacher/roofer friend made an additional 54k last summer, in addition to providing jobs for his two sons. Too bad the building trades are not doing so well as a few years ago.
Luke May 06, 2012 at 09:28 PM
@Trurh Be Hard Ummm no. Compare a teacher to a grad in accounting or nursing. They will start in the low 30's and eventually work their way up the scale, just like teachers. Perhaps the accounting grad has a potentially higher ceiling, but not so much for the nurse. All these fields require continuous education. I understand that teacher benefits have changed, so comparisons are difficult. However, prior to Act 10 a lot teachers were getting guaranteed retirement benefits as well as healthcare after retirement, all for free (or with nominal contribution). In the private sector, there is no such thing as healthcare that is provided by a past employer. And if you want to get a guaranteed retirement benefit, your only choice in the private sector is probably going to be something like an annuity that has fees and next to no return, requiring you to pay 30% of your gross income to equal what teachers were receiving for free. So what, exactly, is your complaint?
Luke May 06, 2012 at 09:35 PM
I forgot to mention that in the private sector, required contributions to healthcare are typically 20% and retirement is 95-100%. Compare that to what teachers are asked to contribute.
Speak Your Onions! May 06, 2012 at 09:51 PM
---The Anti--- We all await Brens un-ending support for the US Senate candidate, of all those in the race, that has the most extensive and verifiable middle of the road track record . Our former Governor Tommy Thompson.
Mary May 06, 2012 at 09:59 PM
after listening to the debates Neither Barrett or Falk are smart choices' I am an independant voter and I must say neither of them would be my choice They both were awfull. I learned nothing from those two.
Luke May 06, 2012 at 10:41 PM
I'm also an independent. Barrett is better than Falk by a long shot. Barrett is, however, and empty suit. I will vote for anyone who has better solutions than Walker. There is no one that has better solutions that Walker. In addition, Walker does what he says he will do.

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