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Friday, March 4, 2011

Layoff the Layoff Threats Governor Walker

"I've got 5,000-6,00 layoff notices ready", Governor Walker candidly said to a reporter when he thought he was talking to his billionaire supporter, David Koch.  Since that admission, as the show down over collective bargaining has continued, he has prepared layoff warning to 1,500 union public employee, as blackmail, trying to force Democratic lawmakers out of hiding.  Democratic Senators skipped the state to prevent a quorum for a vote that could lead to stripping collective bargaining rights from public employees. 

Union members and their supporters have been using their constitutional rights or freedom of association, assembly and speech in mass protests in the state capitol for three weeks, even receiving donations of Pizza orders for the sit in crew from Egypt. Unions have agreed to cuts in benefits and wages but are standing firm to protect collective bargaining. 

The Governor layoff threat raises an interesting issue. He claims it is aimed at the underground Senators, but I believe it is actually aimed at making the union workers capitulate.  As long as these workers hold out, so too will the Senators, but should they waver, the Senators will come home.  Union protesters and their organized supporters are using, among other first amendment rights, the freedom  of association which has been more protected by the courts than freedom of speech.  In free speech we always have the danger of someone crying fire in a crowded theater; in  the freedom of association we retain the right to quietly organize a group of friends to leave at the first whiff of smoke.

In NAACP v. Alabama ex rel. Patterson, 357 US 449 - Supreme Court 1958  the use of threat to freedom of association by the government was ruled unconstitutional.  The state of Alabama was trying to force the NAACP  to reveal their membership rolls, which would subject members to harassment from white racist organizations.   The freedom of association and speech rights of labor organizations and their members was upheld in Hague v. Committee for Industrial Organization, 101 F. 2d 774 - Circuit Court of Appeals, 3rd Circuit 1939, where the Mayor of Jersey City had attempted to ban speech for organization purposes from the streets of his city.  In Shelton v. Tucker, 364 US 479 - Supreme Court 1960 it was ruled that union teachers could not be discharged as a means of depriving them of freedom of association. 

In NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., 458 US 886 - Supreme Court 1982 the court ruled that intimidation aimed at the protest actions of an organization (a boycott) unconstitutionally deprived freedom of association and assembly.  In Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 US 88 - Supreme Court 1940 ruled that legal action against the right of peaceful picket violate first amendment rights (press, speech and association). In Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners' Labor Union, Inc., 433 US 119 - Supreme Court 1977 the court affirmed labor organizations as having essentially the same freedom of association rights as other organizations, even to the extent of extending that to a prisoners labor union. If those rights apply their they must apply elsewhere. In Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist., 393 US 503 - Supreme Court 1969, the court affirmed a district court ruling protecting freedom of association and speech in a protest (were students wore black armbands in protest against the Vietnam War and were suspended from school.)  Numerous other cases can be cited protecting either the freedom of association and speech rights of union member, or those of protesters, or even simultaneously of both.  

I believe that in light of the above freedom of association and speech cases the Governor of Wisconsin's threat unconstitutionally deprives both union members and their supporters of first amendment rights.  I propose that   labor organization in Wisconsin proceed to attempt to obtain an injunction against the Governor's actions on this basis.  


  1. Public Unions are willing to sacrifice their young to protect themselves. This is proved by their unyielding support of seniority based layoff policies as opposed to performance based ones. The very same polls you quote as "supporting unions" find upward of 80% of citizens support ending this backward practice.

    Secondly liberals are quick to point out that the Unions already agreed to contribute to their bloated pensions and heathcare but that they will not concede on "workers rights." However no one points out that very fact also means that A. Public Unions admit their is a fiscal crisis at least in part by public workers which logically calls for either A. Maintaining the same number of workers but having those worker make fiscal concessions or B. Having less workers and the same (none) contributions.

    Which brings me to my last point that if the Wisconsin public unions were quick to agree that their members (who they are supposedly "protecting")should in fact contribute to their pensions and healthcare butthe Unions REFUSE to budge on "non fiscal" "free" items like mandated union membership and collection of dues, even if it means layoff their own - then who are the unions really protecting here? They gave up their members paychecks but refuse to give up their own.

  2. I am afraid you have your fact wrong. Public employees work for less even when union, get no more in benefits, except that unlike non-union private sector workers they still have pensions instead of 401 K's. The politics of envy is being promoted to take away that advantage. I'm all in favor of the unions having mandatory membership and dues collection. If you don't have that the 20 or 30% (or usually less, but some)that don't want to join ride free and hold you down. This "Right to Work" has alway meant the right to scab for the boss. The work rights you are talking about there being non concessions on is things like arbitration when there is a dispute on overtime or conditions in the work place, etc. That's right. Workers refuse to be slaves.