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Delegate Profile: Midwest Leaders’ Message - ‘Always Stay Mobilized’

September 23, 2011

Nowhere have working people been more under the gun than in Wisconsin, but Racine Local 430 Business Manager Chris Gulbrandson says Gov. Scott Walker’s attacks on collective bargaining rights has woken up the labor movement and built a massive pro-worker grassroots mobilization that few predicted possible.

Local 430, an inside construction local, teamed up with Milwaukee Local 494 to send buses to join the massive demonstartion in the state capitol of Madison that erupted last winter in the wake of Walker’s decision to strip bargaining rights from public employees.

Gulbrandson says:

IBEW members stepped forward in a big way, going to Madison for the protests and walking door to door to tell voters that truth about Walker’s real agenda.

Gulbrandson – attending the 38th International Convention in Vancouver – credits Walker for the unity forged between private and public sector unions during the protests:

For a long time we didn’t have much contact with the teachers and the firefighters, but since Walker we’ve been working as one on the major issues facing working Wisconsinites.

The IBEW has also been active in efforts to take the fight against Walker from Madison to the ballot box, helping to mobilize the recall of three state senators who backed the anti-worker legislation. Two of them were successfully recalled in August.

Gulbrandson, who sits on the board of We are Wisconsin grassroots coalition, says the next step is to get the half-million signatures needed to support a recall of Walker when the governor becomes eligible next year.

He says:

I think the energy is out there to get it done. His approval ratings are in the tank, thanks to his efforts to scapegoat teachers, public safety workers and other employees for the state’s economic difficulties.

In Ohio, Columbus Local 683 Business Manager Mario Ciardelli says the Buckeye labor movement has similar success in putting Gov. John Kasich on the defensive in the months since he launched his attack on workers.

Activists gathered more than 1.3 million signatures on petitions to repeal Senate Bill 5, which eliminates collective bargaining for public workers. That is more than four times the number needed to put the repeal on the November ballot.
Says Ciardelli:

After the petitions were filled, Kasich called union leaders in to his office to make a compromise on SB 5, something he never did when the bill was actually being debated in the legislature. We told him: ‘we’ll see you at the polls.’

We Are Ohio, a grassroots coalition formed to fight SB 5, is also taking on House Bill 194, which suppresses voting rights by limiting early voting and prohibiting poll workers from effectively assisting voters.
Says Ciardelli:

Our members learned that if union members don’t turn out each election, our issues suffer.

Gulbrandson says the main lesson IBEW delegates should take away is:

Always stay active – not just the month before an election. We have to keep our members informed on a regular basis about which candidates stand with working families and which ones pursue policies that squeeze the middle class.

Read more about the IBEW’s efforts in Wisconsin and other states to beat back anti-worker attacks at the Workers’ Battleground Web site.





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