Supporters of public-sector unions in Wisconsin are making history in their efforts to remove legislators responsible for passing the infamous anti-union law pushed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Since yesterday, they filed enough petition signatures to force two Republican senators into recall elections, only four of which have ever been carried out in the state's history.
This brings the total to four filed in the past month.
The Republican legislators are targeted for supporting a provision in Gov. Walker's budget bill to abolish the right of collective bargaining for public sector unions. Though hundreds of thousands of people rose up in protest, and outnumbered Democratic senators fled the state in order to block a quorum, Republicans rammed the bill, stripped of everything but the anti-union provision, through the legislature.
The law has not yet taken effect, however, as a state judge has issued an injunction against it in order to look into whether the governor and his allies violated the state's open meetings laws in the rush to pass the bill.
As labor supporters prepared for today's filing, against State. Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R- River Falls, the state AFL-CIO said in a statement, "In just 45 days, Scott Walker's extreme power grab to strip hundreds of thousands of workers of their collective bargaining rights has triggered as many recalls against Senators who supported his extreme agenda as have ever occurred in Wisconsin's history."
More than 22,000 signatures were collected against Harsdorf.
Ann Schmidt of Wautoma, Wisc., yesterday filed 23,000 signatures supporting a recall of State Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, 160 percent more than necessary to force a recall vote. Two other local senators, Republicans Dan Kapanke and Randy Hopper, of La Crosse and Fond du Lac respectively, have already been forced into recall elections.
While only 14,700 signatures are needed for each senator, organizers have sought to collect over 20,000 names each, in order to ensure that, even if some names are thrown out by state officials, there will be more than enough signers to guarantee the recall goes forward.
According to local AFL-CIO officials, the lightning speed with which the petitions were filed is nothing short of "historic."
"All ... recall petitions have been filed historically fast with an outstanding amount of signatures," state AFL-CIO officials said in a statement, "demonstrating the enormous grassroots support for taking back our government from Scott Walker and his allies who are blindly backing his extreme agenda."
In addition to these four senators who are nearly certain to battle recall elections, labor supporters are targeting five others for recall. While there are more Republicans in the state's senate, labor is focusing its energies on those elected officials most likely to lose in a recall fight.
Labor, Democrats and other progressives appear to be gaining momentum. Public opinion polls in Wisconsin and across the country show widespread support for the unions - and animosity towards Walker and right-wing governors in other states. Walker's favored Supreme Court candidate came within 7,000 votes of losing his reelection to a relative unknown in the kind of race that is nearly always a shoe-in for the incumbent.