Bloomberg News

Big City Faces College Town in Wisconsin Recall Primary

April 17, 2012

Governor Scott Walker, a Republican from Wisconsin. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg

Governor Scott Walker, a Republican from Wisconsin. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said the choice facing his state when voters decide June 5 whether to remove him from office is between “union bosses or the taxpayer.”

Speaking to business executives in Springfield, Illinois, Walker said that the ouster election, prompted by his restrictions on unions that represent public employees, will send a message about controlling government costs.

“Let this be our call to action,” Walker said today in a 30-minute speech to about 300 attendees at an Illinois State Chamber of Commerce meeting. Outside, more than 2,000 union members chanted “What’s disgusting? Union busting.”

Walker’s visit to Springfield, the state capital, is part of the first-term Republican’s defense of actions that have prompted conservative groups to rally around him and organized labor to hound him. He was also scheduled to deliver a speech later in the day in suburban Detroit.

The Wisconsin recall will be the climax of more than 14 months of turmoil triggered when Walker, 44, pushed restrictions on collective bargaining through the Legislature. Two senators who supported the change were recalled in August and more than 900,000 signatures were gathered to force Walker’s recall vote.

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, welcomed Walker and thanked him for creating “so much chaos in Wisconsin that he made Illinois look normal.”

Inflatable Rodents Deployed

Union members massed outside the downtown hotel where Walker spoke, carrying giant inflatable rats and a 12-foot likeness of the governor inscribed with “Don’t Badger Us!” The scene was a reflection of months of protests in Wisconsin and later in Indiana, where the Legislature in January made it the nation’s 22nd right-to-work state.

The past year of fights show a political tide is turning, said Doug Whitley, president of the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce.

“The reason why there’s an audience outside is because collective-bargaining union leaders understand that with Wisconsin’s action and right-to-work in Indiana, that there is a new environment and a new flavor north of the Ohio River,” Whitley said, referring to the union heartland of the Midwest. “Consequently, more of the public employee unions feel threatened.”

Mike Bew, a 47-year-old corrections worker protesting outside, said Walker is taking care of corporate friends at the expense of working people.

“He’s given money to big political contributors and companies and then they want to break everyone else,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Timothy Jones in Springfield at tjones58@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net


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