UFF Home
UFF Biweekly
United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
14 June 2012
Email not displaying properly? View it in your browser

ANNOUNCEMENTS

CHAPTER MEETINGS THIS SUMMER

This summer, the UFF USF Chapter will meet on alternate Fridays at 12 noon: we will meet tomorrow June 15 at CDB Restaurant at 5104 E. Fowler Ave. in Tampa, just west of the USF Tampa campus; salad, pizza and beer will be provided by the Chapter. We will also meet at CDB on June 29 and July 27. And we will meet in MSC in USF-Tampa on July 13, details TBA. All USF faculty and professionals UFF members and non-members alike are welcome. Come and check us out.

JOIN UFF TODAY!

Download, fill in, and mail the membership form. Benefits of membership include the right to run and vote in UFF chapter and statewide elections; representation in grievances (UFF cannot represent a non-member in a grievance or future litigation); special deals in insurance, travel, legal advice, and other packages provided by our affiliates; free insurance coverage for job-related liability; and the knowledge you are supporting education in Florida. AND YOU CAN JOIN NOW AND PAY NO DUES UNTIL AUGUST UNDER THE FEA'S THREE FOR FREE PROGRAM. IN ADDITION, JOIN NOW AND AFTER A TERM AS A DUES PAYING MEMBER, YOU WILL RECEIVE A $ 100 REBATE. Come and join the movement.

YOUR CHAPTER NEEDS YOU!

This coming academic year, we will have legislative elections in fall, a legislative session in spring, a recruitment drive or two, and bargaining for the next contract. WE NEED YOUR HELP. If you are a UFF member, please consider joining one of the following committees to lend a hand:

And the Grievance Committee can always use help for helping faculty and professionals in trouble: contact Sonia Wohlmuth or Cynthia Patterson.

IN THIS ISSUE

WHAT HAPPENED IN WISCONSIN?

Part referendum, part re-election, part rematch, energized by activists and awash with money, the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election was an epic. Walker won handily, leaving unions to recall Werner von Braun's remark that he learned more from his failures than his successes.

  • Background. The recall campaign was a reaction to a governor and a narrow and uncompromising legislative majority determined to smash inconvenient checks and balances.
  • California versus Wisconsin. The successful recall of Gray Davis suggests some reasons why Scott Walker won.
  • But What Does it Mean? Some pundits claim the recall was a mistake, while others claim that the country is moving to the right.
We are facing our own tests this coming academic year, with an election in fall and a legislative session in spring, so now is a good time to take a dispassionate look at what happened and see if we can learn something.

ARTICLES

BACKGROUND

Wisconsin was the home state of progressive Governor Robert La Follette and anti-communist Senator Joe McCarthy. Academics may see one of the world's leading universities in one of the nation's most livable cities, but Wisconsin is the state where right wing Governor Tommy Thompson explored welfare "reform" during the 1990s and progressive Senator Russ Feingold lost to Ron Johnson in 2010.

Like Florida, Wisconsin has a smaller state capital (Madison, population about a quarter million) and a larger metropolitan area (Milwaukee, population about two million) where about a third of the state lives. There is one beguiling difference: while Tallahassee is isolated, Madison is only eighty miles from Milwaukee, so unhappy Milwaukeeans can readily drive to Madison to protest.

That's what happened last year.

In 2010, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker defeated Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, 52 % to 46 %. Walker's platform included cutting state employee wages and benefits, but soon after he was elected, Walker signed a Budget Repair Bill that restricted collective bargaining rights of most public employees. The bill also imposed unilateral wage and benefits cuts.

The unions offered wages and benefits concessions, but Walker was after collective bargaining and wouldn't negotiate. That's what led to Democratic state senators leaving the state to deny the state senate a quorum, while busloads of angry citizens descended on the capitol. In the end, the senate tweaked the bill into something that could be passed without a quorum.

Was that bill consistent with the Wisconsin state constitution? By some coincidence, that question would be taken up just after a race for supreme court justice. It was a circus: the incumbent (David Prosser, supported by the Bar) showed signs of partiality towards Walker, the press became wary of an incumbent they had previously supported, and the victory margin was smaller than the irregularities. After Prosser won, the court upheld the Budget Repair Bill by a 4-3 vote, although the three dissenters dissented only in part.

United Wisconsin started the recall campaign in March of 2011, and kept it going through the summer crescendo and through the fall's dispirited decrescendo of sick-outs, public gloating, lamentations and condemnations, and comparisons between Wisconsin and Egypt. In January this year, the signatures were filed, and the recall election turned out to be a rematch between Walker and Barrett, whom Walker had already defeated in 2010.

CALIFORNIA VERSUS WISCONSIN

The last governor to face a recall election was Gray Davis, and it may be useful to look back at that story. California had been hit hard by the dot-com crash and Californians were already demoralized when it suffered one of the biggest deregulation spectacles in American history.

  • In the 2000 2001 California Energy Crisis, Texan companies notably Enron manipulated California's power grid to maximize profits, incidentally creating service failures and ultimately economic chaos. In addition, constitutional amendments forbidding the legislature from passing a budget or raising taxes with less than a 2/3 majority paralyzed the budget process (which is still paralyzed).
  • Although Davis won re-election in 2002, the inability of the legislature to pass a budget and Davis' proposal to triple the vehicle license tax, together with some indiscrete campaign contributions (he was accused of being beholden to many special interests) helped reduce his approval ratings to 27 % (67 % disapproved, according to the Field Poll).
  • A recall campaign took off when right-wing businessman & Congressman Darrell Issa gave it $ 1.2 million of his own money. Once the recall petition collected the requisite million signatures, 135 candidates launched campaigns to run against Davis, including a number of entertainers but Issa himself dropped out.
  • Amidst the resulting carnival, Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and other participants spent up to $ 80 million over 77 days, including $ 10 million Arnold gave to himself.
Exactly what part the money played is a matter for scholarly debate, but Enron went bankrupt before it could pay damages for mucking up California's power grid.

Now let's compare California's Gray Davis to Wisconsin's Scott Walker.

First of all, Field said that as the California recall was getting into gear, 27 % approved of Davis' performance and 67 % disapproved. On the other hand, in Wisconsin this February, Rasmussen reported that 52 % approved of Walker's performance, and in general his approval and disapproval ratings both hovered in the forties and fifties. Also, while Davis was accused of being ineffectual as well as in league with special interests, Walker was riding a bandwagon (albeit loaded with special interests). Bandwagons are harder to beat.

The Wisconsin recall was also a rematch, and voters didn't change their minds. For example, Scott's support in union households rose from 37 % to 38 %. In addition, there was an echo of President Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial: many voters said that a recall was appropriate only for misconduct. Those voters may not have meant that literally Davis was recalled, after all but it suggests that Walker had not crossed whatever line voters saw.

Finally, there was the money. California sprayed vast amounts of money in all directions, but the monied class was more focused in Wisconsin. So far, Wisconsin Democracy has reports of $ 35 million donated to the two candidates over $ 30 million to Walker. But if most voters didn't change their minds on candidates they already knew, what did all that money do?

2.5 million people voted, less than ten percent were undecided this January, and unions (which never have much money) poured volunteer labor into swaying that ten percent while $ 35 million was spent chasing perhaps a quarter million people. That's about $ 140 each. Since Walker won by 53 % to 46 % as opposed to 52 % to 46 % in the 2010 election it's possible that Walker's campaign spent $ 1,400 per voter purchasing an additional percentage point he didn't need. Well, it kept the campaign consultants off welfare.

BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

President Obama had kept his distance from Wisconsin, but pundits and politicians have a Potomac point of view, so the news was flooded with speculation about whether Romney would gain some momentum. Many pundits spun the election as a referendum on unions because San Jose and San Diego both voted to cut pensions of municipal employees.

Curmudgeonly studies have shown pundit predictive powers to be comparable to those of tea leaves, so responses of politicians and interest groups may be more telling if only to show the spin. Walker sounded a conciliatory note in his victory speech, and when Romney complained that Obama "says we need more firemen, more policeman, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin?" and Bob Schieffer asked Walker if "Governor Romney is talking about getting rid of more teachers and firemen?" Walker responded that "firefighters, police officers, and teachers...[are] not what I think of when I think of big government," but didn't elaborate.

Walker advised Romney that he would do better playing Reformer than Republican (his words), but in what may be play for the convention, or plans for next spring, some Floridians saw it differently. Jeb Bush said that Walker's victory showed that "the intensity of the conservative side of politics is now stronger than the liberal side" while Rick Scott whose approval ratings are still above Davis' said that Walker's victory validates the course that the two governors took. Our governor is not making any conciliatory noises.

The recall may have been, as some claimed afterwards, a fight worth fighting. But another lesson might be that we should use our heart as a tool. And pick our fights carefully. Here in Florida, we do have a fight on our hands, both in the legislative elections this fall and the legislative session next spring. Any UFF member who would like to apply lessons learned is invited to contact our Political Committee chair, Ross Alander. "Don't waste any time in mourning," said Joe Hill; "organize."

LOGISTICS

Next Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, at 12 noon, at CDB Restaurant, 5104 E. Fowler Ave. in Tampa, just west of the USF Tampa campus.

Pizza and beer will be provided by the Chapter, and all UFF members are invited to attend. Non-members are also invited to come and check us out. Come and join the movement.

Membership: Everyone in the UFF USF System Bargaining unit is eligible for UFF membership: to join, simply fill out and send in the membership form.

NOTE: The USF-UFF Chapter website is http://www.uff.ourusf.org, and our e-mail address is uff@ourusf.org.

About this broadcast: This Newsletter was broadcast from uff.ourusf.org, hosted at ICDsoft.com, and is intended for all members of the UFF USF Bargaining unit (USF faculty and professionals at most departments). A (usually identical) version will be broadcast to USF-News and USF-Talk from mccolm@usf.edu.

If you do not want to receive the UFF Biweekly, you can unsubscribe below. If you do not receive the Biweekly, but want to, e-mail a message to mccolm@usf.edu.