Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) didn’t campaign on union busting, and claimed that his now-infamous bill stripping collective bargaining rights from public sector unions was about fixing the state’s finances, not attacking organized labor. Indeed, it was called the Budget Repair Bill and Walker and his allies said it was a purely fiscal issue.
“You see,” Walker said in a February 11, 2011 speech. “Despite a lot of the rhetoric we’ve heard over the past 11 days, the bill I put forward isn’t aimed at state workers, and it certainly isn’t a battle with unions.”
Labor activists and Democrats, of course, claimed that the legislation’s true purpose was to break unions in the state, in order to help ensure more Republicans would get elected in the future. Now, a video released today by a Wisconsin documentary filmmaker should put any doubt to rest and show that Walker was lying through his teeth the entire time that he claimed his bill had nothing to do with undermining unions.
In the video, shot on January 18, 2011 — just before Walker introduced the Budget Repair Bill and a month before his speech — Walker tells a billionaire campaign contributor that the forthcoming budget bill is the first step in an elaborate strategy to “divide and conquer” unions in the state.
Speaking with Wisconsin billionaire Diane Hendricks, who has since become Walker’s single-largest campaign contributor and the biggest donor in Wisconsin history, Walker says the bill will help make Wisconsin a right-to-work and “completely red” state. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which first reported the exchange, transcribed the conversation:
“Any chance we’ll ever get to be a completely red state and work on these unions -” [Hendricks asked]
“Oh, yeah,” Walker broke in.
“- and become a right-to-work?” Hendricks continued. “What can we do to help you?”
“Well, we’re going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill,” Walker said. “The first step is we’re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer.”
Watch the exchange, which is part of a documentary to be released soon:
While it’s by now almost universally understood that Walker’s intentions all along were to deliver a body blow to labor, the video confirms definitively that Walker pushed the legislation under false pretenses and in bad faith. This is, unfortunately, hardly shocking, as even Walker tacitly acknowledges it now, but shows that Walker intentionally deceived the legislature and the public.
Walker also claimed publicly all along that he’s not interested in making Wisconsin a “right-to-work” state, telling the Journal-Sentinel just last month, “Private sector unions are my partnerin economic development.”
Thanks to this bill, Walker is now facing a recall election against former Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D), who said of the video, “This is another colossal bait and switch that goes directly to his honesty.” “What he claims he is not in favor of publicly, to the person who has made the largest contribution in state history, he says exactly the opposite. You can’t trust him,” Barrett added.