Award-winning Investigative Journalist Robert Parry (1949-2018)

Award-winning investigative journalist and founder/editor of, Robert Parry has passed away. His ground-breaking work uncovering Reagan-era dirty wars in Central America and many other illegal and immoral policies conducted by successive administrations and U.S. intelligence agencies, stands as an inspiration to all in journalists working in the public interest.

Robert had been a regular guest on our Between The Lines and Counterpoint radio shows -- and many other progressive outlets across the U.S. over four decades.

His penetrating analysis of U.S. foreign policy and international conflicts will be sorely missed, and not easily replaced. His son Nat Parry writes a tribute to his father: Robert Parry’s Legacy and the Future of Consortiumnews.

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After Court Reinstates Wisconsin Anti-Union Law, Activists Organize for Summer State Senate Recall Elections

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Posted June 22, 2011

Interview with Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine, conducted by Scott Harris


Enormous pro-labor protests were organized over a succession of weeks earlier this year, challenging Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s legislative agenda to strip public sector unions of most of their collective bargaining rights. Even though Wisconsin unions had agreed to all of Gov. Walker’s proposed salary, health insurance and pension cuts to address the state’s $137 million budget gap, Walker refused to back down. When all 14 Wisconsin Senate Democrats left the state in order to deny the GOP majority a quorum, the Republicans voted and passed the anti-union bill, in what critics charged was a violation of the state’s open meeting law. In May, Judge Maryann Sumi agreed, and ruled that GOP lawmakers had violated the state statute on open meetings in their haste to pass the bill.

But in a 4 to 3 decision on June 14, the state Supreme Court ruled that the lower court judge had improperly interfered in the legislative process when she overturned the law. In response to the high court ruling, Wisconsin’s public employee unions have petitioned a federal judge to block implementation of the union stripping law. They asserted that allowing the law to take effect would irreparably harm workers because it will be impossible to reverse or remedy employment decisions while the bill's constitutionality is being challenged.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin labor activists and their supporters are gearing up for recall elections scheduled for this summer. Six Republican and three Democratic state senators will face special elections. If the Democrats win three of these ballots, the GOP will lose control of the Senate. Organizing is also moving forward on recalling Republican Gov. Scott Walker, which cannot happen until he has completed a full year in office, in early 2012. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Matthew Rothschild, editor of the Progressive Magazine, based in Madison, Wis., who assesses the momentum among labor activists battling to preserve Wisconsin union rights and protect the state’s middle-class workers from a corporate-funded legislative offensive.

MATTHEW ROTHSCHILD: What happened last week is we got a big kick in the teeth -- a couple of big kicks in the teeth. The first one came from the state Supreme Court of Wisconsin, which overruled a Dane County, Madison judge who said that the anti-collective bargaining law couldn't be put into effect because it violated the open business laws of the government and was done against the law that the state legislature had set for itself about how it was going to function, how there was going to be public access. So, the state Supreme Court, which is Republican-dominated, 4 to 3, issued a ruling which was akin to Bush v. Gore; it had no legal basis whatsoever. The legal reasoning was terrible. On the other hand, they didn't care about that and they just wanted to hand it to their Republican friends. In fact, it appears as though there was some collusion between the Republican legislators and the justices on the state Supreme Court, with the Republican legislators demanding that the court rule so that the legislators themselves wouldn't have to vote again and they would have voted probably to go ahead with the anti-collective bargaining law anyway, but it would've been embarrassing for them to do so. So, they urged the court and put pressure on the court to validate the original law.

And let's remember what the original law was. The original law said that public sector workers do not have the right to collectively bargain except for wages and only wages up to the level of inflation. On top of that, several thousand people weren't allowed to collectively bargain who are public sector workers. And in addition, it was a way to attack the unions explicitly, by saying specifically, no public sector employer -- not just the governor of Wisconsin, but county and city -- could deduct from a workers' paycheck, their union dues. So this is a big defunding effort of labor unions, and finally it required labor unions in the public sector to have recertification elections every year. And that's going to be onerous for public sector workers, too.

So, all this added up to a tremendous defeat for labor and for the progressive movement in Wisconsin short-term, anyway, because this is what all the protests were about. This is what we were trying to stop with all the protests, and at least, according to last week, we suffered this defeat, now we're trying different ways to rectify it and come back. But it's going to take awhile and it was disheartening.

BETWEEN THE LINES: From what I understand, a coalition of labor unions is now appealing to the federal courts to block implementation of the budget repair bill and the features of it which cut into collective bargaining rights?

MATTHEW ROTHSCHILD: Yes, it is. I have extreme doubts as to whether this avenue is going be fruitful. First of all, ultimately, if it goes to the U.S. Supreme Court, it's going to lose because the U.S. Supreme Court is so conservative. And, I just don't think there's a great legal case to be made. They said that Walker and the legislature were discriminating between two groups of workers in the public sector. One group consisted of firefighters and police officers and the other was everybody else. I think there is a rational basis for the government, or at least it can concoct a rational basis for why it proceeded that way, so I don't think that's going to go anywhere.

The more fruitful avenue possibly is through these recall efforts that are under way to recall some Wisconsin state senators. The Democrats would have to flip three of those to gain control of the state senate, which is under Republican hands right now, 18 to 15. But that won't reverse this terrible law. That would just stop Walker and the Republicans from doing anything else more heinous and that is only if those Democrats could all be in unison, which is a question mark in and of itself.

The big question is whether progressives in Wisconsin are going to be able to recall Walker himself, and that effort can't get under way until November.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Tell us a little about the recall elections, given the fact that there was a surreptitious tape made of the Republican plans to recruit phony Democrats to run in the recall elections to sow chaos and create some confusion and I guess they were hoping to survive some of the recall challenges to the Republicans in the state senate. What can you tell us about that?

MATTHEW ROTHSCHILD: Yeah, this has been an effort to stall. There were supposed to be elections July 12. Now the state Republican party was putting up -- and I believe still is -- putting up fake Democratic candidates to run in the recall election. So, if that happens, then there'd be a primary on July 12. And the elections to recall -- the final elections to recall the senators -- would be in August. And this is just an effort by the Republicans to buy time. And it wasn't only that surreptitious phone call, the head of the state legislature, one of the Fitzgerald brothers, a Republican leader said that's in fact what they were going to do. And it's very dubious morally, and it's very dubious legally whether you can run someone like that. I don't think it's going to be successful because I don't the Republican running in the Democratic primary is going to win the Democratic primary. But it might be successful in giving the Koch brothers and other people enough time to raise a ton of money and try to prevail in these elections that are likely to be close -- many of them.

But, I do think that there is going to be a real showdown with this Walker recall. You know, I gotta think that it's possible that someone like Russ Feingold (former Democratic Wisconsin U.S. senator defeated in his 2010 re-election bid) could run for governor against Scott Walker and win, and that would have a dramatic impact, not only here in Wisconsin but around the country.

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