the republic logo

Democrat Burke scores major union endorsements despite mixed views on Walker's union law

Share/Save/Bookmark

MADISON, Wisconsin — Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke won the endorsement of three major unions on Wednesday, even though she hasn't promised to repeal a law championed by her opponent Gov. Scott Walker that essentially ended collective bargaining for most public workers.

The Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, the statewide teachers union Wisconsin Education Association Council and the Madison Teachers Inc. all announced that they were backing Burke. A member of the Madison school board, Burke is also a former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive and state commerce secretary.

Burke has upset some union leaders and Democratic activists because she has not promised to repeal the union measure signed into law in 2011 known as Act 10, if elected. Burke has said she opposes the law and supports collective bargaining, but she also agreed with parts of Act 10 requiring public workers to pay more for their pension and health care benefits.

Passage of the union law was Walker's signature achievement in his first term and it catapulted him onto the national stage. The fight over the law, which sparked protests as large as 100,000 people and led to Democratic state senators leaving the state to temporarily block its passage, also motivated the drive to recall Walker in 2012.

Burke signed the recall petition and met with union leaders before launching her campaign. Walker survived the recall.

In response to the union endorsements, Wisconsin Republican Party executive director Joe Fadness criticized Burke, saying she was making "backroom promises on Act 10 and leaving voters in the dark."

Burke didn't say anything different privately to the unions than she has said publicly about where she stands on Act 10, said her campaign spokesman Joe Zepecki.

Betsy Kippers, president of the statewide teachers' union WEAC, said that Burke didn't say anything in her endorsement interview about Act 10 that was different from her public comments.

"As a whole we believe she wants what we want," Kippers said.

It should come as no surprise that unions are backing Burke and not Walker, Zepecki said.

Walker's campaign spokeswoman Alleigh Marre did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

None of the union leaders who endorsed Burke on Wednesday mentioned her position on Act 10 in their prepared statements. However, they did cite her general support of unions as a reason for her getting their backing.

"We know Mary Burke is the best candidate to represent working people across Wisconsin," said Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO. "Burke knows that respecting workers' rights to organize in both the public and private sector is good for the economy and good for workers."

MTI, the union for Madison school teachers, said in its statement that Walker is afraid of collective bargaining and disdainful of public workers while Burke is not.

MTI president John Matthews said in a follow up interview that Burke's support for collective bargaining is clear, but she's smart not to dwell on Act 10 because Republicans have done a good job in convincing voters the changes were necessary.

"If I were her I would not make it a cornerstone of my campaign," Matthews said.

The Wisconsin State Employees Union, which represents most state workers, has not endorsed anyone in the race. The union's director, Marty Beil, has also been critical of Burke's statements supporting some parts of Act 10.

Beil did not immediately return messages left on his cell and office phones.

Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!

All comments are moderated before posting. Your email address must be verified with Disqus in order for your comment to appear.
View our commenting guidelines and FAQ's here.

Story copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Feedback, Corrections and Other Requests: AP welcomes feedback and comments from readers. Send an email to info@ap.org and it will be forwarded to the appropriate editor or reporter.


We also have more stories about:
(click the phrases to see a list)

Category:

Follow The Republic:

All content copyright ©2014 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.
All rights reserved. Privacy policy.