Governor Scott Walker broke yet another promise to working Wisconsinites this morning by signing so-called “right to work” legislation. After repeatedly stating that it was not a priority, that private sector unions were essential partners in economic recovery, and that the bill would never make it to his desk, he signed the bill gleefully, showing yet again that he’s willing to betray Wisconsin as many times as it takes in service to his personal political aspirations. But we’re not surprised; we’ve come to expect this from Scott Walker. We all know what Scott Walker’s promises are worth. And I couldn’t be prouder of all the AFT-Wisconsin members that rallied and fought over the last two weeks in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the private sector. Despite the cold wind and snow, despite the moneyed interests and the corrupt politicians standing against us, our members and thousands of other Wisconsinites stood shoulder to shoulder to show that we’re united in the face of whatever legislation Scott Walker can throw at us. As AFT President Randi Weingarten said this morning, “The workers of Wisconsin are resilient. They will continue to fight back and wait until they have a governor who will work with them, not work to break them.”
The legislation that Scott Walker signed today will certainly pose a challenge to our brothers and sisters in the private sector labor movement. But like us, they will continue to organize and fight—for fair wages and benefits, for safe working conditions, for strong communities, and above all for justice. It’s fitting that Scott Walker would sign this legislation during the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery, during which Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., marched with tens of thousands of community activists to demand voting rights for African Americans. As you might know, Rev. King was a strong advocate for organized labor. He was a vocal critic of so-called “right to work” legislation, which he called a “false slogan,” and noted that “Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights.” And he was, of course, assassinated while in Memphis, TN, in support of striking public sector sanitation workers. Rev. King and the other leaders and activists in the civil rights movement showed us that corrupt politicians cannot stand in the way of an organized, diligent fight for justice. As thousands gather in Selma this week to commemorate the sacrifices and accomplishments of the civil rights movement, let’s all turn to their example to inspire our efforts for equity and justice in our workplaces, our communities, our state, and our nation.