A recently-released letter communicating between teachers’ unions encouraging opposition to legislation allowing financial concessions for unions has drawn ire from Gov. Scott Walker’s office.
The original letter, addressed to the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association and sent jointly by the executive directors of unions in Madison, Kenosha, Racine and Green Bay, emphasized the negative effects the legislation would have on recall efforts.
“Allowing Governor Walker to make such a claim just before the recall election will prove detrimental to recalling him and, therefore, will only enhance his ability to further harm all Wisconsin public employees,” the letter said.
The letter prompted discontent among the Walker administration and the Wisconsin Republican Party, RPW spokesperson Ben Sparks said. He added it proved to the administration that teacher unions have an agenda outside helping students and educators.
In a letter sent to the teachers’ unions, Walker said he was “disappointed,” and the legislation would give Milwaukee schools the ability to use budget tools to save money.
“Your use of Wisconsin school children and the livelihood of educators as political pawns is shameful,” Walker said in the letter. “When you are ready to put the best interests of our students and of our hard-working taxpayers ahead of politics, I will be there with you. I will be there, just as I am with Milwaukee.”
According to Sparks, the unions’ motives are to get their own candidate in the governor’s mansion.
“The fact that labor bosses are putting politics before our children and teachers clearly shows where their priorities lie,” Sparks said. “Their sole goal is aggregate power around their union.”
Kenosha Educations Association Executive Director Joe Kiriaki, whose union co-authored the letter, called Walker’s response “out of line.”
He said Walker should be ashamed because he said Walkers’s budget cuts have led to fewer teachers and larger classes.
Erik Kirkstein, spokesperson for United Wisconsin, which led the recall efforts, said in an email to The Badger Herald that Walker’s response to the union letter was only an effort to blame unions for the effects of his own policies.
“He is clearly trying to shift the blame from his record of failure and divisiveness. Walker cannot blame anyone but himself for the political climate he created in our state,” Kirkstein said.
According to Kirkstein, Walker created a hostile environment with the implementation of the act removing collective bargaining rights for public employees. He said Walker and his allies chose to attack Wisconsin workers in order to further “their radical ideology.”
However, Sparks said he believes the recall effort is being pushed by the union bosses with an agenda to bring forward their own candidate.
Kiriaki said the notion was hypocritical.
“Walker’s administration has had its own power to feather its own nest,” Kiriaki said. “Along with his Republican Party cohorts, he has successfully divided the state.”
Kiriaki said Walker’s response to the union letter will only further motivate recall efforts because union members will become more outraged.
The legislation referenced in the letters passed in the Senate Wednesday, and according to Walker’s statement, the governor will support it.