Labor Group Prepares For General Strike

Group Says It Needs To Educate Public First

Published On: Feb 22 2011 11:57:25 AM CST   Updated On: Feb 23 2011 01:40:37 AM CST
MADISON, Wis. -

If Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators pass a union bill that restricts collective bargaining rights, some labor groups said a statewide worker strike is a very real possibility.

The South Central Federation of Labor endorsed the idea of a strike at its meeting on Monday night.

"People are angry that their rights are being taken away -- and for no good reason," SCFL President Jim Cavanaugh said.

Cavanaugh said his group, which supports more than 45,000 union workers in six counties in the area, voted Monday night on the endorsement, supporting its union members if they choose to strike.

"Some unions have talked about this could result in a strike, so we wanted to make sure that we were upfront, that we're on board with that," Cavanaugh said.

Union workers protesting in and around the Capitol said they hope it will not come to that but they're not afraid to play the strike card if the hand they're dealt isn't a good one.

Cavanaugh said that, for now, they'll try to just stay focused on what's happening inside the Capitol.

"Right now, the concentration is on the governor and the legislature to see if they're going to govern -- if they're going to act responsibly," he said.

Cavanaugh reiterated that his group can't order a strike -- it's up to each of its 97 individual member unions. The South Central Federation of Labor can only give its endorsement. That move only shows support for the action -- if and when local unions decide it's the move they're going to make.

Members of the group said they now need to start educating the public about the possibility, to explain why they feel a strike may be needed.

"We've set up a committee to set up the education process. We'll be working with other labor bodies, and church groups," said Carl Aniel, AFSCME Labor Federation delegate. "This action is designed to put control back in the hands of people doing all this work."

Aniel said the labor federation would only support a general strike if unions around the entire state were willing to participate.

"There's no point of calling for a general strike unless we're prepared to make it succeed," he said.

However, Aniel said the group would make sure all emergency services would continue throughout the state.

"What we have to do is to make sure all essential services to people are provided," said Aniel. "Then, we'll determine what other entities deserve those services."

The group also went on record Monday night as opposing all of the provisions contained in Walker?s union bill, including funding for public education and changes to Medical Assistance programs.