By John Eidelson, Salon
After Wisconsinites submitted signatures to recall their union-busting governor, labor leaders pledged not to settle for just “Anybody But Walker.” Last week, the state AFL-CIO made good on that promise. As a string of current and former elected Democrats lined up behind Milwaukee Mayor and Democratic primary front-runner Tom Barrett, the labor federation followed many of its major unions in endorsing former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk. Many labor leaders say Falk is more likely to beat Walker in the recall and reverse his policies once in office. But to get the chance, she’ll have to overcome Barrett’s 14-point polling lead before the May 8 primary.
Madison Teachers Inc. president John Matthews says the difference between Falk’s and Barrett’s plans for how to restore workers’ collective bargaining is “the key issue” in the primary. Falk, Barrett and the race’s two other Democratic candidates all say they support that goal. But even if Democrats retake the Governor’s Office and flip the state Senate, they may still have a Republican assembly to contend with. Falk committed early on to veto any budget that doesn’t include collective bargaining restoration, a move that SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin vice president Bruce Colburn praises as “very significant.” Barrett has said he would pursue the issue on multiple fronts, including calling a special session of the Legislature. Barrett Communications director Phillip Walzak says that a budget showdown would risk leaving the entire Walker budget in place. Falk campaign communications director Scot Ross says that in a special session, Assembly Republicans could easily decline to hold any votes.