When you think about it, the whole idea of running local, state or national government “like a business“ makes a lot less sense than running things like a labor union. Unions are democratic institutions that have a responsibility to watch out for their members and to the broader community. They are invested in the cities and states where they work because they can’t pull up stakes and relocate overseas. And they have a dramatically better record of evolving with the country—toward an embrace of women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights—than the robber barons and their monopolies.
Union leaders manage major organizations and deal with negotiations, contracts, budgets and the challenges of balancing economic and human demands. The difference is that they tip the balance toward humanity, as opposed to the false construct that says “corporations are people, my friends.”
Once upon a time, the idea of electing a union leader as a legislator, a member of Congress, even a president, was commonplace. Both Eugene Victor Debs and Ronald Reagan learned their leadership skills as union leaders. Unfortunately, as the years passed, the political and pundit classes embrace of MBA presidents (George Bush) and CEO contenders (Mitt Romney). It has not worked well for the republic or its component states.
So perhaps it is time to get back to electing officials who come from the union movement, and who have the requisite respect for democracy and concern for the people government is supposed to serve.
And where better to begin the process of getting politics right than in Wisconsin, the state that said “no” to Wall Street’s austerity lie a year ago and that has kept pushing back ever since?
As the recall elections that seek to remove Governor Scott Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch approach, challengers are stepping up. And, on Monday, Professional Frefighters of Wisconsin union president Mahlon Mitchell stepped up as a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.
In Wisconsin, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are nominated separately in party primaries and then run together as a ticket in the general election. In the recall elections, however, Walker and Kleefisch are being recalled for their specific actions. So they face specific contests. The primaries are expected on May 8, followed by an expected June 5 general election between a Walker and his Democratic challenger and Kleefisch and her Democratic challenger.
Several candidates are in the race or are expected to enter the race for governor on the Democratic side, including former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk (who’s in with union backing), State Senator Kathleen Vinehout, Secretary of State Doug La Follette and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (the party’s 2010 candidate). Mitchell entertained the notion of running as a guberantorial candidate, but opted—as a first-time contender—for a run at the state’s number-two job.