Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has long denied that he has a secret strategy to destroy public-sector unions as part of a long-term plan to make Wisconsin a “right-to-work” state where unions are dramatically weakened.
But, with the recall election that could replace Walker barely three weeks away, a remarkable videotape of the governor describing just such as a strategy has surfaced. In it, Walker is seen promising a billionaire campaign donor that the attack on collective-bargaining rights for public-sector unions—which sparked demonstrations and the movement that has forced the recall election—was only “the first step” in a grand plan.
The billionaire would eventually give Walker more than $500,000—the largest donation in Wisconsin history—to help him advance his agenda. That donation made her the largest single donor to the governor’s effort to beat the June 5 recall vote.
The videotape, shot on January 18, 2011, just days after Walker was sworn in as Wisconsin’s Republican governor and several weeks before he proposed to use a “budget repair” bill to gut union rights, was released Thursday by the documentary filmmaker who filmed it.
The video is part of a documentary, As Goes Janesville, which will be shown this fall at film festivals and at PBS stations. (Full disclosure: filmmaker Brad Lichtenstein filmed me several times as part of the making of the documentary. I did not, however, know about the Walker footage until he shared it this week with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.)
In the video, Walker is shown meeting with Beloit billionaire Diane Hendricks before an economic development session at a the headquarters of a firm Hendricks owns, ABC Supply Inc., in Beloit.
After Walker kisses Henricks, she asks: “Any chance we’ll ever get to be a completely red state and work on these unions?”
“Oh, yeah!” says Walker.
Henricks then asks: “And become a right-to-work [state]?”
Walker replies: “Well, we’re going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill. The first step is we’re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer.… That opens the door once we do that.”