Thursday, February 13, 2014

Abele's War On Workers Runs Amok

This past Tuesday, State Representative Chris Kapenga (R-Marie) and State Senator Glenn Grothman (R-Antoinette) announced that they were introducing a bill that would prohibit local governments from having any sort of living wage laws. To make matters worse, they announced that the public hearing was going to be the very next morning.

Obviously, they were hoping that the people weren't going to be able to rally fast enough and only the entities
openly in favor of the bill would be able to testify.  They obviously underestimated the people.

The hearing was well attended by Milwaukee County Supervisor David Bowen, Milwaukee Alderman Tony Zielinski, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, and activists Mike Wilder and Nicole Collazo Santiago, to name just a few.

Given that the Milwaukee County Board had just passed a living wage ordinance last week and the fact that Milwaukee County Emperor Chris Abele has been an outspoken opponent to such a law, many - including myself - naturally presumed that Abele had done one of his usual temper tantrums and ran to the Teapublicans in the state legislature to get them to pass a bill to allow him to get his way.

After all, he's done just that several times before.  When the County Board prevented Abele from sticking it to the county employees to the extent he wanted to, he bought off State Representatives Joe Sanfelippo and Dale Kooyenga to pass Act 14, which usurped power from the Board and concentrated it in his hands.  He's also done that more recently to get Lake Michigan redefined so he can build a skyscraper on the lakefront.  He also did this to remove any and all oversight of the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division from the County Board because they wanted to put safety measures in place.

Abele's involvement was further implied when people started to report that Abele had spent time lobbying for this bill to be written and passed.

But Abele denied any involvement. Per a post that he or one of his aides put up on Facebook (using both his official and his campaign pages):
Despite some of the things you might have seen posted by certain groups, I did not lobby for the state bill limiting living wage laws.

In fact, the hours listed on the GAB website are for hours we spent lobbying trying to RAISE the state minimum wage to $10.10 for all workers.

An effort I will continue to fight for.
Per an article by Sean Ryan of the Milwaukee Business Journal, Abele was surprised by this bill and "had concerns":
Abele became aware of Kapenga’s bill on Tuesday, but was not involved in its drafting, said Brendan Conway, Abele’s communications director. Abele but shares Barrett’s concerns regarding how it may affect local worker hiring requirements, Conway said.
And per Steve Schultz of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Kapenga also came to Abele's defense:
Kapenga said he drafted his bill after hearing the Milwaukee County Board approved a living wage ordinance last week. Kapenga said he wasn't acting at the behest of County Executive Chris Abele, as some opponents of the measure had alleged.

"I wrote this," Kapenga said, during a hearing of the Assembly Labor Committee. He said living wage ordinances would harm the local economy by scaring away employers.
The problem with Kapenga's statement is that it is utterly false. The Cities of Milwaukee has had a higher minimum wage for almost two decades without bad effect. Likewise, the City of Madison and Dane County each have had higher wages and they are by far the most successful part of the state.

Obviously, Kapenga is not a reliable or credible person.

As for Abele's claim, one would first have to overlook his past behaviors of running to the state legislature every time he gets told no, as I cited above.

One would also have to ignore Abele's lengthy history of being an active opponent to any kind of living wage requirement.  When Supervisor Bowen first announced this resolution, Abele immediately came out against it.  Before that, when the board tried to pass a similar requirement on a hotel being built on the former county grounds, Abele was quick to veto it that and lobbied hard in order to get his veto sustained.

The biggest item one would have to overlook in order to believe Abele is this:

It clearly shows that, as Abele claims, he was lobbying in regards to increasing the minimum wage.  But it also shows that he was lobbying against the living wage as well, which is a direct contradiction to his claim that he wasn't lobbying on it at all.

Now, it's entirely possible that Abele wasn't lobbying against the living wage, but to accept that would require a person to ignore a lot of past patterns and solid proof.

My personal take is that Abele did push for this bill, but had gone back to the well once too often.

Not getting his way about the living wage, Abele did what has become habit for him, and ran to the state legislature to get them to pass a law allowing him to again thwart the will of the people.  But this time, the player got played and the Teapublicans went much farther than he had wanted.

Instead of just stopping the Milwaukee County resolution, the wages of people who work for companies contracted to the City of Milwaukee, the City of Madison and Dane County are being threatened.  If they take a large pay cut, they could lose their homes.  Not only that, but money that would have been spent regionally might start going elsewhere, even out of state.

Because of the fierce backlash to this bill, Abele is now desperately trying to to distance himself from it, even though he wanted it in the first place.

It is infuriating to think that all of these people could be needlessly harmed because Abele had another temper tantrum.

But it does show that we need to get rid of Abele as much as we need to get rid of his mentor, Scott Walker.


  1. Both Walker and Abele are bait-and-switch enemies of the working and middle classes. Someone please primary Abele, he is a disingenuous corporate tool.

  2. Huh?

    Aren't Kapenga and Grothman both republicans?

    I thought that the republicans always campaigned on the issue of local control. The republicans always said that local governments shouldn't have to put up with the restrictions that were put on them by Madison?

    Are you trying to tell me that these guys are just a bunch of hypocrites?

    Are you trying to tell me that the type of local control that they believe in is that the control should be coming from whatever locality that THEY happen to be sitting in at the time?

    1. Why yes, yes he is. And he's right. These GOPs (and power- hungry oligarchs like Abele) don't have any idea of governance or consistency