Saturday, January 18, 2014

Wisconsin Koch Brothers’ Petri Dish

Eau Claire Falls South of Antigo Wisconsin

Wisconsin has a tremendous history.  Wisconsin became a birthplace of the great environmental movement during a time when Americans were just becoming aware that nature’s resources were imperiled by industrialization.  Three days before Wisconsin became a territory in 1836, Increase Lapman moved to Wisconsin and began keeping careful records on the environment that would serve as models for environmentalists coming after him.

The great environmentalist John Muir, whose family migrated to the United States from Scotland hales from Wisconsin.  Muir worked the family farm in Portage, Wisconsin until he entered the University of Wisconsin in 1861 and later became famous for his environmentalism.  A fun fact from The Wisconsin Historical Society:

Muir was also an inventor, creating an alarm clock that would tip up his bed and dump him on the floor at the appointed time. He showed this "early-rising machine" at the 1860 Wisconsin State Fair. Muir later wrote that his strenuous years in Wisconsin's outdoors prepared him for his later wilderness ramblings.

At the turn of the century, progressive Robert LaFollette influenced the rise of conservationism in Wisconsin fighting to protect our natural resources from economic exploitation. 

Wisconsin Dells

Wisconsin is also the birthplace of the labor movement enacting workman’s compensation and unemployment insurance laws that served as models for other states. 

As talk of reducing daily work to eight hours intensified across the nation in the 1880s, workers in Milwaukee formed the Milwaukee Labor Reform Association (later the Eight-Hour League) to agitate for the eight-hour day that we now take for granted.

As the nineteenth century ended, Wisconsin labor found its political outlet in a new socialist movement built by Milwaukee's Victor Berger and, during the first decade of the 20th century, in the support of Robert La Follette's Progressive movement. Factories were dangerous places for workers, and accidents killed or maimed thousands of Wisconsin citizens every year.

 In 1911, the legislature passed one of the nation's first Workmens' Compensation laws, requiring employers to provide medical attention and compensation for loss of life and limb. After World War I, labor unions began to agitate for unemployment compensation, which finally passed in 1932, and in 1937, the Wisconsin Employment Relations Act added critical state support to the right of workers to organize.

In the 2010 elections Democrats were so demoralized by the corruption in the 2008 Democratic Primary and the continuation of the policies of George W. Bush by Barack Obama and the new Democratic Party, they stayed home.  The result was seven more Republican Governors and control of 26 state legislatures by the GOP.

In an article by Mary Bottari in PR Watch called “ALEC Bills in Wisconsin”:

….“an odd thing happened. A steady stream of almost identical bills -- bills to defund unions, require Photo ID's make it harder for democratic constituencies to vote, bills to privatize schools and public assets, bills to enshrine corporate tax loopholes while crippling the government's ability to raise revenue, bills to round up immigrants -- were introduced and passed. An almost identical set of corporations benefited from these measures.

Funny thing indeed. 

Where is the bottom in ALEC's race to the bottom? The "Living Wage Mandate Preemption Act" would repeal any local "living wage" ordinance like the ones in Madison and Milwaukee, and prohibit political subdivisions from enacting them in the future.

The ALEC "Prevailing Wage Repeal Act" would get rid of all state prevailing wage laws that give workers engaged in public works for highways, street bridges, buildings and the like a higher salary. The ALEC "Starting (Minimum) Wage Repeal Act" would preempt the ability of states and localities to pay a minimum wage higher than the federal level.

So on Friday January 17th on Wisconsin Public Television’s program “Here and Now” with Frederica Freyberg, her guests were Republican Senator Glenn Grothman of West Bend and Democratic Rep. Cory Mason of Racine

Glenn Grothman who introduced 7 day work week bill for WMC

Grothman along with Republican Mark Born of Beaver Dam have introduced an ALEC “inspired” bill to allow manufacturing and retail workers to work 7 days in a row without a day off.  They said the bill was introduced on behalf of Wisconsin’s largest business group WMC. 

Click here to watch the whole, revolting 8 minute WPTV clip.   

Current Wisconsin law requires employers who own or operate factories or retail stores to give their workers at least 24 consecutive hours off every seven days. Under Grothman and Born's proposal, workers could volunteer to work seven straight days without a rest day.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state's largest business organization, brought the idea to them, the two Republicans said. In an email to lawmakers seeking support for the bill, Born and Grothman said they had heard from businesses with employees who want to work the additional time. But when asked for names Born said the only people he met with to discuss the bill were from WMC.

But opponents warned the only choice employees will have is work the extra hours or lose their jobs. The measure also would give workers who can work the extra day an advantage over workers who want to spend a day with their family, they said.

"Workers fought long and hard for a 40-hour work week and the weekend," Mason said. "People deserve at least a day off a week. It's a legal protection for a reason."

In 2005 Koch Industries acquired a Green Bay paper company, Fort James a division of James River Corporation.  Fort Howard Paper Company was founded in 1919 by Austin E. Cofrin.  Fort Howard operated as an independent business that expanded it operations until 1997 when it was acquired by James River Corporation and renamed Fort James

Georgia Pacific Corp Green Bay

When Koch Industries acquired Fort James, all employees were required to read the Koch Brothers’ book and write a book report.  This practice was not “mandatory” but if you wanted to keep your job or ever get promoted, you read the book and wrote the book report.

Now, Grothman is saying that the 7 day work week would be voluntary, well it depends on what you mean by “voluntary”. 

But workers’ rights are not the only Wisconsin staple being attacked and destroyed by ALEC groomed Republicans.

Frac Sand Mining throughout Wisconsin & Minnesota

According to a December 2011 article in the Journal Sentinel (which is still pertinent today): Legislators worked with Gogebic Taconite on mining bill, Five Republicans, and staff were authors of legislation

Who wrote the Assembly's mining bill?

That's what many people wanted to know after a public hearing last Wednesday at State Fair Park when Republicans declined to provide details on who authored the legislation and whom they relied on for help.

Now, details are emerging:

The bill was largely written by five Republicans and their staffs who huddled for months with different parties, including the business lobby Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) and representatives of iron ore mining company Gogebic Taconite, which wants to construct a mine in northern Wisconsin.

Hmmm, The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), where have I heard that before?   Oh yes, they requested the 7 day work week bill, or the Wisconsin Slavery Bill.

Anatomy of the bill

Based on interviews, here is how major pieces were developed:

Regulator deadlines: There was agreement among Gogebic, WMC and legislators that the DNR needed to be given a timeline to finish its work. The bill would require the DNR to approve a mining permit in 360 days. The current review period by the DNR takes at least 2 1/2 years.

Yeah approve that in less than a year.  No need for a long environmental impact studies or public comment, just OK the permit. 

The hearing processWMC pushed for removing contested case hearings - a process that requires an adjudicated hearing before challengers have the option to file a lawsuit in court

And, you don’t want all those members of the general public suffering from your pollution and loss of property value to have any say do you?

Protests Central Wisconsin Frac Mine

Taxes: Vos, co-chairman of the Joint Finance Committee, asked for language that takes tax revenue from a mine and splits it evenly between the local community and the State of Wisconsin. In current law, the locality gets all the proceeds, but Vos wanted to see half the funds go to the general fund.

Yes, so when all those people in Hayward and surrounding communities that are some of the poorest in Wisconsin get ill and their property is polluted and worthless, they don’t even get the benefit of the taxes.  Half will go into the general fund to be given back to Gogebic Mine in the form of tax breaks.  Sweet deal.

Wetlands: Neither Honadel, Suder nor Vos said they could recall who was responsible for language that would make it easier to develop a mine on or near wetlands - something environmentalists worry will harm the local watershed.

Trout Fishing in Wisconsin

Hey, anybody know who stuck in deregulation of wetlands for mining profits?

AB 426 would relax numerous environmental standards involving wetlands, groundwater, rock disposal, and would reduce the level of public participation in the review process.

Horicon Marsh

Hey, Ducks Unlimited, there goes the wetlands. 

So I guess it’s pretty easy to see why the Koch Brothers chose Wisconsin for their Petri Dish for the United States.  Pristine lakes, forests, streams, hunting, fishing an environmental paradise and a state that HAD strong worker and union protections. 

National Forest

How much more longer will the people of Wisconsin stand by and allow these Republicans to destroy Wisconsin

By Patricia Baeten

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