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Video shows newly-elected Wis. governor outlining 'divide and conquer' strategy against unions
MADISON, Wis. (AP) ' Newly-released documentary film footage from January 2011 shows Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker describing a "divide and conquer" strategy for going after the state's public employee unions that would begin with going after their collective bargaining rights, undermining his long-held claim that his divisive union rights law was meant solely as a budget-balancing measure.
The video, which filmmaker Brad Lichtenstein captured for a documentary about the city of Janesville's efforts to create jobs following the closure of a General Motors plant, shows the newly-elected Walker talking to a top donor, Beloit billionaire Diane Hendricks, and Mary Willmer-Sheedy, an M&I Bank executive from Janesville.
In the clip, Hendricks asks Walker whether he can make Wisconsin a "completely red state, and work on these unions, and become a right-to-work" state, referring to states that have passed laws favored by conservatives that allow workers to not pay union dues or join a union, even if they are covered by a union contract.
"Well, we're going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill," Walker said. "The first step is we're going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer," Walker responded.
Lichtenstein has since finished the documentary, "As Goes Janesville," which is expected to be shown at film festivals and on PBS stations this fall. Lichtestein has worked for Democratic campaigns and has donated to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Walker's opponent in the June 5 recall election.
The conversation was recorded at the Beloit headquarters of ABC Supply, the roofing wholesaler and siding distributor Hendricks founded with her husband, Ken, who died in 2007. Walker was there to attend a meeting of the economic development group Rock County 5.0, which Hendricks co-chairs.
Walker co-sponsored right-to-work legislation in 1993 as a freshman in the state Assembly, but he has declined to say whether he would sign or veto a right-to-work bill if passed by the Legislature.
In response to the documentary trailer, Walker spokeswoman Ciara Matthews said the governor's position on right to work hasn't changed.
"Governor Walker has made clear repeatedly that he does not have an interest in pushing right-to-work legislation," Matthews said.
Supporters of right-to-work legislation believe it would give more freedom to workers and make it more attractive for companies to invest and hire employees in a state. Opponents say it undermines unions and doesn't help the economy.