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Posted at 8:00 AM ET, 02/24/2011

Virginia groups criticize McDonnell's support of Wisconsin's Walker

By Anita Kumar
Anita Kumar

A group of labor and non-profit organizations sent a letter to Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) criticizing his support of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is backing a bill that would curb public-worker benefits leaving his state capital awash in protests.

"We are embarrassed that our governor, Bob McDonnell, would support Governor Walker's shameful actions and would oppose the hardworking nurses, firefighters and teachers that keep our nation going," said Sandra Cook, chairperson of Virginia Organizing.

McDonnell sent out a recorded video and a tweet in support of Walker last week. As vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association, he also sent a statement when the organization launched www.StandWithScott.com.

"Governor Scott Walker is taking the tough, but necessary, steps to balance the books in Wisconsin and get the state's fiscal house in order, and I applaud him for it," McDonnell said. "I thank Scott for his leadership. It's what we need to see more of in every state capitol, and in Washington D.C."

McDonnell and his fellow GOP governors campaigned for Walker in the closing days of the 2010 election.

McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said the governor disagrees with those who sent the letter. "The future well-being of American workers and families depends on our ability to boldly reduce government spending and reform our pension and entitlement programs today,'' he said. "This will require everyone doing their part, so everyone can benefit in the years ahead. Virginians know this and support these reforms. Governor McDonnell is leading this effort in Virginia, and Governor Walker is doing the same in Wisconsin. It's what voters made clear at the polls last November that they wanted to see occur at all levels of government. It is the right and responsible thing to do."

Read the letter below:

Dear Governor McDonnell;
 
We are deeply concerned about your expressed support for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as he fights against workers' rights and abuses his authority by striking a blow against all working people in Wisconsin.  In your video address last Friday, you stated that the actions taken by Governor Walker are simply a matter of course and that asking public sector workers to "do more with less" is a means to "get Wisconsin's fiscal house in order." This assessment obscures the real issue at hand in Wisconsin: Governor Walker is unscrupulously using the budget crisis as an opportunity to push forward an anti-organized labor agenda.
 
Blaming public sector workers for budget problems caused by the worst economic downturn in decades is a shortsighted, misguided approach at best and opportunistic and autocratic at worst. Public sector workers in Wisconsin have made the concessions to pensions and health care benefits that the Governor has requested. The firefighters, teachers and nurses that are filing into the Capitol building by the thousands have, in fact, agreed to "do more with less."
 
The problem is that Governor Walker is not bargaining in good faith. He has made it abundantly clear that this is an ideological crusade against working people and their right to bargain collectively, not simply an exercise in fiscal discipline. Governor Walker's exploitation of Wisconsin's economic instability for political purposes is shameful. In the struggles of his constituents, Governor Walker sees political opportunity. From 950 miles away in Virginia, we see Governor Walker prioritizing corporate interests over the interests of residents and communities.
 
For the last several years, states across the nation -- with Democratic and Republican Governors alike -- have made incredibly difficult budget decisions. The Commonwealth of Virginia is no exception. In fact, as a right-to-work state, Virginia's budget has faired no better than those with strong public sector unions like Wisconsin. Although we accept that difficult times require difficult choices, Virginians are simply not buying the "blame the public sector workers" mentality. As organizations, we see our members and supporters suffering from several years of drastic budget cuts. We hold in good faith that our elected officials in the Commonwealth will make pragmatic budget choices and will not use our health, safety and education as bargaining chips to further a political agenda.
 
We stand in solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of firefighters, teachers, nurses and police officers protesting in the Capitol buildings of Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana. These working men and women deserve our respect and support for continuing to fight for the American dream.
 
Signed,
 
Central Virginia Chapter A.P.R.I.
Central Virginia Labor Federation
Communications Workers of America Virginia State Council
CWA Local 2204
Eastern Virginia Labor Federation
IUE-CWA Local 82161
National Coalition of Public Safety Officers
Northern Virginia Labor Federation
Richmond Jobs with Justice
Richmond Peace Education Center
SEIU Local 5
SEIU Local 32BJ
Sierra Club Virginia Chapter
Tenants and Workers United
Virginia AFL-CIO
Virginia Association of Personal Care Assistants
Virginia Education Association
Virginia New Majority
Virginia Organizing
Virginia Professional Fire Fighters, IAFF
Virginia State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Voice of Vietnamese Americans
Western Virginia Labor Federation
Workers' Justice Center 

By Anita Kumar  | February 24, 2011; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar, Robert F. McDonnell  
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Comments

DUHHHH. What kind of story is this? A union group in Virginia criticizes the governor for verbally supporting Scott Walker? Could you have done a piece about the citizens that cheered the governor for his support too? Way to crowd the media with pro-union "news" and ignore stories that balance the issue.

Posted by: joeshea1 | February 24, 2011 8:31 AM | Report abuse

McDonnell is a political hack who believes these actions will boost his national visibility, ie future political aspirations. He could care less about working Virginians.
Like so many republicans these days, he is happy to further the destruction of the middle class and support the oligarchy of corporate America.
Maybe NOW America will finally wake up and smell the coffee from their disastrous, naive knee-jerk votes in Nov 2010

Posted by: pennycyn | February 24, 2011 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Public sector jobs should be dealt with the same way that private sector jobs should and since they are using our dollars to pay the public sector worker we the public who foots the bill deserve to have our voices heard. Unions are a holdover from the industrial age and a means for the democrats to bilk the American taxpayer for billions. This crap has to stop and I applaud Walker and McDonnell for taking on this fight. Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Mojoe71 | February 24, 2011 8:54 AM | Report abuse

So unions aren't viable anymore, eh? Do you realize that everyone of the workers involved in the Hudson Bay airline crash was a union member? From the pilot, to the flight attendants, to the ferry boat drivers, to the EMT who assisted all survivors on ground.

I applaud the union for standing up for their members rights, and I appreciate WaPo doing a story. I marched yesterday at Hall of States to show my support for Wisconsin workers and workers everywhere.

Walker and McDonnell say they are concerned about budget but spend millions in tax giveaways to their friends. Walker gave away $140M last month and that's what caused the Wisconsin budget crisis. He is a deficit spender. Why should the public pick up the tab?

Posted by: moiraeve1 | February 24, 2011 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Virginia no longer has a budget gap and has retained its AAA bond rating, so McDonnell is doing better than most.

He's also probably looking down the road. Virginia is currently one of four states that picks up the entire bill for public employees' pensions. It's an unfunded liability of tens of billions of dollars.

Posted by: morattico | February 24, 2011 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Virginia already bans collective bargaining for state and local government workers, a statute signed into law in the 1990s by Democrat Gov. Doug Wilder.

That would have been a good fact to include in this article.

Despite their lack of right to collective bargaining, Virginia's workers have NOT been forced to work under apocalyptic work conditions, as the unions would have you believe. In fact, Virginia teachers earn a higher average salary than Wisconsin teachers ($57,000 to $48,000), according to teachersalaryinfo.com, and Virginia's state workers were paid a 3 percent bonus in December after working with Gov. McDonnell to identify areas of waste and redundancy--achieving not just a balanced budget but a budget surplus.

A little perspective on the Union stance would would be helpful in this conversation.

Posted by: tiernan1 | February 24, 2011 9:06 AM | Report abuse

I do know people that earn 6 figures a year, and are strong republicans.
With good educations they,re still not educated enough to understand, it is them that is corporate america real target,
Why would corporate america fund the republican party, to break state unions, that big corporations do not pay much into the tax base, due to large tax breaks.
Be a worker is union or not, there will be good reason to lower the pay scale, that will give the guy next door benefits.
The rich are very smart, and know the working class do not think for them selfs, thus they will go after a group at a time, knowing that they can turn difference group again each other, and destory groups one by one.
What do you think people as Palen, limbaugh, beck are paid the big bucks for.

Posted by: dv1236 | February 24, 2011 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Virginia maintains its budget rating at the expense of public sector workers. Professors at Northern Virginia Community College haven't gotten a raise in four years. Is that fair? Is it fair to renege on pension promises made to workers?

Posted by: moiraeve1 | February 24, 2011 9:17 AM | Report abuse

The high bond rating benefits all Virginians. Why should public sector workers be allowed to benefit from a lower rating when it hurts the state as a whole? During economic downturns, raises are not a given. That happened to me when I was working for a private company that was deeply effected by the tech bust. The state is not going back on pension promises. They are looking to change the way the program is funded in the future.

Posted by: morattico | February 24, 2011 9:24 AM | Report abuse

"...Scott Walker, who is backing a bill that would curb public-worker benefits leaving his state capital awash in protests."

What kind of journalmalism is this? The bill in question strips some public employees of the right to collective bargaining. That's what the protests are about. The unions have said they're willing to take cuts to help balance the state budget. What's going on in Wisconsin isn't about the money, it's about collective bargaining.

Are their any newspapers left in this country that know what a fact is and are willing to report them?

Posted by: BruceGarrett | February 24, 2011 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Watch out VA teachers, McDonnell is projecting that your jobs are next on the proverbial chopping block!

Posted by: mikefromArlington | February 24, 2011 9:53 AM | Report abuse

So Virginia unions are urging Wisconsin to continue collective bargaining for public employees, which doesn't exist for public employees in Virginia and was even outlawed in Virginia under a Democratic Governor.
Huh ?
As a Wisconsin resident, I respectfully ask you all to butt out and let us solve our own budget problems. Most of all, stop demanding Wisconsin residents to be burdened by something that Virginia residents aren't willing to pay for themselves.

Posted by: smokey3 | February 24, 2011 9:56 AM | Report abuse

The letter-writers miss the point. They should aim their criticism at DNC chair Tim Kaine, who as governor of VA, did absolutely nothing to support public sector bargaining rights. Or maybe direct their criticism at Senator Warner, who as governor did nothing. A Democratic governor, Wilder, signed the bill to criminalize collective bargaining and every Democratic governor since then has taken the issue off the table. McDonnell is repeaing the benefits of his Democratic predecessors. I'd be more impressed if the letter-writers refused to send any more union-busting Democrats to the Senate, but it looks as though Kaine will run to join Warner in DC. This letter is an embarrassing joke.

Posted by: sherrystanley | February 24, 2011 10:13 AM | Report abuse

moiraeve1 wrote:

"Professors at Northern Virginia Community College haven't gotten a raise in four years. Is that fair?"

----

Yes, that IS fair, because they STILL have a job. A whole lot of private sector employees and even some state and local workers have lost theirs. The majority of private sector workers not only haven't had a raise in four years, they've had their salaries cut AND seen the cost of their benefits (if they ever even had any) rise or get cut altogether. And that doesn't include entrepreneurs and small business owners, who have to work for every dollar they get--no guarantees--and pay for benefits and every other perk out of pocket.

And you think that these people--many of which face real physical risk in their jobs, not just paper cuts--should now help fund RAISES for your community college professors?

If they can't live on a 2007-level salary, I suggest they quit and go get a better-paying job somewhere else (and good luck with that!). Or like the rest of us, maybe look into a second--or third--job.

Buck up a little, please! All this whining is giving me a HEADACHE.

Posted by: tiernan1 | February 24, 2011 10:38 AM | Report abuse

For some odd reason, Republicans want to eliminate public schools and privatize it all. Their utopia consists of an America where only the fortunate and extremely intelligent can afford school and the rest of us, once minimum wage is removed, will work for pennies.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | February 24, 2011 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Well maybe Gov. McDonnell is just trying to get his own junket to Calais like the one Bogus David Koch offered to the best Wisconsin governor that money can buy---with Walker responding to Bogus David’s offer with, “All right!”

Next thing you know Bogus French President Sarkozy will be calling Walker and suggesting that while Walker is on his Koch-provided junket to Calais, to which Walker responded, “All right!” Sarkozy is going to fly in France’s finest Champaign, the King of Cheese, Brie de Meaux, and Sara Palin to boot. All right!

Who needs any Wisconsin beer and cheese when you got a patron of politics like David Koch, if you are Walker, no wonder you would ended the call with “Thanks a million!” If McDonnell can get high-on-the-hog with Koch, and get on the plane to Calais, he can forget doing only with Virginia Smoke Ham and also be over there in Calais eating Truffles and maybe Sarah Palin will bring some Alaskan smoke herring.

Posted by: Islewood | February 24, 2011 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Unions are nothing but greedy thugs. Can you imagine being told to strike, because the greedy little thugs want to line their own pockets some more with your tax payer money, and you cant work, cant pay your bills, cant pay your mortgage or feed your family...and if you dare to work you then become a "scab", and are beaten, car destoyed by these greedy thugs, etc.

All unions need to be broken. their usefulness is over.

VA BCH resident

Posted by: Rive | February 26, 2011 10:23 AM | Report abuse

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