Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker did not campaign for office calling for the destruction of public unions, but a closer look at his past actions shows that he acted rashly toward union workers before, with disastrous and costly results.
In early 2010, when Walker was Milwaukee County Executive, he fired 26 union security guards who worked at the Milwaukee County Courthouse. They were public employees and were represented by a union, but he fired them anyway, in favor of hiring private security guards. The county board opposed Walker's security-outsourcing move, but he pressed ahead with it anyway, claiming the action was needed due to a budget crisis, to help ameliorate a potential 2010 year-end deficit of around $7 million. After firing the guards, Walker hired private security contractor Wackenhut G4S to provide security services at the Courthouse, as well as two other venues in the county, under a $1.1 million contract.
Wackenhut: The "Embassy Guards Gone Wild" Company
If the name Wackenhut sounds familiar, it's because it is the parent company of the ArmorGroup, the firm hired by the Bush Administration to guard the American Embassy compound in Kabul, Afghanistan with horrible and embarrassing results.
In September 2009, the Project on Government Oversight released about a dozen photographs showing Wackenhut/ArmorGroup nearly naked security contractors guards engaging in sexually charged antics while drunk. In one practically X-rated photo, a guard is seen pouring liquor onto another's employee's buttocks while a third employee laps the vodka off the first guy's buttocks. The photos were obtained by other ArmorGroup employees who complained that they were regularly subjected to deviant hazing and humiliation. The explosive "Embassy-Guards-Gone-Wild scandal," also dubbed "Animal House in Afghanistan," put the embassy compound in jeopardy and deeply embarrassed the U.S. State Department. On February 20, 2010, in a now-standard corporate PR ploy to escape the ill effects of a disabling scandal, the Wackenhut Security company officially changed its name to G4S.
But Back to Walker's M.O. in Wisconsin
Walker's strategy of firing the union security guards to cope with a contrived "budget emergency" went awry. Just last month, on January 10, 2011, an arbitrator ruled that the county did not have a true budget crisis at the time Walker fired the guards, and county officials failed to give the union representing the guards a chance to propose alternative cost-saving measures before laying them off. The arbitrator also said the annual savings Walker claimed the county would realize from privatizing courthouse security was overstated.
The ruling ordered the county to immediately hire back the fired guards, with back pay, and unemployment compensation or wages from any new jobs subtracted. It also guaranteed the fired guards at least 180 days of work -- the same amount of time that should have been given to the guards' union to react to Walker's plan to privatize.
This means that Walker's last rash action toward the public's employees cost the county plenty.
Walker's latest "budget emergency" justification for attacking unions sounds strikingly similar to the excuse he used to fire the union guards back when he was county executive. The compressed amount of time he gave citizens to react to the bill's provision curtailing union workers' right to collectively bargain also fits the M.O. he used to back then try to privatize courthouse security. Here is Walker's M.O.: grab the authority, take swift action, and don't allow any time for negotiation or compromise.
Walker Outsourced Wisconsin Jobs to Foreign Companies
Of even more concern than his ill-fated escapade in Milwaukee County is the fact that Walker pushed to outsource decent-paying Wisconsin government jobs to a foreign corporation. Wackenhut (now called G4S) has offices in Jupiter, Florida, but it is owned by a Danish security firm called Group 4 Falck, which bought Wackenhut Corporation in 2002. Another international company that partly owned Wackenhut, Securicor, is based in the United Kingdom. He didn't even outsource the jobs to a Wisconsin based-business.
Meanwhile, instead of paying experienced security officers trained by the state to do the job of securing a government building, such as a county courthouse, the citizens of Wisconsin got stuck with:
- less qualified security guards protecting Wisconsin citizens -- one of the guards even had a serious criminal record;
- the profits of Walker's no-bid deal going to a global corporation headquartered in Europe;
- lower wages being paid to the contractors hired by that global corporation, meaning less money flowing into the local economy;
- Wisconsin families losing their primary breadwinner due to Scott Walker's rash dictate to fire court security officers who had done nothing wrong; and
- the Wisconsin taxpayer footing the bill for both the global corporation's charges (and profit margin) for providing security and also the back wages of the civil servants whose jobs were summarily destroyed by Walker, in violation of Wisconsin law.
Walker's dictates indisputably took decent-paying Wisconsin jobs and handed them to a foreign corporation to profit from, and he did so in the aftermath of global banks crashing the American economy.