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AFL-CIO's Trumka decries Walker anti-union 'poster boy'

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Labeling Gov. Scott Walker the national “right-wing poster boy” for union-busting, national AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka urged Wisconsin labor leaders to mobilize to defeat Walker in November.

“We have a choice — and I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of electing people who don’t represent workers,” Trumka told about 200 delegates to the state AFL-CIO’s 28th biennial convention, which began Monday at the La Crosse Center.

“This is our country, and this is our time, and it’s time we took it back for the workers of our country,” said Trumka, whose half-hour talk was interrupted several times by cheers and applause.

“Scott Walker gave Wisconsin a razor-sharp choice when he tore apart collective bargaining,” rejected Medicaid expansion and cut education funding, the union leader said.

Wisconsin unions that resisted Walker’s programs “inspired America” to a “new populism” that backs raising the minimum wage and increasing pay for all workers, regardless of union membership, Trumka said.

“The labor movement is perfectly positioned to lift our communities and raise wages,” he said.

“Raising wages will fuel a strong economy,” giving workers the wherewithal to resume buying, he said.

Walker favors billionaire donors such as the Koch brothers, and “he’ll keep caving to their right-wing agenda,” Trumka said.

The state AFL-CIO has endorsed Walker’s Democratic rival, Mary Burke, and the union’s 200,000 members statewide must redouble their efforts to secure her election Nov. 4, Trumka said.

“I’m going to give you tough love now,” he said, noting that Wisconsin locals have not fulfilled their commitment to releasing staff members to work on Burke’s campaign and for the election of other Democratic candidates, working shifts outside of company gates and staffing phones to electioneer.

“If you wake up on Nov. 5 and things haven’t changed, the next four years will be like the last four years,” Trumka said. “This guy is coming after us.”

The Wisconsin election has national implications, because Walker “was the first to double down on workers,” and GOP anti-union efforts have expanded because of his success, he said.

Burke is scheduled to speak this morning at the convention, which lasts through midday Wednesday. Other speakers will include including U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Democratic Wisconsin attorney general candidate Susan Happ.

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