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WSEU circulating boycott letters
Members of Wisconsin State Employees Union, AFSCME Council 24, have begun circulating letters to businesses in southeast Wisconsin, asking them to support workers’ rights by putting up a sign in their windows.
If businesses fail to comply, the letter says, “Failure to do so will leave us no choice but (to) do a public boycott of your business. And sorry, neutral means 'no' to those who work for the largest employer in the area and are union members."
Jim Parrett, a field representative of Council 24 for Southeast Wisconsin, confirmed the contents of the letter, which carries his signature. But he added that the union was also circulating letters to businesses thanking them for supporting workers’ rights.
Parrett said that since the letters were sent out, he has received threatening phone calls as well as calls from people supporting the state workers.
"I've gotten a lot of threatening phone calls," Parrett said.
Parrett said he believed the letter campaign was going on in other parts of the state. His region includes Racine and Kenosha counties, as well as parts of Waukesha and Walworth counties.
“It’s going on in other parts of the state,” he said Wednesday.
Parrett referred questions to Marty Beil, the head of the Wisconsin State Employees Union. Beil was not immediately available for comment.
In the letter from Parrett to some businesses, he says that, “It is unfortunate that you have chosen ‘not’ to support public workers rights in Wisconsin. In recent past weeks you have been offered a sign by a public employee who works in one of the state facilities in the Union Grove area. These signs simply said, ‘This Business Supports Workers Rights,’ a simple, subtle and we feel non-controversial statement gives the facts at this time.”
Parrett said a number of WSEU locals in his region represent more than 1,300 union workers who have a combined yearly income of more than $56 million.
“The recent actions taken on the governor’s budget repair bill have taken more from workers than dollars. It took away our right to bargain things such as: sick leave and how it is used, vacation and how it is used, overtime and how it is ‘fairly’ distributed. Our grievance procedure has been virtually destroyed. These are things that make life working in a 24/7 facility tolerable,” Parrett wrote in the letter.
Parrett adds in the letter: "State employees fully expect to take some lumps financially in these tough economic times, we have offered and we will. But don't take away rights to what has kept workplace peace for half a century and has worked well."
Terri Gray, executive director of the Union Grove Chamber of Commerce, said she had received many calls from member businesses about the union-led effort. She said most of the calls came from businessmen and women who preferred to remain neutral in the dispute between Gov. Scott Walker and organized labor.
"They don't want to pick a side," she said. "I told them, 'I believe you can choose to not choose.'"
Gray said the campaign appeared to have started a day or two ago. She said she didn't know whether the sign campaign was having an impact.
Asked Wednesday about the boycott effort, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said "that any nonviolent tactic used to get attention to the steamroller tactics it seems to me are reasonable. I encourage people to remain nonviolent and disciplined in their protests."
Asked if he supported boycott efforts in Wisconsin, Jackson did not directly endorse them.
He said: The best way to resolve conflict is when everybody is at the table and they can negotiate through some rational institutional process."