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Groups criticize McDonnell on anti-union push

A coalition of Virginia groups are taking issue with Gov. Bob McDonnell’s support for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s push for legislation that would cripple public-sector employee unions in that state.

The coalition sent McDonnell a letter Wednesday morning expressing solidarity with those protesting in Wisconsin and highlighting that Gov. Walker is not to be commended for using his state’s budget struggles as an excuse to suppress workers’ rights.

While many of Walker’s supporters blame organized public-sector workers for the state’s budget woes, the groups signing the letter to Gov. McDonnell note that Virginia, a long time right-to-work state, has experienced the same budget problems as states with strong public sector unions like Wisconsin. The letter implored McDonnell to make pragmatic, not political, budget choices.

“The struggle of Egypt, and subsequent Middle Eastern states, has transcended borders and politics, garnering the support of all but few,” said Sandra Cook, chairperson of Virginia Organizing. “Now, the working people of Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio are raising their voices with the world watching, and we must show them the same support. 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.”

“This is a political strategy and an attack on labor unions across the country. We are either going to work together and make history or the labor movement is going to be history. Are we going to settle and allow corporate lobbyists and big business to continue to make bad decisions, or are we going to take our country back?” said Chris Lance, president of CWA/National Coalition of Public Safety Officers Local 2201.

“We would describe those who are fighting for better wages and benefits, jobs security and safer work places as courageous and brave, not Governor Walker who is trying to deny workers their rights,” said Doris Crouse-Mays, president of the Virginia AFL-CIO.

“The same powerful corporate interests and their political allies who pressing to undermine workers’ rights are attempting to roll back environmental protections as well,” said Glen Besa, Virginia Director for the Sierra Club. “Unions built and protect a strong middle class in America, and it is the middle class that has the political clout to demand our water and air be protected.”

“Like other public education advocates around the country, we’re shocked by the extreme lengths that Governor Walker is going to in his effort to attack public employees and their families. Walker is using tough financial times as an excuse to attack public employees who have won the right to collectively bargain,” said Dr. Kitty Boitnott, VEA president. “Under his proposal, public school teachers and support staff would lose their ability to negotiate the critical aspects of their work lives. His plan would make it impossible for educators to have a voice in class size, curriculum, or school quality. Any attack on teachers’ working conditions is likely to have a negative effect on students as well.”

Edited by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at