MADISON, Wis. – Recently released excerpts of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s new book reveals the harassment from radical union members his family endured during Big Labor’s massive temper tantrum in 2011.
EAGnews has covered numerous incidents in which critics of teachers unions have had their cars keyed, tires slashed and received wildly inappropriate threats, but none of it compares to what Walker went through after he pushed through Act 10, his landmark legislation to curb public sector collective bargaining abuses.
Wisconsin Interest Magazine highlighted excerpts from Walker’s forthcoming memoir Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge, and the passages speak volumes about disgusting union intimidation tactics.
Just over a month into his first term, Walker visited a manufacturing company in La Crosse and was greeted by protestors angry that the governor mandated increased contributions from public employees toward their health insurance and retirements.
The melee that ensued as Walker attempted to leave the building marked the beginning of what would turn into months of threats and intimidation from the rabid left.
“As we prepared to leave, the state troopers saw that the protesters had physically blocked the entrance we had used to come onto the property. So they turned the squad car around and headed toward the other exit. We watched in disbelief as the throng of people rushed toward the second exit to block our path,” the governor wrote in his book.
“As we tried to pull out, they surrounded the car and began beating on the windows and rocking the vehicle. Just as we extricated ourselves from their grip, a truck pulled up and blocked our path, playing a game of chicken with the troopers. They turned the lights and sirens on warning them to get out of the way. Eventually he backed up, and we sped off.
“It was a lesson in how much our circumstance had changed in a matter of a few days. We were dealing with people who were so blinded by their anger that they were not in the least bit afraid to storm and shake a police car. We had never seen anything like it in Wisconsin before,” Walker wrote.
Things only got worse, Walker wrote, as protests become more aggressive. State Patrol Capt. Dave Erwin eventually took Walker aside to express his concern about the growing threats toward the governor and his family, according to the excerpts in Wisconsin Interest Magazine.
“’Governor, I’ve been at this awhile, and when the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, you have to be concerned,’ Dave said. ‘They know where you go to church; they’ve been to your church. They’re following your children and tracking your children. They know where your children go to school, that time they have class, that time they get out of class. They know they had football practice. They know where your wife works, they know that she was at the grocery store at this time, they know that she went to visit her father at his residence,’” Walker wrote of his conversation with Erwin.
Police increased security measures for the Walkers, but everyday tasks like picking up the mail became impossible due to threats and harassment from protesters. State police also intercepted numerous death threats made against the governor and his family, including one directed toward Walker’s wife, Tonette, that threatened to “gut her like a deer,” Walker wrote.
Another letter, sent from Green Bay to the executive residence in Maple Bluff, made Erwin especially nervous. Erwin kept most of the less-credible threats from reaching Walker, but the letter from Green Bay warranted special attention because of its specificity:
Has Wisconsin ever had a governor assassinated?
Scotts heading that way. Or maybe one of your sons getting killed would hurt him more. I want him to feel the pain. I already follow them when they went to school in Wauwatosa, so it won’t be too hard to find them in Mad. Town. Big change from that house by (BLANK) Ave. to what you got now. Just let him know that it’s not right to (EXPLETIVE) over all those people. Or maybe I could find one of the Tarantinos (Tonette’s parents) back here.
Lots of choices for me.”
“Dave explained that it raised red flags because, unlike most of the hate mail and death threats we received, it was very specific. The sender talked about following our kids to school, the street where we lived, and threatened not just me but my children and my in-laws,” Walker wrote.
“According to my staff, the only time they ever saw me angry during the entire fight over Act 10 was after I read that letter. They were right. I didn’t mind threats against me, but I was infuriated that these thugs would try to draw my family into it,” he wrote.
Walker’s experience in taking on Big Labor is a very extreme example of what ordinary citizens who question labor leaders experience frequently across the nation. This summer, in Michigan’s Algonac school district, parents questioned assertions by union officials that local school board members were corrupt and irresponsible for voting to outsource school busing services.
They were met with a steady barrage of untrue allegations on social media and intimidation tactics that included vandalism of their homes, false rumors of infidelity with board members, and other libelous nonsense.
Last year, David Ferrara, a history teacher in the Neshaminy, Pennsylvania school district, found his tires slashed the day after he wrote a letter blasting his local teachers union for using “fear and terror tactics” against its own members during heated contract negotiations with the district, according to PhillyBurbs.com.
Ferrara wrote in a Facebook post that one Neshaminy Federation of Teachers union member “received several written threats — including a death threat — left on his desk in a teachers-only area.
“He also reported in the posting that car vandalism occurred at several schools after individual NFT members questioned union officials or failed to demonstrate their full support,” PhillyBurbs.com reports.
“Cars were keyed, tires had screws put into them, tires were slashed, and windows were smashed in vehicles,” Ferrara wrote.
In Idaho, as state lawmakers passed important education reforms in that state, raging union-affiliated groups who opposed the student-centered changes vandalized state Superintendent Tom Luna’s truck and harassed his elderly mother.
The point is, reformers like Walker and lower profile advocates across the country will face the ugly wrath of organized labor in virtually any pursuit of meaningful and important change. Walker’s story serves as an inspiration about what can happen when one pushes through the intimidation tactics to advocate the interests of students and constituents.
Walker’s Act 10 legislation, the match that ignited the firestorm from his liberal opponents, has saved Wisconsin schools hundreds of millions of dollars at a time when schools were struggling to survive a national recession.
His persistence and determination not only limited the amount of money unions could siphon from schools, but changed fundamental rules to put parents and local elected officials back in charge of their schools.
And that was certainly a cause worth fighting for, even if it meant facing the most ruthless and repulsive tactics his far-left critics could come up with.