Reality Check: Union video distorts Barrett’s stance on collective bargaining

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In the recall race for governor, Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has been fighting back against attacks on his record, not from Gov. Scott Walker but from public employee unions.

Within a couple days of Barrett announcing his run for governor, Wisconsin’s largest union representing public employees circulated a video that selectively edits Barrett’s comments on collective bargaining. The video leaves the wrong impression that Barrett supported Walker’s bill that stripped most public employees of nearly all collective bargaining rights.

The video, the only one posted by user “Stephen Richardson,” was shared with members of the Wisconsin chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees via email and web posting.

The video uses clips from Milwaukee radio host Charlie Sykes’ annual “Insight” forum held in March 2011, in which Barrett discussed the standoff between Republicans and Democrats over collective bargaining.

“I honestly think that there’s a pretty clear path of how we work our way out of this,” Barrett said in the video. A subtitle follows in the video that reads: “Tom Barrett has a way out! Well, lay it on us, Tom.”

Barrett then tries to explain Senate rules, with the ad making it seem like this is his suggestion to resolve the issue.

“Collective bargaining changes are not fiscal,” said Barrett in the video. “I think the proponents are trying to argue that they are, but the fiscal bureau and others have said that they’re not fiscal. So you could vote on those without those missing senators. You could vote on those tomorrow morning.” A subtitle follows that reads: “Whaat? Did I hear that right?”


WISC-TV found this is misleading. A very choppy edit job wants viewers to believe what happened in Madison regarding collective bargaining changes was all Barrett’s idea.

“Would you favor that?” asked Sykes in the video. “I would certainly favor that, and the bill will pass, and the bill should pass,” responded the edited Barrett in the video.

In fact, Barrett was saying that the Democratic senators would return and likely pass changes to employee pension and health care contributions if that vote was done separately from changes to collective bargaining rights.

Here’s what was edited out: “If someone really wanted to end this standoff, the way is simply to have a separate vote,” said Barrett at the forum.

“Would you favor that?” asked Sykes.

“I would certainly favor that,” responded Barrett.

“Would you vote for that?” asked Sykes.

“I would vote for the changes in the health care and the pension. I would vote no on the changes to collective bargaining; there’s the rub,” said Barrett at the forum.

AFSCME has since called the video “over the top” and said it was in poor judgment to pass it around. In a statement, AFSCME thanked members for sharing concern about the union’s decision to publicly air its “disappointment” in Barrett. Yet in the statement the union still criticized Barrett’s record.

Barrett spokesman Phil Walzak said Barrett has made it clear he supports full restoration of collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin.

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