Jeff Fitzgerald, the Republican speaker of the Wisconsin state assembly, assumed that Gov. Scott Walker's rollback of collective bargaining rights in the state was a "middle ground" considering some of his GOP colleagues' more aggressive stances against unions, according to a new video and a report in Salon.
In the video, posted to YouTube Tuesday by a Wisconsin Democratic group, Fitzgerald says that Walker's attempt to strip public-sector workers of their collective bargaining rights "wasn't a shock," and that several lawmakers in his caucus hoped to turn Wisconsin into a right-to-work state.
"My caucus wanted to go further," Fitzgerald says in the video. "I had people in my caucus that ... were wondering if we were going to do right to work in this state. So to tell you the truth, the collective bargaining, to me, I thought was more of a middle ground if you can believe that."
Fitzgerald, a major Walker ally, is currently a candidate for U.S. Senate. (Incidentally, Fitzgerald got into a public kerfuffle with the punk band Dropkick Murphys this week over his use of their song "Shipping up to Boston" at a campaign event.) Fitzgerald's remarks will likely give fodder to labor leaders who warn that Walker and Wisconsin Republicans will want to pass right-to-work legislation, which prohibits union membership as a condition of employment and is opposed by unions.
Walker has denied having any interest in turning Wisconsin into a right-to-work state, although a video surfaced last week in which the governor tells Wisconsin billionaire and major Walker donor Diane Hendricks that he planned on deploying a "divide and conquer" strategy to weaken unions in the state.
"We're going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill," Walker, who's now facing a recall effort, told Hendricks, according to the video. "The first step is we're going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer. So for us, the base we've got for that is the fact that ... budgetarily we can't afford not to. If we have collective bargaining agreements in place, there's no way not only the state but local governments can balance things out."
When asked about the Fitzgerald video, a Walker spokeswoman told Salon's Josh Eidelson that the governor "has made clear repeatedly that he does not have an interest in pushing right to work legislation."