It’s no longer a secret: the Republican Party is the party of working and union families in Wisconsin. Last week, Democrats in the Wisconsin State Senate carried the day in a 17 to 16 vote rejecting a mining bill that would have brought 3,000 union jobs and a flood of economic activity to the state. The bill also would have been a boon for two of the world’s largest mine equipment manufacturers: Bucyrus and Joy Global (P&H) are both located in southeastern Wisconsin.
All 16 Democrats voted against the bill. Public employee unions AFSCME and WEAC instructed Democrats to vote against the mining bill because its passage would have made their arch-enemy, Governor Scott Walker, look good.
The legislation would have led to a $1.5 billion Gogebic Taconite iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin’s Penokee Range. Gogebic Taconite President Bill Williams said his company has pulled the plug on the project and will be moving elsewhere.
Wisconsin, which has a coat of arms on its state flag depicting a miner and the state’s strong mining heritage, now ranks among the bottom 10 places in the world to conduct mining. Since 1997, the Fraser Institute has been conducting an annual survey of metal mining and exploration companies to determine how public policy affects their ability to conduct business in 79 jurisdictions around the world. In their 2010-2011 report, Wisconsin ranks as one of the three worst, below even Madagascar, the Congo, and Venezuela. After the mining bill vote by Democrats, perhaps Wisconsin will come in last in next year’s survey.
The iron deposit in Iron County is one of the largest in the United States, and mining it would not have created environmental concerns. Minnesota, just to the west of Wisconsin, enjoys a thriving mining industry yet has no environmental problems.
Wisconsin’s mining laws were developed to regulate sulfide mining, which utilizes chemicals in its mining and refining processes. The ore deposit in Iron County is a ferrous (i.e., iron) deposit, not a sulfide deposit. The process relies on water and magnets rather than chemicals. Additionally, the Department of Natural Resources would have issued a permit for the mine only after it had confirmed that the mine would operate in an environmentally responsible manner.
Senator Bob Jauch voted against the bill; most of the jobs would have been created in his district. Senators Tim Carpenter, Lena Taylor, and Chris Larson voted no against their unionized constituents who work for the mine equipment manufacturers located in and around their districts. Amazingly, the 16 Democrats voted against the wishes of five major private sector labor unions.
Tim Sullivan of the Wisconsin Mining Association had praised the bill, saying:
This is a significant step forward for workers, job creation, and the future of mining in Wisconsin. We are pleased that these labor trade organizations, representing union workers from all across Wisconsin, were able to move beyond traditional partisan politics and support a plan that will create thousands of family-supporting jobs and help invigorate Wisconsin’s economy.
The Democrats ignored him. Also ignored by Democrats were the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139 and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. Lyle Balistreri, who represents more than 15,000 construction trade workers in southeastern Wisconsin, had harsh words for Wisconsin Democrats:
For the Senate Democrats to vote against this bill is a sign that they’re not with us. They’re certainly not job creators, and in fact they’re job killers.
Senate Democrats had thrown together a “CYA” compromise bill intended to provide them with political cover. But the bill went nowhere because it would have guaranteed that the mining company would have walked. The so-called “compromise” included an 18-month waiting/contest period, expanded litigation abilities allowing “environmental” groups to sue them, and a $25 million up-front tax before anything was ever even taken out of the mine. Their ruse didn’t fool labor leaders and union employees around the state.
Labor unions even sweetened the pot and seemingly had convinced Senator Tim Carpenter to switch his vote at the last minute by adding a program to train high school students in his district for future mining and manufacturing jobs. But Senator Carpenter caved in the face of public employee unions desperate to kill any job-creating measure in order to make Governor Scott Walker look bad. Carpenter voted against the bill.
Labor union employees flooded the Wisconsin rotunda before the mining vote, singing songs and lobbying Wisconsin Democrats. Democrat doors were slammed in their faces.
Nearly all of the 3,000 jobs created by the proposed mine in Wisconsin would have been union jobs, yet not one Democrat voted for it. This is only the most recent of their anti-business measures: for decades in Wisconsin, paper mills have been a target of the Democrats, who bombard these unionized mills with more and more regulations until they are forced to leave the state.
With their votes, Democrats in Wisconsin have said “no” to generations of good union jobs. They said “no” to hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues. It’s time private industry unions and their members say “no” to the Democratic Party.