Caught on Tape: Walker's 'Divide and Conquer' Plan for a Single Party State

Video was obtained and released by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel less than a month before the June 5th recall election for Wisconsin governor that shows newly elected Governor Scott Walker in a frank conversation with one of his biggest supporters.

The video was originally taken by a documentary filmaker in January 2011, one month before Walker introduced his explosive collective bargaining bill. It shows Walker getting a bear hug and being asked highly charged questions by Beloit billionaire Diane Hendricks, owner of ABC Supply Company, a type of Wal-Mart superstore for contractors.

Hendricks asked the governor whether he could make Wisconsin a "completely red state" and a "right-to-work" state. Right-to-work laws (dubbed "right to work for less" by opponents) are the laws used primarily by southern states to prevent unionization and keep wages low.

Hendricks greets Walker: "Any chance we'll ever get to be a completely red state and work on these unions and become a right-to-work?" Hendricks continued. "What can we do to help you?"

"Well, we're going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill," Walker said. "The first step is we're going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer."

The frank discussion stands in stark contrast to Walker's disciplined talking points that the state was "broke" and there was no other option than to put an end to collective bargaining for state and municipal workers.

Billionaire Hendricks Friend of the Kochs

Walker made the comments to Diane Hendricks, one of his biggest campaign contributor who recently forked over a single check for $500,000, taking advantage of a loophole in the Wisconsin statutes that allow politicians facing recall to raise unlimited sums for a short period of time. Hendricks has not just made billions off her non-union supply company, which now has some 500 stores, she is a politically motivated apparatchik who attends seminars at the Koch brothers' ranch.

Twice a year, the Koch's invite millionaires and billionaires to their private ranch to raise millions for right-wing political causes and candidates. These Koch bilionaires donated over $1.3 million to Walker on top of the money David Koch is sending to the state through his Americans for Prosperity group, which is up on TV with multi-million dollar "issue ad" buys defending Walker's budget.

The rest of the video is not available, but apparently after disposing of the unions, Walker talks about disposing of the lawyers by passing so-called tort reform legislation. Indeed, the first bill Walker signed into law was Act 2, a massive measure that makes it significantly more difficult for consumers in Wisconsin to seek compensation for products or services that injure or kill family members. Walker billed the measure as a way to encourage "job creators" to move to the state.

Unions balance the might of corporate CEOs in the workplace. Trial lawyers check their misdeeds in court. Both groups have a tendency to support Democrats. Both groups are the target of the Koch brothers' ire and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) "model" legislation.

Right to Work Discussed Days After Walker's Swearing In

Right to work has been on the table since days after the 2010 election gave the Wisconsin GOP trifecta control of the Wisconsin Assembly, Senate, and Governors Mansion.

In December 2010, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald was asked about making Wisconsin a right-to-work state. "I just attended an American Legislative Exchange Council meeting and I was surprised about how much momentum there was in and around that discussion, nothing like I have seen before," Fitzgerald responded enthusiastically. "Whether it is decertifying or right to work, or other changes that might have an effect on both private and public unions..." This December 2010 ALEC meeting was later cited by national union presidents as the source of the onslaught against workers' rights across the nation.

Indeed, Walker and Fitzgerald decided to go for "decertifying," stripping the collective bargaining rights from some 330,000 public sector workers. The collective bargaining "Budget Repair Bill," that sparked a massive uprising and an 18 day Capitol occupation, was billed as a budget balancing measure but it contained a series of poison pills, such as preventing the state from withholding union dues and placing extremely high re-certification hurdles on union elections, that revealed the underlying union-busting agenda. These measures were so onerous they were later struck down by a federal court.

Part of a Broad National Strategy

Wisconsin workers did not play into the "divide and conquer" gambit. Firefighters and police who were exempt from the Walker bill, quickly joined the protests with teachers, nurses, and snow-plow drivers. The mass rallies, that frequently topped 100,000, were filled with private sector hardhats, steelworkers, ironworkers, building trades, auto workers, grocery store workers, and more. Teamster trucks were always present.

At the time, many suspected that Walker's effort was part of a national strategy promoted by the Koch's, ALEC, and more to balance budgets on the backs of working families and to eliminate any electoral opposition.

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

© 2023 Center for Media and Democracy