Zernike Switches From Tea Party to Wisconsin, Maintains Hostility Toward Conservatives

Kate Zernike, the paper's Tea Party reporter, whose reporting on the movement is marked by hostility and unfounded suspicions of racism, switched to the pro-union left-wing protest movement in Wisconsin for the front of the Sunday Week in Review, "As Goes Wisconsin..." The subhead: "The Midwest's legacy of labor activism - and conservative pushback - are both in play today at the Capitol in Madison."

Zernike set out the contradictory history of labor in Wisconsin before moving on to the top names on the liberal enemy's list, Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who is demanding limits on public-sector unions, and the Koch brothers, whose vast philanthropy includes donations to groups all along the political spectrum.

But Wisconsin was also the first state to rein in the power of unions, the result of a pushback from conservatives who believed that the federal Wagner Act, which required employers in the private sector to recognize and collectively bargain with unions, had been too generous. In 1939, the state passed a bill that presaged the Taft-Hartley Act, the federal law enacted in 1947 that prohibited many strikes and proscribed picketing, and allowed states to pass right-to-work laws against closed union shops.

While avoiding applying ideological labels to unions (only the more anodyne word "progressive"), Zernike said unions had been reined in by "conservatives" and quoted professor Rosemary Feurer discussing "right-wing networks."

That network, she argues, was the precursor to the Midwestern groups that have now been assisting the fight against the unions in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana: the Bradley Foundation, based in Milwaukee, and Koch Industries, based in Wichita, Kan. David H. and Charles G. Koch, the billionaire brothers behind the energy and manufacturing conglomerate that bears their name, have been large donors to Mr. Walker in Wisconsin, as has their advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, which first opened an office in Wisconsin in 2005.

The Koch brothers are "large donors" to Walker? Koch Industries PAC donated a grand total of $43,000 to Walker's gubernatorial campaign, a small sliver of the total money both sides poured into the race. In contrast, the Koch brothers have donated $20 million to the liberal ACLU to fight the Bush administration over the Patriot Act.

Zernike suggested Republican Gov. Walker was being misleading and that the unions were bending over backwards to accommodate him, and cited a phone call to Walker by an unlabeled leftist "prankster" to further her case.

Mr. Walker has called this a fight to balance the budget. But with the unions already agreeing to his financial concessions, it looks more like an ideological one.

"This is our moment," the governor said in a call with a prankster whom he believed to be David Koch.

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