By Collin Roth
By now, many have heard about, or even seen, the big white vans dropping off voters in downtown Milwaukee for early voting. The fleet of vans emblazoned with blue and gold “Vote Now” stickers are running every day for early voting in a massive get out the vote effort sponsored by the organizations Wisconsin Jobs Now! A self-described “coalition of community organizations, unions, [and] folks in the neighborhood,” Wisconsin Jobs Now! is a radical community organizing group utilizing Saul Alinsky tactics in the service of “economic justice.”
According to U.S. Department of Labor documents, Wisconsin Jobs Now! is funded solely by the Service Employee International Union (SEIU) and is part of a broader organizing effort called “Fight For a Fair Economy” that was outlined in a February 2011 Wall Street Journal article. SEIU Healthcare based in Madison funded Wisconsin Jobs Now! to the tune of $769,023 in 2011, their first year of existence. An additional $7,918 was accrued from the SEIU Joint Council 4.
In it’s first year of existence, Wisconsin Jobs Now! embraced the “Occupy” movement and freely adopted the class warfare rhetoric of “the 99%.” But in an almost comical bit of irony, the Executive Director for the union front group, Michael Lauer, earned $127,215 in 2011 according to SEIU documents. And while this salary does not quite put Lauer in the top 1% of income earners, it does land him in the top 15% according to the Wall Street Journal.
In addition to the top-down funding from the SEIU and the exorbitant salaries of their executives, Wisconsin Jobs Now! has been involved in a series of troubling and radical incidents in it’s first year of existence.
In August 2011, Media Trackers and the MacIver Institute documented how Wisconsin Jobs Now! hosted early voting block parties with free food, raffle prizes, and rides to the polls. The GAB said the events violated the law and led to a John Doe investigation. The MacIver Institute exposed how Wisconsin Jobs Now! and left-wing organization Citizen Action of Wisconsin shared an address and phone number, significant because the early voting block parties were meant to drum up votes for State Senate recall challenger Democrat Rep. Sandy Pasch, who sat on the board of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.
In the last year, Wisconsin Jobs Now! shifted to direct action tactics of sit-ins, protests of private property, and actively putting demonstrators in a position to be arrested. The targets have ranged from State Rep. Robin Vos, to State Senator Alberta Darling, to Congressman Paul Ryan, and Senator Ron Johnson.
Perhaps most troubling, is the fact that at least two Wisconsin Jobs Now! employees are currently under investigation by the Milwaukee County District Attorney after casting ballots in the April 2011 Spring Election from a Residence Inn hotel in Glendale, Wisconsin. Austin Thompson of Georgia and Todd Stoner of New Jersey cast ballots listing the hotel as their residence along with Senior SEIU Organizer Clarence Haynes. According to Milwaukee’s TMJ4, search warrants have been issued on all three organizers and the investigation remains open.
It was revealed by Media Trackers that the SEIU in Washington D.C. spent $146,000 on hotel rooms at the Residence Inn used by the three organizers under investigation.