Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has canceled plans to attend a fundraising event in Wichita next week, and Kansas labor organizations are taking some of the credit.
An announcement posted on the Sedgwick County Republican Party’s website said Walker, who is under fire for his anti-labor actions in his home state, was to appear with Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, other state Republican leaders and Republican National Committee chairman Reince Preibus at a luncheon Tuesday at Chester’s Chophouse, 1500 N. Webb Road.
Tickets had ranged from $1,000 to $15,000.
Nicole Larson, deputy communications director for the Wisconsin Republican Party, said in an e-mail to The Eagle, “The Governor will no longer be appearing.”
Jake Lowen, political director for the Wichita/Hutchinson Labor Federation, a coalition of labor union locals from a seven-county area representing about 30,000 members, said planned protests of Walker’s appearance likely played a role in his decision not to come to Wichita.
He said buses had been chartered around the state to bring thousands of protesters to Wichita for the event.
“We had really great support from almost every corner of the state,” he said. “It was a pretty big deal.”
Larson didn’t give a reason for Walker’s cancellation.
Lowen said, “I don’t expect they would say directly, but it’s pretty obvious to those of us watching the national reaction across the country that they’re on the run, they’re realizing their opinion is not supported and they’re trying to regroup.”
Walker faces a recall effort in his state for his bill restricting union workers’ collective salary bargaining rights. Walker introduced the bill after taking office this year as an effort to close the state’s $3.6 billion budget gap. The action made him a central figure in a push by conservatives across the nation to weaken public employee unions to ease state fiscal problems.
Opponents in Wisconsin are finalizing plans to gather more than 540,000 signatures needed to put Walker’s recall on the ballot next year. The petition drive is expected to start next week.
Money from the Wichita fundraiser could have been used to support Walker’s efforts against the recall drive, Lowen said.
Lowen said Walker’s legislation is an attack on working families.
“To us this event was symbolic of Scott Walker and people in his camp literally bringing his plan of attack to Wichita,” Lowen said.
Terry Forsyth, director of political action and instructional advocacy for the Kansas National Education Association and chair of the Kansas Working Alliance, which worked with the labor federation to plan the protest, said other factors may have played a role in Walker’s decision not to come to Wichita, including last week’s election results around the country, and next week’s launch of the recall petition drive against Walker in Wisconsin.
But he’s happy Walker isn’t coming.
“The whole anti-public worker sentiment that comes from his administration, that somehow we’re not good enough and a plague on the public purse, that’s not true at all,” Forsyth said. To blame the working men and women is just wrong. That’s why we wanted to work together to say, ‘You’re not welcome here.’ ”