Wisconsin Tea Partyers Squabble Over Public Unions

Friday, 15 Apr 2011 10:14 AM

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A reading of the tea leaves in La Crosse, Wis., reveals that two tea party groups repel each other like oil and water because of a disagreement over support public employee unions. And the organizers of a new alliance contend that the custodians of the original group, which was organized in 2008, haven't been vocal enough.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, unions, tea party
Gov. Scott Walker
But the La Crosse Tribune also notes that the founder of the original La Crosse Tea Party opposes Gov. Scott Walker's moves to hobble public employee unions as part of his budget-reining package.

The tea brouhaha took root after a La Crosse public school board meeting in February at which the board debated whether to discipline teachers who called in sick to caravan to Madison to join the large protests of the governor's budget plan, the Tribune reported.

One of the fledgling coterie's three organizers, Greg Luce, told the Tribune: “The local tea party is run by folks who are union supporters, so we thought we’d start our own. We just didn’t want to belong to that group.”

Luce told the newspaper that he believes the controversial collective-bargaining law continues to be the top issue in the state. The bill, which prompted a Democratic senators' exit from the Badger State even as teachers and other public employees flocked to Madison, eventually passed but is snagged in court action.

Mike Tellier, a co-founder of the new group, said it's time to respond to leftist political organizations who have attacked Walker. “We’re just a couple of concerned people getting together,” said Tellier, a Campbell, Wis., landscaper. “Less spending, less government. It doesn’t matter about what party to us.”

Tellier said he’s organizing a convoy of people to head to a tea party rally this weekend in Madison.

As for the original La Crosse Tea Party, founder and Chairman Jake Speed alleges that the rebels are trying to undercut his 250-member organization. "If they want to start a tea party, that’s fine. More power to them,” he said. “But they can’t use our name.”

Speed lost a bid last week to be the Republican candidate for the open 94th Assembly District seat. Even though Tellier and Luce say his group hasn't been vocal enough, Speed counters that he’s been active behind the scenes, meeting with lawmakers in Madison to push an agenda of small government.

During a candidate forum, Speed said he didn't support Walker's budget plan and believed that that provision yanking away the collective bargaining table should be removed, the Tribune reported.

Speed said he opposes the right to strike and contends that unions that bargain with the state should not be allowed to spend money through political action committees. “I’m about government accountability,” Speed told the Tribune. “I have no control over the unions and what they do.”

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