Union buster

Isn’t that nice!

Madison – A filmmaker released a video Thursday that shows Gov. Scott Walker saying he would use “divide and conquer” as a strategy against unions.


Walker made the comments to Beloit billionaire Diane Hendricks, who has since given $510,000 to the governor’s campaign – making her Walker’s single-largest donor and the largest known donor to a candidate in state history.


The filmmaker has done work on Democratic campaigns and gave $100 in 2010 to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Walker’s challenger in the June 5 recall election.


In the video shot on Jan. 18, 2011 – shortly before Walker’s controversial budget-repair bill was introduced and spawned mass protests – Hendricks asked the governor whether he could make Wisconsin a “completely red state, and work on these unions, and become a right-to-work.” The Republican donor was referring to right-to-work laws, which prohibit private-sector unions from compelling workers to pay union dues if the workers choose not to belong to the union.


Walker replied that his “first step” would be “to divide and conquer” through his budget-adjustment bill, which curtailed most collective bargaining for public employee unions.


Documentary filmmaker Brad Lichtenstein, who says he captures both sides in his work, videotaped the conversation that Walker had with Hendricks and Mary Willmer-Sheedy, a community bank president for M&I Bank. The filmmaker was recording what Willmer-Sheedy and others in Janesville were doing to try to create jobs in an area hard hit by the shutdown of its General Motors plant and related businesses.


In the video, Hendricks told Walker she wanted to discuss “controversial” subjects away from reporters, asking him:


“Any chance we’ll ever get to be a completely red state and work on these unions -”


“Oh, yeah,” Walker broke in.


“- 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. So for us, the base we get for that is the fact that we’ve got – budgetarily we can’t afford not to. If we have collective bargaining agreements in place, there’s no way not only the state but local governments can balance things out . . . That opens the door once we do that. That’s your bigger problem right there.”


The entire conversation was not released Thursday with a video trailer of the documentary, but Journal Sentinel reporters were allowed to view the raw footage, in which the governor goes on to talk about curbing liability lawsuits and government regulations.