By Jennifer Eisenbart
If there has been a constant in the Wisconsin political climate over the past year, it has been the anger.
Anger over Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to end virtually all public union bargaining (which later became law), and anger at state senators who left the state rather than vote on the budget-repair act.
There was also anger over the recall efforts that followed – both on the Republican and Democrat sides. Now, as efforts roll into high gear to collect enough signatures to recall Walker, a handful of local people are fully behind the effort to see the governor escorted out of Madison.
One of those is John Hopper, a resident of Burlington.
“I’m not frustrated,” Hopper said. “I’m angry.”
Hopper isn’t the only one in Burlington pushing the recall effort. A number of local citizens are using the parking lot at Echo Lake Park as a site to collect signatures – an effort that drew the attention of a group that is trying to counter the recall effort.
But as Steven W. Smith sees it, it’s time to call out Walker for what he contends is his “piss-poor management” of the state.
“Even if he doesn’t get recalled, he’ll spend hundreds of millions fighting my union when we gave concessions,” said Smith, a boiler operator and a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
Other places in Burlington also have posted signs supporting the recall effort, including at least one business. It is clear the effort has begun.
Hopper is on disability after being hurt while working at Ocean Spray. He worked 20-plus years in aviation – a non-unionized operation, he said – before working seven years at Ocean Spray. He and his wife, Gina, have resided on Edgewood Drive behind Cross Lutheran Church now for close to 10 years.
“I’ve worked with and around unions all my life,” “I believe in everything the unions have gotten everybody. To wit, a weekend. Vacations. Overtime. Health benefits. Civil workplaces. Work safety. Child safety laws.”
That said, Hopper added that he realizes the evil of unions as well.
“They’re minor,” Hopper explained. As an example, he said the biggest issue most people he speaks with about unions is the seniority issue.
“In the grand scheme of things, that’s very minor,” Hopper said. “A minor issue is arguing about seniority.”
He also says people tend to forget that many unions work for total compensation, not just pay.
“You would not have any of that if not for unions in the past,” Hopper said.
As a result, Hopper has some serious issues with the current governor.
“Integrity, No. 1. He has none,” Hopper said. He also feels that Walker used the fiscal crisis the state is in to make a naked power grab with unions – and to control the public school system.
He also wants to “put Joe and Jane Smith back into the equation – and more importantly, Joe and Jane Smith’s children.” Or in other words, he contends the ordinary everyday citizen is getting lost in the shuffle.
All this plays into his decision to help with the recall effort.
“We get the government we deserve to get,” “If we don’t take part in the processes available to us … we void all of our rights.”
So Hopper sits out in his yard on Edgewood Drive, and asserts he will be out there even in three-foot snow drifts. A workbench serves as his signing table, and he uses a fire pit of sorts – a metal pit on legs – to build a fire and stay warm.
But he vows to stay at the effort – even though he’s not sure that if the recall vote goes forward that Wisconsin will find someone electable to run against Walker.
“You can’t have anyone far right, because you might as well not recall the governor. And you can’t have anyone far left,” Hopper said. “We have to have someone in the middle.”
Whether or not that happens, Hopper thinks the effort needs to happen.
“It’s a moral issue,” Hopper said. “It needs to happen. It’s got to stop.
“There’s got to be some common sense floating around here somewhere.”