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Wisconsin union debate reaches into Utah

Published February 23, 2011 6:44 am

Group seeks recall of Dems in collective bargaining fray.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A Salt Lake City-based organization is seeking the recall of eight Wisconsin Democrats who bolted the state senate rather than allow new legislation that would strip public employees of collective bargaining rights.

The Wisconsin Government Accountability Office confirmed Tuesday that the American Patriot Recall Coalition (APRC) had filed registration statements seeking to unseat senators Lena Taylor, Spencer Coggs, Jim Holperin, Mark Miller, Robert Wirch, Julie Lassa, Fred Risser and Dave Hansen.

Salt Lake City resident Dan Baltes, 51, who works as a freelance paralegal, heads up the newly-created APRC, and also is the director of Americans Against Immigration Amnesty.

Baltes said Tuesday in an interview that the actions of the Wisconsin Democrats constitutes an attack on the United States.

Union members in Salt Lake City, meanwhile, rallied Tuesday at the Capitol in support of the Wisconsin Democrats and state employees protesting a plan to eliminate collective bargaining rights.

Fourteen state senators deserted the legislative session in Madison last week when Gov. Scott Walker introduced legislation that would disallow collective bargaining in the public sector. The Democrats have holed up in Illinois, preventing the Republican majority in Madison from achieving a quorum for a vote.

APRC is not going after all 14 because six of them have not been in office a full year, the minimum before a recall petition can be launched, Baltes said.

"Clearly there is a concerted, deliberate and organized attack on our republic and system of government," Baltes states on APRC's website. "The president, the Democratic National Committee, the AFL-CIO and other labor unions, as well as communists, socialists and other progressive organizations have embarked on a campaign to undermine our republic and the orderly operation of state legislatures."

A spokesman for the Wisconsin Democratic Party suggested Baltes should get a hobby.

"We don't need outside agitators," said communications director Graeme Zielinski. "It's offensive to me that [Baltes] made those statements. They don't fit in well with the traditions of Wisconsin."

Zielinski said Democrats don't fear recalls. "Our discussion right now is about [the governor's] power grab."

A spokesman for the Wisconsin Accountability Office said APRC must have at least one resident member in each of the eight senate districts in order to launch a viable recall petition. Reid Magney said the organization has 60 days to get the signatures of 25 percent of voters in the last election for governor in each district.

"The clock has begun ticking," he said. "They have 60 days."

Wisconsin has had a recall provision going back to the beginning of the 20th Century, Magney said.

"Recalls don't happen very often," he said. "I don't know that we've ever had one organized by an out-of-state organization before."

In a similar move this week, Democrats in the Indiana House of Representatives turned up missing in order to block legislation they say is aimed at private sector unions.

APRC is not seeking recalls in Indiana, Baltes said, because that state does not have a recall provision.

But Baltes' organization is seeking the recall of Pima County, Ariz., Sheriff Clarence Dupnik. Baltes said the sheriff made inappropriate comments after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others on Jan. 8 that claimed the lives of six.

"The sheriff politicized the shooting, saying it was the product of political vitriol," Baltes said. "He called out the tea party, Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. He called out everybody but the shooter."

csmart@sltrib.com