Kathy Nickolaus: Dairy State ‘Organizer of the Year?’

kathy nickolaus“Set a stout heart to a steep hillside” is an old Scottish proverb.

It makes this union card-carrying Kentucky teacher of Scots-Irish descent think of Kathy Nickolaus, that Republican county clerk up in the Dairy State.

From what I see in the newspapers and on TV news shows, Nickolaus is full of cheese if she thinks she’s weakened the heart of the Wisconsin union movement by boosting her old boss to what looks like victory in the state supreme court race.

Nickolaus worked for right-wing Justice David Prosser when he was a GOP bigwig in the state legislature. It remains to be seen if she innocently goofed in counting votes, as she claimed, or fudged the figures in his favor.

Either way, I wouldn’t bet the dairy farm – tobacco farm in my neck of the woods – that April 4 was labor’s Wisconsin Waterloo.

It will be remembered that Prosser’s pal, labor-hating Republican Gov. Scott Walker, rammed legislation through the GOP-majority legislature that guts Wisconsin’s public employee unions.

The state senate might have passed the union-busting bill illegally. But if Prosser heads back to the high court, the conservatives will still have a 4-3 edge.

Unwittingly, of course, Walker lit a bonfire under labor. Unintentionally, Nickolaus has stoked the flames even hotter and probably made them even more likely to singe several of Walker’s willing helpers in the state senate.

Multiple recall petition drives are chugging along. Pro-labor Democrats are announcing their candidacies in likely recall elections.

Berry CraigNapoleon Bonaparte retreated after Waterloo. Wisconsin unions are regrouping. They’re preparing to trek up the recall hill. They seem more stout-hearted than ever.

A few weeks ago, AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka joshed that Walker ought to get the “organizer of the year award” for providing a mega-boost to old-time union solidarity.

If recall votes flip the senate to the Democrats, Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt might consider a similar “honor” for Nickolaus.

Berry Craig

Published by the LA Progressive on April 15, 2011
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About Berry Craig

Berry Craig is an emeritus professor of history at the West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and a freelance writer. He is a member of American Federation of Teachers Local 1360, the recording secretary for the Western Kentucky Area Council, AFL-CIO, and the author of True Tales of Old-Time Kentucky Politics: Bombast, Bourbon and Burgoo, Hidden History of Kentucky in the Civil War, Hidden History of Kentucky Soldiers and Hidden History of Western Kentucky. He is a native of Mayfield, Ky., where he lives with his wife of 33 years and their 20-year-old son.

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