Lawmaker recommends 'all work, no play' strategy for Wis. senators who fled state
Protestors demonstrate in Wisconsin's capitol rotunda on Friday against a bill that would restrict collective bargaining for most government workers.
February 25th, 2011
08:49 PM ET

Lawmaker recommends 'all work, no play' strategy for Wis. senators who fled state

For all you Wisconsin senators in hiding, some advice from another lawmaker who's been there: Keep working and avoid the hotel bar.

At least that's the strategy Texas Rep. Pete Gallego and some 50 other Democratic representatives adopted in 2003, when they boarded a bus and fled to Ardmore, Oklahoma, to block a Republican-drawn redistricting plan that would cost them five seats in Congress.

The proposal, backed by former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, eventually passed, despite their efforts. But the stunt proved fruitful in other respects, Gallego says, as a bonding experience for the lawmakers and an opportunity for them to reassess their goals.

"A lot of us hadn't been on a bus trip since high school. We spent most of the time together, working and eating together, so a lot of members became close friends," says Gallego, who has represented Texas' District 74, the state's largest district, stretching nearly 39,000 square miles, since 1991.

The 14 Democratic senators from Wisconsin have fled to neighboring Illinois to prevent a quorum from voting on a bill that would strip most state workers of the bulk of their collective-bargaining rights.

But if their stay in Rockford, Illinois a northern Illinois city which is attempting to capitalize on the lawmakers' presence with an "escape to Rockford" tourism campaign that uses Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen to lure visitors to its "hideaway hotspots" at "runaway rates" resembles the Texas lawmakers' experience in Oklahoma, the senators will spend most of their time in a hotel conference room rather than enjoying the city's microbreweries and farm-to-table fine dining.

"We knew we had to be prepared for the worst things people would say about us. If someone says you're not doing your job, we elected you to be our representative in Austin and you're not there, if you're going to put career at risk, you want to be to explain in detail why you did what we did, and we spent a lot of time just on that," he said.

From the start of the excursion, Gallego says the group knew they had to keep busy and present a united front not only to the media blitz surrounding the Holiday Inn hotel that had become their temporary headquarters, but also to their constituents.

The lawmakers spent most of the four days in a hotel conference room, starting each morning with a prayer and a promise to stick with the cause.

"We looked around the table to make sure each one would commit to the others and promise that they weren't going to leave."

From there, the schedule consisted of various discussions. They'd vent frustrations over the proposed redistricting and discuss the calls they were getting from the outside, or break up into working groups to discuss blue-sky initiatives on topics such as education and energy. Members with expertise in certain areas presented seminars to the rest of the group.

"We got a lot done, and it was in stark contrast to the images you saw of people in the House chamber at the time, with beach balls flying around and music playing. Essentially, you'd see them hanging out while we were in seminars."

And, if anyone was tempted to have a drink at the bar or go to the gym, the others made sure such activities happened outside the presence of the media.

"The worst thing you can do is look like you're on vacation," Gallego says. "When you do something like this, you have to make sure you have thought of all the angles –the goal is to protect the members - and to make sure that the public knows and understands why this issue is so important, so at the end of day, the public sides with you."

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Filed under: Illinois • Politics • Wisconsin
soundoff (312 Responses)
  1. Bob

    The reality is this folks. That teachers did not cause the mess we are in. The reality is this that the cost of health care has gone up and the people who have good health care pay more for procedures to cover the cost of the uninsured. So to ask me as a teacher in New Jersey to give up $6,500 a year for health insurance and not allow me to bargain is wrong. The Governors of all formerly Democratic state that are controlled by republicans are attempting the same thing. They passed laws that allow corporations to donate funds to political campaigns and now they want to break the unions so they will not be able to do so. It is a move to cripple the Democratic party and the are using fiscal conservatism to mask the real motive. I would not cut benefits and employee pay until I searched out other cost savings first. Cut 5% from every department before going after employees!!!

    February 26, 2011 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. John Brown

    This is the fake movement funded by Koch Brothers. I can not fight against them but I can stop buying their products. I go to wikipedia and type all the products Koch industries produces and then I stop buying their products. It's a nice revenge. Just imagine 50 million American stop buying their products? :)

    I thought that's what we call sweet revenge.

    February 26, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. bruce

    What a disgrace to the voters of wisconsin. Run and avoid the laws of the land and avoid the work the people sent you there to do. Kindergarten stuff!

    February 27, 2011 at 2:23 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • mike kerns

      Speaking of childish behavior look in the mirror all you are doing is repeating talking points.

      February 27, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jp

    figures you people didn't post my previous response. too blatant and in your face huh. your just as bad as those dems who run and hide!

    February 27, 2011 at 2:45 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Pete

    Raise taxes on everyone earning $100,000 or more! Also raise gas tax $1.00 per gallon starting one year from now.

    February 27, 2011 at 3:08 am | Report abuse | Reply
  6. CJ

    The rich get richer, the poor get poorer and the middle class pay most of the taxes. When will America decide to give all its citizens a fair go?

    February 27, 2011 at 4:25 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. admiral 149

    CSEA, and the Teacher's unions are bankrupting America, by charging the tax payers premium prices for poor work and, are visiting on the whole nation, the same carnage, that the UAW visited on the U.S. auto industry. The only reason that Democrats are concerned is that it is through these corrupt unions that the public's money is filtered to the Democrat Party. Complain if you must about tax breaks for businesses, but, it is only in the private sector that creates jobs. In the final analysis huge public pay rolls are a negative on our National economy, and as such, are fundamentally responsible for the the loss of our middle class. Government Employees are America's new Fat Cats. Public Employee's Unions are responsible for taxing the middle class out of existence in the U.S.A..

    February 27, 2011 at 7:24 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • annie s

      Poor work? Wisconsin has one of the highest graduation rates in the country – 90%, and their union has already agreed to the financial aspects of the bill. Here's what this is really about – bust the unions and eventually the American worker has no rights at all. Corporations pay less and take away benefits, their profits grow, and working class American citizens suffer. Will it create jobs? Only if we're willing to work for minimum wage (oh wait, bust the unions and you also dry up a huge source of campaign funding for Democrats, and without Democrats, the Republicans will surely do away with their hated minimum wage requirements). We have the lowest tax rates in 50 years – where are the jobs your beloved private sector created?

      February 27, 2011 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
    • mike kerns

      typical radical fox news cult member post. Dont let the facts get in youre way.

      February 27, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. CharlieSeattle

    This is one of the results of 300,000 million Americans buying Chinese made crap instead of Made In America goods.

    Collectively you all destroyed the businesses your forefathers created.

    Are you all so stupid and think you you can do that and keep your jobs, your homes, a strong tax base and schools?.

    In Kindergarden you all played musical chairs.

    300,000 million Americans have been playing economic musical chairs for the last 40 years. lol, enjoy the game suckers you are all losing.

    Bad things are supposed to happen to stupid people.

    February 27, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. JHA in Texas

    Feb. 27, 2011 .......................BREAKDOWN OF GALLOP POLL DATA: Only The Wealthy Support Gov. Walker Bill to eliminate union collective bargaining rights

    Released Gallop Poll Feb. 25, 2011 finding 61% of Wisconsin residents & Americans oppose Walker's plan, versus 33% who are in favor. The breakdown data shows only highest-income (Wealthy) category favors the proposal.

    **Among those who make less than $ 24,000 annually, 74% oppose the proposal, versus 14% who favor it.

    **Among those who made $ 24,000 to $ 59,000 annually, 63% oppose the proposal, versus 33% favor it.

    **Among those who made $ 60,000 to $ 89,0000 annually, 53% oppose the proposal, versus 41% favor it.

    **Among those who made $ 90,000 and up annually, 50% percent favor the proposal, versus 47% oppose it.

    Only the last, highest -income category favors the proposal. Working and low-to-middle class people all opposed it.

    Just focusing on people who voted Walker into office – only slightly above half of his own voters support his proposal by a 51 % – 42 % margin.

    (Internet reference: News for Gallop Poll )

    WISCONSIN AND THE AMERICAN PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN

    February 27, 2011 at 11:29 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Dolly O.

    AY AY AY! DID ANY1 LISTEN TO PRES. OBAMA'S SPEECH? DID HE NOT WARN US ABOUT HOW IT WAS NOT GOING 2 B AN EZ ROAD AHEAD? WHAT R WE GOING 2 DO ARGUE IN THIS ARENA & POINT FINGERS..BLAME JOE 4 THE DOWNFALL? WHAT GOOD IS IT DOONG US? SOMETIMES IT BOGGLES THE MIND AS TO WHAT I HEAR I WONDER HOW MUCH IS TRUE. "ONCE A POLITICIAN ALWAYS A POLITICIAN..THEY ONLY COME OUT & KISS THE BABIES WHEN THEY NEED A VOTE..THAN ALL PARTY TOGATHER" IN d MEAN TIME WE d PEOPLE R LEFT ARGUING AS IF THEY CARE.WHAT WE THINK..I JUST PRAY WE NEVER HAVE ANOTHER CIVIL WAR CUS OF DiS US REPS WHO THINK THEY R ABOVE THOSE WHO PLACED THEM IN OFFICE. & YES LETS GO ACROSS d BOARD & CUT EVERYONES SALARY..LETS CUT BACK ON d RISING COST 2 EVERTHING. HMM.. INTERESTING :) ANY NEW IDEAS. WHY DONT WE JUST GO BACK 2 THE hm WAIT CANT RECALL WHEN HAS IT EVER BEEN EZ 4 ANY1? PERHAPS SOME HAVE BEEN LUCKY 2 ENJOY SUCH LIFE.. BUT GOODNESS LOOK AROUND U..IT HAS LEFT LOTS OF SR CIT IN THE OUTS. GOSH O MIGHTY WHAT IN THE WORLD IS D EXP 2 OUR KIDS ? STONE AGE;)

    February 27, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. ed bailey

    Walker is a lightweight in killimg the workers rights. The entire stste of utah is horrible in the treatment of its workers. The law is stacked solidly against the working man. Safety laws are ignored to save money and environmental gross misconduct is the norm. Sure the predominant cult can brag about their business success but it is very ugly from the inside. Scary as hell half of them wanna be president. If that happens there will be no hope at all for us, the common man. Hell there is little left as it is!

    February 27, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. pw

    How many people who commenting,, work in a right to work state;. such as, texas and.VIRGINIA? Diid you know that o'reilly and the other fox cronies are union workers?

    February 28, 2011 at 4:52 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Ben Petrone

    The Gov should have not signed the bill and fired a thousand more teachers than he said he would then when it came time to renegotiate the new contract dont give them squat let them strike and fire them all. there are plenty of teachers in the country willing to take their place.Then maybe the goon leaders willtake notice.

    March 13, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. blog aout fine wine

    Undeniably consider that which you stated. Your favorite reason seemed to be at the net the easiest factor to bear in mind of. I say to you, I certainly get irked at the same time as folks think about concerns that they just don't realize about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top as smartly as outlined out the whole thing without having side-effects , folks can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

    April 7, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse | Reply
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