Labor foes now attacking freedom of speech

March 30, 2011

The attack on organized labor by right-wing extremists seems to have no boundaries.

The latest outrage is an attempt by a conservative research group in Michigan to intimidate college professors it considers sympathetic to organized labor.

News organizations report the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has filed a far-reaching Freedom of Information Act request for emails sent by college professors at three state-supported Michigan universities that mention the Wisconsin attack on collective bargaining rights.

Several of the targeted professors called it an attempt to intimidate them.

The Michigan assault on free speech follows a similar request by the Republican Party of Wisconsin seeking access to emails of a University of Wisconsin history professor who had publicly criticized Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for his efforts to revoke collective bargaining rights for public employees.

The Michigan FOIA request seeks all emails of targeted professors that mention “Scott Walker”, “Madison,” [Wis.], or MSNBC liberal talk show host “Rachel Maddow.”

The director of academic freedom for the American Association of University Professors told The New York Times, “We think all this will have a chilling effect on academic freedom. We’ve never seen FOIA requests used like this before.”

The executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin refused to give a reason for the Republican request for email contents, telling The New York Times, “I don’t have to give a reason.”

All this has prompted UTU General Chairperson Mike Reedy of Milwaukee, Wis. (UP, GO 225) to observe, “The attack is aimed not just at public employees or unions, but intended to weaken or destroy the two-party political system that has served this country so well. Every citizen is at risk.”