Union-buster Walker calls for return of union refs
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Nothing brings political enemies together in Wisconsin like the Green Bay Packers.
Following a controversial game-ending call by replacement referees that cost Green Bay a win over the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football, Wisconsin officials from across the political divide united behind the Packers.
Even Gov. Scott Walker and a Democratic state senator who were bitter opponents in the 2011 battle over Wisconsin public workers' collective bargaining rights found themselves on the same side Tuesday.
Walker, whose union-busting efforts have made him the darling of fiscal conservatives, posted a message on Twitter calling for the return of the NFL's locked-out unionized officials.
"After catching a few hours of sleep, the (hash)Packers game is still just as painful. (hash)Returntherealrefs," Walker tweeted early Tuesday.
Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, who was one of 14 Democrats who fled to Illinois for three weeks last year in opposition to Walker's law banning most public unions from nearly all collective bargaining, said he saw the irony in Walker's post but in Wisconsin "we're all fans, first and foremost."
"If you were born and raised in Wisconsin, you were raised on the Packers," said Erpenbach, who urged his Twitter followers to call NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to complain. "Every Sunday it's Packers and pancakes, not necessarily in that order."
On the final play of Monday night's game with Seattle trailing 12-7, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson lofted a pass into a scrum of players in the back of the endzone. Seattle receiver Golden Tate pushed a Packers defender out of the way, wrestled another for the ball and was awarded a touchdown, leading the Seahawks to a 14-12 victory.
The Packers and politics have always been closely aligned in Wisconsin, where Republicans and Democrats alike have long tried to score points by tapping into the electorate's nearly universal affection for the NFL's only publicly owned team. So it's not surprising that Monday night's call against the Packers united some strange bedfellows.
Still, some hope the controversy might inspire a few people to cross the aisle when it comes to labor politics.
Democratic state Sen. Chris Larson, who also tweeted his anger over Monday night's game, said he thinks the NFL referees' labor dispute will change the minds of some people who previously were anti-union.
"People end up thinking you can get good work for cheap, you can always find a cheaper way and it's going to be just as good a result," Larson said. "I would hope that Scott Walker is just as outraged about decreased quality of teachers that we're going to get as he is with replacement refs in the NFL."
Although it was nothing like those massive pro-union protests at the Capitol, a few die-hard cheeseheads picketed outside Lambeau Field on Tuesday to voice their displeasure to the league. The game was being talked about the halls of the state Capitol, the streets of Milwaukee and all across the state.
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