MADISON — Allowing a massive casino development in Kenosha will pave the way for thousands of union jobs and more resistance to Gov. Scott Walker’s agenda, according to a group of tea party activists.
During a rally at the Capitol Tuesday, the group urged the governor to kill the $800 million Hard Rock project. They said the casino-entertainment center will create as many as 3,300 union jobs that will refill union coffers and finance opposition to Walker.
According to the group, the Menominee Nation’s application with the Bureau of Indian Affairs says the casino’s staff could eventually unionize. They said allowing the development — which will send millions of dollars to local and state coffers and create more than 5,000 jobs — would be a mistake, politically and policy-wise.
“This is trading non-union jobs for union jobs,” said Ed Puccerella, of the American Commitment group. “They’re asking the governor to sign his own death letter. Don’t refund the unions, the political activists who will run against him.”
Walker waged a successful campaign to curb collective bargaining rights for some unions, and withstood a recall election in what is considered a blow to unions in Wisconsin. The victory gave Walker national status and endeared him to the tea party wing of the Republican Party.
Allowing for the casino would create a resurgence among unions, who, according to some of the speakers, will use intimidation to stall Walker’s agenda.
“They will unionize that casino,” said Charlie Sauer, of the Market Institute. “The unions are going to walk from door to door and ... they’re going to force them to give a yes vote. And they will know who that no vote is. This is a back door way to get the community and the rest of Wisconsin to unionize.”
The group passed out fliers to members of the media, one which had Al Capone’s image and asked “Who do you think will benefit the most from an off-reservation casino in Kenosha, WI? Union bosses? Mobsters? Bankruptcy lawyers?”
They said they project will not benefit Wisconsin citizens, but out-of-state gaming interests and big unions bosses.
“This is being led by union bosses out of state,” said Scottie Hughes, an Tea Party News Network contributor from Nashville.
Menominee Tribal Chairman Craig Corn said the group, many of which are from outside Wisconsin, are not in tune with what conservative voices in Wisconsin think of the project.
“The rock-solid support of Wisconsin conservatives surely trumps what these visitors might offer,” Corn said in a statement.
The Menominee held a press conference prior to the tea party’s to highlight the benefits the casino will have for the impoverished tribe. More than $100 million a year will go the tribe to create new tribal schools, an improved medical unit and renovated tribal housing, among other capital improvement projects.
Andrew Langer, president of the Institute for Liberty, said the Menominee have other means to lift themselves.
He also said the 5,000 jobs created by the project will not result in a net increase in Wisconsin jobs, citing a Milwaukee report that the city could lose 5,000 jobs from lost revenue at its tribal gaming site. The Milwaukee report has been disputed by both the Menominee and the Milwaukee casino’s former chief financial officer.
“Kenosha may gain jobs from the casino, but at the cost of other jobs in the state,” Langer said. “These are organizations who spend a great deal of time and energy trying to undo Gov. Scott Walker’s agenda.”