By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke won the endorsement of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO on Wednesday, even though she hasn’t promised to repeal a law championed by her opponent Gov. Scott Walker that essentially ended collective bargaining for most public workers.
A member of the Madison school board, Burke is also a former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive and state commerce secretary.
Burke has upset some union leaders and Democratic activists because she has not promised to repeal the union measure signed into law in 2011 known as Act 10, if elected. Burke has said she opposes the law and supports collective bargaining, but she also agreed with parts of Act 10 requiring public workers to pay more for their pension and health care benefits.
Passage of the union law was Walker’s signature achievement in his first term and it catapulted him onto the national stage. The fight over the law, which sparked protests as large as 100,000 people and led to Democratic state senators leaving the state to temporarily block its passage, also motivated the drive to recall Walker in 2012.
Burke signed the recall petition and met with union leaders before launching her campaign. Walker survived the recall.
In response to the union endorsement, Wisconsin Republican Party executive director Joe Fadness criticized Burke, saying she was making “backroom promises on Act 10 and leaving voters in the dark.”
Burke didn’t say anything different privately to the unions than she has said publicly about where she stands on Act 10, said her campaign spokesman Joe Zepecki.
It should come as no surprise that unions are backing Burke and not Walker, Zepecki said.
Walker’s campaign spokeswoman Alleigh Marre did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
“We know Mary Burke is the best candidate to represent working people across Wisconsin,” said Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO. “Burke knows that respecting workers’ rights to organize in both the public and private sector is good for the economy and good for workers.”
Neuenfeldt did not immediately return messages seeking further comment.
The Wisconsin State Employees Union, which represents most state workers, has also endorsed Burke. The union’s director, Marty Beil, has also been critical of Burke’s statements supporting some parts of Act 10.
Beil did not immediately return messages left on his cell and office phones.
The above story was corrected April 3, 2014, to reflect the fact that the Wisconsin State Employees Union has also endorsed Burke.