I was blown away when I opened a recent letter from my own Wisconsin American Legion.
The topic? If legislators don’t act, 2,000 Wisconsin construction jobs held by veterans and $113 million in wages will be lost and 200 more veterans will be in poverty – within a year … if legislators complete the repeal of artificially inflated wages on state projects, otherwise known as prevailing wages.
As I dug into this astounding union-generated propaganda piece, I became more concerned. The highly charged prevailing-wage debate is not reminiscent of past American Legion endeavors. The legion was central to the creation of the federal Veterans Administration, fought in Congress for a U.S. Flag Code and helped to write the GI bill – honorable achievements for all veterans.
Having been a union member for 35 percent of my employed days, I am not one to either promote or disparage union membership. That being said, I was unsettled to find that the newest legion post in Wisconsin – Post 139 – not only bears the same numerals as the Local 139 of the International Union of Operating Engineers but also appears to limit its membership exclusively to operating engineers. (Coincidentally, the Operating Engineers 139 lobbyists in Madison have been fighting desperately to prevent a repeal of prevailing wage – something that would allow greater entrepreneurship and small-business creation.)
At a time when the American Legion is struggling with dwindling membership, any step that would possibly compromise its nonpartisan integrity through a muddled relationship with a third-party, politically leftist lobby is not only questionable on many levels; it also raises the question: How can they maintain relevancy?
When queried, Wisconsin Adjutant General David Kurtz, was adamant with me that the resolution and study touted in the promotional material was “peer reviewed by a Marquette professor.” Incidentally, Professor Abdur Chowdhury was the same person whose studies became gospel for the left when slamming the state’s right-to-work legislation.
I asked General Kurtz more than once during the course of our conversation, “Have you talked to any of our construction companies in Wisconsin to garner anecdotal evidence?”
His response, “It is a peer-reviewed study.”
Large construction companies have told us that, yes, there are worker shortages and no lack of projects on the horizon. To top it all off, the Wisconsin Legion leadership dropped the ball by failing to represent its members during Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Zimmerman’s confirmation hearings in Madison last week.
It is time to get back to our fundamentals as a Legion, maintain our relevancy. We should remember that, as Richard Seelye Jones put it in his “A History of the American Legion”: “From the outset, The American Legion kept out of politics. As a result, it rapidly acquired great political power.”