Over the past few weeks, the billionaire Koch brothers and their front groups have steadily increased their involvement in Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s efforts to strip state workers of their collective bargaining rights. The Kochs’ outsized wealth and influence are forces to be reckoned with; that’s why we should all be grateful that a Koch backlash, including a boycott of Koch Industries’ products, has started picking up steam.
AlterNet has been keeping a close eye on the Koch-financed support for Walker’s anti-union campaign. As we reported last week, Walker is deep in the pocket of the Kochs, having received some $43,000 from Koch Industries while running for governor in 2010. Once Walker was elected, he made sure to take care of his friends/financiers, giving out massive tax breaks to Koch Industries, and more recently, launching the ongoing effort to quash Wisconsin union workers’ rights.
As AlterNet’s Washington bureau chief Adele Stan puts it, Walker is "carrying out the wishes of his corporate master." But why are the brothers Koch so interested in stifling labor rights in Wisconsin? For one thing, they have significant business interests in the region, with at least 17 facilities and offices in the state and some 4,000 miles of pipeline through Koch Pipeline Company, L.P. Also, the Kochs recognize that the outcome of the battle in Wisconsin could have national implications: if Walker wins, workers elsewhere might be less inclined to put up a fight. And that would be good for the Kochs’ bottom line.
With the almighty dollar at stake, the Koch-funded astroturf group Americans for Prosperity has launched a pro-Walker campaign, comprised of a propaganda-filled Web site and petition, at least $342,000 worth of ad time on network and cable TV, and anti-union rallies at the Wisconsin state capitol building, for which AFP paid to bus in Tea Partiers.
AlterNet also reported late last week that two of Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal columnists are fronting for AFP and ginning up support for the union-busting cause as well.
Did the Kochs think no one would notice or care about the influence of AFP and Koch Industries in Wisconsin? If so, they were wrong. Word of a Koch Industries boycott is starting to spread around the progressive blogosphere. Daily Kos community site blogger geebeegee has a rather giant roundup of Koch products and notes, "Their major holdings are very difficult to boycott — other than the promotion of clean energy and environmental laws, you may be stuck buying their energy products, directly or indirectly. However, they do produce some consumer products that you should put to memory to NEVER purchase again." There’s also a Boycott and Defeat Koch Industries Facebook page that offers the same information and more. As of Monday afternoon, more than 10,000 people had "liked" the page.
Here’s the colossal list of products being boycotted:
Angel Soft toilet paper
Brawny paper towels
Dixie plates, bowls, napkins and cups
Mardi Gras napkins and towels
Quilted Northern toilet paper
Soft ‘n Gentle toilet paper
Vanity fair napkins
Georgia-Pacific paper products and envelopes
All Georgia-Pacific lumber and building products, including:
Dense Armor Drywall and Decking
ToughArmor Gypsum board
Georgia pacific Plytanium Plywood
G/P Industrial plasters (some products used by a lot of crafters)
FibreStrong Rim board
G/P Lam board
Blue Ribbon OSB Rated Sheathing
Blue Ribbon Sub-floor
DryGuard Enhanced OSB
Nautilus Wall Sheathing
Thermostat OSB Radiant Barrier Sheathing
Broadspan Engineered Wood Products
XJ 85 I-Joists
FireDefender Banded Cores
FireDefender Mineral Core
Hardboard and Thin MDF including Auto Hardboard,
Perforated Hardboard and Thin MDF
Commercial Roof Fiberboard
Hushboard Sound Deadening Board
Regular Fiberboard Sheathing
Structural Fiberboard Sheathing
SOMERELLE® bedding products
TACTESSE® carpet fiber
TERATHANE® polyether glycol
POLARGUARD® fiber and
The boycott is in addition to several other creative backlashes against the Kochs. For instance, there was the prank call from progressive blog editor Ian Murphy, posing as David Koch, to Scott Walker. Some punny protest signs have been making an appearance at pro-union rallies in Madison and elsewhere: "Don’t be a Koch sucker: Wall Street broke America, not the unions," "Walker sucks Koch," etc.
And then there’s "Anonymous," the infamous hacktivist group that in recent months has launched coordinated DNS attacks on companies that refuse to do business with WikiLeaks. The latest news is that Anonymous has targeted the Kochs for their efforts "to usurp American Democracy." The group managed to take down the AFP Web site for a time over the weekend. (In response, AFP released a statement saying that "Americans for Prosperity will not be intimidated and will not be deterred from our effort to support responsible economic policies, including the efforts of Governor Walker and other democratically elected leaders in that state to balance the budget through common-sense reforms.")
So the anti-Koch movement has begun, and it is gathering steam. Labor supporters may not have the money the Kochs have, but we have something better — a conscience. Combined with creativity and determination, it could get us somewhere.
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