LA CROSSE, Wis. -- The recall primaries for the Wisconsin governor are a week and a half away and Democrats are fighting hard to gain support from the state's labor groups.

Labor groups have been the driving force behind the recall election from the beginning. It started when the Republicans passed legislation taking away collective bargaining rights from most state union workers.

But even though unions have a lot of influence and money in the election, Republicans say there are other factors to decide who will win.

"This recall is critical of that," said Marty Beil, director of the Wisconsin State Employee's Union. "This is our opportunity to restore the Wisconsin ideal."
Beil was outraged when Governor Scott Walker signed the collective bargaining reforms into law.

"The middle class has been stripped of its dignity," said Beil. "It has been stripped of the middle class and so what's critical here is that the middle class, the working men and women in Wisconsin, need to take the government back."

But now that there's a chance to change the direction Wisconsin is headed in, Biel said union members must lend support to the right Democratic challenger.

His union is supporting Kathleen Falk.

"We believe she is a true champion for men and women," said Beil. "We've had a long history and experience with Kathleen Falk, she has treated workers fairly."

So far, the Former Dane County Executive has also gained support from WEAC, the state's largest teacher's union and the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, one of the state's largest labor groups.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, another Democratic front-runner, picked up support from the state's largest police union earlier this month.

But representatives from the Wisconsin State Employee's union and the Western Wisconsin AFL-CIO said whichever democratic candidate comes out on top in the primary will receive support from both unions.

"It's really important to emphasize that no matter who comes out of the primary, we believe either candidate, either principle candidate will turn Wisconsin in the right direction and not down the dead end road we're headed in now," said Bill Brockmiller, president of the Western Wisconsin AFL-CIO.

"Our only focus is on getting the governor reelected," said Julian Bradley, La Crosse County Republican chair. "Whether it's Falk, Barrett, Doug La Follette, anybody else that steps up, our only focus is on the reelection of Gov. Scott Walker."

Bradley said while unions are playing a major role in the recall, their members won't be the only ones heading to the polls in June.

"We have a state full of people and it will be up to everybody in Wisconsin, not just the unions, public sector unions or private unions, it will be up to everybody to decide who the governor should be," said Bradley.

Voting for the recall primary already started earlier this week with absentee voting.
The deadline for in-person absentee voting is May 4 at 5 P.M.

Mail-in absentee ballots must be postmarked by Election Day on May 8 and received by May 11.

Falk and Barrett will also face off against State Senator Kathleen Vinehout, Secretary of State Doug La Follette and protest candidate Gladys Huber in the Democratic primary.

On the other side, Governor Walker will take on Arthur Kohl Riggs.

The winners move on to the general election on June 5.