On Wisconsin! (Breaking News)

Wisconsin Fights Back!

Public employees, largely teachers and many of their students, have been protesting in Madison for three days, flooding the Capitol building with people and signage. Many Wisconsin schools have had to close due to sick-outs by large percentages of the state’s teachers.

The fight in Wisconsin has become a flash point for a national debate over budget deficits and how to solve them, with both sides recognizing the high-stakes battle will become a template for other states, no matter who comes out on top. A large defeat for unions in the battleground state of Wisconsin—the birthplace of AFSCME— would have public policy repercussions.

The Democratic Party’s Organizing for America, the leftover campaign apparatus from the Obama campaign, has entered the fray, filling buses and running phone banks for unions in Wisconsin. President Obama offered his opinion, declaring Walker’s measures an “assault on unions” despite admitting he hadn’t looked into the details.

Democratic Senators fled the state of Wisconsin to prevent a quorum call that would allow Governor Scott Walker and the Republicans to start the process of gutting the right to organize and form collective bargaining units for state employees like teachers and police. All 14 of the Democratic senators have actually left the state. The State Patrol has been sent to fetch them by State Senate President. Most people guess they’ve fled to Illinois somewhere as a group.

Meanwhile, a second day of protests surrounded the capitol building in Milwaukee.

From WISC TV in Madison:

No Democrats were present at the start of the state Senate session shortly after 11 a.m. to vote on a bill stripping public employees of collective bargaining rights. The Democratic members are currently out of state, WISC-TV reported.The Senate’s Republican majority sought to convene on Thursday to pass Gov. Scott Walker’s union bill. The Democrats’ move means the Senate can’t act at this point.Now, police officers are looking for Democratic lawmakers who were ordered to attend a vote. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said law enforcement officers were searching for Democrats after they were ordered to attend the Senate session.Republicans need one Democratic senator to be present. Calls to Democratic leaders weren’t immediately returned. Republicans ordered a call of the house to force Democrats to show up. Seventeen Republicans were present so the session began without the Democrats. Calls to Democratic leaders and others in the 14-member caucus weren’t immediately returned.Thousands of people clogged the halls of the Capitol for a third straight day in opposition. Observers in the balcony shouted “Freedom! Democracy! Unions!” as Republicans tried to start debate.

There are a lot of reports in the local press on the impact of the rallies and protests. While the right wing has focused on the need to shut down schools due to teacher’s calling in sick to attend the protest, it appears students have joined the ranks of the protesters.

Walker and Republican leaders have said they have the votes to pass the plan.That didn’t stop thousands of protesters from clogging the hallway outside the Senate chamber beating on drums, holding signs deriding Walker and pleading for lawmakers to kill the bill. Protesters also demonstrated outside the homes of some lawmakers.

Hundreds of teachers called in sick, forcing a number of school districts to cancel classes. Madison schools, the state’s second-largest district with 24,000 students, closed for a second day as teachers poured into the Capitol.

Hundreds more people, many of them students from the nearby University of Wisconsin, slept in the rotunda for a second night.

“We are all willing to come to the table, we’ve have all been willing from day one,” said Madison teacher Rita Miller. “But you can’t take A, B, C, D and everything we’ve worked for in one fell swoop.”

The head of the 98,000-member statewide teachers union called on all Wisconsin residents to come to the Capitol on Thursday for the votes in the Senate and Assembly.

“Our goal is not to close schools, but instead to remain vigilant in our efforts to be heard,” said Wisconsin Education Association Council President Mary Bell.

The proposal marks a dramatic shift for Wisconsin, which passed a comprehensive collective bargaining law in 1959 and was the birthplace of the national union representing all non-federal public employees.

The same situation is happening at the Ohio Statehouse as about 1,800 have joined protests there.

Public workers jammed the Statehouse today as the Ohio Senate continued to hear testimony on a bill that would eliminate collective bargaining rights for state employees and change the rights of local government employees. The workers, many wearing bright red T-shirts, filled the Statehouse atrium and rotunda while others milled about outside. They voiced their opposition loudly, sometimes echoing into the Senate hearing room and competing with the speakers testifying in support of Senate Bill 5. The State Highway Patrol estimated the crowd at 1,800

Attempts to break state employees unions are also being made in Louisiana.


47 Comments on “On Wisconsin! (Breaking News)”

  1. WomanVoter says:

    The Democrats, left the State, and the GOP has called the POLICE to bring them back!?! What the heck?

    CNN: WISCONSIN DEMS SKIP VOTE Comm. Dispute over budget, collective bargaining.
    Dir., Wisconsin Democratic Party says he doesn’t know where they are.

    • bostonboomer says:

      That happened in Texas a few years ago. They never found the Democrats who left the state either.

      This is exciting!

    • Sima says:

      It makes me wonder. The police are getting shafted by the governor as well. So how hard are they looking?

  2. Beata says:

    Thanks for this post, Dak. I am clearly obsessed with this story. LOL.

    A real grassroots movement pushing back against the corporatist takeover of our country. Hurrah!

    • dakinikat says:

      We did some protests down here when they were cutting back school budgets. I wonder if more people will show up if they go after more than the state clerical employees union that represents the LSU clerks?

      • cwaltz says:

        The trick is to get people to understand that if they go aftwer one group then your group could be next.

        One of the signs in Wisconsin really struck me was :United We Stand, Divided We Beg.

        The working class needs to stand in solidarity – when the elite attack the teachers, nurses or clerks, they could be going after any of us that actually has to work for a living.

  3. Beata says:

    I see the movement has spread to Columbus! I was just talking to my brother this morning and we were wondering if it would, since Columbus is both a state capital and the main campus of the state university. But Columbus is a much more conservative city than Madison so I see this as a real breakthrough. I hope the protests grow there too and across Ohio.

  4. WomanVoter says:

    CNN is funny they almost sound as if Lemons was on FOX and not CNN. So, are people ready to cut those Tea Party cards up yet, or are they going to be left with NO insurance, no workers rights and NO union representation?

  5. WomanVoter says:

    Dems just called in and said they are in a ‘secure’ location!?! The Teachers, Fire Fighters and others are joining in the protests.

  6. Pat Johnson says:

    It wasn’t that long ago when the Texas Legislature did the same by sending out the state police to corral the Dems into returning and voting on redistricting. The GOP won.

    My only hope is that whatever procedures are in place for Wisconsin voting the Dems are able to hold out since it appears they are outnumbered.

    Aside from the public demonstrations, it is also clear that the GOP leadership there is going ahead with their unnecessary reforms in the face of the outrage.

  7. paper doll says:

    Onward!!

  8. dakinikat says:

    Lawmakers in ten states are looking to bust employee unions:

    For example, Republican lawmakers in Indiana, Maine, Missouri and seven other states plan to introduce legislation that would bar private sector unions from forcing workers they represent to pay dues or fees, reducing the flow of funds into union treasuries. In Ohio, the new Republican governor, following the precedent of many other states, wants to ban strikes by public school teachers.

    • Valhalla says:

      I don’t get this part — under what law can the police ‘retrieve’ the Democratic lawmakers? Is the call like some sort of court summons?

      In any case, it’s awesome AND hilarious that the Dem legislators went into hiding! Go WI! I had truly written off the whole Dem party but I guess there are still some with principles out there.

      • Seriously says:

        Supposedly, contrary to reports the state police aren’t pursuing the legislators (at least not yet). There seems to be some dispute about who’s got the authority, because it’s sort of an extrajudicial process. The presiding officer of the legislature can compel attendance and issue arrest warrants, but can only assess fees, not jail time or anything, as punishment. And it doesn’t seem to be totally clear whether they’re empowered to get the state police involved, or just the Capitol Police and the sergeant-at-arms.

  9. madamab says:

    Union! Union! Union!

    Working people would be completely at the mercy of the top 2% without unions and the New Deal. This should be explained to every school child because it is the TRUTH. Trusting the fairy tale of a “free market” to take care of American workers is asking for low wages, 18-hour days, no benefits, unsafe (deadly) working conditions, and child labor. Oh, but we have “freedom” instead…the freedom to be worked to death at an early age.

  10. Beata says:

    A WI member of the United Steel Workers just told Chris Matthews that Gov. Walker has “awakened a sleeping giant” by trying to break the unions.

  11. bostonboomer says:

    Boehner tries to walk back his “So be it” remark.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20033010-503544.html

  12. Peggy Sue says:

    Just heard Matthews say the Sargeant of Arms and police have found the missing Dems and are marching them back to Madison. Something of a death march, I’d say.

    The film footage and numbers in Wisconsin are pretty amazing. I hope this spreads because this is all about union busting. And they [the Repubs and their corporate paymasters] won’t stop with unions for public employees. If they truly want to negotiate, bring the union reps to the table. No one can say working people haven’t taken cuts in recent years, major cuts. On the other hand, it won’t serve anyone’s interests if the states go bust.

    But you don’t solve the problem [if it’s solving problems you’re really after] by stripping rights, in this case collective bargaining rights from one sector of the American public. Or threaten to call out the National Guard to squelch any and all dissent.

    Sound familiar?

    You don’t go down that road because it never stops, and tomorrow it could easily be all of us. It brings up Neimoller’s famous piece:

    First they came for the communists and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist . . .

    I’m beginning to smell Egypt in the air.

  13. dakinikat says:

    Students Are the ‘Soul’ of Wisconsin’s Protests

    While students haven’t been the source of this protest, they have definitely been the soul of this protest,” TAA Co-president Alex Hanna told The Nation. “Students of all ages have shown up. They’ve stayed up late on little sleep—they are really working the night shift to keep this movement going.”

    One of the groups documenting the protests, Defend Wisconsin, reports that the Capitol building is packed today, music is blaring and firefighters with bagpipes are playing “America the Beautiful.”

    Instead of taking the day off, students gathered yesterday at schools throughout Madison and marched miles along the city’s main thoroughfares to join the some 30,000 protesters, the largest mass demonstration the city has seen in decades—perhaps since the great protests of the Vietnam War era, The Nation’s John Nichols reports.

    Protestors chanted “You know what’s disgusting? Union Busting!” and teachers carried signs that read “Will the National Guard teach my class?” in response to Walkers threat to call out the National Guard.

  14. bostonboomer says:

    Here’s an article on the Ohio protests at the World Socialist site:

    http://www.wsws.org/articles/2011/feb2011/ohio-f17.shtml

  15. jawbone says:

    It seems Walker has cooked the books, in a manner of speaking, to create enough of a budget problem to claim that he must destroy collective bargaining and immiserate state employees economically iorder to “save the state.”

    More like he just wants to be the very first Repub winger gov to kill a state’s collective bargaining. And Wisconsin was the first state to make collective bargaining legal. so that makes his “achievement” even better. Sheesh.

    From TPM:

    Wisconsin Gov. Walker Ginned Up Budget Shortfall To Undercut Worker Rights

    Wisconsin’s new Republican governor has framed his assault on public worker’s collective bargaining rights as a needed measure of fiscal austerity during tough times.

    The reality is radically different. Unlike true austerity measures — service rollbacks, furloughs, and other temporary measures that cause pain but save money — rolling back worker’s bargaining rights by itself saves almost nothing on its own. But Walker’s doing it anyhow, to knock down a barrier and allow him to cut state employee benefits immediately.

    Furthermore, this broadside comes less than a month after the state’s fiscal bureau — the Wisconsin equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office — concluded that Wisconsin isn’t even in need of austerity measures, and could conclude the fiscal year with a surplus. In fact, they say that the current budget shortfall is a direct result of tax cut policies Walker enacted in his first days in office.

    “Walker was not forced into a budget repair bill by circumstances beyond he control,” says Jack Norman, research director at the Institute for Wisconsin Future — a public interest think tank. “He wanted a budget repair bill and forced it by pushing through tax cuts… so he could rush through these other changes.”

    “The state of Wisconsin has not reached the point at which austerity measures are needed,” Norman adds.

    How very Rovian of Walker. Or Rove’s puppet….

  16. bostonboomer says:

    Ed Shultz is actually doing a pretty good job in Wisconsin. He just reported that a Koch Brothers group is behind this strategy of breaking the state employee unions.

  17. bostonboomer says:

    I’ve never seen so many right wing nuts on twitter before–all tweeting negative stuff about teachers and public employees.

    Astroturf?

  18. lakota in ga says:

    I’m following this story closely as well and thank you for providing information and support.

    Ive worked for the State of GA for 30 years, about to retire, and am incredibly frightened and angry that state employees suddenly will lose everything they’ve worked for to “balance a budget” when cutting pensions and benefits wouldn’t be a drop in the bucket!

    State employees aren’t the problem and shouldn’t have to sacrifice our lives and retirement. Most of us work hard….as therapists, social workers, teachers, direct care staff, clerical staff, etc., to support and enhance the lives of people with mental illness, developmental disabilities. children, and those in need.

    I know I haven’t added anything to the discussion here, but it just makes me furious. (Thanks for letting me vent!)

  19. Fannie says:

    Go Wisconsin, go Packers, go Veterans, go lunch box workers!

    I read where 10 police agencies were dispatched, what do want to bet most of them are union people. Just how much will this cost the taxpayers! And to think that 2/3 of Wisconsin’s corporations pay NO taxes.

    Also read where roughly 3 million are in the work force, and public/union work force makes of 5.8% of that population. And they make 9% less than the private sector.

    Damn, Boise, Ida. has been getting in on the action. Got people their fired up because they want let go of 750 teachers.
    When it got so hot, guess what they found a
    accounting error in the books, and have millions to keep the teachers working.

    Wisconsin needs to kill the bill, and recall
    the Governor. Come Monday, I hope they do that.

  20. Fannie says:

    Love this quote by Mary Kay Henry, International President of the Service Employees International Union (CNN)

    We think our wages and benefits should not be the ceiling for working people in the country. It should be the floor, adding that the only weapon the middle class has left against wealthy corporations is the union……..

    Couldn’t have said it better.

    • Karma says:

      Too bad she won’t admit to their hand in lower wages for US workers.

      Their actions with black unionized janitors in Los Angeles in the 80s has given me pause with them ever since.

  21. janicen says:

    People who choose civil service and public service jobs have chosen not to work in the private sector, where people with the same level of education are making a lot more money. The Republicans’ claims that public employees are somehow “making out” because they get pensions and job security is disgusting. Where would our society be without these heros? I hope there’s a protest in Virginia, because I’ll be there.