The movement to stop Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s “budget repair bill” continues to draw mass support nationally and internationally. The resistance has blossomed into a statewide people’s rebellion with rallies, demonstrations, candlelight vigils and other protest actions all focused on “kill the bill.”
A mass rally at the state Capitol in Madison March 5 drew 50,000 people, according to the state AFL-CIO. Even the police estimated 30,000 to 40,000 participated. On March 6 thousands also protested at the Capitol.
Again, it was the solid opposition to the bill’s language stripping public workers of virtually all collective bargaining rights that brought out tens of thousands of union members. They came from all over Wisconsin as well as Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado, Ohio, the Dakotas and other states.
All the public sector unions turned out. Together they represent hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin’s teachers, health care providers, firefighters, janitors, office workers, transit workers and more. Students, who sparked the people’s rebellion by occupying the state Capitol Feb. 15, were again out in force from K-12 and higher education on March 5 and 6.
The Amalgamated Transit Union chose March 5 to mobilize with buses and carpools coming from around the Midwest. Private sector workers were there in solidarity, with large contingents from the Teamsters, Laborers and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Members of the Pipefitters, Plumbers, Sheet Metal Workers, Bricklayers, Carpenters, Steamfitters, Boilermakers, Electricians, Steelworkers and United Auto Workers unions also participated. All were united in an understanding of the classic union slogan — which appeared on many homemade signs — “An injury to one is an injury to all.”
There were many indicators of overwhelming working-class and popular support for the fight against both union busting and the draconian cuts in social services Walker has proposed. Doctors, sporting lab coats and stethoscopes, marched to defend their low-income patients who stand to lose health care coverage if Walker cuts state-funded “Badgercare.” The Sierra Club carried signs against the bill, which will weaken recycling programs.
Arriving in the morning and marching for hours before the rally officially began, a multinational group of middle and high school students from Racine, Wis., roused everyone with the popular chant: “This is what democracy looks like.”
Homemade signs blasted Walker for his servile relationship — exposed by the now-famous prank phone call — with the wealthy Koch brothers, who are major financial backers of the Tea Party. The governor was lampooned as a “Koch [pronounced “coke”] addict.”
On March 6 the National Association of Letter Carriers, sponsors of that day’s rally, turned out hundreds of members to “deliver” a message of solidarity. NALC Branch 214 in San Francisco had passed unanimously on March 2 a resolution titled “Support the Initiative for a General Strike in Wisconsin — and Prepare for Nationally Coordinated Solidarity Job Actions.” The resolution was in solidarity with one passed in February by the South Central Federation of Labor based in Madison.
The Associated Press reported March 6 that 700 Walker supporters, rallying at the Alliant Energy building in Madison, were met by “hundreds” of protesters. At the state Capitol rally — which drew many thousands despite the anti-right-wing protest — it was announced that 1,000 protesters were outside the Alliant building while fewer than 100 Walker supporters were counted inside in a room with a 400-person maximum capacity.
Earlier, on March 3, National Nurses United led a march of thousands in Madison demanding that the bill be killed entirely and that there be no more cuts for workers. Continue reading