Wisconsin workers, students continue fight

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker directed the state’s Legislative Reference Bureau to post online the anti-union bill that he signed on March 11. This is his latest attempt to bust the state’s public sector unions and attack their collective bargaining rights.

Walker contends the bill is now law because it was published and vows that his administration “will carry out the law as required.” However, the LRB’s chief says that the law hasn’t taken effect because the Wisconsin secretary of state — who publishes the state’s bills — is adhering to a judge’s order not to publish the bill in the Wisconsin State Journal. Publishing would make the bill legal and enforceable.

Walker’s legislation was passed by the majority-Republican Legislature on March 10. Subsequently, Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi issued a temporary restraining order barring the law from going into effect. Sumi issued the TRO because the Legislature violated open meeting laws while attempting to pass the bill. She enjoined the secretary of state’s office from publishing it.

The Department of Administration has appealed Sumi’s ruling to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, which declined to hear the case and sent the motion to the state’s Supreme Court. It hasn’t yet decided if that court will hear the motion to dismiss the injunction.

Reaction breeds resistance

The governor’s moves touched off another firestorm of resistance throughout the state, with protests in Madison and elsewhere.

“To ram through a bill attacking workers on the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire is a tragedy,” said Stephanie Bloomingdale, secretary-treasurer of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO on March 25. “Clearly Scott Walker wants to roll back worker rights to a time where Triangle-like conditions were rampant and will use any means necessary to achieve his agenda.” (http://wisaflcio.typepad.com/)

Wisconsin Resists and other organizations are mobilizing to pack the courts any time there is a hearing over the bill. Unions, including Madison’s Firefighters Local 311 and the Laborer’s union, have filed lawsuits over the governor’s and the Legislature’s illegal actions.

Workers’ rights supporters are not only relying on the courts. They are mobilizing statewide to kill these union-busting bills and stop the governor’s proposal for cutting billions of dollars from the upcoming state budget.

Every day statewide protests, rallies, candlelight vigils and other actions go on at the state Capitol. Walker is opposed everywhere he speaks. On March 24, the Milwaukee County Labor Council, along with its student and community allies, mobilized hundreds to confront him at a political fundraiser.

The Wisconsin State AFL-CIO sponsored a major rally at the Fox Valley Labor Temple in Neenah, Wis., on March 26. The federation said, “We are making history in Wisconsin and we aren’t stopping now! Union workers, nonunion workers, students and activists have been joined by mothers, fathers, grandparents, children, veterans and concerned citizens to raise their voice against Gov. Walker’s extreme plans” which would limit workers’ rights, cut needed services, harm education and more. (www.wisaflcio.org)

Solidarity demonstrations with Wisconsin’s workers and poor communities are also taking place around the U.S. On March 26, a 15,000-person-strong rally took place in Los Angeles. It featured Mahlon Mitchell, the first African-American president of the Wisconsin Firefighters Association.

April actions, solidarity

There will be solidarity actions across the U.S. on April 4, the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. They will support the workers in Wisconsin and oppose union busting and other anti-people attacks. The Jobs With Justice and AFL-CIO websites have more information (www.jwj.org and http://www.aflcio.org).

In Wisconsin, many April actions are being organized. On April 2, at “A March Fit for a King,” the people of Milwaukee will commemorate Dr. King’s legacy and stand for economic justice and basic human rights. Event leaflets oppose Walker’s “reckless” budget that “cuts education, health care, transportation, and other services” for working people. They assert, “Milwaukee, we will stand up and take back our state and our city.” Sponsors include Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope, NAACP Milwaukee and American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 82.

Upcoming events in Madison supporting state workers include an April 2 Labor Notes conference; an all-day cultural event, “Forward Wisconsin Festival,” on April 3, sponsored by the IATSE Local 251 Union stagehands; and a People’s Assembly on April 9-10 organized by the Wisconsin Wave.

International support, solidarity messages and other assistance continue.

Amirul Haque Amin, president of Bangladesh’s National Garment Workers Federation, sent a letter of solidarity, which is posted at Defend Wisconsin’s website. It lauds U.S. workers “who have taken to the streets and Capitols to reject the attempts to deny them … their rights to collectively bargain, and to decide on the conditions of their labor. Their resistance has been inspirational to the labor movement and to working people all over the globe.” (www.DefendWisconsin.org)

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