Wisconsin continues to be cauldron of struggle

Protest activities continue across Wisconsin to fight the union-busting bill signed by Gov. Scott Walker on March 11. They are also directed at the many anti-people measures contained in the budget proposal for the next two fiscal years, 2011-2013, which would cut at least $3.6 billion from services that help poor and working people.

Because of the massive people’s resistance, an injunction is still in place that prevents the bill signed by Walker on March 11 from being implemented and becoming law. The bill is also before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The people’s struggle against union busting and other anti-people attacks is also giving mobilizing strength to the now annual May Day march and rally in Milwaukee, sponsored by the immigrant rights organization Voces de la Frontera. Thus far the Wisconsin AFL-CIO; American Federation of Teachers Local 212; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) in Wisconsin; the Painters and Allied Trades Local 781; Service Employees Local 1; and other unions are supporting and mobilizing for this event.

The demands for the mobilization include full legalization for immigrants, no to union busting, keep in-state tuition for immigrant students, oppose budget cuts and oppose any and all racist copycat Arizona-type legislation that targets immigrants in Wisconsin. (www.vdlf.org)

The final tally in the April 5 election for the Wisconsin Supreme Court — which was widely considered a referendum on Walker’s anti-union measures — was released on April 15. It showed the conservative David Prosser winning by 7,316 votes over independent JoAnne Kloppenberg. But on April 20 Joanne Kloppenberg decided to request a statewide recount. Until a full recount is done, the Government Accountability Board can’t certify the results.

The election is marred by controversy due to a conservative clerk in Waukesha County “finding,” on the day after the election, thousands of ballots for Prosser, which made him the winner. The clerk, Kathy Nickolaus, is a former Prosser employee and has previously been investigated for voter fraud.

“An honest and open recount is the only way that the voters of Wisconsin can have confidence in the results of the 2011 Supreme Court election,” said Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO on April 20. “A manual recount will only add to the integrity of the electoral process and provide reassurance to the unprecedented amount of voters who came out on April 5 to make their voices heard.” (http://wisaflcio.typepad.com/)

Across the state, poor and working people from Madison, Milwaukee and beyond continue to engage in a wide range of protest activities, including recall campaigns, targeting banks and corporations through various means, protesting anti-people politicians wherever they turn up, protesting on “Tax Day” by demanding that the rich pay taxes, packing budget hearing meetings and more. International solidarity in many forms — such as the action of members of the International Longshore Workers Union Local 10 shutting down the docks in San Francisco and Oakland April 4 — is ongoing as well.

U. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee occupation continues

Aaron Luther is a member of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a participant in an occupation at this university which began its eighth week on April 25. The occupation began at the Theatre Department, which is facing virtual elimination under Walker’s 2011-2013 budget proposal. Students are now occupying space in the Student Union.

“We are here to get the message out to the students and the faculty that what Scott Walker wants to do to the university as far as privatization will raise our tuition and we can’t afford that,” says Luther. “We are also here to get information out about what Walker wants to do to the city of Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin in general. We demand that UW-Milwaukee maintain a public status as a university, and that tuition and fees be frozen so that tuition no longer goes up. We’re going to use this space as long as we feel it’s necessary. We’re constantly rethinking, re-planning and reorganizing.”

Added Luther: “Getting support from the unions has been really big for us. We’ve gotten quite a bit of incredibly positive responses. The unions take care of all the maintenance and all the cleaning. If it wasn’t for them, the university wouldn’t run. We wouldn’t be able to keep it looking as good as it does. And the Teaching Assistants union [members] are giving us their support and we’ve gotten support from other groups on campus such as SDS and Act Everywhere.

“During the school day we leaflet and talk to people. When we have free time, we’ve gone out to protests. Several of us have gone to Madison. We protested at Walmart the last two Sundays because Walmart gave money to Scott Walker’s campaign, and Walmart has a bad workers’ rights record. We are also setting up more protests for other companies that happen to be on the boycott list or are grossly anti-union,” concluded Luther.

Statements of solidarity can be sent to uwmoccupied@yahoo.com. Supporters are welcome to visit anytime. Donations of food and supplies, which are always needed, can be dropped off at the occupied space in the student union, or people can email to work out arrangements.

‘We’ll be victorious!’

Gilbert Johnson, president of AFSCME Local 82 at UW-Milwaukee and also a member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) and the A. Philip Randolph Institute, has been and is a principal organizer of the people’s resistance in Wisconsin. He is mobilizing for a May 21 town hall meeting in Milwaukee. Johnson will be a featured speaker at this year’s May Day rally in New York City.

On May 21, the ninth annual African-American Labor and Community Summit will take place at the Laborers’ Local 113 union hall, 6310 Appleton Ave. in Milwaukee. This year’s town hall meeting is sponsored by the CBTU and the A. Philip Randolph Institute. Its theme is “Get up, stand up for your rights.” This event is free and open to the public and runs from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. For more information, call 414-771-9828 or 414-412-5219 or email jayaflcio@sbcglobal.net or rightreign@gmail.com.

Says Johnson: “We’re settling in for many battles and we’re confident that we’ll be victorious. Truly an injustice done to one is an injustice to all. This is a world people’s struggle. The Wisconsin struggle is no strange occurrence as we watch people in Egypt, Iraq and all over the world striving for freedom. Thanks to all the people who have a worldview who are able to bring that view home to us that we not be so disillusioned and lost. We do have leadership that can hook us into the worldview and also give us a strategy that will take us on to victory against capitalist greed, war and those who would destroy our way of life.”

To help and for more information, visit http://www.wisaflcio.org; wisaflcio.typepad.com; http://www.vdlf.org; http://www.defendwisconsin.org; and http://www.bailoutpeople.org.

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