In the past week, the mainstream corporate media has been busily reporting on anti-government protesters in Egypt, Iran, and Yemen– while ignoring anti-government/pro-union protesters in Wisconsin.
Last week, Wisconsin’s newly-elected Republican Governor Scott Walker proposed welching on union contracts with state workers and stripping public employee unions of collective bargaining rights.
Protests in Wisconsin swell to 30,000
Protests by union workers and supporters started almost immediately– even though Walker threatened to call out the National Guard.
On Tuesday, there were 12,000-15,000 protesters at the capitol in Wisconsin. By Wednesday, there were 30,000 protesters– and the action was finally covered by National Public Radio– even though liberal talk show host Ed Schultz had been covering action live via call-ins from protesters in Wisconsin for days and is broadcasting his show from Madison on Thursday (locally on 1330 AM, The Jolt).
From The Nation…
In some senses, Wednesday’s remarkable rally began Tuesday evening, when Madison Teachers Inc., the local education union, announced that teachers would leave their classrooms to spend the day lobbying legislators to “Kill the Bill” that has been proposed by newly-elected Republican Governor Scott Walker.
The teachers showed up en masse in downtown Madison Wednesday morning.
And then something remarkable happened.
Instead of taking the day off, their students gathered at schools on the west and east sides of Madison and marched miles along the city’s main thoroughfares to join the largest mass demonstration the city has seen in decades – perhaps since the great protests of the Vietnam War era.
Thousands of high school students arrived at the Capital Square, coming from opposite directions, chanting: “We support our teachers! We support public education!”
Thousands of University of Wisconsin students joined them, decked out in the school’s red-and-white colors.
Buses rolled in from every corner of the state, from Racine and Kenosha in the southeast to Green Bay in the northeast, from La Crosse on the Mississippi River to Milwaukee on Lake Michigan.
Buses and cars arrived from Illinois and Minnesota and as far away as Kansas, as teachers and public employees from those states showed up at what American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union president Gerald McEntee says is “ground zero “in the struggle for labor rights in America.
The moms and dads of the elementary school kids came, and the kids, carrying hand-lettered signs:
“I love my teacher!”
“Scott Walker needs to go back to school!”
“Scott Walker needs a time out!”
And, “We are Wisconsin!
“I’ve been here since the 1960s, I’ve seen great demonstrations,” said former Mayor Paul Soglin, a proud former student radical who was nominated for a new term in Tuesday’s local primary election. “This is different. This is everyone – everyone turning out.”
Everyone except the governor, who high-tailed it out of town, launching a tour of outlying communities in hopes of drumming up support for his bill. Most of the support Walker was getting was coming from national conservative political groups, such as the Club for Growth, which have long hoped to break public-employee unions. But the governor held firm, saying after a day of unprecedented protests – in Madison and small towns and cities across the state – that he still wanted to pass his bill. He’s got strong support in the overwhelmingly Republican Assembly. But he cannot afford to lose one more Republican state senator. And the unions and their backers are determined to find that one Republican who is smart enough and honest enough to recognize that the governor’s assault of public employees is an assault on Wisconsin itself.
The state’s largest teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council has called on its 98,000 members to come to rally in their hometowns and then come to the Capitol. “All citizens of Wisconsin should come to Madison!” reads the call. Tens of thousands will come. The state, county and municipal employees will come. The nurses will come. The small business owners will come. The parents and students will come. They will ask the question: “What’s disgusting?” And they will answer with a roar: “Union busting!”
Reporting from the Ed Schultz show on Thursday morning, John Nichols from The Nation said police and firefighters’ unions have joined the students, teachers, and other public union members in protesting the governor’s union-busting efforts. He said, there are no longer union workers and non-union workers– just workers.
Although Wisconsin Republicans have the votes to rubber-stamp Walker’s radical anti-union proposals, there are signs that some are wavering.
At the time of this writing on Thursday, all Democrats have walked out of the Wisconsin capitol building before the union-busting bill could be voted on; Republican lawmakers need the Democrats to have a quorum and a vote. TalkingPointsMemo reports that the state police may be called in to round up the Democrats.
Protests spread to Ohio
Also on Thursday morning, pro-union protests spread to the Ohio capitol; Ohio’s newly-elected Republican Governor John Kasich has proposed union-busting measures, similar to that of Wisconsin’s governor.
Kasich has proposed ending collective bargaining and replacing negotiated salaries with merit raises. Thousands of workers representing multiple public employee unions showed up in the Columbus capitol building to hear the debate.
Ed Schultz’s MSNBC television show will be broadcast from Madison, Wisconsin on Thursday night.