Battle of Wisconsin Continued

The “school closing” scroll on the local stations would have made one think that Wisconsin had been hit with another blizzard like we had at the beginning of the month, except it was 45 degrees out! Also, after the school was named as closed there was a tag that said “Teacher expected to report.” It wasn’t a blizzard, but it was a storm. A storm of solidarity by the teachers of the state to fight back the Republican Party’s attempt to destroy their rights to collective bargaining and their livelihood.

I spent another day at the State Capitol. I saw even more people that the previous day and a number of friends. One, a Madison school teacher, told me that he would have to quit if the bill became law. His health care premiums would become more than his pay. This is the Walker and Bosses Code: Workers are “human resources” or “assets” and once they have been used up (depreciated) they should be cast aside. He was fairly convinced that if the bill passed, there would be a state-wide strike and the school year might be lost.

Many of the high school students took the day off to stand in solidarity with their teachers. Students came from all over the state. the University was out as well. It was amazing to watch the entry processions. Racine-Horlic, Milwaukee Public Schools, United Faculty, TAA, Madison Firefighters, Madison Police. One by one they swelled the ranks until the Capitol was full, the sidewalks around the Capitol were full and the streets around the sidewalks were full. I went inside for a bit and it was defening. Constant drumming and chanting.

I did several laps around the Capitol meeting and talking with people. Reading the signs. Marveling in the energy in a mass movement that I have only seen on television. As I was leaving, I heard people announcing that the Madison School Board had granted their teachers amnesty provided that they show up on Monday.

I have heard a lot of people “tsk-tsk” the demonstration as not really doing anything and how they (the unions, I presume), need to be more “engaged”. What a load of rubbish. The governor threw his gauntlet down on Friday with a plan to vote on Wednesday and sign the bill by either today or tomorrow. What, exactly, would these masters of civil disobedience ask of the unions? On two days notice, they managed a sustained 5 day protest that escalated each day.

What did the protest do?

It gave the Senate Democrats the will to embrace their values and act in solidarity. The Democrats broke quorum and fled the State of Wisconsin. They are in hiding until the Republicans agree to negotiate. I don’t think that would have happened without the protest.

The organizers set up a table to collect signatures of people willing to pledge to re-call the eight republican senators after the vote. This helps the next stage of the battle. Recalling eight senators this spring and the rest of the GOP (including the Governor) next January. Without the thousands of people coming to Madison from those republican districts, getting the contact names and information would have made recall efforts even harder.

The Governor plans to hold a press conference (more likely just to issue an ultimatum) to tell the Democrats to “get back to work” and denounce them as being “disrespectful”. He would do better to announce he is pulling this bill back and promise not to threaten collective bargaining rights. As the delay in passing this bill drags on, it has given time to get out the facts of the so-called deficit. The deficit apparently has been completely manufactured by the Republicans. It is the classic Shock Doctrine.

The Battle for Wisconsin has entered a new and somewhat unexpected phase. I understand that there are two or three Republicans that have resisted this bill (and who are also missing in action). This will be a long battle. Regardless of the outcome this week, Walker and the Fitzgeralds have put Wisconsin workers on notice. It is a war that will be fought at the ballot box and on the picket line. The victory of today is one victory. We have many more to go.

About John McNamara

John spent 26 years with Union Cab of Madison Cooperative and currently helps develop co-ops in the Pacific Northwest. He holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration and Masters in Management: Co-operatives and Credit Unions from Saint Mary's University.
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