Battle of Wisconsin-An International Day of Solidarity

The day of the counter-attack met a wave of peaceful, fun-loving exuberant Wisconsinites and their allies from across the globe. It was hard to figure out how many “Tea Party” protesters were present, but most media was reporting between 2,000-3,500 while putting the pro-worker crowd at anywhere from the Walker Administration’s 50,000 to CNN’s 100,000 plus. The Madison Police reported ZERO arrests.

I have never been more proud of choosing the life that I have chosen–of choosing to stand with the working men and women instead of the profiteers. I have also never been so proud to be a Wisconsin citizen or a member of Union Cab of Madison Cooperative.

Our co-operative rolled 40 vehicles from our office on the east side of Madison about 3 miles to the capitol. As mentioned in my earlier post, we expanded the protest zone. We drove down Langdon St (the Greek Row of UW) and then up State Street (which links the Capitol to the UW Campus). The AP reporter who interviewed me reported that we blocked intersections; however, we had a hard time moving because of all of the protesters who spilled out from an extremely crowded Capitol onto State Street. I then joined the rally on foot and found a contingent of IWW marchers.

The streets ringing the Capitol have two driving lanes, a parking lane and a bus lane. The crowd was so massive that all four lanes were packed curb-to-curb and maneuvering was difficult (think the Dan Ryan Express Way during Friday rush hour when the Cubs and White Sox have evening games).

While the majority of people were from Wisconsin (evidenced by their intimate knowledge of all things Badger such as the words to On Wisconsin and knowing what to do during “Jump Around”), there were people from out of state to show solidarity (especially since they know that there state may be next. There were more than a few Iowans. I saw one person identifying themselves as being from Toronto, Canada.

People know that this is there fight where ever they are. A picture making the rounds on Facebook shows a man in Tahrir Square with a sign supporting Wisconsin workers. But here is the amazing thing: People from all over the world are sending food and supplies to assist the people occupying the State Capitol and the crowds. Ian’s Pizza apparently received  an order for 300 pizzas to be delivered to the Capitol from either New York or San Francisco. On Facebook, I learned that by evening, they were only taking “donation” orders and claimed that they had even received orders from Egypt!

The amount of “free food” on the Square is staggering (which is good because the restaurants cannot keep up with demand). The IBEW provided a free brat stand. Near the end of the day, a family identifying themselves with SEIU showed up with about 200 hot dogs. Last night, two college kids were pushing free Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches.

Working people across the world see this for what it is. It is everyone’s fight. We shouldn’t be afraid of attacks about people coming from outside Wisconsin to protest–the vast majority are state people. The State has always attacked protestors as being “outside agitators”. We know the truth. An assistant DA from a northern county held a sign that said, “I am NOT  a Thug. I prosecute Thugs and know one when I see one.” We invite anyone who supports the rights of workers to support workers. I would never turn down a show of solidarity. If the unions get broken in the state that led the way in collective bargaining for public sector workers, unemployment insurance and the home base of AFSCME, it will not lead to better day for any worker.

It was fitting for the Wobblies to show en masse. If this bill passes and the unions are broken in Wisconsin, it will be even more devastating for the movement than Wilson’s war-time attack on Labor during WWI. Imagine the work of the CIO being done with Taft-Hartley. Once collective bargaining is destroyed, it may never come back (just as Taft-Hartley has never been repealed). As one sign summed it up: “We bargain collectively, or beg individually.”


Tomorrow might be a quieter day depending on how much snow we get; however, Leo Gerrard from the USW will be speaking on Monday and Tom Morello has announced a free concert on the Capitol steps as well. Monday is also a Furlough Day for State workers. The rumor is that the Governor was trying to “unfurlough” workers to keep them from coming to Madison.

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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