Fifteen thousand Wisconsin workers and their supporters rallied at the state capitol in Madison on Tuesday to protest the governor’s vicious and unprecedented assault on union rights.
Newly elected Republican Governor Scott Walker, emboldened by a new Republican state senate and a new Republican state assembly, wasted no time in putting forward a bill to make it illegal for public sector workers to bargain on anything other than wages.
Signs of “Hosni Walker” and “Kill the Bill” dotted the crowd.
The bill would make it much easier to get rid of public sector unions altogether by forcing yearly votes of the membership. And it would allow employers to fire workers who are trying to organize unions.
Walker is going after public workers right away, demanding steep cuts in benefit packages for all but the police and fire fighters. Many state workers are looking at losing as much as $5,000 to $7,000 a year.
And he’s even threatened to call out the National Guard to take anyone’s job who refuses to go along.
Teamsters, teachers, university workers, nurses, high school students, and state workers of all kinds flooded the streets and the capitol grounds. The crowd cheered as firefighters showed their solidarity.
Gerald McEntee, international head of AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees), flew in from Washington to address the crowd.
Were not going to let this happen, McEntee said. We wont let him break the back of the middle class of Wisconsinites.
Kelley Cory was carrying a sign that said, “Stop the Attack on Wisconsin Families.” An AFSCME member, she has worked as a secretary for the University of Wisconsin for 30 years.
“The cuts are going to cost my family over $5,500 a year. That’s $462 a month out of my paycheck,” she says. “I’ve got a daughter in college and a son in high school. I know we have to sacrifice, but this will put people out of their homes.”
Cory debunks the facile claim that public sector workers are getting rich on the government tit.
“I make less than $40,000 a year after thirty years in the workforce,” she says. “I haven’t had a pay raise in four or five years, and I lost $1,200 last year in furloughs.”
Cory is recovering from breast cancer. She completed her chemo and radiation treatments a year and a half ago.
“I missed only 14 days of work, and I was sick,” she says. “And now I’m living through this.”
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Lessons of the Glorious Egyptian Revolution."
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