This is a week of protests in Madison over the new governor’s “budget repair” bill that includes repealing most collective bargaining rights for public employees. Someone posted a 30 second clip of the rally on Youtube from Wednesdays midday rally, estimated at 30,000 people, even bigger than yesterday’s rally that was estimated at 10,000 – 12,000 and included a lot of labor union contingents. (My impression was that the modal attendee yesterday was middle-aged, not college age.) Hundreds of people spent the past two nights providing 2 minutes of testimony each at the legislative hearing on the bill. Wednesday’s rally was augmented by the “sick in” of Madison’s public school teachers which led the district to cancel classes. With the schools closed, whole families are downtown at the rally, as well as substantial contingents from all the high schools. This is largely a “company town” in the sense that government employees predominate, so an attack on state employee benefits is an attack on the whole community. Outside of Madison, it seems to be the unions who are stepping up and see this as a continuation of the attack on organized labor. Beyond that, we’ve gotten to the position where government employees have become stigmatized and safe “others” to attack as part of political career-building.
I may post later about feeling like Obama, dithering around, in my case about how to handle class cancellation in the face of the flow of events. Madison finally made the national news after 30,000 protesters were out yesterday. Today Milwaukee public schools have also closed, along with many districts near Madison. After a somewhat confusing series of “assembly instructions” hindered by the ban on using university email for any political activity, it is clear that most university classes will be canceled for the day. This is likely to be a very big day for collective action. The state house passed the bill at midnight last night, the state senate votes today.
National news is still not getting the story right. This state’s “fiscal crisis” is not as bad as most, and most of the deficit is due to a series of tax breaks the governor pushed through for his cronies in January. The mass mobilization is around stripping public employees of collective bargaining rights. This is galvanizing organized labor generally.
Interesting to be caught up in the flow of events.
I’m off to join the masses.
edit: Milwaukee Public Schools did not close, although many southern Wisconsin districts have closed. They are likely to have a mess there if many teachers call in sick but they refuse to close.
edit #2: State house has passed the bill, the strategy is to delay the vote in the Senate by having hundreds (thousands?) of people sign up to speak at the public hearing. People have been testifying at 2 minutes apiece since Tuesday.