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Never prouder of my state, its workers and unions

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Author Topic: Never prouder of my state, its workers and unions  (Read 117 times)
Lisa Wolfe
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« on: February 17, 2011, 01:18:51 pm »

John Nichols: Never prouder of my state, its workers and unions

John Nichols: Never prouder of my state, its workers and unions
JOHN NICHOLS | Cap Times associate editor | | (7) Comments | Posted: Thursday, February 17, 2011 6:30 am

“I have never been prouder of our movement than I am at this moment,” shouted Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt as he surveyed the crowds of union members and their supporters that surged around the state Capitol and into the streets of Madison Wednesday, literally closing the downtown as tens of thousands of Wisconsinites protested their Republican governor’s attempt to strip public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights.

Neuenfeldt is not alone.

As a seventh-generation Wisconsinite, I have never been prouder of my state.

While Tuesday’s midday protests drew crowds estimated at 12,000 to 15,000, Wednesday’s midday rally drew 30,000, according to estimates by organizers. Madison Police Chief Noble Wray, a veteran of 27 years on the city’s force, said he had never see a protest of this size at the Capitol — and he noted that, while crowd estimates usually just measure those outside, this time the inside of the sprawling Capitol was “packed.”

On Wednesday night, an estimated 20,000 teachers and their supporters rallied outside the Capitol and then marched into the building, filling the rotunda, stairways and hallways. Chants of “What’s disgusting? Union busting!” shook the building as legislators met in committee rooms late into the night.

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” proposed by newly elected Republican Gov. 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 Capitol 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 and Americans for Prosperity, 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. And he might hold Republicans in the Senate together long enough to do his bidding.

But there will be no victory for Walker.

Wisconsin has rejected his plan. If he gets a few legislators on his side, it will be a temporary “success.”

The people of Wisconsin — teachers and students, scientists and snowplow drivers, small business owners and citizens — are rising to defend their own.

And it is wonderful.

John Nichols is the associate editor of The Capital Times.
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Lisa Wolfe
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« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2011, 01:27:25 pm »

Do right by Madison public employees

Do right by Madison public employees
Cap Times editorial | (9) Comments | Posted: Thursday, February 17, 2011 6:45 am

Opponents of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's budget repair bill march around the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin Wednesday, February 16, 2011. John Hart - State Journal.
John Hart

Walker is acting not as governor, but as dictator
The city of Madison has great public employees — great firefighters, great police officers, great streets and sanitation workers, great planners, great workers of every craft and skill.

And Madison has great public employee unions. They work with the city’s elected leaders and managers to deliver services, not grudgingly but with delight.

Madison gets its right when it comes to labor-management relations.

And we should not let Gov. Scott Walker mess with those relationships.

Walker’s radical assault on state, county and municipal unions threatens Madison public employees.

So Madison officials are doing the right thing.

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has called an emergency meeting of the City Council for tonight. Members will be asked to approve contracts for unionized city workers through 2012 — delaying the impact of the governor’s proposed bill to strip public workers of most bargaining rights.

“It appears possible that legislation essentially eliminating collective bargaining rights for our employees could be passed and signed into law by the weekend, precluding any actions that might be taken at our next regularly scheduled meeting next Tuesday,” Cieslewicz wrote in an e-mail to council members Tuesday.

Five of Madison’s 12 unions already have a contract through 2012. Four have a contract through 2011. Three, including the police union, are still in negotiations.

The mayor says the contract approvals will ensure that each union has the same agreement through 2012 that’s been approved by the council for two of the city’s largest unions, AFSCME Local 60 and Teamsters Local 695.

In addition, the mayor proposes approval of the 3 percent pay increase in 2011 and the 2 percent increase in 2012 that non-represented employees would have received under the current system.

That’s appropriate, and if the unions are amenable, the council should not hesitate to endorse Cieslewicz’s plan to do right by its workers.

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