In an overwhelming show of solidarity, hundreds of thousands of people joined in demonstrations at state capitols and other venues across the country to show their support for public workers in Wisconsin and to push back on various states’ efforts to take away workers’ collective bargaining rights and squeeze the middle class.
Working people came out in all 50 states for protests organized by moveon.org and supported by dozens of progressive organizations throughout the country. Photos of protests can be seen here.
The protests that began Feb. 15 in Wisconsin’s state capitol show no signs of ending any time soon. On Saturday and Sunday, more than 100,000 people clogged the streets surrounding the capitol building each day to demonstrate their opposition to the governor’s plan to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees.
A priest makes a point about the Wisconsin budget. Photo courtesy of bigrafx.
Here is information on upcoming rallies and protests
throughout the nation.
Democratic state senators left Wisconsin on Feb. 17 to prevent a vote on the governor’s “budget repair” bill. They have vowed not to return to the state until the governor agrees to negotiate a compromise that preserves collective bargaining for state workers.
Over the weekend, Progressive States Network (PSN) released an open letter
signed by 284 state legislators, representing 45 states and two territories, standing up for the Wisconsin 14 and urging them to continue their fight.
“More and more state legislators across the nation are standing up every day because this is not just about Wisconsin,” said Rep. Garnet Coleman of Texas, who is chair of PSN’s board.
“The survival of the middle class in this country is now at stake in statehouses across the nation. While conservatives in Wisconsin, Indiana, and other states try to ram through attacks on workers that don’t create a single job or save a single dollar in their budgets, progressives across the nation are coming together in solidarity to say it’s time for an approach that truly prioritizes the economic security of our families and states,” Coleman added.
In Wisconsin, public sector workers have stepped up to the plate, agreeing to the pay and benefit sacrifices the governor has asked for. They just want to keep their right to negotiate. But that’s not enough for Gov. Scott Walker. He’s insisting that workers give up their union and only be able to negotiate pay within a limited wage cap.
Wisconsin was on track for a $120 million budget surplus, according to the state’s Congressional Budget Office. But the new Republican governor gave away $140 million in tax breaks to businesses. Now he wants to make workers pay. Working people fought back this weekend with new television ads. Watch the ads here
It’s a payback to the billionaire Koch brothers, one of Walker’s biggest campaign contributors, and other corporate donors. According to a recent article in the New York Times, even before Walker took office, Americans for Prosperity, a nonprofit group funded by the Kochs, was urging a union showdown. The group is also going after workers in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to its president, Tim Phillips.
On Sunday afternoon, police attempted to clear the Wisconsin Capitol Building, but in an act of peaceful civil disobedience, hundreds of protesting ministers, rabbis and priests joined workers and students from across the state, risking arrest to protest the closing of the state capitol to the public. Capitol Police relented, allowing roughly 600 protesters to stay, although they have since locked the doors are not allowing new people inside the Capitol building to replace those protesters who must leave.
Inside or outside, either way, the pressure will continue until we win justice for working people.
Supporters in Madison included veterans who spoke out at a news conference over the weekend. This video
features Sgt. First Class Chet Millard, a member of the Wisconsin National Guard and veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Time magazine
featured him on its cover in a story about his heroism in Afghanistan. A member of AFSCME, Millard is a corrections officer at the Jackson Correctional Institution in Black River Falls.
UAW members are among the thousands protesting in Madison. UAW Local 469 member Mike Bink, attended Saturday’s rally to stand in solidarity with the public workers.
“This isn’t just an attack on state workers,” said Bink. “It’s all of labor’s fight. We can’t wait around for someone else to do this. The time is now.”
In Indiana, where Hoosiers across the state have been mobilizing to fight against the anti-worker agenda being pushed in the General Assembly, rallies grew in size this weekend with more than 10,000 people protesting the attack on the middle class. Last week in Indiana the House Democratic Caucus walked out of the Statehouse, refusing to allow the attacks on working families to continue. They have said they will not return to the statehouse until the anti-family agenda has been stopped. This led to the defeat of three anti-worker bills (HB 1468, SB 333 and SB 273), which included attacks on collective bargaining and project labor agreements, along with the falsely-labeled right-to-work (RTW) legislation.
To show support for the representatives standing up for them, a group in South Bend decided to shovel the sidewalks and driveways of representatives who are staying across state lines in Illinois.
In Ohio, thousands of working families will converge on the Statehouse in Columbus on March 1 for a rally to save Ohio’s middle class. The rally begins at 10:30 a.m. and continues all day. Organized by middle-class Ohioans from all across the state, the massive rally comes in response to the recently proposed Senate Bill 5, a blatant assault on middle-class working families – one in a series of attacks on the middle class across the country.
The event will include testimony against Senate Bill 5 and Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s attacks on the middle class from workers and their families, members of the business community, public and private sector workers, current and former members of the military and more. Musicians, including the rock group the Street Dogs, a bagpipe ensemble of firefighters and other local musicians will perform as well. Senate Bill 5 would eliminate collective bargaining rights and salary schedules for public workers.
Information about the rally at the Ohio Statehouse is available here