60,000 People Protest Gov. Scott Walker

Allison Kilkenny March 12, 2012

This week­end marked the year anniver­sary of Wis­con­sin Gov­er­nor Scott Walk­er sign­ing dis­as­trous anti-union plans that under­mined col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing rights for employ­ees in his state.

On Sat­ur­day, tens of thou­sands of union activists and sup­port­ers ral­lied at the state Capi­tol in Madi­son to mark the macabre commemoration.

Demo­c­ra­t­ic state sen­a­tor Jen Shilling reflect­ed on Repub­li­cans push­ing through Walk­er’s bill.

The sen­ate Repub­li­cans in a mat­ter of min­utes elim­i­nat­ed 50 years of work­er rights with no debate.”

The series of events that led to the anti-union bil­l’s pas­sage a year ago were tru­ly bizarre and unprece­dent­ed. All four­teen of the Sen­ate’s Demo­c­rat fled to Illi­nois in an attempt to pre­vent the cham­ber from hav­ing enough mem­bers present to con­sid­er Walk­er’s bill. In response, Repub­li­cans split from the leg­is­la­tion the pro­pos­al to attack union rights, even though col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing pro­vi­sions don’t affect the budget.

Dur­ing a spe­cial con­fer­ence com­mit­tee, state law­mak­ers approved the bill, and the lone Demo­c­rat present at the con­fer­ence com­mit­tee, Rep. Tony Bar­ca, erupt­ed and shout­ed that the sur­prise meet­ing was a vio­la­tion of the state’s open meet­ings law. As the lead­ers left the room, the observ­ing crowd chant­ed shame.”

What you just saw isn’t a vio­la­tion of the rules. It’s a vio­la­tion of the law,” Bar­ca said.

What fol­lowed was the begin­ning of what some pro­test­ers term the Amer­i­can Spring: a series of upris­ings across the coun­try in defense of the 99 per­cent” begin­ning in Wis­con­sin and stretch­ing to Wall Street. (pho­to of this week­end’s protest via @js_photo)

We’re baaaack!” Phil Neuen­feldt, pres­i­dent of the Wis­con­sin AFL-CIO, said Sat­ur­day before the crowd at the Capi­tol Square, who roared in approval. Neuen­feldt went on to say that Walk­er sold out Wis­con­sin res­i­dents to ben­e­fit big busi­ness, and he addi­tion­al­ly called for those present at the protest to con­tin­ue their efforts to recall Walker.

Pam David­son, a retired pub­lic school teacher from Mequon, held a sign show­ing a car­toon­ish shark bit­ing teach­ers and stu­dents. She said it reflect­ed her feel­ings toward Walk­er’s cuts to education.

I’ve just been so angry about every­thing that’s been going on,” she said. It’s actu­al­ly ful­fill­ing for me to be here, to see so many peo­ple feel the same way I do. I feel like I’m a part of history.”

Lar­ry Chris­tian­son, a retired con­sul­tant from Madi­son, held a sign that read, Fire the Liar,” and said he had at least 40 oth­er signs at home.

I’ve been here about 100 times in the last year. There’s a good crowd here. Peo­ple are moti­vat­ed. They’re moti­vat­ed to get Walk­er out of office,” he said.

There are two cru­cial dates com­ing up in the recall effort. Today, the Gov­ern­ment Account­abil­i­ty Board will meet in Madi­son to dis­cuss a time­line for the recalls. If the GAB has its way, the recall pri­ma­ry will be held May 15 and the gen­er­al elec­tion on June 12. Those dates are an exten­sion the GAB is expect­ed to for­mal­ly request in Madi­son today.

GAB has until March 19 to ver­i­fy the near­ly 1.9 mil­lion recall sig­na­tures against Walk­er and Lt. Gov­er­nor Rebec­ca Kleefish, but the GAB feels that is an inad­e­quate time­line to review the sig­na­tures. The group wants until April 6 to fin­ish the review process.

The Con­ser­v­a­tive blo­gos­phere momen­tar­i­ly erupt­ed recent­ly when a man named Kent Wain­scott claimed he signed the recall peti­tion for Walk­er 80 times. Clear­ly, such an act would be a case of fraud and con­tribute towards dis­cred­it­ing the peti­tion. How­ev­er, a memo released last week by GAB said that in a search by state elec­tion offi­cials the man’s name did­n’t show up. At all. Not even once.

Our staff has done a search for his name on recall peti­tions. The name does not show up on any recall peti­tions offered for fil­ing,” the memo reads.

The glob­al sol­i­dar­i­ty move­ment cer­tain­ly did­n’t begin with the protests in Wis­con­sin, but the back­lash there rein­forced the idea of a need for the oppressed every­where to band together.

Fol­low­ing Walk­er’s sign­ing of the anti-work­er bill, Kamal Abbas, the Gen­er­al Coor­di­na­tor of the Cen­tre for Trade Unions and Work­ers Ser­vices in Egypt, told Wis­con­sin pro­test­ers, We stand with you as you stood with us.”

Michael Whaites of the New South Wales Nurs­es’ Asso­ci­a­tion, who flew to Wis­con­sin to par­tic­i­pate in the anniver­sary, empha­sized that need for unions to show solidarity.

We know that unless we have a glob­al response to these glob­al attacks we’re not going to win, but we do know that because we do have a glob­al response we we will keep fight­ing, and we will pre­vail, ” he said.

Alli­son Kilken­ny is an In These Times Staff Writer and the co-host of the crit­i­cal­ly acclaimed radio show Cit­i­zen Radio. Her blog for In These Times, Upris­ing, focus­es on efforts around the world to address the glob­al eco­nom­ic crisis.
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