After GOP Strips Bargaining Rights, Unions Launch Morning Protests Across Wisconsin. Strikes Next?

Art Levine

In the wake of the Wisconsin’s Senate end-run to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights, thousands of angry protesters descended again on the state capital. (See video above of protest in downtown Madison immediately after the Wis. Senate voted late Wednesday.)

And the top labor unions are organizing state-wide protests Thursday morning, providing information on websites (also here) and social media sites such as Twitter.

State Senator Tim Carpenter (D-Wisc.) put the issue bluntly on MSNBC: This is our Pearl Harbor of workers’ rights. The governor has really been out of bounds with a sneak attack in the middle of the night without any public notice, without any input from many hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites who have expressed their views. It’s a sad day for Wisconsin.”

With thousands rushing to to the state capitol building and pushing through police-guarded doors, anger is running so high that AFL-CIO activists posted this advisory: Keep it peaceful, brothers and sisters. That’s who we are.” The prospect of some short-lived protest strikes looms along with the fast-growing recall movement — although an official general strike is illegal under the Taft-Hartley Act.

The progressive-oriented Madi​son​.com set the scene Wednesday night:

Thousands of protesters rushed to the state Capitol Wednesday night, forcing their way through doors, crawling through windows and jamming corridors, as word spread of hastily called votes on Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial bill limiting collective bargaining rights for public workers.

Some union leaders interviewed at the Madison Labor Temple said the abrupt passage could lead to strikes. Officials with Madison Teachers Inc. and the Wisconsin Education Association Council urged teachers to show up to work today, despite a call for a mass demonstration this morning.

The Senate’s improper and illegal action will be challenged in court,” predicted John Matthews, MTI’s executive director.

Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, declared that the governor and his Senate cronies” had turned our proud state of Wisconsin into a banana republic.”

Senate Republicans have exercised the nuclear option to ram through their bill attacking Wisconsin’s working families in the dark of night,” added Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO. Tonight’s events have demonstrated they will do or say anything to pass their extreme agenda that attacks Wisconsin’s working families.”

Shortly after 8 p.m. Wednesday, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the locked King Street entrance to the Capitol, chanting Break down the door!” and General strike!”

The AFL-CIO declared Wednesday night:

This will not stand. We are holding an emergency vigil at the Capitol in Madison TONIGHT and a rally there first thing in the morning.

Thousands are gathering right now to raise their voices against the great travesty that occurred tonight in the Senate. Come join us.

Please get to the capitol right now and plan to be back in the morning. Stand in solidarity with the people of Wisconsin. If you can’t come now, come in an hour or in two hours or at 8 a.m. tomorrow morning:

Brandon Davis, SEIU’s political director, sent out an alert:

There’s an emergency brewing at the Capitol.

Republican Senators just voted to strip working families in Wisconsin of their rights by gaming the system under the cover of night – and they did it without a Democrat present.

Tomorrow morning, the State Assembly will gather and 8:00 a.m. Central to vote and we’ll be coming together inside and outside the Capitol at that time. In fact, thousands of people are already there right now.

There are also a number of rallies taking place across the state at 9:00 a.m. (CT) and recall canvasses happening throughout the day.

If you’re in Wisconsin, take a look at the list of events and let us know if you can attend at the link below:


Don’t stop making your voice heard as we continue the struggle for worker’s rights.

UPDATE: In an interview on the Ed Show on MSNBC, members of the Wisconsin 14, in exile in Illinois, called the GOP’s action an affront to democracy,” vowed to challenge it in court as illegal and predicted that this latest ploy would supercharge” recall drives against GOP legislators.

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Art Levine, a contributing editor of The Washington Monthly, has written for Mother Jones, The American Prospect, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Slate​.com, Salon​.com and numerous other publications.
Democratic Rep. Summer Lee, who at the time was a candidate for the state House, at a demonstration in Pittsburgh for Antwon Rose, who was killed by police, in 2018. Lee recently defeated her 2024 primary challenger.
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