Posted by PR Watch Admin on February 17, 2011

Kill the bill! So easy a caveman can do it! Or a gorilla!9:30 p.m. - IN THREE WORDS: DECEPTIVE, DISHONEST, DESTRUCTIVE

Mary Bottari: Outside the capitol, I bumped into UW Professor (Law, Political Science, Sociology, Public Affairs) Joel Rogers and asked him to explain the budget number to me. The national media can't seem to decide if Wisconsin has a budget deficit or not, or whether $30 million in concessions being demanded from workers is significant or not. Rogers explained that the $3.5 billion shortfall projected over the next biennium is about half what the one projected last time, which Wisconsin survived, and that $30 million was both trivial and dwarfed by new concessions unions had already offered to make. Says Rogers, "you just can't make sense of this as a deficit reduction strategy. It's a political strategy. Destroy public sector unions and you destroy the campaign organization of your opposition, Democrats. Of course he won't ever just say this." Rogers thinks the budget repair bill is "in three words: deceptive, dishonest, destructive. Deceptive because its not what people elected him to do. He's got no mandate to take away worker rights. Dishonest because unions are really not the source of our budget problems. A lousy national economy is, and unions are anxious to work with him in surviving in it. They're really not the problem, but can be part of the solution. And it's destructive because their help is needed. Nothing is gain by blowing up a 50 year tradition of public sector collective bargaining that was born in Wisconsin and gives a lot of people a great deal of civic pride."

9:00 p.m. - ED SCHULTZ LIVE FROM MADISON, WISCONSIN

Ed Schultz MSNBC is broadcasting LIVE in Madison now with a huge crowd of thousands standing behind him. "Welcome to Ground Zero for every single American worker," says Schultz. Signs read 'What would Bob do?" (referring to WI own Fighting Bob LaFollette) "Aaron Rogers is a Union Rep!" (Do I need to explain that one?) "Illinois Middle Class backs this Pack," and my favorite "Screw Us and We Multiply." The fog has lifted. It is a clear warm night in Madison and the prettiest state capitol building in the nation is shining brightly behind the crowd.

Watch the full broadcast here.

8:35 p.m. - MADISON SCHOOLS CLOSE FOR THIRD CONSECUTIVE DAY

Mary Bottari: Just received an automated message from the school district that Madison schools will be closed for the third consecutive day. Good thing my daughter likes a good protest.

8:30 p.m. - 63 HOURS OF TESTIMONY

Mary Bottari: Inside the capitol tonight there are still people testifying and waiting to be heard. Democrats have heard 63 hours of testimony so far, tomorrow is another day.

8:08 p.m. - CIESLEWICZ EXTENDS COLLECTIVE BARGAINING CONTRACTS FOR CITY WORKERS

Erica Pelzek reports hundreds of uniformed police officers and firefighters marched the Wisconsin Capitol Square at 5:30 this evening, pausing at the City-County Building, 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., to hear out Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's generous proposal.

According to Cieslewicz, City of Madison unionized workers will have their collective bargaining contracts extended through the end of 2012. In order "to ensure that all employees can continue to receive current pension and health benefits for the next two years," Cieslewicz said he realized he needed to extend these contracts today before Gov. Scott Walker's union-busting budget-repair bill potentially passes.

Representatives from 12 Madison labor unions in the city cheered, continuing their march down State Street to a Special Council Meeting held at the Overture Center for the Arts, 201 State St., to discuss the contract extensions.

7:44 p.m. - RICHARD TRUMKA WILL HEADLINE NOON RALLY

Mary Bottari reports that Richard Trumka, President of the National AFL-CIO will be headlining at the 12:00 noon rally in Madison tomorrow.

Want to attend the rally? CMD is here to help! Call our office at 608-260-9713 or visit the Wisconsin AFSCME website.

If I jam this in here, it'll balance, right?7:23 p.m. - WHERE IS THE BUDGET CRISIS?

Brendan Fischer reports:

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker alleges that dismantling public sector collective bargaining rights is made necessary by a $3.6 billion deficit in the next budget, and a $137 million shortfall this year. Setting aside the fact that the ability to negotiate shifts, seniority, benefits and conditions of employment would have a negligible impact on the deficit, and looking beyond Walker's deceptive claim that the alternative to union-busting is to kick 200,000 children off Medicaid (called "false" by Politifact), how deep is the state's economic crisis?

Representative Mark Pocan (D-Madison) has looked more closely at the numbers and writes that the $3.6 billion deficit is bogus. The alleged deficit is based on $3.9 billion in new agency requests for the 2011-2013 budget, a 7.2% spending increase. However, these are merely requests, not dollars actually allocated or spent, and Pocan writes that the legislature never votes to grant 100% of agency requests: "I don't think there is a member in the legislature that would vote for [the requested budget increase]. In fact, I asked [Legislative Fiscal Bureau] Director [Robert] Lang when was the last time we gave agencies exactly what they requested and was told he couldn't think of one and he's been here decades."

Read the complete report here.

Where is Jimmy Hoffa when you need him?7:10 p.m. - HOW TO RECALL A GOVERNOR IN THE STATE OF WISCONSIN

From Lisa Graves: Research indicates that it is possible to recall a governor in the state of Wisconsin. Article XII of the Constitution and Section 9.2 of the statutes allow a petition to go forward if a registered committee obtains enough signatures in a 60-day period.

How many are enough? The law requires 25% of the vote cast in the last gubernatorial election, or about a half million signatures. Specifically, at least 540,208 signatures, since 2,160,832 Wisconsin residents cast votes (Walker got 1,128,941 of the votes cast, and his opponent, Tom Barrett got 1,004,303) so it seems feasible numerically. But, it would require a big on the ground effort to gather that many signatures in a two-month period.

A Facebook group has been formed to help push this idea forward: "540,000 To See Scott Walker out of WI." And, on Facebook, Russ Feingold "likes" this page.

7:06 p.m. - Do you want to join your fellow citizens in Madison? Not sure how? Call our office at 608-260-9713 or visit the Wisconsin AFSCME website for more information.

6:57 p.m. - Mary Bottari reports that there are fewer people in the Capitol tonight than there were last night because people are happy with their victory today in successfully postponing a vote on the bill. Organizers expect large crowds again tomorrow as truck loads of workers come in from around the state.

6:52 p.m. - WISCONSINITES WAKING UP TO BUDGET SHELL GAME

From Lisa Graves: People are waking up to the budget shell game being played by union-busters.

Here are some great points from Talking Points Memo:

You can read the fiscal bureau's report here (PDF). It holds that "more than half" of the new shortfall comes from three of Walker's initiatives:

  • $25 million for an economic development fund for job creation, which still holds $73 million because of anemic job growth.
  • $48 million for private health savings accounts -- a perennial Republican favorite.
  • $67 million for a tax incentive plan that benefits employers, but at levels too low to spur hiring.

In essence, public workers are being asked to pick up the tab for this agenda. "The provisions in his bill do two things simultaneously," Norman says. "They remove bargaining rights, and having accomplished that, make changes in the benefit packages. That's how Walker's plan saves money. And when it's all said and done, these workers will have lost their bargaining rights going forward in perpetuity."

Here's what the Cap Times noted in an op-ed this week:

To the extent that there is an imbalance -- Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit -- it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January.

Read the full report here: Walker gins up ‘crisis’ to reward cronies.

Ed Schultz stops to interview activists of all stripes.6:51 p.m. - THE ED SHOW - LIVE FROM MADISON, WISCONSIN

Mary Bottari reports: Ed Schultz is broadcasting live from the Capitol Square with a Wisconsin crowd as a backdrop. This is another opportunity to turn out.

Madison Capitol Times Editor John Nichols will be interviewed on MSNBC with Ed Schultz at 9:00 p.m. CST tonight, Thursday, February 17.

6:48 p.m. - ED SCHULTZ GREETED BY ENTHUSIASTIC CROWD

Mary Bottari reports: Ed Schultz is at the dead center of the Capitol rotunda surrounded by people and interviewing them one by one. He is talking to student leaders, Democratic party leaders, labor leaders, and right now he is talking to the drum crew that has been keeping the beat in the Capitol for the past three days.

6:43 p.m. - Mary Bottari reports: Ed Schultz walked in and was greeted by a roar of the crowd.

6:40 p.m. - Mary Bottari reports: Madison Capitol Times Editor John Nichols will be on CNN's Parker-Spitzer tonight, Thursday, February 17, at 7:00 p.m. CST.

6:15 p.m. - From Lisa Graves: Walker calls boycott by Democrats a 'stunt'. A better definition of stunt might be calling stripping workers of their right to organize "budget repair."

6:11 p.m. - From Lisa Graves: Interview with state Senator Chris Larson on breaking the quorum.

5:58 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports with some interesting photos from the events:

The front of this UW-Madison student's sign says Even I Look Less Ridiculous Than Scott Walker. He is wearing a grass skirt and toga-type top made entirely of candy necklaces. The back of the sign: Middle Class: CLOSED FOR BUSINESS

Insert Head

Capitol rotunda packed to capacity. Photo courtesy Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.5:41 p.m. - THOUSANDS RALLY AT WISCONSIN CAPITOL

Mary Bottari reports that another crowd of thousands thronged around the Wisconsin Capitol this evening at a rally that began at 5:00 p.m.

One of the first speakers was John Nichols of the Madison Capitol Times Newspaper. He said "Today 14 Democratic State Senators were listening to the people, and they heard what they had to say, and they went to Illinois. They went over the state border, making the ultimate sacrifice to spend a night in Illinois."

He continued, "Now Scott Walker is doing an interview with FOX News. He has finally found his constituency. He is saying that the Democratic Senators may have democrat in their name, but they are acting undemocratically. But those are the senators who are listening to the people and that is why they are crossing the state line."

After Nichols, Phil Neuenfelt, head of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO greeted the crowd and said "Good evening, America," and pointed to the enormous satellite trucks surrounding the Capitol. There are now national news trucks including ABC, NBC and CBS as well as local affiliates present.

Neuenfelt said "We are drawing a line in the sand. No more blaming the working people for the bad economy. I have not met a working person yet who moves jobs overseas. I have not met a working person yet who was responsible for the Wall Street meltdown. We need to remember that as the labor movement goes, so goes the middle class."

A number of Assembly Democratic elected officials addressed the crowd with a similar theme that they are listening.

Public safety officials march to a city building.One announced that there were "17 hours of testimony before the Joint Finance Committee when it shut down proceedings at 3:00 a.m. on the morning of Thursday February 17, and it was followed by 63 hours of continuous public testimony that was not heard by the Republicans. There are 230 people still left to testify. We are listening to you, we are here for you," said the Assembly Democrats.

As far as we know the vote is still scheduled in the assembly tomorrow. The question is if the Assembly Democrats will join their Senate colleagues out-of-state in Illinois.

5:39 p.m. - PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICIALS MARCH ON CAPITOL SQUARE

Erica Pelzek reports: There is a very powerful march of public safety officials on the Capitol Square right now. The march is leading to the mayoral conference at a city-county building. Major crowd support and cheering.

I'd rather be teaching5:17 p.m. - THE SIGN SAYS IT ALL

Erica Pelzek reports that in response to blistering criticisms that Madison teachers were AWOL and leaving their students behind, a sign spotted: I'd Rather Be Teaching

5:13 p.m. - UW-MADISON CHANCELLOR BIDDY MARTIN HOLDS PRESS CONFERENCE

Brendan Fischer reports:

On Wednesday it was revealed that University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin was quietly backing a plan by Governor Walker to spin the state's flagship school off from the rest of the university system. Martin had been pushing for greater flexibility and more freedom from state rules on purchasing, pay and other areas, but remaining within the university system.

Many have claimed the so-called "Public Authority Status" was not put forth in the many listening and information sessions held over the past months about restructuring the university. Board of Regents member David Walsh tells the Capitol Times: "I am critical of this being done behind closed doors... It's too important to Wisconsin. It needs to be discussed, aired in the open."

At a 4:00 p.m. CST press conference, Biddy tried to sidestep accusations that she was anything less than transparent.

"This decision is based on data, and the data has been available for years. The statement that the decision was made behind closed doors, without public input, is false."

In response to a question that this model was not presented to students in past listening sessions, Martin said "the Public Authority Status model has been on the website as a possible option."

In response to a question about whether the plan would make UW-Madison a "pawn for Governor Walker," as the Board for the newly-independent school would likely be made up of Walker political appointees, Martin replied "I don't believe the UW is a pawn for Walker or any other governor."

5:01 p.m. - Want to be a part of history? Wisconsin Education Association Council has compiled a list of resources, including parking information and a schedule of events to help you participate in this unprecedented event. It is important that you make your voice heard, so visit this link to find out more.

5:00 p.m. - THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 17 NEWS ROUNDUP

4:57 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that the Senate has officially adjourned until tomorrow.

4:38 p.m. - Watch this short video of protesters outside the capitol building earlier today. Submitted by Paul Baker.

Firefighters for Labor4:32 p.m. - FIREFIGHTER SUPPORT

Erica Pelzek reports:

Despite Gov. Scott Walker's exemption of unionized public safety workers—firefighters, police officers and the like—from his union-busting budget repair bill, the International Association of Fire Fighters wants to make one factor clear: Wisconsin firefighters are on the side of labor rights.

"We've got firefighters at the Capitol right now," said 5th District IAFF Vice President Joseph Conway.

Loud cheers met all firefighters and police officers joining the national news-making protests at the Wisconsin State Capitol earlier this afternoon.

Read the piece in its entirety here.

4:31 p.m. - From Mary Bottari: I think it is notable that I have not seen one Tea Party sign.

4:30 p.m. - Mary Bottari reports that the next big rally at the capitol will be starting around 5:00 p.m. Reporters have confirmed that the missing Senate Democrats are ensconced in a neighboring state, safely outside the jurisdiction of the capitol police. How long their vacation will last no one knows. Attention now turns to the Assembly. Will they attempt a vote there tomorrow? Are Assembly Democrats headed out of state? Stay tuned...

4:16 p.m. - SUPER BOWL XLV CHAMPS SUPPORT PUBLIC WORKERS

From WisPolitics.com Press Release--"Wisconsin State AFL-CIO: Statement by current and former members of the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers on Governor Walker's attacks on public workers":

We know that it is teamwork on and off the field that makes the Packers and Wisconsin great. As a publicly owned team we wouldn't have been able to win the Super Bowl without the support of our fans.

It is the same dedication of our public workers every day that makes Wisconsin run. They are the teachers, nurses and child care workers who take care of us and our families. But now in an unprecedented political attack Governor Walker is trying to take away their right to have a voice and bargain at work.

Read the full item published on WisPolitics.com here.

4:12 p.m. - DEMOCRATIC LAWMAKERS BOYCOTT ANTI-UNION BILL AS PROTESTS ESCALATE

Time Magazine reports:

One of the ironies of the protests is where they're happening. In 1959, Wisconsin was the first state to give public workers comprehensive collective-bargaining rights, and the governor's bid to take most of them away has given rise to debates and demonstrations across the state. After work Wednesday, Moore traveled to the closest university, in Little Falls, where a hastily called meeting drew some 600 people.

Read the full item here.

3:40 p.m. - Steve Horn reports that Chancellor Biddy Martin of University of Wisconsin Madison will hold a press conference at 4:00 p.m. today, Thursday, February 17, in Bascom Hall. She will address the New Badger Partnership plan that would sever the flagship university from the rest of the UW system. Read more from the Badger Herald here: "Developing: Memo from Chancellor lays tentative groundwork for new UW structure".

3:37 p.m. - Lisa Graves reports that citizen action groups are springing up to take action, like this effort to boycott Walker's corporate supporters. Donors of $5000 or more include:

  • TDS Telecom
  • Wal-Mart Stores/WAL-PAC
  • AT&T
  • Deere & Company
  • Eli Lilly and Company PAC
  • WellPAC Wellpoint Inc

3:30 p.m. - From Lisa Graves: Listen to an interview with one of the Senators who broke the quorum against the right-wing effort to railroad through its union-busting plan: MUST LISTEN: Audio of phone interview with MIA Wisconsin Democratic Senator....

3:27 p.m. - Mary Bottari reports that she spoke to 15-year-old Ellen Arnold at the Wisconsin capitol today. Ellen attends Marshall High School in Marshall, Wisconsin. When asked why she was at the Capitol she said, "I am here to support my mom and dad, both of them are teachers at Lowell Elementary School in Madison." Like many of the young people at the capitol, Ellen is worried about the impact the Governor's budget plans will have on her family and on her life as well. "Because my family is going to lose a lot of money, I may not be able to do all the things I normally do anymore." Ellen takes dance, studies piano and voice and is a killer softball player. Her message to Walker? "Boo, Scott Walker, Game Over."

2:14 p.m. - Brendan Fischer reports that a rumor is circling in the Capitol that Representative Kapanke's office told teachers that their opinion did not matter because they do not produce anything.

PHOTO TAKEN BY STATE SENATOR LENA TAYLOR AFTER THE "WISCONSIN 14" DECIDED TO LEAVE THE STATE

Hands of the 14 missing senators (Photo credit Senator Lena Taylor)2:00 p.m. - STATE POLICE SCOURING CAPITOL LOOKING FOR MISSING DEM SENATORS

Mary Bottari reports that the state capitol police are scouring the Wisconsin Capitol in an attempt to track down the Wisconsin Senate Democratic Caucus. The Wisconsin Senate was slated to vote on the budget bill today, but they were prevented from doing so because all Democratic Senators walked out denying the Republicans a necessary quorum. The Republicans issued a "call of the house" empowering the state capitol police to round up missing Senators, but the Democrats were prepared for this and promptly departed the building and may even have left the state.

From WisPolitics.com: Erpenbach: 'We were left with no choice':

Sen. Jon Erpenbach told WisPolitics this afternoon Senate Dems left the state in an attempt to force Republicans to negotiate a compromise to proposed changes to the bargaining rights of public employees.

Erpenbach would not disclose where he was or how many of the Dem senators were with him. But he said he believed all 14 were already out of state by early this afternoon.

"We were left with no choice," Erpenbach said....

Erpenbach said Republicans should look at how the proposed changes are tearing the state apart and realize a different path is needed.

"This isn’t anything that we do lightly at all. This isn’t a prank. This isn’t a joke. This is Democrats standing together saying slow down."

As long as Senate Democrats stand together and remain missing, there can be no vote on the Governor's proposal to end Wisconsin's 50 year history of collective bargaining.

1:52 p.m. - Brendan Fischer reports that the hearing room explodes in applause when Representative Hebl announces all Democrats are out of the state.

High schoolers march on State St.1:47 p.m. - Brendan Fischer reports that hundreds are blocking Senate exits.

1:45 p.m. - Lisa Graves has provided the following information for your convenience:

  • Governor Walker's official e-mail address: GovernorWalker@wisconsin.gov
  • And, here is the switchboard for his office: (608) 266-1212
  • And, here is his fax number: (608) 267-7888

1:40 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that a fast-marching swarm of high school students shouting "kill the bill" are approaching the Capitol. Guess they are doing something with their day off!

1:37 p.m. - Lisa Graves reports on tracking the specific effort to "repeal collective bargaining rights for University of Wisconsin hospital and clinics" employees. When right-wing politicians say they are just "repairing" the budget, that's newspeak for stripping nurses of their right to organize. Here is the link to the precise proposal, tucked into the budget as an "addendum": Budget Adjustment Bill.

Zach Laport1:30 p.m. - I WENT TO IRAQ AND CAME HOME TO EGYPT?

Mary Bottari reports from the 3rd floor of the Capitol: She has spotted a young man holding a sign that says "I went to Iraq and came home to Egypt?" His name is Zach Laport from Spooner, Wisconsin. He served in Iraq from 2004 to 2007 and is now a student at the University of Wisconsin Madison.

When asked why he was at the rally, he said "My Grandma is the librarian at Spooner Elementary School. My Mom is a public health worker. My Aunt and Uncle are teachers. Spooner is four and a half hours away and they couldn't be here, so I came for them. My brother and I signed up for the military because we needed the extra income to go to college. Wisconsin has some of the best benefits in the country for its students, and we don't want to lose that. I feel that Scott Walker is acting like a dictator. He is not negotiating, he is just giving orders. This week he came after worker rights and next week he is going to take one billion dollars out of K-12 education."

Zoey stands up for her teachers.1:20 p.m. - Lapham Elementary School student Zoey White stands up for her teachers.

1:15 p.m. - AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL

Erica Pelzek reports:

University of Wisconsin-Madison student protesters, including shouting Teachers Assistant Association (TAA) members swarm outside the Wisconsin Capitol's Mifflin and State Street corner, their chanting growing more impassioned as the clock nears 1 p.m.

Governor Scott Walker's radical and controversial budget-repair bill would strip all UW System employees and many unionized workers of their collective bargaining rights for wages, hours and working conditions, to help patch an alleged $137 million state deficit.

But most in Wisconsin will tell you that Walker's budget-repair bill is not about fixing the deficit. It single-handedly seeks to bust unions across the state and punish those who did not support Walker's election campaign.

Cue mayhem across the state, with teachers, nurses, steelworkers and even cops and firefighters -- who would be exempt from the curtailing of their collective bargaining rights under Walker's bill -- descending upon Madison to storm the Capitol.

Watching the action are three business representatives from Milwaukee's Teamsters "General" Local Union No. 200, their navy hats proudly emblazoned with gold crests.

Read the entire article here.

Students from Memorial High storm the Wisconsin State Capitol.12:35 p.m. - Mary Bottari reports that thousands of Madison Memorial High Students storm the state Capitol.12:20 p.m. - PHIL NEUENFELT WRAPS UP AND ROUSES THE CROWD AT NOON RALLY

Mary Bottari reports that Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfelt wrapped up the noon rally: "Ok so now you have heard from workers whose lives have been changed for the better because of the union. I hear there is not a lot of room inside the capitol building. I hear that the Senate is having a little trouble getting a quorum together, so you are going to be sticking around right? You are going to be here at 5 p.m. tonight right? and we'll be back here at 12:00 p.m. tomorrow too." Neunefeldt announced that MSNBC's Ed Schultz, "a great friend of labor," would be broadcasting live from Madison's capitol tonight at 9:00 p.m. to another roar from the crowd.

12:05 p.m. - Mary Bottari reports on where to go from here now that the Senate Democrats have walked out. According to Article 8, Section 8 of the Wisconsin Constitution, in order to pass an appropriations bill 3/5 of the body must be present. Senate Republicans have 19 members, and would need one more person to pass the bill. But for now, all Senate Democrats have walked off the floor.

Firefighters from across the state show their colors and their bagpipes!12:15 p.m. - FIREFIGHTERS LEAD NOON RALLY

Mary Bottari reports that today's noon rally was lead by a throng of firefighters. Firefighters were exempt from the budget bill's provisions gutting collective bargaining.

A speaker from the stage explained why they were there today: "We are here for three reasons. First, when firefighters see an emergency, we respond. Second, if we see a party, we gotta be a part of it. Third, we are part of a union and we stand with our union brothers and sisters."

Joe Conway, President of Madison Firefighters added: "Scott Walker tried to split us up, separate the firefighters and the police from the rest of the workers, but that's not going to work. If our actions today mean that we will become part of this bill, so be it."

No more room12:00 p.m. - PACKED TO THE RAFTERS

Mary Bottari reports from another massive rally at the Wisconsin capitol at noon. Inside the building the four-story capitol was packed to the rafters, chants echoing off the gilded capitol domes. Outside thousands kept up a constant march around the capitol on a continuous basis. At noon many thousands more gathered to hear speakers on the King Street steps. The mix of activities make it hard to estimate how may people are really in attendance. But clearly as many as yesterday's crowd estimate to be around 30,000.

11:45 a.m. - Steve Horn reports that Iron Workers Local 383 just took center stage of the rotunda.

11:41 a.m. - Mary Bottari reports that thousands of workers jam the house of the Capitol today. Their chants echo up to the top chambers of the building as the Senate debate begins. It is difficult to hear the proceedings over the roar of the crowd of about 5,000 people inside the building and many more outside. It looks like Senate Democrats have stood up and walked out en masse as the crowd cheers.

Story time for the under-6 crowd11:32 a.m. - Steve Horn says that the United Council reports that 6,000 students are walking out on 12 campuses.

11:27 a.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that within the sweltering rotunda there are makeshift preschools where the under-6 crowd reads picture books amidst the chanting and marching.

11:25 a.m. - Steve Horn reports that Democratic State Senators have left the Capitol. This is great news because the Senate will not be able to vote because they will not have quorum. Steve urges protesters to stay in the Capitol.

11:20 a.m. - Steve Horn reports that the rotunda is packed with no room to move. A drum circle beats loudly from the center of the Capitol rotunda. He estimates thousands are present both inside and outside of the Capitol.

11:15 a.m. - WISCONSIN: FACE-OFF OVER LABOR

David Johnson reports:

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has launched an all-out attack on public-employee unions, proposing to take away the right to collective bargaining. He has threatened to use the National Guard to put down any action by state workers in response.

Read the full story here.

11:03 a.m. - Steve Horn reports that Cops For Labor have entered the Capitol rotunda. Donuts and hot dogs are being distributed to those who are present. Steve estimates that 4,000 people are present.

11:02 a.m. - Erica Pelzek reports on some clever signage from the rally: "I too am a college dropout, can I be Governor?" and "Walker is not a Badger, he's a weasel!"

Thousands in the rotunda11:00 a.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that the Capitol rotunda is extremely loud and the protesters cheer raucously every time a new union or group of protesters shows up. Iron Workers Local 383 march around the second floor East lobby to impassioned chanting. Their signs read: "United we bargain, divided we beg."

10:55 a.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that there are at least three Teamster Unions present at the rally. Local 494 IBEW is present. Larry from 494 IBEW says "Walker is trying to become like the President of the Republicans. He's just trying to bust all the unions and set a precedent across the country. Now they're trying to bust unions in Tennessee, in Ohio."

10:50 a.m. - Steve Horn reports that over 2000 students showed up to march from the Library Mall to the Capitol. More instructors are gathering now in Library Mall as well.

10:45 a.m. - Mary Bottari reports that the governor calls for a budget vote that would gut the collective bargaining rights of public workers, rights they have had for 50 years in Wisconsin. That union with the funny name, AFSCME, was founded in Wisconsin in 1932. Schools across the state are shut down today. Madison schools are entering their second day of the walk-out. Superbowl champions and ground zero for the war on the working class.

10:40 a.m. - Steve Horn sends his photos from the midst of the State Street march.

UW students, staff and faculty march down State St.

Neenah loves Mike Ellis

10:35 a.m. - Mary Bottari reports that one protester sat near a snow bank, waiting for a little help from Egypt.

10:30 a.m. - Steve Horn reports that thousands of students, professors, and staff from University of Wisconsin Madison are marching down State Street headed for the Capitol now.

Bust of "Fighting Bob" La Follette10:15 a.m. - FIGHTING BOB GETS AN APPLE FOR GOOD BEHAVIOR

Mary Bottari reports that inside the capitol building last night, teachers gave Fighting Bob LaFollette an apple for his support and good behavior. Robert Marion La Follette, Sr. was a leader of the Progressive Movement in Wisconsin in the early part of the 20th century. He served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was the Governor of Wisconsin, and was also a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin (1906 to 1925). He ran for President of the United States as the nominee of his own Progressive Party in 1924, carrying Wisconsin and 17% of the national popular vote.

10:00 a.m. - Steve Horn reports that hundreds of students are already lined up for the march and rally to the Capitol.

9:45 a.m. - Steve Horn reports that the University of Wisconsin Madison history department professors are joining their students in the march to the Capitol to take place at 10:30 a.m. today, Thursday, February 17.

A protester waits on a snowbank for help from Egypt.9:30 a.m. - WISCONSIN GOVERNOR WALKS ON WORKERS

Brendan Fischer reports:

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is trying to end collective bargaining rights for public employees in Wisconsin, and thousands have converged on the state capitol in protest of what many consider a radical and blatantly political move. Walker's plan threatens the rights of all Wisconsin workers, and if it prevails in this state, could threaten the rights of working people across the nation. It would also reverse the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and all those who have fought for economic justice through the power of organizing.

Although federal collective bargaining laws protect private sector employees, Wisconsin has been a leader in extending those rights to the public sector. The American Federation of State, City and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) formed in 1932 in Madison, Wisconsin. The "dairy state" was the first to pass collective bargaining rights for local government workers and teachers in 1959. The push for public sector unionization extended through the sixties.

Read the full report here.

9:15 a.m. - Steve Horn will be live-tweeting from the inside. Follow his updates: @Steve_Horn1022

9:00 a.m. - THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 17 NEWS ROUNDUP

7:30 a.m. - AFSCME says there will be lobbying in the capitol starting at 10:00 a.m. today, Thursday, February 17, and a rally at 12:00 noon, with continued lobbying afterwards. A Senate vote today may come as early as 10:00 a.m. It is anticipated there will be another teacher's rally at 5:00 p.m. tonight, Thursday, February 17. A summary of the bill and other lobby materials resources can be found at: AFSCME.

7:00 a.m. - CAMPING AT THE CAPITOL

Steve Horn reports that the Joint Finance Committee voted the bill out of committee last night 12-4. Activists in the Capitol were anxious to keep the testimony going on the bill all night long and they succeeded in the goal. Many people who wanted to testify camped out in the Capitol with sleeping bags and snacks. The majority of the activists were teachers assistants at University of Wisconsin whose pay is on the line. About 200 spent the night, and report that there were no problems with state Capitol police.


Wisconsin Protests photo gallery

Live report

Bill Moyers presents "United States of ALEC," a report on the most influential corporate-funded political force most of America has never heard of -- ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.