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Wisconsin Protests, Monday, February 21, 2011
TOM MORELLO IN MADISON, THE NIGHTWATCHMAN AND LEAD GUITARIST, RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
MOVE ON CALLS OUT GOVERNOR WALKER
Move On, the Internet activist group, came to the aid of Wisconsin today, calling Walker out for saying he had received "19,000" emails in support of his proposal to end collective bargaining when some 200,000 people had taken to the streets this past week. Move On sent an alert to its Wisconsin members asking them to send an email to Walker letting him know how they feel, stay tuned for the count. Excerpt from the Move On alert:
Dear Wisconsin MoveOn member,
Over 70,000 teachers, students, nurses, firefighters, and more turned out in Madison this weekend to protest Governor Walker's attempt to pass a radical, union-busting budget bill and cut vital public services. But Gov. Walker continues to insist he's got a "quiet majority" of support, saying he's getting more emails that approve of his plan than oppose it.
We've got to make sure the intense opposition to his plan is heard not just in the streets, but online as well. So we're collecting messages from people across Wisconsin that Madison MoveOn members will deliver to Gov. Walker later this week. Can you send Gov. Walker an online message right away? Let him know you oppose his attempt to use the budget crisis to curb the rights of workers and gut critical public services.
Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy talks about Wisconsin's fight against the Banksters on GritTV with Laura Flanders and Madison Rep. Marc Pocan:
11:15 p.m. - PIZZA DELIVERY
Mary Bottari reports that Ian's Pizza, located a few blocks away from the capitol, delivered another 50 pizzas to the WI capitol building. Ian's has received calls from all 50 states and 12 countries from people wanting to support the students and workers. Employees Marty and Lexy have delivered over 1,000 pizzas in recent days. In a five minute perfectly executed operation, they drop off, pick up the empties, and zoom out the door. A cart helps them make it through the slippery streets back to their truck.
Many empty pizza boxes have been turned into signs, such as this one which reads: "Mysteries of the Universe: Where was the Tea Party from 2000-2008, a time of unprecedented gov't expansion and deficit spending?"
10:00 p.m. - MAHLON MITCHELL BUNKING IN THE CAPITOL
Mary Bottari reports that Mahlon Mitchell, the president of the WI Professional Fire Fighter's Association, is getting ready to bunk in the state capitol building tonight. Mahlon was joined by about 50 firefighters on the first floor of the capitol building. Other Madison firefighters, bought their kid's pillows and teddy bears. Mom and Dad firefighters are present but no children though. Everyone is back to school tomorrow. The Rev. Jessie Jackson will join East High students as they march back to school tomorrow at 7:15 a.m. from the shopping center at the corner of First and E. Washington. If they are late, will Jackson get a tardy slip?
Sporting a fireman's helmet Fighting Bob LaFollette looks down upon the fire fighters surrounding him.
9:00 p.m. - Tom Morello, ("The Nightwatchman" best known as lead guitarist for Rage Against the Machine) stressed his union ties as he led the evening concert at Monona Terrace attended by nearly a thousand bill opponents of all ages and colors. Morello, member of a Los Angeles musicians union and the Industrial Workers of the World, and the son of a union schoolteacher, said he was inspired by Wisconsin and reminded protestors they "had their hands on the wheel of history." Prior to the beginning of the musical performances, President of the Wisconsin Firefighter's Union Mahlon Mitchell took the stage to say "the house of union is on fire and we are here to put it out!" While Gov. Walker exempted firefighters from the budget repair bill, they have marched on Madison in solidarity and will be sleeping inside the capitol this evening.
Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine and the Night Watchman interview with GRITtv's Laura Flanders
Illinois musician Ike Reilly played first, followed by Boston's Street Dogs, both of whom played one protest song, one drinking song, and one cover of a Bob Marley song. Next came Wayne Kramer, leader of the legendary Detroit band The MC5. An enthusiastic Morello then took the stage with a guitar and harmonica to sing a string of powerful protest songs, one of which, Maximum Firepower, he said was normally dedicated to Joe Strummer of The Clash, but that "Joe wouldn't mind if it were dedicated to all of you." (The mention of The Clash drew cheers from many of the younger members of the crowd, an impressive showing for a band that reached its peak 30 years ago). Following Morello's performance, all performers took the stage to perform The MC5's "Kick Out the Jams," the Street Dogs' played Billy Bragg's "Power in a Union, and all artists played Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," a song Morello said "was really a revolutionary, rebel song, but they edited out all those parts when we learned it at eight years old." The performers closed the evening with the uncensored version of Guthrie's song.
8:31 p.m. - WISCONSIN "BUDGET REPAIR BILL" PROTEST VIDEO:
7:10 p.m. - Head of state firefighters union at concert on Monona Terrace: "the house of union is on fire and we are here to put it out!" Firefighters marching to Capitol at 7:30 p.m. to spend the night.
7:05 p.m. - The budget adjustment bill will be revisited on the floor tomorrow at 11:00 a.m.
6:55 p.m. - TWO NEW REPORTS: KOCH BROTHERS UNION-BUSTING EFFORTS AND WISCONSIN'S UNION HISTORY
Anne Landman reports:
KOCHS BEHIND WISCONSIN UNION-BUSTING EFFORT
Rick Ungar of Forbes.com draws a direct line from the Koch Brothers to the effort to kill public unions in Wisconsin. The Center for Media and Democracy, Mother Jones and other news outlets have already reported that much of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's campaign financing came from the Koch Brothers. After successfully getting Walker elected, the plan to kill unions is next on the Kochs' To Do list. Koch-funded groups like Americans for Prosperity, the Reason Foundation and Competitive Enterprise Institute have all been openly hostile toward public sector unions. For those who still doubt that what is happening in Wisconsin is part of a coordinated, national attack on unions, on February 18, the executive director of the Wisconsin Public Workers Union sent a message to Governor Walker's office saying the union agreed to the cuts in pensions and benefits Walker seeks in his "budget repair" bill. The governor's response? No, not good enough. He is still holding out for nothing less than an end to collective bargaining rights for public unions. Why are the Koch brothers so keen on Wisconsin? They have major business interests in the state, including a coal company, six paper-related plants and a large pipeline network. Even worse for Wisconsin citizens, the Kochs have been laying off workers from their Wisconsin-based businesses even while deriving an extra $11 billion in income from their company, Koch Industries.
WISCONSIN, TRAILBLAZER FOR AMERICAN WORKERS' RIGHTS
It is both ironic and symbolic that Wisconsin's governor is the most visible one leading the way to dismantle workers' rights in the U.S. Wisconsin has been a pioneer in achieving workers's right in America, making Governor Scott Walker's efforts in this state particularly poignant.
In 1959, Wisconsin became the first state in the union to guarantee collective bargaining rights for public employees by enacting a law that protects municipal workers from being fired or otherwise discriminated against for engaging in union-related activities. That law was further strengthened in 1963 to give either the union or the employer the right to call in a "fact finder" to help resolve bargaining disputes. In 1965, Wisconsin's state employees won a limited right to bargain collectively, and those rights were further broadened over the next six years.
6:49 p.m. - WHO IS WRITING THE AP'S HEADLINES ON THE PROTEST - THE GOP?
Lisa Graves reports:
Madison, Wisconsin -- The Associated Press (AP) has been covering the Wisconsin protests this past week, in a way.
With the wave of cutbacks at papers across the nation, big and small circulation papers rely on the AP for wire stories that are re-published in local papers. It describes itself as "the largest newsgathering organization" in the world. With few national outlets having reporters located in Madison or Wisconsin, the AP is a dominant vehicle for sharing information about what is happening in the state with the rest of nation. The AP is also the dominant news feeder for Yahoo News, and Yahoo is now one of the top five most-trafficked websites in the world. So it matters whether the AP is fairly covering the news, in the headlines and in the bodies of its stories. (The Center for Media and Democracy is on record as a strong critic of corporate media, like the AP.)
6:45 p.m. - Read Brendan Fischer's new report: Yes, Wisconsin's Public Employees are Undercompensated
6:26 p.m. - Library Legislative Day, which was originally planned to take place on Tuesday February 22, has been postponed. Visit the Wisconsin Library Association for more information.
6:45 p.m. - GOVERNOR WALKER'S PRESS CONFERENCE
Erica Pelzek reports on Gov. Scott Walker's 5:00 p.m. press conference:
A FOX News reporter opened a segment Monday afternoon prior to a press conference with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker with the phrase, "Let's see if public opinion swings his way."
Emerging from the press conference, this reporter was greeted with rumbling yells of impassioned protesters outside the governor's office. "STEP DOWN, WALKER!" they shouted, banging drums to the beat of their political fervor.
It appears doubtful that Walker will regain much positive public opinion after the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill is voted on in the State Legislature, but that, perhaps, is not part of his agenda.
Further, during the press conference Walker failed to address collective bargaining rights compromises and said he had no intention of negotiating with public unions over the Budget Repair Bill.
The bill would drastically limit public unions' rights to collectively bargain for wages, hours and working conditions.
Reiterating that he has "great respect for the working people of Wisconsin" and that the protesters in the Capitol "have every right to be heard," Walker continued to spout off the talking points he has made at every press conference since last Tuesday, Feb. 15, when the protests began:
"We need to balance the budget."
"I'm ensuring that we move to balance the $3.6 billion deficits" in the Wisconsin state budget.
The Democratic State Senators have had their "time – Now it's time to come home. If you want to participate in democracy, you have got to be in the arena."
"I don't want to see layoffs. I was elected to get more people working."
And our favorite:
"We're broke. We don't have money to negotiate. You can't negotiate when you don't have any money to negotiate with."
Walker seemed unfazed by the intensity—and sheer numbers—of the Wisconsin protesters, and continued to give a convoluted answer as to why he exempted public safety officials from the Budget Repair Bill. There is a nearly universal need for public safety officers, he said, and he wants to make sure that all 132 members of the Senate have adequate protection.
Protection from what exactly? The 70,000 peaceful protesters that descended upon the Capitol Saturday afternoon?
With time left for only three questions from the press, Walker of course did not have time to address the favoritism toward firefighter and police unions who supported him in the election that seems inherent in the Budget Repair Bill. Nor did he have time to address any allegations that busting unions could be beneficial for Republican candidates come 2012, maintaining that this dispute is "about money," not over partisan politics. Consequently, he also could not respond to his vast amounts of funding from the Koch brothers,key Tea Party funders and anti-union group backers.
6:21 p.m. - Mary Bottari reports that she just walked past the FOX News tent where a couple hundred people were shouting "tell the truth" making it difficult for the reporter to file his story. Some ever polite Wisconsinites are a little uncomfortable.
More from The Huffington Post:
6:07 p.m. - The University Committee, the executive committee of the Faculty Senate, and 332 members of the University of Wisconsin Madison have issued an open letter to Scott Walker.
6:04 p.m. - Brendan Fischer reports that the nurses union is distributing cough drops to the crowd. Chanting inside and outside the Capitol is nonstop.
Egyptians show solidarity for Wisconsin's struggle. Read more here.
The Washington Post reports that Unions aren't to blame for Wisconsin's budget.
5:18 p.m. - Brendan Fischer reports that protesters are outside Scott Walker's office chanting "Scott Walker has got to go!" and distributing flyers with a list of Walker's campaign contributors.
5:11 p.m. - Steve Horn reports that worker solidarity rallies are being planned across the nation. Check to see if a rally has been planned for your area!
4:45 p.m. - Steve horn reports that a member of the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin Madison, Tom Loftus, wrote a scathing polemic today calling out Biddy Martin for her secret, under the table maneuvering in handing away the University of Wisconsin-Madison in smoke-filled backrooms. Read more from The Capital Times.
4:34 p.m. - REVEREND JACKSON WILL MARCH WITH MADISON EAST HIGH STUDENTS
Mary Bottari reports:
On Tuesday, February 22, Reverend Jesse Jackson will rendezvous with Madison East High School students at the shopping center on the corner of First Street and East Washington Avenue so they can march back in to school. Madison East High School students have been major participants in these rallies. They were among the first to walk out to join and stand up in support of their teachers. Students are psyched that they get to head back to school with Reverend Jackson. Later in the morning Reverend Jackson will be at Shabazz High School to visit with students.
Tom Morello at the Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, on January 21, 2011
3:56 p.m. - Steve Horn reports that a concerned working-class friend whose parents are both teachers says "Unions: just terrible. The vehicle that can actually provide the hardworking man/woman a wage that might be able to put food on the table so their kids don't starve to death. What a terrible thing."
Don, a state worker at the Department of Commerce which may be privatized by Gov. Scott Walker, held a sign about the Koch Brothers. CMD has been reporting on the role of the Koch Brother organizations in the protest.
"I heard about the Koch Brothers and I started looking into it more this weekend so I could make the sign, and I got more and more scared. That Palm Springs get together really made me nervous. These people are out to buy our government. People need to know about it, and the scariest part is that their dad was one of the founders of the John Birch Society," explained Don.
1:30 p.m. - TOM MORELLO AT MONDAY'S NOON RALLY
Erica Pelzek reports:
Despite the slickly iced-over snow and Capitol steps, ralliers climbed onto the Capitol lawn Monday afternoon, slipping and sliding to see Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and other notable pro-union ralliers speak. Hats were donned and the thud-thud of yellow leather work gloves sounded across the lawn. Children even sledded down the Capitol lawn's hill on their bright green "It's About Freedom" AFSCME signs.
As Morello took the stage, he explained his motivations for coming to Wisconsin to show he is in solidarity with unions across the country.
"This is very personal for me, because my mother was a high school teacher," he said. "And we always had enough food on our table and clothes on our back because she was a union teacher."
The crowd, now filling up the expanse of the Mifflin and State corner's Capitol lawn, all the stairs and the inner Square, cheered loudly.
Morello noted that this was a historical day for Wisconsites and for union workers across the country, and that this story "will not be told by FOX news!"
Signs reading, "Scott Walker is Koch Head," "I Wish I Had A Union," "Scott Walker Only Cares About Corporate Interests and Tea" dotted the crowded landscape, swaying to Morello's songs, along with others: "FOX News Will Lie About This," FOX is Having a Tea Party Right Now," and "Media Spins For Money! Ignore Pro-Walkerisms."
Playing several songs, including "Guerilla Radio," Morello further rallied the audience by reading a letter from Tahir Square, in downtown Cairo, Egypt.
"Justice is beautiful but justice is never free. Hold on tightly and don't let go," the letter advised Wisconsinites. "Breathe deep, Wisconsin, because justice is in the air. May the spirit of Tahir Square be in the hearts of everyone in Madison."
Singing "This Land is Your Land," Morello encouraged the crowd to shout the last verse and jump up and down on the slicked-over snow.
He concluded, "Never give up, and never give in. Take it easy—but take it!"
In response, the crowd expressed its appreciation with chants of "Thank you, thank you, thank you" and "Kill the bill!"
Linda Wells, a recently retired Madison teacher held the sign reading "FOX News Will Lie About This."
"I think Fox news is giving a biased, one-sided account of this. I think they're anti-union. And I think Fair and Balanced is a joke," she said. "They pander to people who don't know how to engage in rational thought."
Her friend, Angele Walcott, another Madison teacher, chimed in, expressing disgust over how "Glenn Beck compared this to the workers in the Middle East. It's just hysterical, ranting insanity."
The two Madison teachers cheered as AFL-CIO Vice President Leo Girard took the stage, calling union-busting, wealthy officials "Gucci shoe-wearing, pick-pocketing, Lexus-driving" do-no-gooders.
The kids continued to sled down the iced-over hill, tumbling and laughing as their parents clapped and chanted.
1:00 p.m. - Mary Bottari reports on the 12:00 noon rally:
WTDY radio talk show host John "Sly" Sylvester to to the stage. "I was born 50 years ago to a school teacher and a government workers and I couldn't be more proud of my state today," said Sly. "This Governor grew up and became an Eagle Scout in Delevan. Scott, you can't earn a merit badge for busting unions. Walker has lined up with the very same people who shipped the jobs out of Manitowoc, the very same people who shipped the jobs out of Milwaukee and Janesville. These people are literally stealing everything we have in this state and they want to blame you?!"
LEO GERARD ON THE BANKSTERS
Sylvester introduced Leo Gerard, the President of the 700,000 strong United Steelworkers of America, who was greeted by a roar of the crowd. "We are here to tell the Governor, the billionaires and the Koch Brothers, that they can't divide the private sector from the public sector! This is not about spending, this is about revenue. 53,000 factories have closed since the Bush years, we have 27 million unemployed and underemployed. That mess was not caused by workers, but by corporate thugs on Wall Street. So let's put those Gucci shoe-wearing, latte drinking, Lexus drivers in jail!!"
Gerard went on to explain that "the top 20 hedge fund managers made on average $870 million each and they are taxed at a rate of 15%. That money would pay for 25 police, 25 firefighters, 50 teachers in all 3,000 counties in America. Shame on them!!"
12:56 p.m. - DAVID FARIN FROM APPLETON, WISCONSIN, SHARES HIS EXPERIENCE FROM SATURDAY'S RALLY IN MADISON:
As we arrived at the East Towne Mall to catch an AFSME union sponsored shuttle bus to Capital Square, we realized we would miss most of the morning speakers due to the lines waiting for the buses. Instead, we drove to within a mile of the prominent Capital Building which is in clear view along all major streets leading to Madison's isthmus and parked our car near Breese Stevens Stadium, then walked in our Bucky Badger red jackets the rest of the way, joining many others streaming toward what is now called "Ground Zero" of worker's rights rallies in the US. Upon arrival, we joined the crowd that had gathered on the State Street Mall side of the building and were handed a Wisconsin Educator's sign, then we found a space on the frozen lawn where speaker's messages could be understood. Even though we couldn't see them as they spoke, we joined in the crowds' responses to their messages. Based upon their initially tentative response to the chants, it appeared that many of those in attendance hadn't been there before Saturday. Over time, we warmed up to it, and joined in enthusiastically. Some protesters were dressed in costumes, t-shirts with slogans, and represented teacher's groups that had forced cancellations in their school districts.
Near the end of the speaker's slate, we heard drumming on the street behind us. It made me a bit nervous because it wasn't announced. But then we joined the parade of state workers, their families, and their friends in a march around the square that basically filled the entire road with chanting, drum beating, dancing, and sign wielding protesters. My wife posted pictures of some of the funniest and most insightful signs and the people carrying them onto her Facebook. We saw the Tea Party rally taking place on the opposite side of the Square during the march. We sang songs and cheered the plane flying overhead with "Support working families" slogan trailing behind. We stopped when we completed a circle and walked to a local restaurant on State Street and ate sandwiches as people from both the Tea Party and our union protesters walked by our window table, still holding up their signs. When we walked back to the square, the parade was still going strong, and the crowd had grown even though the next speakers were scheduled 2 hours later. Estimates of the crowd size were reported at 60,000 people, and having exited Lambeau Field following a Packer Game, I would guess that estimate to be about right. My wife and I drove back home to share the story of our experience.
I felt some hope following this day, even though I'm not sure the protests alone will cause a change in Walker's strategy. I'm not sure that educators, fellow government workers, and members of the private sector will do what it takes to challenge the influence of the big money offered to our politicians by the Murdochs and Kochs of the world. I think that would take educating the public. And we would need to organize a coordinated departure from our schools, colleges, and universities, walk away from our snow plows, sewage plants, hospitals, police stations, and fire houses, and picket the businesses where owners benefit from policies proposed by the politicians like Walker who they have supported. We know what all of that would mean for our state in the short term, but it has to be better than what these policies mean in the long term. If this movement were to shut everything down, I think that the National Guard isn't big enough to run everything in the state of Wisconsin. Otherwise, Governor Walker can stick to message and wait out our Democratic Senators who have given us the time to figure this out.
12:34 p.m. Mary Bottari reports that Mahlon Mitchell, head of the Madison Firefighters, has announced the Madison firefighters will be sleeping in the Capitol tonight. He said "I can guarantee you that when we have a slumber party, we have a slumber party."
12:29 p.m. - Click here for a compilation of the 100 best protest signs from the rallies.
SCOTT FAVAL INTERVIEWS JOHN SWEENEY, PRESIDENT EMERITUS OF AFL-CIO ON FEBRUARY 18, 2011:
12:22 p.m. - From Republican News Source: Capitol Chaos: Could Union Bill be Passed Separately Tuesday?
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says his chamber of the Wisconsin legislature will convene to pass non-spending bills and act on appointments on Tuesday even if minority Democrats remain out of state in an effort to block a vote on Governor Scott Walker's budget repair bill. Could one of those bills be the union aspect of the budget bill, voted separately? Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach told The Associated Press on Monday that Republicans could attempt to attach the part of the proposal taking away collective bargaining rights to an unrelated bill and pass it Tuesday.
STREET DOGS "UP THE UNION" AT RALLY FOR YOUR RIGHTS IN MADISON, WISCONSIN 2/21/2011
12:19 p.m. - Watch this live stream of protest events and interviews from Minnesota Capitol News.
12:05 p.m. - The Grassroots Leadership College is holding nonviolence trainings every hour from 2:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Overture Center rotunda stage. Visit Grassroots Leadership College for more information.
12:03 p.m. - Brendan Fischer has published a new report on the post-Citizens United election impact of union suppression.
TOM MORELLO SURPRISES FANS IN THE CAPITOL
In the early hours of the morning on Monday February 21, Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) came for a surprise visit to commend protesters who slept in the Capitol building.
Morello sought out the Zaman family, who spent their sixth night in a row at the Capitol last night, after learning that fifth grader Isaac Zaman is a fan of his music. Isaac got a special treat when Morello found the Zamans inside and spent some time talking and sharing stories about the protests.
When Isaac and his mother Katie thanked Morello for coming, he said "No, thank you. You guys are kicking ass."
Zaman said that with Morello's appearance came an increased presence of law enforcement, who have been pleasant and cooperative.
"An officer personally thanked me as we left this morning," she said. "My faith in humanity is returning!"
Morello is scheduled to perform at 5:00 p.m. this evening, Monday, February 21.
LEADER OF WISCONSIN LAW ENFORCEMENT ASSOCIATION 'REGRETS' ENDORSING WALKER
Channel3000 Reports: The executive board president of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association has issued a statement on the organization's website expressing regret for the endorsement of Gov. Scott Walker in the governor's race.
11:45 a.m. - Lisa Graves reports that scores of AFSCME workers in green t-shirts march up state street to the Capitol chanting and carrying signs that say "It's about Freedom."
11:42 a.m. - Steve Horn reports that Manitowoc firefighters are staying with Madison protesters tonight.
11:41 a.m. - AIDE SAYS WI SENATORS IN CHICAGO HAVE NO DEFINITE RETURN DATE
Erica Pelzek reports that a Wisconsin state senator's aide, who wished to remain anonymous, informed PRWatch.org this morning that several Wisconsin senators are indeed in the Chicago area, with no definite return date to Wisconsin. He commented on the mandatory attendance-taking state workers were subjected to last week while many of other public sector employees were protesting at the state Capitol.
"I heard the DNR was doing that. That seems absurd to me," he said. "Why would you require state employees to sign in like they're in high school study hall? Most likely this is an effort to prevent those employees from protesting, which seems like more stripping of workers' rights. You can't protest the possibility of your union and benefits being taken away without worrying about losing your job in the first place? It's a vicious feedback loop."
RALLY FOR WISCONSIN WORKERS - TOM MORELLO "UNION SONG" MADISON WI
11:38 a.m. - Steve Horn reports that DefendWisconsin is being blocked on the Capitol's wireless networks.
11:34 a.m. - Mary Bottari reports that Leo Gerard from the U.S. Steelworkers will be coming to the 12:00 noon rally today.
11:30 a.m. - Lisa Graves reports that hundreds of Wisconsin teachers arrive from Milwaukee and begin to circle the Capitol chanting "we won't back down."
11:00 a.m. - Lisa Graves reports that dozens of workers in hard hats march into the Capitol rotunda in support of the protest.
10:30 a.m. - Steve Horn reports that students are continuing to organize. Tomorrow, February 22, students, faculty and professors will walk-out from the University of Wisconsin Madison at 11:00 a.m. There will also be a study-in from 8:00 - 11:00 p.m. at the Capitol tomorrow evening.
10:00 a.m. - WISCONSIN WAVE
From Lisa Graves: The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) joins the Liberty Tree Foundation and local leaders in announcing the formation of the Wisconsin WAVE, an effort to help organize a long-term campaign to support local democratic resistance to austerity measures being forced on working people by state and local governments.
Joe Conway, IAFF, President, Fire Fighters Local 311, a leader from the firefighters union, noted that they are carved out of the Walker's bill on paper only. He said that they stand united with their fellow citizens and fellow union members against efforts to kill collective bargaining rights. He said they know their rights will be next if they do not stand up for others. And, he said that the firefighters and other unions are willing to negotiate about cuts but not about having no rights to organize as workers.
Mike Lipp, President, Madison Teachers, Inc. (MTI), the leader of the local teachers union, spoke about walking out with students from East High School in Madison last week and teaching students about democracy and the right of citizens to speak out. He noted that the school year will still end on time and students will graduate on time, as days out due to the protests can be made-up like snow days are here in Wisconsin. He also said that the union-negotiated contracts protest academic freedom so that teachers are not fired for exercising their First Amendment rights.
Two leaders from Freedom Inc., including Kabzuag Vaj, the Executive Director of Freedom, Inc., and Monica Adams spoke about people in poverty, who have lost their jobs and depend on the government to help ensure that they can get life-saving medical treatment, through Wisconsin's "Badger Care" program stand united against this bill.
Kevin Gibbons, Co-president, Teaching Assistants Association, one of the leaders of the University of Wisconsin's teaching assistant union, noted that they will be in the Capitol protesting until the bill is killed.
One of the elected student leaders from the University of Wisconsin, Beth Huang, Student Labor Action Coalition, talked about how students are supporting the unions by walking out of classes to stand up against the governor's refusal to negotiate and discuss solutions. She also told her personal story of how her family came to Wisconsin because of the opportunities in the state and the support for the rights of people here.
And, CMD spoke about how the effort to destroy union rights in Wisconsin are part of a national effort to do so by right-wing politicians whose elections were financed in part by the Koch billionaires, other CEOs and some of the richest corporations in the U.S. I noted that the mainstream media was covering the protests poorly, compared with their coverage of the Egyptian protests, and that FOX appeared to be Walker's main media outlet (FOX was taping the press conference). I noted how much coverage they gave to a couple thousand protestors bussed in on Saturday and organized by Americans for Prosperity, another group funded by the Kochs, compared with tens of thousands of protestors against the bill. I noted that Scott Walker's response to this historic citizen dissent is to quote Nixon's "silent majority," and that he did not run on the claim of being Nixon part II. And, I noted that the national GOP leaders and a few corporate Dems were all over the Sunday shows and other outlets repeating right-wing talking points because they want to kill public unions in the birthplace of them in Wisconsin in order to crush unions nationwide. I called Walker's actions "dictatorial," noting he did not have an electoral mandate to destroy the right to collectively bargain and that workers either have the right to organize and bargain or to beg--it's "bargain or beg" for job.
8:00 a.m. - Mary Bottari: A video of a simple $32 solution to the budget crisis in Wisconsin.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2011 NEWS ROUNDUP
UNION WORKERS PLAN TO RALLY AT IOWA'S CAPITOL: Wisconsin State Journal, Feb. 20 - Union workers in Iowa will rally this coming week to show support for Wisconsin workers protesting their governor's proposal to eliminate collective bargaining rights.
MADISON SCHOOL DISTRICT CLOSURE: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Feb. 19 - The Madison School District went to court on Friday to force its teachers back to work, but Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi refused to issue an order to end the work stoppage. The parties are due back in court Monday morning.
FRIDAY REFINANCING DEADLINE APPROACHES: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports - As protests at the state Capitol entered their second week, Republicans and Democrats on Sunday were holding possible bargaining chips in their efforts to end the political standoff that has held up action on Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill. Besides the union bargaining provisions, the bill includes many other elements, including a refinancing of state debt that Walker wants to shore up the state's finances through the fiscal year that ends June 30. That would push back $165 million in principal payments on the bonds into future years and free up money that could be used to help the state pay two large outstanding bills - one owed to the state of Minnesota and another owed to a fund for medical malpractice victims. The Legislature's nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said Walker's bill, as amended by Republicans on the Legislature's budget committee last week, would leave the state with just $65 million in reserves. So without the money from the refinancing, the state would have a further projected shortfall of roughly $100 million to make up.
To allow time for that refinancing deal to go through, the bill must pass by Friday, according to a memo earlier this month by state Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch. More recently, Huebsch said it may be possible to pull off the bond deal if the bill passes by Saturday, but no later than that. "If we can't pass this by then, we lose our window for refinancing in this (fiscal year)," he said. If a deal can't be done, employee layoffs and cuts to Medicaid, the health care program for the poor, elderly and disabled, may be necessary, he said.
RECALLS IN THE WORKS: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Wisconsin Democrats and labor leaders are plotting recall elections for several Republican senators as soon as lawmakers push through Gov. Scott Walker's budget plan to curb collective bargaining rights and require public employees to chip in part of their salary toward their health care and pension costs. "Those are options people are looking at," said Marty Beil, director of the largest state employees union. Even more emphatic was Rich Abelson, executive director of AFSCME Council 48, which represents county and city employees in the Milwaukee area. "This is not a Plan B," Abelson said Friday night. "This is going forward irrespective of how the vote turns out. Oh, yeah, we are going to make a full-court press." Among the targets, Sen. Alberta Darling, a River Hills republican.
LABORATORY OF DEMOCRACY: Madison Capital Times editorial: "Two Madison-based groups, Liberty Tree and the Center for Media and Democracy, both of which I've supported over the years, have proposed a "Wisconsin Wave" of democratic resistance to attempts to balance budgets on the backs of working people.
"To the giant corporate interests that currently dominate our state, we say that we will not stand by and watch you destroy Wisconsin's democracy, Wisconsin's economy, Wisconsin's schools, and Wisconsin's communities. We will not pay for your crisis. We will organize. We will march. We will nonviolently resist your policies and overcome your agenda," reads the call, which can be found online at wisconsinwave.org. We'll publish the whole call in Wednesday's Capital Times, just as we'll continue to cover the story of the democratic struggle to defend our public services and public schools, and the people who make them great."
GROWING CONCERN ABOUT OTHER ASPECTS OF THE WALKER BILL: The Capital Times reports that Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill proposes sweeping changes to the state's Medicaid programs, changes that could affect many of the 1.2 million state residents enrolled in public health programs like BadgerCare, Family Care, and SeniorCare. The provisions would allow the administration to revamp and even gut the programs without following state laws or the normal legislative processes.