A year ago, Wisconsin’s newly-elected state legislature pushed through a bill that struck a blow against the right of workers to bargain. The so-called “budget repair” bill, a project of Gov. Scott Walker, inspired tens of thousands of people to go to Madison to say “no” to this attack.
If this weekend is any indication, Wisconsinites are still energetic and enthusiastic about fighting Walker’s attacks on public employees’ rights. Tens of thousands of people assembled outside the capitol building in Madison to mark the anniversary of the bill and to say that the assault on the rights of teachers and other public employees is unacceptable.
The crowds in Madison prove that what began in Wisconsin last year is still going strong. Wisconsinites aren’t falling for Walker’s attempt to divide working people, to shift blame and to remake Wisconsin in the image of his big-money donors. Across the state, people understand that when any worker’s rights are under attack, the rights of all working people are threatened.
(In addition to this weekend’s protest, Wisconsin is also taking the fight directly to elected officials. Four state Senators who voted for the anti-worker bill are headed for recall elections this spring, as are Walker and his Lieutenant Governor.)
Writing in The Nation, Wisconsin’s own John Nichols says the continued engagement of Wisconsin’s working people is unprecedented.
The resilience of the Wisconsin movement has few precedents in recent American labor history…
What Walker started was an assault on more than fifty years of commitment by Wisconsin leaders, Democrats and Republicans, to protect the rights of workers and their unions.
On Saturday, as tens of thousands of Wisconsinites marched in remembrance of the uprising against Walker’s agenda, there was much talk about the upcoming recall election—and that was important.
But it was equally important that the issue focus remained on renewing the state’s collective bargaining law. There was a recognition that the Wisconsin fight has never been, and can never be, about partisan politics alone. Not when basic rights are at stake.
Collective bargaining is a part of Wisconsin history, an example of this state’s “forward” progressive values.
We heartily agree.