Share & Connect
Tens of thousands gathered around the Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin on Saturday, March 10 to mark the one year anniversary of Governor Scott Walker’s legislation stripping the collective bargaining rights from most of Wisconsin’s public workers. Chants of “This Is What Democracy Looks Like!” filled the air once again.
The event’s organizers estimate the attendance around 60-65,000 people but the state Department of Administration estimated 25-35,000. Many of those in attendance were public employees who were stripped of those collective bargaining rights. The state chapter of the AFL-CIO organized the event and its president Phil Neuenfeldt called on the protestors to increase their efforts to remove Walker from office.
Walker helped push the law through that stripped most public workers of collective bargaining rights. This law forced the employees to pay more for their benefits and pensions and was essentially a pay cut. Walker and the Republicans said this was necessary to balance a $3.6 billion budget deficit.
The Democrats and labor leaders argued that the purpose of the law was to undermine the unions. The unions are an important part of the Democrats’ constituency. At the time the bill was proposed the Democrats fled to Illinois to stall the vote but the Republican-majority within Legislature maneuvered around this and Walker signed it into law in March 2011.
Moves were made immediately to recall Walker and several Republican senators. In January more than a million petition signatures were submitted to begin the process of recalling Walker, Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and four senators.
Now a year later the gathering at the Capitol shows the recall movement still has momentum. Lori Compas provided proof of the continued momentum when she held up a memo from the Government Accountability Board. The memo declared the validity of a recall against Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald that Compas organized. At this time she is the only declared candidate in the race against Fitzgerald.
John Nichols, writer and Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine reminded the crowd that during the March 2011 rallies Japan was suffering from the tsunami and nuclear disaster. Nichols spoke of how the rally last year closed with a prayer for the people of Japan because “we never lose sight for the rest of the world.”
He then read an email from Japan’s Trade Union Federation that demonstrated the rest of the world hadn’t lost sight of Wisconsin either. The email said, “We send our greetings to the Reclaim Wisconsin rally. We are watching you…we are following what you are doing because you are giving us the courage to rise up here in Japan and stand for worker’s rights.” Live streaming of the event made it possible for all to see.
Image Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/rahimageworks/