Wisconsin public employees, whose rally cry has become “fight like an Egyptian” continued their second day of protest against Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to impose $300 million worth of benefit cuts on public workers and break their unions. Today, 40 percent of public school teachers in Madison called in sick so they could attend today’s demonstrations causing the district’s superintendent to close schools for the day.
Yesterday, more than 10,000 public workers and their supporters rallied at the state Capitol. After the rally, thousands of public workers swarmed into the state Capitol to talk face-to-face with their lawmakers. Workers packed a hearing room where legislators were hearing testimony about Gov Walker’s bill. Public workers, one after another, testified about its impact on their lives until 3:00 am when Republicans called a halt to the testimony.
Democrats on the committee hearing the testimony, however, remained in the room to listen to speakers who continued to speak until 8:00 am Wednesday morning. The Democratic lawmakers adjourned briefly but said that they would resume hearing testimony at 9:00 am.
Wednesday morning, workers gathered outside of Walker’s office chanting calls for his impeachment. Buses also began arriving early in the morning with public employees who live outside of Madison, the state’s capital, for another round of rallies and direct talk to lawmakers.
While spirits remain high, the workers are fighting an uphill battle. Several sources have told reporters that Walker has enough votes to pass his benefit cuts and union busting bill. But the Associated Press reports that after the demonstrations on Tuesday, several Republican lawmakers were meeting to discuss the bill. When asked by an AP reporter where Republicans stood on the measure, Sen Dan Kapanke, a Republican from LaCrosse said, “I don’t know.”
The two days of rallies, sick outs, and protests have been the largest and most sustained public action in Madison in decades.
If the bill does pass, it’s not likely that the fight will be over. Last night a group union activists in the Madison area met and made plans to continue the fight. The Pierce County Herald reported that at the meeting Madison attorney Lester Pines told the labor activists that true bargaining power results from people “coming together and organizing,” and it does not come from any laws. Baptist pastor Scott Erlenborn said activists must build on the union solidarity being shown by the thousands protesting Walker’s plans. He called it quote, “political theater” and said it should keep going as long as possible.