Angered at their betrayal, thousands of Wisconsin union workers and their supporters continued their fight against a a law stripping public workers of collective barganining rights. Rallies and demonstrations took place all over the state on Thursday. High school students in Madison, the state’s capital, have called for a student walk out Friday to support their teachers who are among those who will no longer be able bargain collectively. Unions amplified efforts to recall Republican senators who voted for the bill. The leader of the Madison teachers’ union said that work is underway to take legal action to halt enforcement of law.
On Thursday, the day after the Wisconsin Senate voted to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights, 7,000 people rallied in Madison chanting “We will never give up.” Some of the protestors took the rally inside the state Capitol where they continued chanting and beating on drums.
The demonstration delayed the General Assembly from voting on the union busting measure. Doors to the Assembly and its gallery were locked to keep demonstrators outside. Eventually police were called in to clear the building, and they arrested about 50 demonstrators who refused to leave. Rallies and demonstrations against the bill were held in 12 other Wisconsin cities on Thursday.
The General Assembly passed the measure on Thursday and Gov Walker signed it into law on Friday.
To protest the new law, high school students in Madison said that they would walk out of class at 2:00 PM Friday and hold a teach-in at the library mall in downtown Madison. “We are asking all students in the United States to walk out at 2:00 PM local time in solidarity with Wisconsin and to organize teach-ins on the attacks on public education and working families where you live,” read the announcement of the walk out on the Facebook page of Wisconsin Students in Solidarity.
The Wisconsin Farmers Union and Family Farm Defenders on Saturday will hold a tractorcade ending up at the Capitol. The event will protest Gov Scott Walker’s proposed budget cuts that the union says will cause local property taxes to increase and take away BadgerCare health insurance from many who could not otherwise afford health care coverage. The tractorcade will also support collective bargaining rights for public employees.
In addition to the tractorcade, there will be another demonstration on Saturday in Madison that unions are urging members to attend. Bus schedules have been posted for those coming in from out-of-town.
Unions and their supporters also stepped up efforts to recall eight of the Republican senators who voted for the anti-worker bill and are subject to a recall petition. SEIU, AFT, and AFSCME are organizing members to canvass the Senate districts with recall petitions. Local demonstrations and rallies in Senate districts are planned throughout the rest of the month.
On Thursday after the Senate passed the measure, General Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, and Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz filed complaints charging that open meeting laws were violated when the Senate committee that adopted the measure held a hearing without giving proper notice.
John Matthews, executive director of the Madison teachers’ union, told members after the Senate vote on Wednesday that they should show up for work on Thursday, but promised them that the Senate’s “improper and illegal action will be challenged in court.”
“The struggle is not over,” the Wisconsin AFL-CIO said. “Working people are mobilizing and working on recall efforts to change the Wisconsin state Senate, and are exploring legal challenges to the manner in which (Wednesday’s) vote was conducted.”