The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a law passed in March that bans collective bargaining for most of Wisconsin’s public employees. As the Supreme Court was handing down its decision, thousands of protestors gathered in Madison, Wisconsin’s state capital, to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget that contains billions of dollars of cuts to higher education, health care, and public education.
Those in the crowd jeered when they heard news of the Supreme Court’s decision. After the decision, union leaders filed suit in federal court contending that the law is unconstitutional because it strips workers of the right to free association.
Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO called the state Supreme Court’s ruling “an affront to our democracy.” Neuenfeldt also condemned the way that Gov. Walker forced through his budget cuts. “Democracy is the system by which all people, not just corporations and the wealthy, have a seat at the table – but this ruling is just one more indication that Wisconsin Republicans do not believe in a functioning, sound democracy inclusive of checks and balances.”
After hearing the announcement about the Supreme Court’s hearing, Mahlon Mitchell, the president of the Wisconsin fire fighters’ union told the crowd protesting the budget. “This fight is not over.” Mitchell, the first African-American to lead the Wisconsin fire fighters, urged those in the crowd to look to the Civil Rights movement for their inspiration. The movement had its biggest impact when it organized and mobilized people to take their struggle to the streets.
“We have to reclaim our sense of moral outrage, we have to reclaim our righteous indignation, because this is our time and we are in the fight of our lifetime,” Mitchell said.
Doug Perry, a teacher from South Milwaukee who was attending the rally said that no matter what the Supreme Court ruled, workers had to keep fighting for their rights as long as it takes. “This (struggle) isn’t months long, this is going to be years, and its going to take working people to unite,” Perry told the LaCrosse Tribune.
While the state’s Supreme Court was upholding the government’s right to deny collective bargaining rights to its workers, the Legislature was debating Gov. Walker’s budget, which cuts public education funding by $1.6 billion. It also makes it harder for people to enroll in health care programs like Badger Care, a health care plan for low-income workers who don’t qualify for Medicaid, Family Care, a program that helps people with disabilities, and Senior Care, a prescription medicine plan for older, mostly retired workers
On Thursday, the Assembly passed Gov. Walker’s budget, dubbed by Democrats “Walker’s Wasteland Budget” and sent it to the Senate for its approval.
Drawing a parallel between Gov. Walker’s budget and his ban on public sector collective bargaining, Neuenfeldt said Gov. Walker and his Republican supporters have alienated both public sector workers and those who rely on the services provided by these workers. He went on to say, “Now, more than ever, Wisconsinites across the state are committed to holding Republicans accountable for their bad choices” in reference to the recall elections that will be held in six senatorial districts currently represented by Republicans.