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  • 30-40k Keep Pressure on Wisconsin Governor – Editorial

    View from Speakers Podium

    I had no idea what to expect at the Madison Capitol square on  Saturday.  There was so little Twin Cities media coverage after last weeks massive rally that I thought protests might all be over.  Wrong!   Somehow ‘only’ 30 -40k citizens converging on the State Capitol in brisk winter conditions to  speak out against Governor Scott Walker’s plan to curtail collective bargaining  has become ‘ordinary’, and not significantly newsworthy.

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    Every out-state protester, marching with a sign identifying their home town, got a cheer from the sidewalk.  I arrived shortly after noon, and you could easily cross the Capitol square streets. By the height of the rally, about 2pm, the eight city blocks making up the square, sidewalk to sidewalk, were an impassable marching mass of signs,  shouts,  and drum beats.  Two speaker stages on opposite sides of the Capitol gathered thousands in addition, to hear speakers and musicians. These protests, ranging from a midweek low of 3-5 thousand and swelling to 30-100 thousand on  weekends, have been sustained for over three weeks now. I talked to one who had taken their first day of rest from the protests on Friday, and was back on Saturday! A peek into the Capitol building itself verified two weeks of occupation was not damaging to the building, yet another distraction from the issues facing Wisconsin.

    View to Speaker Podium

    I was photographing the Fire Fighters, staging to begin a fresh march, when the Michael Moore buzz hit.  Supporting their banner, Michael Moore joined the march that led to the King Street podium. As they moved,  you could hear the news of his participation travel like a telegraph. By the time Moore’s speech began, I was crushed in place by the crowd.  His message was classic Moore, elaborating on the media manipulation in reporting, and the root cause of financial crisis in the accelerating wealth inequities within the United States.  Moore noted, recent attacks on labor rights  have aroused the ‘sleeping giant known as the working people’,  th e ‘earth is shaking”, and ‘We have had it!” .  The crowd roared,  joined in the raise fist gesture of solidarity, and interrupted him several times with chanting,  “Shame”.   His presence fired up and rejuvenated the chilled crowd.

    Listen to the complete Michael Moore Speech

    Compared to anti-war protests 40 years ago, the intensity and participation of so many, and such a diverse cross-section of Wisconsin, created a completely different feeling. These people are angry, united, and committed.  Support for the Wisconsin 14 (those Democratic Senators  in Il) was vocal and on signs everywhere. It was plain in the first few minutes that the Governor’s rumor campaign of doubt, misrepresentation, and lies was meant for those who only watched the 10pm news and to manipulate public opinion. These people are here for the long haul.

    The expectation that protesting voters will get tired, accept the governor’s Budget and Budget Repair Bill, and this will all just ‘settle down’, did not seem justified by what I saw. Whatever the eventual result, the memory of this perceived betrayal of working people will be etched in voters minds for years to come.

    An AFT (American Federation of Teachers) member felt numbers were down from last weeks 100 thousand in part because over 500 organizers were out coordinating the recall petition start-up.  Late in the day, an estimate of 50 thousand signatures already collected the first day was floated to the crowd.  As this campaign to recall the eight vulnerable Republican Senators progresses,  the threats to the  ‘Fab 14‘  will likely accelerate. Only senators with a year experience can be recalled. The newly elected Governor is also protected from recall by this rule.

    When I returned home, the TC media reporting, was shamefully inadequate. A brief mention of un-tallied ‘thousands’ in Madison with footage from when the crowd was just beginning to form. Contrast this was a minute of attention given the  ‘Pro Walker Bus’ stop in Hudson that night. It  gathered a few supporters, and an equal number of protesters (under a hundred).

    This “Walker’ bus, paid for by Americans for Prosperity, was touring out-state Wisconsin towns, and returned for a rally in Madison on Sunday.  This bus tour was media portrayed as ‘news’ indicative of the Wisconsin Governor’s  ‘broad’ state wide support.  Protesters consider it a last-ditch effort to create the ” illusion of grass-roots support”  for the Governor. Americans for Prosperity is a Virginia-based group launched in 2004 with money from David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers whose financial support of Walker’s gubernatorial campaign and alleged close ties to him have become part of the protest narrative.

    Sunday thousands again continued protesting at the State Capitol grounds, as a rally for Governor Walker took place inside the Alliance Energy Center. It drew about 600 people,  the largest turnout on the 10-city tour. Even event organizers acknowledged protesters outside the Center were more numerous that the supporters within, even as a secondary protest rally.

    I came away from this Madison visit knowing this is primarily a labor, financial, and human rights issue. Broad based and not particularly or uniquely Pagan.  In the interviews to follow you’ll hear the additional concerns Pagans express about what the future for them may look like, depending on the outcome.

    (News Flash from Editor:  I just received a Senate update letter from my WI State Senator, one of the ‘Fab 14′.   Senator Bob Jauch details his experience [Click to read .rtf file] in contradiction to Governor Walkers public news conference statements, recounting his dedication to negotiation and compromise widely publicized today on national media.)

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    7 Responses

    1. I guess we’ll have to disagree on this one, Nels. Public employees don’t have the same bargaining rights as private employees, as courts and presidents from FDR to Obama have recognized.

      They especially don’t have the right to hold the taxpayers hostage while filling the electoral coffers of those with whom they negotiate. How many more tax increases are you willing to endure so that public employees can continue to rack up pay and benefits far in excess of ordinary citizens?

      It’s not like this is news. Public employee pensions are bankrupting cities and states nationwide. Ohio has already passed and implemented the changes Gov. Walker seeks, and other states will follow. It has to happen.

      • Gordon, in actuality, public employees make an average of 8% less than their private counterparts. If benefits are taken into consideration (yes, one reason people go into public service), it is still 4.2% less. What’s causing fiscal crises is not public employees, as the government’s own numbers have noted that it is a small percentage of what states spend. Instead, it’s the big tax breaks given to businesses and the top tier of income earners that in trun do not follow through on the “job creation” that is allegedly to follow. In this instance, there is no question that Walker is a bought man – even without the content of the prank phone call, it is telling that he would take a call from David Koch and spend 20 minutes on the phone with him.

      • First of all, Gordon, public employee pensions are not what’s bankrupting cities and states. They are fully paid for by the employees. Pensions are deferred compensation, in other words, money that the employees have earned, but elected to take later as retirement pay. They are NOT gifts of the government or money stolen from the taxpayer.

        What’s breaking the country is the fact that politicians are so beholden to corporations and mega-rich individuals like the Koch brothers that they don’t have the sense or the balls to raise taxes. Please note that a small percentage of increase in taxes would mean very little money from the average person (me and, I presume, you), but a large sum from folks like the Kochs. Of course, they have so much money, that they would scarcely notice.

        So, how do you fix a budget shortfall? Simple, RAISE TAXES ON THE RICH who can afford it!

    2. http://www.cnn.com/2011/POLITICS/03/08/wisconsin.budget.emails/index.html?hpt=T2

      An e-mail exchange released by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s office on Tuesday has revealed a series of potential Republican concessions to a three-week standoff over a budget bill that would restrict the collective bargaining rights of most public workers.

      The e-mails show a discussion between Walker’s deputy chief of staff, Eric Schutt, and Democratic state Sens. Tim Cullen and Bob Jauch in a correspondence that reveals offers and counter-offers between two sides who have remained at an impasse since mid-February.
      (snip)

      • As the full quoted text indicates, this is a press release to impress us with the sincerity of Walker’s desire to negotiate. Unfortunately, the lack of good faith felt by the protest spokespersons, union representatives, democratic party officials, and just plain working people will make this difficult to resolve using the ‘press’. When there is sincerity, the parties will address the basic concerns of workers and residents, and not attempt to do so in public. I believe this ‘perception’ of softening of positions is the result of the clarification of public opinion on these issues, the real threat of Republican recall petitions to swing the whole dynamic radically, and also as a distraction from the details of the Governor’s total budget ‘solution’ . At some point the ‘cash in’ of the protesting parties demands will take place, but after what I witnessed, I don’t see it happening just based on the latest public rant or declaration of the Governor. His whole future is now wrapped up in his actions and I have doubts the ‘glimmer’ of a solution is going to get the Wisconsin voters to accept the majority of his… well, generously call it a ‘budget plan’.

    3. [...] in Wisconsin near the Minnesota border, has also been traveling to the protests and has written a couple of editorials on the [...]

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