Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Wisconsin Rally for Workers Grows to 30,000

February 17th, 2011 | Mike Hall

Image: Mike HallA massive protest against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to eliminate collective bargaining rights for state workers entered its second day in Madison with as many as 30,000 people, according to some estimates. More demonstrations are expected tomorrow.

Also for more information and to help support Wisconsin workers, visit the Facebook page of Protect Wisconsin Families here.

AFL-CIO Field Communications staff member Mike Uehlein sends us the latest report on today’s actions. We also have new video (above) from  Tuesday’s demonstrations.

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Video of the Rally

In a continuing show of support for public workers, huge crowds arrived in Madison today to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s attack on Wisconsin families. A diverse collection of working men and women, students, community members and religious groups marched around the Capitol building.

Despite the practice of hearing testimony from any Wisconsinite who wishes to speak, the Joint Committee on Finance cut off public debate late last night. So today at the demonstration, a public citizen’s forum was offered for people denied the ability to speak at the Joint Committee hearing yesterday.

Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt told the crowd, “It is up to us to fight for the right of workers to have a collective voice on the job.”

We will not stand by and watch those rights be taken away. For every person here today, there are 100 more who could not make it and we stand with them. This proposal is too extreme. No one should be taking away our rights as workers and our rights as Americans.

Speaking to the huge sea of protesters, Steve Heimsness, treasurer of the Madison Professional Police Officers Association, says:

Politicians are trying to take away workers’ union rights in Wisconsin. We need representatives to listen to the thousands of workers here today and stop this bill. We have to stop this now.

Today’s continuing protests signal strong disapproval of the provisions in the budget measure. As a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial said Monday, this “bill is about rights, not benefits.” The protests on the Capitol ground reflected this, with many carrying signs saying, “Stop the Attack on Working Families.”

Walker has urged the legislature to fast track the proposal and the committee could vote later today or tonight, with final legislative action by the end of the week. Says Milwaukee bus driver James Macon:

This bill is too extreme to push through in four days. We have worked with both Democratic and Republican governors before and we can do that again.

This Blog originally appeared in http://blog.aflcio.org/ on February 16, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety. When his collar was still blue, he carried union cards from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and Teamsters for jobs in a chemical plant, a mining equipment manufacturing plant and a warehouse. He has also worked as roadie for a small-time country-rock band, sold his blood plasma and played an occasional game of poker to help pay the rent. You may have seen him at one of several hundred Grateful Dead shows. He was the one with longhair and the tie-dye. Still has the shirts, lost the hair.

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