I am a seventh-generation Wisconsinite. Members of my family have known the governors of this state since its founding. Today, I wear a “Gaylord Nelson for Governor” badge that was given to me by Nelson when I was a kid. Nelson, as a US senator, was the father of the Earth Day movement. But before he became a senator, he was Wisconsin’s governor. It was Nelson who, in 1959, began the implementation of the state’s pioneering collective bargaining law for public employees.
Today, another governor, Scott Walker, will attempt to strip state, county and municipal employees of their collective bargaining rights. It is an assault not just on workers, but on a Wisconsin tradition of respecting unions in the state where the forerunner union of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees was founded in 1932. AFSCME International President Gerald McEntee called Wisconsin “ground zero” for the fight to preserve the basic rights of public employees to organize—a fight that is already spreading to other states.
Yesterday, 30,000 teachers, state, county and municipal employees, small business owners, students and their allies rallied at noon outside the Capitol to chant: “Kill the Bill!” Last night, 20,000 teachers and their backers rallies and the filled the Capitol with shouts of “What’s disgusting! Union busting!” Demonstrations and protests have spread across the state.
Today I’ll provide updates from the Capitol and the streets.
20:00 CST: Ed Schultz Is On the Story
MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, who has owned the Wisconsin story, will be broadcasting from Madison tonight. Check the show out at the MSNBC site.
Here’s a piece on Ed’s coverage of the story.
19:00 CST: Polls Finds Wisconsinites Think Walker Went Too Far
Building a Stronger Wisconsin, an independent advocacy group, commissioned poll that found Wisconsinites areoverwhelmingly opposed to Walker’s proposal. Here’s some of what the survey revealed:
Building a Stronger Wisconsin contracted with The Shop Consulting, Inc. to conduct a statewide poll regarding Governor Scott Walker’s proposed cuts to public employee benefits and collective bargaining rights. The poll consisted of a 600 response survey and was conducted on the evening of Wednesday, February 16th.
By a 2 to 1 margin, voters across that state are either strongly opposed to Walker’s proposal or think that it goes too far.
“There is no way to look at the results of this poll and not be convinced that voters from all walks of life, all ages and all across Wisconsin think Governor Walker has gone too far in both how much he expects public employees to contribute for their benefits and especially in proposing to eliminate their collective bargaining rights,” explained Randy Nash, Executive Director Building a Stronger Wisconsin.