Protests have engulfed the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where students are standing against a proposed bill that threatens teacher's unions. The outcries come as the state's new Republican Governor Scott Walker announced a plan to end collective bargaining for most of the state's 175,000 public employees.
More than 10,000 protesters, including students, demonstrated outside the state Capitol building in Madison today, many of them carrying signs and chanting “recall Walker.” This comes one day after hundreds of students flooded downtown Madison chanting, “kill this bill” and handing out valentines that read, “Have a heart, don't tear the UW apart.” The governor did not make an appearance.
Even before the protests hit the state's capital, about a hundred high school students in Stoughton, Wisconsin, a city about 20 miles outside of Madison, walked out of class Monday morning to protest the governor's proposal. And today, nearly 800 Madison East High School students also walked out to join the demonstration.
"Let's show Gov. Walker that we care about learning, and the teachers are worth every cent that we pay to them," Theron Luhn, a high school junior who helped organize the protest in Stoughton Monday, told one of the local newspapers The Capital Times.
The Nation’s John Nichols called the governor’s move the “most radical assault yet by the current crop of Republican governors on the rights of workers," and said that this attack "has inspired outrage in a historically progressive and pro-labor state.”
UW sophomore and campus activist Max Love told one of the university's student newspapers The Badger Herald that the proposed bill, while striking the most direct blow to the state's unions, will undoubtedly negatively impact public education in Wisconsin.
“The quality of our institutions would suffer if this bill passes,” Love said. “This is a student cause, and we’re seeing a lot of people who really care about this issue.”
Walker has notified the National Guard to be on alert for actions taken by unsatisfied state, county and municipal employees.
But as Nichols said on his appearance today on Democracy Now!, "the interesting thing is that we have already heard from an awfully lot of teachers and public employees, who also serve in the National Guard and who are saying they have no idea why they would be called out to beat down or to beat back protests by their fellow workers, who are not being violent, who are simply doing what—you know, to use an analogy here—we saw on the streets of Cairo and other cities."