Mass Protests against Cuts in Wisconsin
by La Voz 2-20-11
Between Feb. 16 & 17, 30,000 people marched to Madison, the capital of Wisconsin State, against the legislative proposal of Governor Scott Walker. This proposal is called the “Budget Repair Bill” in order to cover 136 million of the 3.6 billion state budget deficit and aims to cut the health and pension plans of public employees unilaterally. Furthermore, the proposal opens the door to massive layoffs, without prior negotiation with the unions. These benefit cuts are equivalent to an 18% cut in salary, in which the union has no voice nor vote.
But the attack of the Governor does more than that, because it also wants to impose restrictions on trade union rights. These restrictions include: public sector unions would only be able to negotiate on wages during the current crisis, they will have to renegotiate the contract every year, and shall collect fees individually and not by automatic deduction. This represents a frontal attack on the labor world and trade union rights. The reform would also lead to a decrease in the number of union-represented workers, which is already extremely low: 12% in the public sector, 8% private sector. We must remember that workers that have no union have neither the right nor the ability to bargain collectively, thus all conditions are imposed unilaterally by the boss.
For that reason, AFSCME, the public workers’ union, called the mobilization to the Wisconsin state capitol the day before the vote on the law on February 16. Last year, the union leadership offered a contract with concessions of around $ 100 million, which was rejected by the state legislature and the governor for not being a large enough sacrifice.
Nevertheless, because of the call of the union, many workers and students have spontaneously joined because they are sick and tired that the working-class people are always paying for the crisis and they want to stop the governor’s attacks. More than half of schools were shut down because teachers took sick leave – one of the few ways to organize a spontaneous strike, almost a thousand students side joined the protests, and at the University of Wisconsin, more than one-thousand students who were organizing mobilizations against cuts to the education sector joined the march of public employees. Moreover, workers in different sectors (firefighters, construction and others) organized to attend in support.
30,000 protesters surrounded the state capitol of Madison and camped out on the night of February 16, on Feb.17 protests continued to attempt to postpone the vote of the law, and on Feb.18, lacking patience and full of rage, the protesters entered the state capitol building and occupied it. The massive sit-in was peaceful and indicated the willingness of the workers and students to stop the vote on the law and to defend, through tooth-and-nail, their public services and jobs.
All support to the workers and students in Wisconsin in their fight!
That the rich pay the crisis!
Money for education and employment and not for the imperialist war!