For the second Saturday in a row, tens of thousands of union members and supporters rallied at the state capitol here February 26 to protest the union-busting Budget Repair bill proposed by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. Organizers of the protest estimated the crowd at 100,000.
Unionists, many of them employed by private companies, came from throughout Wisconsin and nearby states to show their support. Carpenters, laborers, operating engineers, ironworkers, and electricians from Wisconsin and Illinois turned out in large numbers. Fifteen members of United Steelworkers Local 7-669, which represents atomic energy workers locked out by Honeywell since June in Metropolis Illinois, traveled close to 500 miles to show their solidarity.
James Preston, a member of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 127, whose wife teaches in the Kenosha Unified School District, told the Militant, Im in the private sector, but this is going to have a domino effect on us. People died for the right to be in a union.
Weve got to remember things like the Ludlow massacre and not forget how hard we fought to get where we are, Preston said. State militia attacked a tent colony of striking coal miners and their families in 1914 in Ludlow, Colorado, killing 20 men, women, and children.
Thousands of union supporters, including many students, have remained inside the capitol building here around the clock. Walker announced February 27 that protesters would be removed, but officials later permitted them to remain overnight, where they have been since February 14, although restricted in the last few days to the first floor.
Meanwhile, around the country, We Are Wisconsin rallies drew thousands of participants. Some 5,000 demonstrated in New York City; 3,000 at the state capitol in Trenton, New Jersey; 2,500 in Olympia, Washington; more than 1,000 in Chicago; and 1,000 in Boston.
The labor protests are in response to newly elected governor Walkers proposals to take away public employees right to negotiate contracts with the government over benefits and working conditions. State workers would have to pay more toward their pensions and health insurance, amounting to at least an 8 percent cut in pay.
Nine states already have laws that prevent collective bargaining for state workers. In Ohio and Tennessee officials are introducing bills modeled on the Wisconsin attack.
The governors deficit reduction bill would only allow public workers unions to negotiate for higher wages; at the same time future wage increases would be capped at the federal Consumer Price Index rate of inflation, unless otherwise specified by a voter referendum.
Walkers proposed Budget Repair bill passed the state assembly this past week. But with Democratic Party senators still out of state, the senate here does not have a quorum and cannot pass the bill. Walker has stated that he has readied layoff notices for about 12,000 of the states 175,000 public employees if the bill is not approved.
Join Wisconsin showdown to stop assault on unions!
3,000 rally in Trenton, New Jersey, against cuts
Help get out the Militant at Wisconsin rallies!
Unions to march in United Kingdom on March 26
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