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Vol. 75/No. 13      April 4, 2011

For 5th week, Wisconsin
rally takes on union busting
(front page)
MADISON, Wisconsin—For the fifth week in a row, workers and their supporters rallied here Saturday, March 19, with several thousand protesting antilabor legislation and cuts in programs working people depend on.

The legislation—which outlaws collective bargaining by public workers on anything beyond wages—was signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker March 11. Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi issued a temporary restraining order March 18 halting implementation of the law.

The noon rally was called by the International Association of Machinists District 10, which covers southeastern Wisconsin. Ricky Bartz from Machinists Local 1713 in Tomahawk had been there before with his wife, Tracy, a teacher. He said, “More people need to figure out what’s going on.”

Members of the Office and Professional Employees International Union joined the demonstration. Carloads came from Machinists Local 1916 at GE Healthcare in Milwaukee where CT, MRI, and X-ray machines are produced. Iraq Veterans Against the War were also on hand. The rally coincided with the eighth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war.

Many other union signs were present. Bill Houseman, a member of Transit Workers Union Local 564, which organizes American Airlines workers at Los Angeles airport, told the Militant, “We’ve been working without a contract for three years. If they get away with this here, they will do it in the corporate field.”

Buddy Howard from the locked-out Roquette workers in Keokuk, Iowa, said he got a great response at the demonstration to a flyer he was passing out for a solidarity rally in Keokuk Saturday, March 26. Howard told the Militant, “With the company slamming the door in our face, we have seen we have to join other workers’ struggles. That’s what’s needed.” He noted, “Locked-out steelworkers from Metropolis, Illinois, are coming up to join our rally next week.”

Robert Artis marched with a contingent of a few dozen others who were from Allied Drive, a low-income and predominantly African American neighborhood in Madison. Many of their signs said, “No more cuts Walker!”

Artis said, “I’m here to support unions. Walker has the bull by the horns and is doing anything he wants unless we do something.”

A big focus of the recent demonstrations has been the call for the recall of Walker and of Republican state senators who support antiunion laws. Socialist workers participating in the Saturday action were involved in many discussions on continuing to protest in the streets in defense of public workers, instead of electoral maneuvers against Republican politicians. Both the Democratic and the Republican parties have antilabor records.

Ken Maxwell, a retired teacher from Mount Horeb, said, “The Democrats don’t respond to strong union causes, they pussyfoot around, try to keep a ‘balance.’ And they keep the wars going.”

Colleen Johnston, a student at Smith College, questioned the value of the recall effort. “It will basically be taking six government officials out of office, but the government will keep doing the same thing,” she said

Josh Garner, an organizer from Sheet Metal Workers Local 18 in Wisconsin, disagreed. “We need to recall politicians not friendly to our causes,” he said. “People in the streets” will, however, make politicians “work on our side.”

As the battle over the union-busting bill continues in the courts, the state government, local municipalities, and school boards are taking aim at workers along the lines of Governor Walker’s “budget repair bill.” The state announced it is freezing enrollment in one part of the state’s health-care plan, BadgerCare, and hiking premiums by almost 50 percent.

The Madison State Journal applauded the local school board for using “its new leverage” to limit teachers’ raises and force them to make higher contributions to pension and health-care plans.

Natalie Morrison and Laura Anderson contributed to this article.
Related articles:
Public workers, students protest government cuts
Locked-out steelworkers: ‘People are waking up’
How FBI targeted teachers for firings in 1960s  
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