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Vol. 75/No. 17      May 2, 2011

Prounion rally in Wisconsin
outnumbers antilabor action
(front page)
MADISON, Wisconsin—Countering a rally called by Americans for Prosperity that featured former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, some 5,000 union members and supporters marched in the bitter cold and snow here April 16 in yet another protest at the capitol.

Over the past two months, union mobilizations often numbering in the tens of thousands have converged at the capitol in defense of public unions and workers’ rights, drawing support from unionists, farmers, students, and others across Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and other parts of the United States.

The Americans for Prosperity “Tax Day” protest was one of many organized by tea party groups across the country. The Wisconsin event drew about 600 from different areas of the state, many to hear Palin speak. Some carried signs that read: “Welcome Sister Freedom,” “Stand with Walker,” and “Public Workers—the Party is Over!”

While prounion forces organized a counterrally on the opposite side of the capitol, thousands of union supporters intermingled with the tea party protest. They chanted and yelled prounion slogans, and rang cowbells. At times the chanting was so loud that it drowned out the speakers. Many of the union placards promoted the recall of Wisconsin Republican governor Scott Walker.

“I’m in Madison because this is where real courage and real solidarity can be found,” said Palin. She told the crowd that she herself had been a union member and that she had many teachers in her family. Governor Walker is “not trying to hurt union members,” Palin said. “He’s trying to save your jobs and your pensions.”

Those arguments held little sway among the thousands of pro-union demonstrators who have seen firsthand the effects of the governor’s attacks on working people in this state.

While applauding those who have backed the governor’s antiunion assault, Palin also made clear her disdain for working people who have mobilized repeatedly over the past two months to defend their rights and their unions. Addressing the tea party demonstrators she said, “You saw these violent rent-a-mobs trash your capitol and vandalize businesses. You held your ground. Your governor did the same thing. And you won.”

The Wisconsin antiunion legislation Palin points to as an example guts union collective bargaining by public workers over anything beyond wages. The bill was signed into law by Walker March 11. Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi issued a temporary restraining order March 18 halting implementation of the law.

Palin also took aim at President Barack Obama for not supporting deeper cuts in government spending, and announced “the 2012 elections begin here.”

Playing to the hometown crowd of supporters that turned out, Palin said that Republicans and especially the tea party stand stronger for their ideals and fight harder for their goals, similar to the national champion University of Wisconsin’s women’s hockey team.

Among the union members protesting for workers’ rights at the capitol, Palin’s appearance did little to deter their commitment to keep fighting. “I think they know we are going to keep going and not let up,” Kimi Ishikawa, a local teacher, told the press.
Related articles:
‘Militant’ well received in Wisconsin towns, rural areas
Teachers, students rally against education cuts
Dockworkers defend their right to solidarity
Locked-out workers in Illinois: ‘We’re not alone’
Bosses’ profit drive kills three rail workers in Washington
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