For the past two days, they’ve had to reroute buses away from Madison’s Capitol Square. The sidewalks, street and grounds were all full of protesters and news crews when I stopped by on my way to work at 1:00 today, and I hear the inside of the Capitol was so packed they needed a decibel meter to try to keep the noise level tolerable.
The protests are about our new governor’s budget. As a cost control measure, Governor Walker wants to strictly limit collective bargaining for most public employees, including teachers. Teachers in this state have had the right to collective bargaining for the last 50 years or so. Before that, they had strikes.
The crowd I saw included quite a number of children. I didn’t understand this until somebody told me that so many teachers called in sick today (something like 40%) that they had to cancel school. I also saw a big crew of firefighters, despite the fact that their union won’t be affected by the law. At the shop we’ve been letting our neighbors, a teaching assistants’ union, use our upstairs meeting room all week, as a staging ground. We may not have to worry about rubber bullets or tear gas, the kind of retaliation inflicted on the Arab protesters, but the people I saw downtown were seriously angry. And even by the end of the day, many of them didn’t look ready to go anywhere. I guess some of them camped at the Capitol last night, and probably tonight there will be more. Some republicans are trying to back away from the bill, but Walker says there will be no compromise on the collective bargaining part of it.
Scott Walker is on track to make worst governor ever.