To see the most recent updates go HERE
NOON PST: Demonstrators are now organizing to shut down WI Capital by blocking all exits/entry. The word “shutdown”now being used in tweets from scene.
30,000 reported outside, 10,000 inside the WI Capital building. The hallways outside the Senate chambers are completely occupied by a sit- in.
GOP wants to get lunch but state troopers refuse to escort them.
11:54 PST: Madison – Around 20 Oregon High School students (in Madison, WI) were hunkered down inside the State Capitol building Thursday, showing support for their teachers.
And two of the kids were still bleary-eyed after spending the night sleeping in a corridor.
“We’re doing this so there can be support for the teachers even when the teachers can’t speak for themselves,” said James Hermus, a junior, who spent the night in the Capitol.
“My sister is a student at Madison and she has been sleeping here the last two nights,” said Matt Skiles, a junior.
The students said they had the sense that they were witnessing history.
“I don’t think it’s a very good democracy if they’re not listening to the people,” Jaclyn Zavoral, a junior, said over a din of chanting by other protesters.
“It’s not about the money anymore, it’s about their rights to bargain,” said Natalie Wallace, a junior. “We’re going to support our teachers so they can have collective bargaining rights and so we can have a good education.”
11:53 PST: Wisconsin cheesemakers may have an incentive to weigh in on Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill.
Gordon Edgar, a cheese author and cheese judge who works in the cheese department of Rainbow Foods in San Francisco, posted on Facebook that he’s willing to offer discounts on Wisconsin cheeses if their makers “go on record opposing Governor Walker’s anti-union budget.”
“We’ll promote it and sell your cheese at 10% off for the rest of the month,” Edgar posted. “Send me an official email backchannel at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
We’ll post more later when Edgar responds to a reporter’s phone call.
11:49 PST: Twitter Reports that WI Cops are distributing food to protestors. What’s on the menu? Bratwursts, of course! This is Wisconsin!
Rush Limpbaugh’s take:: “The Teachers are letting Children starve in Madison WI” School Breakfast & School Lunch shut down
11:48 PST: This just in: Wisc State troopers are REFUSING to go after missing Dems. Great tweet: Hosni Walker seems to be losing his army. LOL Troops refusing to fetch missing Dems
The student walk out at UW Madison is happening. Thousands are making their way up State Street To Rally
All Madison WI public employees marching to Capitol at 5:45 (3:45 PST)
11:36 PST: NYT Report…
The battle in Wisconsin, which some view as a precursor to similar fights in other states, was drawing attention around the country, including from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who said he planned to talk to Mr. Walker by telephone on Thursday. “Where we’re fighting each other, where we’re divisive, where we’re demonizing or vilifying any group, including unions, I don’t think that helps us get where we need to go as a country,” Mr. Duncan told CNN on Thursday morning.
Interesting part of Wisconsin drama – only 17 of 19 REPUBLICANS showed up to the State Senate to vote today.
GOP Blog “Red State” Headline: Unions fuel the hate in Wisconsin
Fox Spews Morning Talking Heads call demonstrations “Riots”….
11:32 PST: Here’s a list of the special interests groups that paid to have WI Gov. Scott in office: http://goo.gl/afmsX
From “Oil Guy” blog over at Daily Kos: Why the double standard? Are the rights of Egyptians more worthy than those of Americans? Is this corporate censorship? I don’t usually make those kind of charges, but i am utterly at a loss as to explain how I am seeing more cell phone video from Bahrain, than I am from Madison.
11:23 PST: Journal-Sentinel –Madison — Law enforcement officers are searching for Democratic senators boycotting a Senate vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-repair plan Thursday in an attempt to bring the lawmakers to the floor to allow Republicans to move forward with action on the bill.
One Democratic senator said that he believed at least most of the members of his caucus are in another state. At least one, however, Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) said he was still in his Capitol office listening to constituents.
In a press conference just off the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said that Democrats were “not showing up for work” and that police were searching for them to bring them to the floor.
“That’s not democracy. That’s not what this chamber is about,” Fitzgerald said of the boycott to reporters.
Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) confirmed Thursday that Democrats are boycotting the Senate action on the bill in efforts to block a quorum and keep the measure from passing. Because 20 senators of the 33-member house are needed to be present to pass a fiscal bill, the body’s 19 Republicans will not be enough to pass the budget repair bill without at least one Democrat present.
“They can’t pass this bill if there’s not a Democrat in the chamber,” Cullen said.
Cullen said he believed at least most of the Democrats were now outside Wisconsin, though he declined to say where.
“I think they’re all out of state. I am anyway,” Cullen said.
Speculation in the Capitol pointed to Illinois as the state where Democrats had headed.
11:18 PST: USA Today says: The stakes are high nationwide. Wisconsin is the first in a long line of states considering big changes to pay, benefits, work rules and the bargaining power of government workers.
Ohio is next, voting soon on an equally dramatic limit on public employee rights. Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New Mexico are among the other states considering narrower changes in the government workforce.
“This has nothing to do with efficient or effective government,” says Joe Rugola, head of Ohio’s largest public employee union, the Association of Public School Employees. “It has everything to do with depriving working families of a voice.”
11:09 PST: Where is the American press on this? Most of the media are reporting in detail with photos and videos on what’s happening in Libya, Bahrain, Egypt, but we have not seen any recent photos or up to the minute news from Madison. The msnbc story on Madison cannot be found at this minute. (11:14pst – okay, the msnbc story is back up, but is not very current.)
11:00 PST: Break for International News-Via NYT-…BAGHDAD — Unrest continued to spread in Iraq on Thursday, with new protests erupting in several cities and reports from law enforcement officials that private security guards in a city in Kurdistan fired on a group of protesters who tried to storm the political offices of the region’s leader.
In Libya, there are reports of up to 14 killed there in protests over last several days. In Bahrain, police fired into the crowd holding onto to Pearl Square, killing at least 6.
Back to WI…
Wednesday op-ed, the Capitol Times of Madison: In its Jan. 31 memo to legislators on the condition of the state’s budget, the Fiscal Bureau determined that the state will end the year with a balance of $121.4 million.
To the extent that there is an imbalance — Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit — it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January.
Over at Fox News: Fox News right now is comparing teachers to past air traffic controllers – as in fire them all.
10:59 PST: OB Rag reader Dickie had this to say:
Hard to believe this will be confined to Wisconsin; there are several other governors of the same stripe and likely they will try similar legislation. The pitting of “public sector workers” against “private sector workers” really disgusts me . . . like the public sector workers should give up what they have . . . I say the private sector workers ought to organize better unions for themselves. As long as this kind of political power mongering goes on, none of this fiscal/budgetary contradictions will ever be seriously approached on the policy level.
I guess the good thing is that the issues are being drawn out in action in ways that will help people figure out which side is really theirs . . .
Thanks for doing this, OBRag . . . watching history happen is pretty exhilarating
10:58 PST: Madison – About an hour ago, Senate Democratic Leader Mark Miller’s office issued a news release in behalf of Senate Democrats.
Miller is a Monona Democrat.
“Democrats believe it is wrong to strip people of their right to have a say in the conditions of their employment and to use state law to bust unions.
“Over the last several days tens of thousands of citizens, young and old, union and non-union, labor and management, from every corner of the state, have traveled to the Capitol to peacefully and respectfully exercise their right to speak to their elected officials.
“These people deserve to be heard and their rights ought to be respected.
“We urge Governor Walker and the Republicans to listen to the people of Wisconsin, talk to the workers and reach an agreement that helps balance the budget while respecting their rights.”
10:52 PST: Sign of the moment: “Midwives for labor”
Word just reached crowd that Obama made statement: “This is union busting.” Better late than never.
As for whether the Democratic senators have in fact left the state, the spokesperson for the state Democratic Party tells Talking Points Memo:
“I know the whereabouts of not a single Democratic senator. I do not know what latitude they’re on, or know what longitude they’re on. I assume they’re in this hemisphere, I’ll say that.”
10:49 PST: The noon rally has ended. Madison is two hours ahead of the West Coast. Protest organizers called another rally for later in the day and said they would be back outside the Capitol Friday at Noon.
10:45 PST: Madison – The Beatles’ Revolution is blaring over the sound system as pro-union demonstrators march around the State Capitol building Thursday while scores of students crowd a set of steps.
One man held up a sign that said: “John Lennon Would Love This.”
“I think it’s about time. We should have been doing this earlier,” said Gina Bertolini, 58, a clerk in the Division of Quality Assurance.
“I feel strong. I feel being with these people and I’m happy to be in this state,” Bertolini said, choking back tears.
Deb Parman, 56, a retired educator from Beaver Dam, said the demonstration “goes beyond parties. This is all about workers and their rights.”
“This isn’t about the money anymore,” said Parman. “It’s about employers and employees coming together, sitting down making Wisconsin better for everybody.”
Protest organizers called another rally for later in the day and said they would be back outside the Capitol Friday at Noon.
10:42 PST: Reports coming in on Twitter that 6000 students are walking out on 12 campuses throughout WI.
According to the Associated Press: “The proposal would effectively remove unions’ right to negotiate in any meaningful way. Local law enforcement and fire employees, as well as state troopers and inspectors would be exempt.”
Quote of the moment: Mahlon Mitchell w the Firefighters: “when firefighters see an emergency, we’re there – that’s why we’re here today.”
10:35 PST: MADISON, Wis. — Police officers are looking for Democratic Wisconsin lawmakers who were ordered to attend a vote on a bill that would strip public employees of collective bargaining rights. No Democrats showed up for Thursday’s Senate session, meaning a vote cannot be taken. Republicans need one Democratic senator to be present. Calls to Democratic leaders were not immediately returned.
10:27 PST:By Steve Schultze of the Journal Sentinel “All Politics Blog“: The Assembly met briefly, with all Democratic members wearing bright orange t-shirts inscribed with the slogan, “Assembly Democrats Fighting for Working Families.”
Democrats and Republicans went into closed-door partisan caucuses, after several Democrats praised constituents and demonstrators packed into the Capitol building to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed removal of most collective bargaining rights for public employees.
“I am so proud of the citizens of this state,” said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha). He said despite the thousands of visitors jamming the Capitol, that there had been “virtually no incidents whatsoever.”
He urged members and visitors to remain respectful and cooperative with law enforcement officers, who had a heavy presence in the building to manage the crowds.
10:20 PST: New York Times:MADISON, Wis. — As furious protesters once again began gathering near the state Capitol building, state senators were expected to vote on Thursday on a bill that would sharply curtail the collective bargaining rights and slash benefits for most public sector workers in the state.
Tensions were increasingly tense Thursday morning as the Senate prepared to take up the matter. Thousands of protesters crowded into a hallway outside the senate and pounded on windows, saying they intended to prevent members from entering. At least one senator had to call Capitol police for help to get through the crowd and inside. “Shut it down! Shut it down!” protesters chanted.
Madison public schools were closed for a second day on Thursday, as teachers called in sick to lobby at the Capitol against the sweeping proposal. More than a dozen other public school districts announced they were closed for the day as well.
10:18 PST: Glen Beck’s radio show calls WI Protests “The Beginning of the American Insurrection”. Quick, buy some gold futures…
“Police officers, firefighters just marched through WI Capital Rotunda supporting WI teachers! Bagpipes and all!” The crowd went nuts, according to our Twitter sources.
Rally outside Capital has begun…”We’ll be here all night if necessary”
The Washington Post’s Harold Meyerson writes, “In Egypt, workers are having a revolutionary February. In the United States, by contrast, February is shaping up as the cruelest month workers have known in decades.”
10:16 PST: Wall Street Journal: Prospects for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s budget bill that would strip the state’s public employees of most collective-bargaining rights were thrown into question Thursday when the state’s Democratic lawmakers were not present at the start of the state session to vote on the bill.
10:13 PST: President Obama said this yesterday during an interview about what is happening in Wisconsin:
“I think it is very important for us to understand that public employees, they’re our neighbors, they’re our friends,” he said. “These are folks who are teachers and they’re firefighters and they’re social workers and they’re police officers.”
10:00 PST: All 14 missing WI Democratic Senators are at the same location out-of-state (in order to prevent a quorum call).
Quote of the moment: Mike Imbrogno, a shop steward in AFSCME Local 171:
“I’ve never seen anything like it. It wasn’t just teachers and union members from the University of Wisconsin (UW), where I work. There were Steelworkers, Teamsters, Pipefitters, building trades unions and more–unions I’ve never seen at a rally in 10 years,” he said. “The most amazing thing is when the firefighters came in a delegation. Along with police, Walker has exempted firefighters from the legislation, but they came with signs that said, ‘Firefighters for workers’ rights.’ People were crying.”
9:55 PST: Here’s some background on the situation in Wisc….
Kris Olds at Global Higher Ed Blog with Background documents
Video of the crowd inside the State House Yesterday: http://goo.gl/AfE8H
GOP Rep calls it: It’s like Cairo has moved to Madison”… http://goo.gl/dywH6
9:50 PST: Reports on the ground in Madison tell us that the democrats in the legislature have walked out to prevent the Gov. from having a quorum. Twitter feeds are saying that Gov. Walker has called in the State Troopers to round up the missing democrats.
We are live blogging from San Diego about the protests and demonstrations going on today in Wisconsin. (The most recent update is on top, and scroll down for earlier news. All times are in Pacific Standard Time – PST)
9:45 PST: The protests in Wisconsin are unprecedented. And, just like the actions throughout the Middle East, they keep growing every day. On Tuesday 15,000 people showed up to protest. Yesterday, 30,000 people showed up in Madison, WI. And even more people are showing up today.
The mainstream media has incorrectly characterized these demonstrations as unions fighting to keep their pension benefits. Nothing could be further from the truth. Wisconsin Gov. Walker, the Tea Party darling, is trying to remove the rights of workers, both public and private, to organize and bargain. We’ll be liveblogging throughout the day today, as the Wisconsin State Senate is poised to take up a vote on this legislation that will effectively.
Yesterday the Governor high-tailed it out of town, touring of outlying communities in hopes of drumming up support for his bill. Most his support is coming from national conservative political groups, such as the Club for Growth, which have long hoped to break public-employee unions. He’s also got strong support in the overwhelmingly Republican Assembly. But he cannot afford to lose one more Republican state senator. And the unions and their backers are determined to find that one Republican who is smart enough and honest enough to recognize that the Governor’s assault of public employees is an assault on Wisconsin itself.
Stay with us throughout the day as we bring you reports from our sources from around the internet.