Live Blogging From San Diego: the Wisconsin “Tinderbox”

by on February 17, 2011 · 22 comments

in American Empire, Civil Disobedience, Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Education, Environment, History, Labor, Media, Organizing, Popular

7:55 pm PST: We will be signing off now as Ed Shultz – who deserves a lot of props for going to Madison from New York and being on this story all week -wraps up his show. “This is about our country, our future,” he says with a background large crowd of protesters yelling.

“This is about busting unions, and that’s not right,” says a woman demonstrator almost in tears talking to Ed.

Ed wraps it up:

“This is a two class system. This is a real test for the Democrats. Will they stand with the people in Wisconsin or are they just going to do the usual in Washington.”

The crowd chants: “We love Ed! We love Ed!”

7:50 PST: Schools in Madison will be closed a third day Friday, as teachers continue to call in sick to protest a bill taking away union rights.

Madison teachers first closed schools on Wednesday. On Thursday, they were joined by teachers from around the state who had called in sick.

Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Dan Nerad said he was frustrated by the situation in a letter to parents.

“I believe that we need to keep the educational needs of students in the forefront of all that we do,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, the proposed legislation and the resulting job actions of so many of our teachers have moved all of us farther away from our needed focus on student learning. Among many frustrations this week, this is my largest.

“I fully realize this is a huge strain on many families. I truly empathize with you. As educators, we welcome any efforts you make to further your child’s learning in the interim until school resumes.

“These job actions need to end. I want to assure you that we continue to examine our options to more quickly move back to normal school days.”

7:48 PST: Supporters of Gov. Scott Walker’s plans to take union rights away from public workers are planning a Saturday rally at the Capitol, following days of protests by opponents of the measure.

“BOOK IT: capitol rally for taxpayers, noon on SATURDAY! bring cleaning supplies to clean up the pigsty the liberal union goons left behind at OUR house,” talk radio host Vicki McKenna wrote in a Facebook posting.

7:46 PST: Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker of the House, just texted Ed Shultz to let him know that she stands with the working people and students standing up for the middle class in Madison.

7:44 PST: Earlier this evening, Union members representing teachers, electrical workers, firefighters and other public employee groups staged a raucous rally outside the State Capitol, calling on legislators to kill Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-repair bill.

Local and national union leaders told a large crowd, many of whom carried signs and placards denouncing Walker and celebrating union rights, that union members around the country were watching what is happening in Wisconsin.

“We’ve drawn a line and we’ve said, ‘Enough is enough.’ No more blaming the working people for the bad economy,” said Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO.

“We’ve got to stay strong until the fight is over,” he added.

Harold A. Schaitberger, head of the International Association of Firefighters, said the protests at the State Capitol made Madison “ground zero” in the workers’ rights movement.

With his sport coat off and shirt sleeves rolled up in the chilly air, Schaitberger said the effort by Walker and other governors around the country to strip collective bargaining rights from workers was a coordinated effort.

“They want to kill our unions,” Schaitberger said. “They want us dead.”

Also attending was Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association. Van Roekel said Walker’s bill and others around the country were not about money and policy. Governors across the country are using budget problems as a way of scapegoating public employees.

“It’s about attacking workers’ rights,” said Van Roekel, whose group represents 3.2 million educators.

The rally also featured protest and patriotic songs and were led by Grant Hendrickson, a Lodi music teacher.

7:41 PST: Richard Trumpka, President of the National AFL-CIO will be headlining at the 12:00noon – Madison time – rally in Madison tomorrow. (That will be 10 am West Coast time.)

7:40 PST: Research indicates that it is possible to recall a governor in the state of Wisconsin. Article XII of the Constitution and Section 9.2 of the statutes allow a petition to go forward if a registered committee obtains enough signatures in a 60-day period.

How many are enough? The law requires 25% of the vote cast in the last gubernatorial election, or about a half million signatures. Specifically, at least 540,208 signatures, since 2,160,832 Wisconsin residents cast votes (Walker got 1,128,941 of the votes cast, and his opponent, Tom Barrett got 1,004,303) so it seems feasible numerically. But, it would require a big on the ground effort to gather that many signatures in a two-month period.

A facebook group has been formed to help push this idea forward: “540,000 To See Scott Walker out of WI,”

7:37 PST There are reports that there are fewer people in the Capitol tonight than there were last night because people are happy with their victory today in successfully postponing a vote on the bill. Organizers expect large crowds again tomorrow as truck loads of workers come in from around the state.

7:20 PST: [After a break] Watching Ed Shultz of MSNBC live from Madison.  Ed doesn’t see any conclusion to this situation in this confrontation with the “radical agenda” that Gov. Walker is pushing.  Gov. Walker lost Round One. Ed said:

“Madison is the ideological front lines of America…. Perhaps this [fight] will be the rebirth of liberals in America.”

Ed interviewed two of the leaders of the “Wisconsin 14” – the 14 State Senators who in order to prevent the showdown vote left the state – and one said that Gov. Walker in 5 days is trying to undue what working people in Wisconsin took 50 to 100 years to build.  They say they are trying to slow down this process, give the people of Wisconsin an opportunity to let their voices be heard.

The Senators are not planning on returning to the Capitol tomorrow, Friday.

There are two Republicans who are trying to work out something with the Democrats.

They should.  Wisconsin has a rich labor history. It was the first state to enact social security. It was the first state to allow collective bargaining by public workers.

5:20 PST: Shultz agrees with O’Donnell that the show-down in Madison is just “old-fashioned union-busting.” Ed calls the state Senators who walked out today to prevent the vote of Gov. Walker’s policies “heroes.”  Ed Shultz will be broadcasting live tonight from Madison at 7pm PST (I believe).

5:15 PST: Ed Shultz is on the Lawrence O’Donnel show “The Last Word”: Ed is asking is this going to be resolved? He feels that the workers are not going to back down. The governor is resolved. “There is a lot of pent up frustration here.”  Behind Ed is someone holding a sign that says: “National Guard and the People – hand in hand.”

Ed says that he and the people in Wisconsin want President Obama to take a stronger stand in their favor. “Where is Harry Reid?” Shultz asked (again). “If the Democrats can’t stand up here then what are they going to do about it.”

4:57 PST: In a message from Lorena Gonzalez, Secretary-Treasurer / CEO, San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO:

The Milwalkee Labor Council has asked others throughout the nation to hold solidarity rallies for the workers of Wisconsin. Our Labor Council has decided to heed the call!

We will be having a very improtu Rally in Support of Wisconsin (and Ohio) Workers and Collective Bargaining Rights tomorrow Feb. 18th at 4:30 p.m. at the Labor Council. We will videotape it for our brothers and sisters in WI. PLEASE come by, make signs of support, and enjoy some Brats and Beer. AND please where RED to support the Midwest teachers, firefighters, child care workers, prison guards, school classified workers, professors….and all other local and state public workers!

The Labor Council is located at 3737 Camino del Rio S. #403, San Diego, CA 92108.

4:52 PST: YMCA is opening youth day care centers for child care during school protests. Cool.

4:49 PST: From The Washington Post By Greg Sargent

Missing Wisconsin Dem speaks: We’re MIA until GOP drops assault on workers rights

I just got off the phone with Wisconsin State Senator Chris Larson, one of the Democrats who has left the capitol in order to stall the GOP’s plan to rolll back the bargaining rights of public employees. Speaking to me by cell phone from an undisclosed location, Larson said he and his fellow Democrats would not return until the GOP takes its assault on organizing rights “off the table.”

“Each of us is in a secure location,” he told me, confirming that they were not all together but were monitoring events on the Web and on Twitter. Larson refused to say whether he and his fellow Dems had left the state, as some have speculated.

“We’re going to be staying away until we hear that they are taking the right to organize seriously,” Larson continued, referring to Republicans. “They’re going after 50 years of history in one week. Until they take that off the table, it’s a non-starter.”

4:44 PST Editor: It’s getting difficult to find news or new information about Madison.

Just to show you the significance of the Wisconsin show-down, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is watching events in Wisconsin, and he’s come to this conclusion: the thousands of union workers packing the Capitol are wrong and the governor is right.

In a statement to reporters this afternoon, Bohener said that Walker’s plan to eliminate the collective bargaining rights of Wisconsin teacher, nurses and other workers is just the kind of thing Boehner’s majority is trying to accomplish in Washington.

“Republicans in Congress – and reform-minded GOP governors like Scott Walker, John Kasich [OH] and Chris Christie [NJ] – are daring to speak the truth about the dire fiscal challenges Americans face at all levels of government, and daring to commit themselves to solutions that will liberate our economy and help put our citizens on a path to prosperity,” Boehner said.

The Speaker ripped President Obama for his words of support for the protesters, and called on him to “lead.”

He also slammed the Democratic Party for apparently providing support to the protesters, and called on Obama to put a stop to it.

“I urge the president to order the DNC to suspend these tactics,” he said….

4:24 PST:  At the rally that began at 5pm Madison time (3pm in Calif), a crowd of thousands thronged around the Wisconsin Capitol this evening. One of the first speakers was John Nichols of the Madison Capitol Times Newspaper. He said:

“Today 14 Democratic State Senators were listening to the people, and they heard what they had to say, and they went to Illinois. They went over the state border, making the ultimate sacrifice to spend a night in Illinois.” Then he said that now “Scott Walker is doing an interview with FOX News. He has finally found his constituency. He is saying that the Democratic Senators may have democrat in their name, but they are acting undemocratically. But those are the senators who are listening to the people and that is why they are crossing the state line.”

After Nichols, Phil Neuenfelt, head of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO greeted the crowd and said:

“We are drawing a line in the sand. No more blaming the working people for the bad economy. I have not met a working person yet who moves jobs overseas. I have not met a working person yet who was responsible for the Wall Street meltdown. We need to remember that as the labor movement goes, so goes the middle class.”

A number of Assembly Democratic elected officials addressed the crowd with a similar theme that they are listening. As far as is known the vote is still scheduled in the assembly tomorrow. The question is if the Assembly Democrats will join their Senate colleagues out-of-state in Illinois.

4:21 PST: Less than an hour ago at 5:39pm Madison time Erica Pelzek reported that there was a very powerful march of public safety officials on the Capitol Square going on. The march was leading to the mayoral conference at a city-county building. Major crowd support and cheering

4:07 PST: Think Progress: Some state troopers have already told union leaders that, in a sign of support for striking workers, they are refusing to track down or arrest any state legislators that they encounter. Capitol Police already have refused to kick out of the State Capitol the nearly 5,000 protestors that the Wisconsin Department of Administration has announced are there. Early today, reports from Twitter and sources on the ground said that protesters were literally blocking members of the Wisconsin State Senate GOP from re-entering the chamber in case they tried to take a vote on the bill without a quorum being in place.

4:00 PST: City workers in Madison are now considering joining in a general strike.   Source: Think Progress

3:58 PST: Via Twitter ChrisJLarson Chris Larson (State Senator from Bay View Wisconsin)
We are following Walker’s lead. On Fri, he said there is no room for negotiation and refuses to come to the table. #SolidarityWI

3:55 PST: Here are the 14 Wisconsin State Senators who blocked the vote:

3:48 PST: Via Twitter billgcta: RT @WEAC: RT @davewilcoxuw: Crowd going nuts as uniformed firefighters go marching up Pinckney. There are hundreds of them. #WIunion

3:42 PST: Fox News (Fox Nation): MADISON – Democratic State Senators who protested the budget repair bill by leaving the state have been found.

The lawmakers are in the Best Western Clock Tower in Rockford Illinois.

Law enforcement officials have been looking for at least one Democratic senator to bring in for a quorum required for a fiscal measure, but Democratic Senator Jon Erpenbach confirmed to Newsradio 620 WTMJ that he and all of his Democratic colleagues boarded a bus and left the state.

“We’re not in Wisconsin right now,” Erpenbach said. “The reason why we’re doing this is because there are some jurisdictional issues that we’d be dealing with.”

The Senate’s Sergeant at Arms cannot compel Senators’ attendance in an open session if they are outside of state lines.

3:34 PST: Via Twitter clt66 Christine Hartzheim
We aren’t Corporate Peasants, We Are American Citizens! If you care about the American worker & your rights, help us keep our voice #Madison

3:32 PST: Wisconsin’s Republican governor says he’s confident Democrats who skipped town to avoid voting on a bill removing union rights will return within a day or two, calling the boycott a “stunt.”

Democrats who left the state on Thursday before the Senate session started say they want Gov. Scott Walker to meet with them to discuss concessions after three straight days of protests that brought tens of thousands of people to the Capitol building.

Walker says Democrats can offer amendments to change the bill and talk with him, but he won’t concede on his plan to remove collective bargaining rights for most state and local government workers.

Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach (erp-UN-bahk) says he’s disappointed with the comments. Erpenbach says senators had been in Illinois but they were on the move.

3:28 PST: We found this tweet from Dan R, Local 30: “@OB Rag- thanks.”

3:26 PST: The Wisconsin Senate was expected to be called back into session Friday.

3:19 PST: Even though the State Senate has formally adjourned, things are still happening in Madison. All public employees are supposed to be marching on the Capitol at 5:45 pm Madison time – 3:45 pm our time here on the West Coast.

3:06 PST: Ed Shultz is reporting from Madison. He reports that 14 D. Senators have crossed the state line into Illinois. More than 30,000 people showed up today. “This is ground zero for working people in America.”

Shultz keeps asking,

Where are the national Democratic leaders? Where are the Democrats. We’re seeing leadership from Wisconsin Democrats, but not from the Democratic leadership.”

3:00PM PST: From Time Magazine: One of the ironies of the protests is where they’re happening. In 1959, Wisconsin was the first state to give public workers comprehensive collective-bargaining rights, and the governor’s bid to take most of them away has given rise to debates and demonstrations across the state.

From CNN: As angry teachers in the Midwest shut down more than a dozen school districts in protest Thursday, Republican officials across the nation have made teachers’ unions “public enemy No. 1” in a battle to trim budgets and rewrite the rules on how unions and states work together.

WI Gov’s Press Conference underway. No word on whether or not he got Glen Beck to call for waterboarding protestors on tonight’s show. Gov. sez he’s got 8K emails supporting union busting. Sez protestors aren’t State residents… it’s the old “outside agitators” meme…

Meanwhile…WI Senators on lam in Illinois confirm they will NOT return until collective bargaining is safe.

2:45 PST: Chris Matthews just joked that the “missing” Democrats have been found in Rockford, Illinois. And that the State Senate Sgt-At-Arms was bringing back to the state capitol so the vote could take place. Matthews acted like it was all a big joke.

2:35 PST: A noted San Diego border observer has told us that he has been watching msnbc news for a half hour or more and has yet to see coverage of what’s happening in Wisconsin on American TV news – what the OB Rag calls a “tinderbox.”

2:32 PST: Former Democratic Senator Russ Feingold had this to say in an interview today with the Journal Sentinel about Gov. Walker’s push to curtail the collective bargaining rights of public employees:

“What Gov. Walker is doing is a direct assault on Wisconsin history and Wisconsin traditions and Wisconsin rules of fair play. It is one of the least Wisconsin-like things I’ve ever seen anyone do.”

After keeping a very low profile following his 2010 re-election defeat, Feingold has been speaking out this week with the launch of his new political action committee, Progressives United, whose self-described mission is to “fight back against corporate influence and corruption” in Washington and to push for election reform.

Feingold Thursday characterized the raucous debate in Madison as part of a broader battle of corporate interests and conservative strategy against labor, saying “it’s been a fantasy of the right and the corporate powers in this country” to destroy unions and collective bargaining.

“The notion this is about the budget is a complete sham … This is about an agenda of destroying unions,” Feingold said. “This is a template that is being attempted by the right and the corporate interests to see if it can work elsewhere. Walker volunteered to step in to this first. He volunteered to be the great union buster. We will all respond to this very firmly and aggressively. And fight this as hard as we possibly can.”

2:30PM PST: Tweeter responding to GOP types claiming that there’s a riot in Madison WI:

Also, this is #notariot. More like Comic-Con, except the comic book heroes are teachers, firefighters, unions.”

There are UNCONFIRMED reports of anti-union individuals trying to start fights near doors to building. Only confirmed report of counter-protestor says he showed up, chanted for a few minutes & left.

Steelworkers union rep. on MsNBC:

“Governor Scott Walker has woken a sleeping giant.”

Seeing reports that GOPers are calling Madison protests a Democratic rent-a-mob. Sorry guys, we don’t have hire mercenaries.

Call is going out for people to sleep over in the Wisc Capital Bldg tonight.

From the scene via Daily Kos:

I sit here trying to figure out how to describe the indescribable. The energy in the capitol is palpable; the entire building is filled to standing room only, the noise is deafening – it only became nearly silent during the short-lived attempt to convene the special Senate session which failed for lack of a quorum.

Local businesses are pitching in free food and coffee for protesters. I’ve heard at least one report of police officers buying lunch for protesting state workers.

Ten thousand people yelling “Tell me what Democracy looks like? This is what Democracy looks like!”

2:20 PST: Lawyer: Not much can be done to round up Democrats

If the Democrats escaped to Illinois, there is little that could be done to bring them back to Madison, said Raymond Dall’Osto, a veteran Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer.

Illinois police “could arrest if there is a crime, but what is the crime?” said Dall’Osto, a Democrat and former head of the local ACLU office. “They would have no legal right to arrest them right now.”

He explained that Wisconsin officers could make an arrest inside the state lines, but their jurisdiction doesn’t extend south of Kenosha

“It’s an unprecedented situation,” he added explaining that even making an arrest inside Wisconsin – but away from the Capitol — could be troubling to police. It’s not like sending a Capitol Police officer to a legislator’s office and reminding him to get on the floor.

If ordered by the Legislature to arrest Democrats found roaming Wisconsin, the police would have to make a tough choice, Dall’Osto said.

“Would they act like the army in Egypt or the army in Bahrain?” Dall’Osto said. In Bahrain the military is supporting the government against protesters while in Egypt the military ultimately sided with demonstrators.

The Texas legislature was paralyzed for days in 2003 when House Democrats fled to Ardmore, Okla., and Senate Democrats escaped to New Mexico during a bitter fight over redistricting.

Meanwhile, the Pioneer Press newspaper in St. Paul is trying to figure out whether any Democrats have fled to their side of the border.

One of their journalists sent the following message on the social-networking website Twitter: This is completely serious: If you’re a Wisconsin Dem. legislator hiding in St. Paul or if you’re sheltering one, we’d like to talk to you.

2:15 PST: Social media a key component of sit-ins

Madison – Protesters showing up at the State Capitol to set up a sit-in in front of the corridors leading to the Senate chambers are organizing on well-established social media sites.

On Twitter, posters are imploring University of Wisconsin-Madison students to head to certain areas of the Capitol in order to clog stairs, corridors and doors leading to the Senate chamber.

“Calling for people to block stairs to Senate,” is a common Twitter post.

“Keep sitting in? Senators may be forced to enter the Senate chamber and we need to prevent the Senate from attaining quorum,” said another.

2:00 PST: Missing Legislator found? From the Daily Caller…State Senator Mark Miller, a member of the missing band of Wisconsin Democratic lawmakers who fled Madison Thursday to avoid a vote on a budget bill, called into CNN with the group’s list of demands for Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Miller, a state senator since 2004, would not disclose where he and his colleagues were hiding out, saying only:

“we are in what we consider a secure location outside the capital. We are not all in one place at this time.”

Miller’s demands focused on the collective bargaining portions of the bill.

“We demand that the provisions that completely eliminate the ability of workers… to negotiate on a fair basis with their employers be removed from the budget repair bill and any other future budget,” Miller said.

He also demanded legislative oversight on changes to the state’s medical programs, which are targeted for changes in the bill. The bill would also require union members to contribute to their health care and pensions.

1:45 PM PST: Protestors inside the WI State Capital have released red balloons with a “Power to the People” banner that is now floating around the top of the Rotunda

Another banner with a black clenched fist hanging from balloons at the top of the rotunda. Huge cheers errupted.

1:39 PST: ABC reports: Authorities say an estimated 25,000 people are protesting anti-union legislation at the Wisconsin state Capitol, and nine demonstrators have been arrested.

1:35 PST: State Sens. Spencer Coggs (D-Milwaukee) Jon Erpenbach (D-Fitchburg) said Thursday all 14 Senate Democrats had left Wisconsin Thursday to avoid being forcibly returned to the Capitol to vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed elimination of public worker bargaining rights.

Neither would disclose their exact location or confirm that they were in Illinois, as widely rumored.

“We are out of state for jurisdictional reasons,” Erpenbach said. Wisconsin lawmakers could be forcibly returned to the Capitol by Wisconsin police or state troopers — if they had stayed in Wisconsin, he said.

Out of state police could not be used to forcibly return them to Madison, he said.

“We just want to slow things down,” Coggs said. “We are waiting to see if the governor wants to talk to us and at least do some preliminary negotiations.”

Coggs said the public deserved to have a fuller airing of Walker’s union proposals.

1:33 PST: Madison — As senators consider ways to bring missing Democrats back to the chamber, a look at the state constitution is in order.

The constitution doesn’t provide a lot of details, but it does say lawmakers “may compel the attendance of absent members in such manner and under such penalties as each house may provide.”

Under the Senate rules, Sergeant at Arms Ted Blazel can carry out those duties, said Senate Chief Clerk Rob Marchant.

He added: “We are researching the extent to which law enforcement can be involved,” Marchant said.

Blazel said he checked all Senate offices for Democratic members, as instructed, but could find none. He said he was waiting for further direction from Senate leaders.

1:30 PST: Very tight security being set up for Walker’s press conference later today.

Pro-Walker rally being organized for Saturday. 104 signed up on Facebook so far.

Drudge Report (Right Wing Aggregator) Calls Demonstrations “Days of Rage”.

Washington Post: Why is this particular fight such an important precedent-setter? Wisconsin governor Scott Walker insists his proposal is all about fiscal austerity. But as Brian Beutler notes, it actually goes far beyond this: Scaling back the bargaining rights of public workers doesn’t save money by itself. It knocks down a barrier in a way that makes cutting into workers’ benefits generally easier, and strikes at a core set of rights that labor stands for.

Local San Diego Labor Council Issues a Press Release:

San Diego Labor Council Stands With Working Families in Wisconsin & Ohio

Thousands Protest in Midwest States Over Workers’ Rights

SAN DIEGO – In light of the ongoing protests in Wisconsin and Ohio, San Diego Labor Council Secretary-Treasurer and CEO Lorena Gonzalez made the following statement:

“We have watched this week as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has attempted to use budget shortfalls as an excuse to take away the future rights of more than 150,000 local and state workers. And today, Gov. John Kasich is attempting to do the same thing in Ohio. They are both facing tens of thousands of protestors who have taken to the streets and Capitol buildings in a show of support of middle class workers’ rights.

“Corporate interests and their handpicked politicians have successfully blamed the economic problems of our country on the average worker, to try escape their responsibility in causing our massive recession. The men and women of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO vigorously applaud the efforts of ordinary citizens – union and nonunion, student and teacher, firefighters, child care providers, public servants, veterans and working families that have refused to let this narrative continue in Wisconsin and Ohio.

“We stand in solidarity with the working families of Wisconsin and Ohio and commit to continue to fight for every workers right to join together and collectively bargain for a better life.”

The San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO, represents more than 192,000 local workers from 132 unions, including the National Football League Players Association, who are making the region a better place to live and work.


How about asking people to wear red on Friday to show support?

1:23 PST: On msnbc Ch. 39 Rylan Ratigan asks how can we afford to allow the banks to go scott free but penalize public workers.  Ed Shultz of the Ed Shultz Show will be broadcasting from Madison tonight.

11:18 PST: Via Twitter NatashaChart NatashaChart
The police came bearing doughnuts for labor. #Madison, #WI #solidarityWI

12:55 PST: Twitter hashtag #wiunion is “trending” now (meaning it’s among the most commonly used. Spambots are launching attacks. Lots of offers for SouthWest Airlines gift cards, Free IPods… etc. opportunists or sockpuppets? We report, you decide.More Faux news propaganda reported on Twitter: Tea Partiers and Fox news is trying to say we’re using kids as human shields and we don’t pick up after ourselves.

12:48 PST:  Photo below: Appleton West High School students protest in support of their teachers on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011. Teachers and labor supporters swarmed entrances to the Senate chambers at the Wisconsin Capitol Thursday in an attempt to stop lawmakers from passing a bill that would strip most public employees of nearly all collective bargaining rights.(Credit: AP Photo/The Post-Crescent, Sharon Cekada)

Make sure to hit the F5 button or refresh your browser as this page is constantly changing!
12:46 PST: via twitter carolinescastle Caroline Hardin

Seven people are being arrested for breaking into the senate chamber #killthebill #notmywi #madison

Click here to sign the open letter to the Wisconsin State Legislature — telling them to oppose Walker’s budget and say no to his threat to use the National Guard against state workers!

12:39 PST: (CNN) — Thousands of people gathered in Madison, Wisconsin, on Thursday, protesting a bill that would strip teachers and other public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights and increase their contributions for benefits.

Demonstrators spilled into the state’s Capitol building, chanting, “This is our house” and “Forward not backward,” voicing their opposition to legislation supported by Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

At least 15 school systems in Wisconsin canceled class for a second day, said Madison Metropolitan School District spokesman Ken Syke, because of a call by the Wisconsin Education Association Council for people to come to the Capitol on Thursday and Friday to “stand beside your neighbors, family and friends to help our voices be heard.”

Syke earlier said about 40 percent of 2,600 teachers, assistants, social workers and psychologists in the bargaining unit called in sick late Tuesday, forcing the Madison district to cancel Wednesday’s classes for 24,500 students.

School officials in Oregon, south of Madison, said they canceled classes Thursday because of anticipated staff absences.

12:30 PST: Here’s what important over at Faux News: More than 400 amendments were filed Monday night. Among them were a proposal from Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., to eliminate funding for the president’s Teleprompter.

Over at Talking Points Memo word is that the WI protests are spreading:

Over the course of a week, national attention has turned to Wisconsin. There, a definitional battle between Democratic backed state workers and anti-union Republicans will play out over the course of days, amid the most impassioned protests the country has seen since the anti-health care rallies of August 2009.

But just across the Great Lakes in nearby Ohio, where Republicans swept control of government in November, a similar fight is brewing… …the situations in Wisconsin and Ohio are not isolated incidents. There are similar efforts in nascent stages just about everywhere Republicans took control of one or more branches of government: Missouri, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, and to a lesser degree in Maine and Pennsylvania.

12:20 PST: The WI senate is in recess as Republicans gather plans to respond to Democratic walkout. Quote of the moment: “The only walkout I was worried about last week was the NFL…”

From the Nation blog:

Instead of taking the day off, students gathered yesterday at schools throughout Madison and marched miles along the city’s main thoroughfares to join the some 30,000 protestors, the largest mass demonstration the city has seen in decades—perhaps since the great protests of the Vietnam War era, The Nation’s John Nichols reports.

Protestors chanted ‘You know what’s disgusting? Union Busting!” and teachers carried signs that read ‘Will the National Guard teach my class?’ in response to Walkers threat to call out the National Guard.

12:17 PST: (Madison is 2 hours ahead of West Coast) Madison – Schools are closed so what are kids supposed to do?  How about come down to the demonstration at the State Capitol.

By Thursday afternoon the corridors continued to be clogged with demonstrators, including loads of students who joined their teachers in the protest. From a third-floor balcony a paper banner spilled down and read: “Save Our Schools.”

Student cheers and voices — and yes, even the beating of drums — echoed in the rotunda as they chanted: This is what democracy looks like,” followed by rounds of “Scott Walker’s gotta go.”

Kaitlyn Scallon, a January graduate of Madison East High School, said she’ll feel the impact of the proposed labor pact.

“I’m working as a CNA,” she said. “This means a lot to me.”

Aya Maiga, a Madison East senior, said she and her friends have been at the Capitol every day of the protest.

“My mom is a CNA and she will be affected,” she said. “Since we haven’t been in school for a few days I feel like we should be here for our teachers.”

12:16 PST: U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) comments on the protests in Madison.  Ryan expresses support for Gov. Scott Walker, and says public employees have to contribute more to their pension and health plans.

As to today’s protests, Ryan says, “…it’s like Cairo has moved to Madison these days.”

To see earlier updates go HERE

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Dickie February 17, 2011 at 10:19 am

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


Frank Gormlie February 17, 2011 at 10:42 am

Dickie, you are absolutely right. If a right-wing extremist governor in Wisconsin can get away with this horrific set of policies, then these other tea party governors will try to do the same. Wisconsin has a long history of labor activism, so the extremists hope to show this as an example for the rest of the nation. That’s why it all has to stop in Madison.


butch February 17, 2011 at 10:56 am

Well said, Dickie.

As a state employee, I often feel that I am guilty of raping somebody’s mother when I read comments regarding state employees on the web. It really is kind of demoralizing to feel that people would like all of the state’s woes to fall squarely on the shoulders of state employees.

Oh, and for the record, before anybody says “Oh, he shouldn’t be posting on state time!”: I’m home today on an unpaid furlough day.


Sarah February 17, 2011 at 11:57 am


I love it when you do this “live blogging”.



dave rice February 17, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Ditto that. Even when I can’t follow (like right now), it’s great to come back and read the whole stream later.


annagrace February 17, 2011 at 1:10 pm

“Together we bargain; divided we beg.” That certainly puts things into perspective. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone asks “Why isn’t Wall Street in Jail?” Remember, it was Wall Street and its “obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world’s wealth — and nobody went to jail.”
Despite what our conservative fire breathing brethren would have us believe, that public salaries and benefits and public sector unions are responsible for the economic meltdown in our (tax adverse) states and municipalities, culpability begins and remains with Wall Street, corporate give aways and our government’s complicity with scoundrels.
The problem is that it is so much simpler to pit citizen against public sector employees, and public sector employees against each other. Nobody has figured out how to take on the overlords and damn few have even been willing to make that the economic issue. It should be clear who we will be begging from.


Chudleigh February 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm

You can’t imagine how much less expensive would be your grocery bill if the supermarkets were not staffed by unskilled union thugs.
Supermarket banana scanners, cart boys and shelf stockers are all unskilled jobs, and we would save a lot
off our supermarket purchases if the jobs went to part-time after school kids and seniors.
Unskilled jobs do not require a “living wage”, as the unions would have us believe.
Unions have their place, but unskilled jobs belong to unskilled individuals.


annagrace February 17, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Ugh. Unskilled jobs do not require a living wage? Chudleigh, in your estimation, who gets to live?


barbara February 17, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Stunning comment, absolutely breathtaking in it’s lack of facts, Let’s start with the building trades, shall we? They are hard jobs, unskilled labor for the most part. Not many PHD’s hanging drywall these days. The mega builders hired illegals or felons, others who wanted to work for pennies , not to bash them. Gradually the trade unions shrunk and shrunk. Tell me how much less a new house costs today? Did the builders, banks, real estate people pass along the savings to you? This attitude that people don’t deserve a living wage is disgusting. My first job at 18 was a living wage. I had a car, apartment, food, necessities. Those used to be where one started out, in the grocery, fast food, today, that is where one ends up after 30 years as a manager somewhere because there are no other jobs. Have you been living in a cave the last 25 years?


Patty Jones February 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm

barbara, you got my vote for comment of the day! well said!


RB February 17, 2011 at 3:31 pm

We will see who runs the State of Wisconsin, the voters or the unions.
Elections matter to those who believe in democracy.


annagrace February 17, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Union members are voters RB. 30,000 human beings/ public workers union members/ voters showed up in the capital of WI today. And yes, we will get to see what the voters do.


annagrace February 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm

What’s with the headlines on HuffPo & LA Times that “Dem Lawmakers Flee Wisconsin?” Sloppy, bad reporting leaving you with the impression that the Dems were run out of town. No one says Elvis fled the building. No one says Frasier fled the building. The Dems left the capitol and the state. It was a purposeful and strategic act. Flee? Horse puckey.


Sarah February 17, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Walk like an Egyptian.



Frank Gormlie February 17, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Thanks to all of you who dropped by or stayed with us all day. A whole bunch of folks in Wisconsin came on the OB Rag to see what was going on in their own state.

This is what democracy looks like! Power to the people.


annagrace February 17, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Well done!


JRMilw February 17, 2011 at 8:56 pm

We’re not gonna take it! Never did & Never Will!
Fighting back with everything we’ve got on the front lines in Madison!


Patty Jones February 17, 2011 at 10:11 pm

We’re with you Madison!


doug porter February 18, 2011 at 7:47 am

UPDATE: Since the WI Legislature is unable to proceed without a quorum, we’ll take a break from liveblogging today (Fri) unless circumstances change. However, we will offer ongoing coverage over at our Facebook page (OBRagBlog@Facebook). We’re sending a reporter (me) to the local Labor Council rally today and will run recaps throughout the weekend. In case you haven’t noticed, the lamestream media is trying to downplay or spin this story away. We’ll keep on top of it for you.


annagrace February 19, 2011 at 10:41 am

Saturday Feb 19 Live blog of today’s rally and anti-rally in Madison available here.


Mike March 10, 2011 at 8:01 pm

dems gops, do thyr really have our best interest in mind? why do we side with either?


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