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Madison, Wisconsin Day 12: Sea of people inside and out

By Kim DeFranco |
February 27, 2011
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Massive protest at WI State Capitol, 2/26/2011
Massive protest at WI State Capitol, 2/26/2011 (Fight Back! News/Kim DeFranco)
Massive protest at WI State Capitol, 2/26/2011
Inside the capitol during massive protest at WI State Capitol, 2/26/2011
Massive protest at WI State Capitol, 2/26/2011
Inside the capitol during massive protest at WI State Capitol, 2/26/2011

Madison, WI - 150,000 union workers and supporters packed the Madison Capitol complex inside and outside on Feb. 26 to express their outrage over the anti-union bill being rammed through the assembly. Throughout the day, a continuous flow of people entered into the capitol filling all three floors. Peoples' spirits were high and their anger showed through their loud chanting which rang through the capitol: “Kill the bill!” “What's disgusting? Union busting!” and “Union power!”

A special education teacher from Steven’s Point Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) said it was her first time at the capitol since the occupation. She stated, “I had to work but I supported my fellow union workers by making phone calls and making signs. However, I needed to come today. We need to stand together and stand up for the kids. This is what's important. It's not about the money. We need to support each other. Unlike Walker, we are willing to negotiate and talk. He just dictates.”

Diamon Terrell, a high school sophomore who is studying to be a math teacher, spent many nights inside the Capitol called this occupation, “the right to do.” “We have to...step up and fight back. We can effect change.”

Another student, Neporsha Fall explains this occupation is a good event. “It's not cool taking people’s rights away. I am not here only to fight for union rights but to save Badger Care [Wisconsin’s healthcare program]. My grandmother had seven strokes and if Walker gets rid of Badger Care, he will give her a death sentence.”

A group of high school girls from Oshkosh North High made the two hour drive to the capitol to support their teachers. They are standing up for their teachers' rights and their future. “We know that if their collective bargaining rights are taken away, more teachers will be laid off. Which would mean some of our programs will be cut.”

Don Guillot came from Seattle, Washington to join in solidarity rally. He states, “This is an attack on the middle class. With this union busting bill, management wants set up a caste system. So the wages gets pushed down and they take more of profits. We need union wages in order to live.”

Sara, a coffee shop worker for 14 years has family and friends in unions. Though she isn't in a union, she believes in what they stand for and knows it's important to come out to the capitol. “The unions are the backbone of America. This anti-union bill not only affects Wisconsin but every state.”

Another man at the rally, who moved to Madison two years ago, used to be union painter and his brother is in an electrician's union. He hopes the governor will reconsider. “We need to tax the rich, not to attack working people.”

Jamie drove from Milwaukee to support union workers. A home childcare provider and member of AFSCME Local 502, she said, “If we lose our bargaining rights that would mean a lot of home childcare providers will close and we will have to work at the bigger childcare centers at minimum wage.”

Doug, a member of Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU 53), traveled from New York City and was inspired by the people of Wisconsin. “We support the resistance of the workers against the right wing attacks on workers. This is the first real fight in a long time. We hope it replicates in other states. The people get to vote every so often, while the corporate elite can just make a few phone calls to politicians at all levels to dictate to them how things should be run. This shows that Walker is a gangster.”

Miriam was born and raised in Madison. Now she lives in Chicago and is interning as a Montessori teacher. “It's happening here right now. We need to support the unions because unions won't know what will happen to future contracts if collective bargaining is lost. That can't happen.”

Dan Flaten, technical college teacher in Eau Claire said, “We are sending a message of solidarity. This anti-worker bill is bringing unions together. The Koch brothers are billionaires who fund Tea Party and other ultra-right wing groups that are intent to bust unions.”

Outside the capitol, many more union workers, family, friends and supporters continued a non-stop march around the capitol. As they marched, they encircled the capitol. Many people describe it as a sea of people, a great sight.

An outside rally took place with speeches all commenting how Walker picked a wrong fight. People are standing up and fighting back. People cheered, “Hey hey! Ho ho! Scott Walker has to go!”

When the rally was over, the stream of people continued to march around the capitol well into early evening. Other people filed into the capitol before the doors were closed for the evening for another night of occupying the building.

Many rallies around the country also took place in many states in support of the Wisconsin workers. This is truly a great day for not only union workers but for all working people. The people are tired of being attacked by the powers that be and are fighting back.