madison protests update

I’m back from a few hours at the Madison protest and the midday rally.

The galvanizing issue for the protest is to strip public unions of collective bargaining rights over anything but salary. There is a report that the “budget crisis” is a sham, in that the budget was left in fairly good shape by the outgoing Democratic governor (who has been imposing cuts on the public sector, the university, and welfare throughout the eight years of his administration), and the Republicans passed a series of expensive tax breaks for businesses in January. It’s fair to say that this is not a sad response to fiscal crisis, but a calculated attempt to weaken unions.

The midday protest was quite an event. It is a huge crowd that looks a lot like tea-party folks: overwhelmingly white, predominantly middle-aged despite the large infusion of high school kids and college students. Even a few “Don’t Tread on Me” flags.  Labor unions from the private sector were out in force today. The Capitol is packed and huge crowds are outside it. Lots of shops along State Street have signs supporting the unions and/or the teachers. I’m sure they are doing a booming business. The police and firefighters, who are exempted from the loss of collective bargaining rights due to their support for the Governor in the last election, nevertheless turned out in force in solidarity with other public workers. The mood of the crowd was upbeat.

Late-breaking news: State Sentate Democrats finally got a spine with mass support and are in hiding to prevent a quorum which would bring the bill to a vote. The police are now charged with finding them. The rumor is that they left the state.

The is another rally called for 5:30 this evening and more over the weekend. The Ed Show on MSNBC (comes on after Rachel Maddow) gave Madison extensive coverage last night and is broadcasting from here tonight; people were urged to show up to the Capitol Square for the broadcast.

Some suggestions about following the Madison protests. I’m afraid I don’t know any really good source. It is a huge local story so it is getting a lot of local play. Here’s what I can find.

It was said at the rally that there are protests in solidarity in cities all over the state, but so far I have no located any coverage of them.

Local newspaper(s): Madison: lots of stories covering the issues from a local/state point of view. Milwaukee:

Local TV news channels: (the FOX outlet)

This web site is posting media links:
The only serious national coverage I’ve seen so far has been on MSNBC. Rachel Maddow did half an hour on it last night, and the Ed Show (on after Maddow) devoted virtually all of last night’s hour show to Madison, and is broadcasting from Madison this evening.

Workers independent news is a Madison outfit:


Author: olderwoman

I'm a sociology professor but not only a sociology professor. I keep my name out of this blog because I don't want my name associated with it in a Google search. Although I never write anything in a public forum like a blog that I'd be ashamed to have associated with my name (and you shouldn't either), it is illegal for me to use my position as a public employee to advance my religious or political views, and the pseudonym helps to preserve the distinction between my public and private identities. The pseudonym also helps to protect the people I may write about in describing public or semi-public events I've been involved with. You can read about my academic work on my academic blog --Pam Oliver

11 thoughts on “madison protests update”

  1. Thanks much for posting this, and for the links. There is a long labor tradition in Wisconsin, and I wonder if this makes it a little easier for organized labor to be a little tougher than elsewhere. I’m very curious about the spread to other states. I understand that comparable stuff is on the horizon in Ohio (both from the governor and from the unions).


  2. Managed to drop by this evening (flight arrived late!). It was inspiring to see such a variety of people there. Normally Madison protests are the same 2000 progressives. But today there were families from out of town, firefighters, policemen — a tremendous range of people from all over the state. I must say, I got chills of excitement. Looking forward to being there again tomorrow, and over the weekend while I’m in town. It’s inspiring here.


  3. Alternet is doing live blogging–_over_30%2C000_assemble_at_the_capitol/

    One of the problems with the twitter organization of this stuff is that a lot of us older people are not getting the “assembly instructions” very clearly. The only way to find out whether there is something other people want you to do is to get tweets. The “faculty rally” yesterday was pretty disorganized as there was a confusion about assembly time versus march time. There has also been confusion about exactly what we were being asked to do with respect to classes.
    The prohibition on using our official emails for organizing has hamstrung us, as there are no alternate email lists using personal emails.


    1. To get the #defendwisconsin tweets sent as text messages to your cell phone (your normal text message charges will apply), text to


      the message

      follow defendwisconsin

      For those of us without smartphones, this is the best way to get certain urgent updates, though it’s still imperfect.

      [By the way, I agree the communication has been a big problem. Two nights ago, undergrads set up an info station in the capitol that has been extremely useful and they deserve everyone’s gratitude. Others are making different plans to address this, including broadly-publicized meetings in the capitol tonight organized by students from Madison’s soc department, etc.]


      1. In my case, I’m so retrograde I don’t have a text plan and pay 20 cents a text message. I’d have to pay $20 a month to get the “unlimited” text plan that is the only safe way to turn on a tweet feed.

        I admit that my next phone will be a smartphone, but I’ve been holding off on the conversion because the switch involves buying a more expensive plan.


      2. Just to stress, given that this protest was thrust upon people and not pre-planned, the organization has truly been phenomenal. My comments about being lost without a smart phone or at least a text plan are a commentary on the inability of the older generation to coordinate in a crisis, not a criticism of the younger generation for their work.


      3. Well, this week is the only time I’ve ever regretted not having a smartphone, so.

        Seriously, though, the best communication in the capitol by far is the “Low-tech Twitter feed” (a whiteboard) at the undergrad-initiated and -staffed info station. The technology helps, but only so much.


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