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 TV news channels:
http://www.fox47.com/ (the FOX outlet)
This web site is posting media links: http://www.defendwisconsin.org/
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: http://www.laborradio.org/