Quote of the evening (partly paraphrased): “I know you sat around and let Walker get elected. You-all didn’t think Walker was going to hurt YOU-all, just us Black and Brown and poor people.”
This seemed fitting, as I’ve been party to many political conversations about the narrowing of the protest to the collective bargaining issue. The ranks are not at all happy about their leadership just conceding the financial issues. The proposal will cost state workers a minimum of 6-7% of their salary, more if they are low wage, as the health insurance premiums do not vary with income. But there is a lot of other stuff in the bill that is being completely ignored. It would give the governor the right to kill off Medicaid — a coalition is trying to bring up that issue, but isn’t making it out of the din. Another part of the bill that isn’t being contested is the right of the Governor to sell off state property without taking competitive bids or gaining the approval of the Public Works Commission. And, of course, with so much under attack, nobody is even considering the possibility of improving social services for the most destitute. This year’s deficit could be made up at $32 per adult in the state — it just isn’t that big. But the Republicans are busy cutting revenue via cutting various business taxes.
This evening I went off to a long-scheduled meeting of a group seeking focus on racial disparities and form a local branch of WISDOM, Wisconsin’s Gamaliel Foundation group. I wasn’t sure anyone would be there with all the ruckus at the Capitol, but a fair number of folks did turn out, although I think everyone either already has some tie to the issue or has a direct tie to one of the organizers. Although the organizers were White (and spoke at the beginning and end of the program), all the invited speakers were Black: a lawyer who heads the racial disparities implementation team who gave an inspiring speech about hanging on, addressing the things we’d rather hide, and God’s calling; a former financial professional who provides job coaching for returning inmates (who stressed that he took the job because of his relationship with Jesus); and a former self-described gangster and drug dealer (quoted above) who told us how his life was turned around by “old white ladies” visiting him in prison. The fourth speaker was another former inmate who runs re-entry programs: he was a last-minute sub for the guy who was supposed to speak, who is currently being held in jail on a parole hold. The substitute speaker and another (white) person who is in his circle of support were talking later about how the parole agent won’t return calls and about what to do next to try to get him out. I also met a diversity specialist who was at the Law School forum earlier this month (about which I did not blog, but the recap is it featured the Black newly-appointed DA who will have to stand for election doing his best to talk the disparities issue into a muddy swamp) who wanted to connect.
The Madison protests are still going. A nasty storm kept the crowds small and indoors on Sunday; there was a rally Monday I did not go to. Tuesday was another big rally day and the campus was asked to walk out in solidarity and march to the capitol. On the way back, I heard the guy behind me say: “This is Walker’s physical fitness program for the University. Walk up and down State Street every day.” The Steelworkers and Firemen are sleeping at the Capitol. Crowds are smaller. The police have told the protesters that they will try to clear the Capitol of sleepovers if the crowd gets small enough, and blog posts indicate that the sleepovers are being confined to smaller and smaller areas. The word I get is that the out-of-town union people are frightened of the police and keep spreading [false] rumors that the police are massing in riot gear. The locals think the police are acting friendly. Knowing how local police work, I’m pretty sure that if the Capitol is closed, they will be told to disperse and given time to do it, and then will have to face the question of whether to stay and risk arrest or confrontation.
The State Senators’ absence blocks passage only of budget bills. So the Republicans are setting about the business of passing all the other noxious legislation they can, including repealing the recently-passed requirement to collect racial traffic stop data and requiring voters to show ID.
And I finally started collecting personal email addresses so we can do protest support without violating the law. It is explicitly against the law for state workers to use state resources to lobby about a bill before the legislature. As you may imagine, a lot of people are ignoring this law, and there are a wide variety of interpretations about just what it means in this context, as workers do have the right to express opinions about their work conditions. Anyway, the personal email list removes this ambiguity, although it is cumbersome to use. I had to explain to people how to set up a gmail account.