By Cynthia McCabe
They came by the tens of thousands, pouring into the statehouse, amassing in front of courthouses and political offices, marching out of classrooms, offices and their homes.
On Tuesday, the people of Wisconsin stood up and said ‘No!’ to Gov. Scott Walkers’ attempts to decimate workers’ rights in the state with his fast-tracked budget “repair” bill. At the largest rally, at the statehouse in Madison, officials estimated the crowd at 15,000. A week of such rallies and lobbying is planned and a vote could come as early as Thursday on the budget bill.
Spurred by the governor’s attempts to eliminate and weaken collective bargaining and pensions and health care benefits for public employees, the rally groups comprised public- and private-sector workers, retirees, students and others.
“This isn’t just about pay and benefits – this is an attack on our rights,” said Rozalia Harris, a teacher from Milwaukee’s Hi-Mount Elementary School who attended the rally. “We have to let everyone know how bad this is going to be for our state.”
In Vernon County, 250 students from Viroqua High School walked out of class in unison to protest on behalf of their teachers, marching to the county courthouse.
“I don’t think that it’s fair that Scott Walker can just take away the rights of workers and teachers to have collective bargaining,” student protestor Courtney Everson told the Lacrosse Tribune.
Also Tuesday, current and former Green Bay Packers players became the latest group to speak out on behalf of Wisconsin’s public servants.
“The right to negotiate wages and benefits is a fundamental underpinning of our middle class,” said the NFL players and alumni in a statement. “Wisconsin’s long standing tradition of allowing public sector workers to have a voice on the job has worked for the state since the 1930s. These public workers are Wisconsin’s champions every single day and we urge the governor and the state legislature to not take away their rights.”
Since Walker introduced his so-called budget “fix” on Friday evening, activists have been lighting up statehouse phones and filling email inboxes, telling state legislators they oppose the plan. As of Wednesday morning, 43,000 emails had been sent by state residents to their legislators, telling them not to vote for Walker’s budget repair bill.
Yesterday, more than 1,000 University of Wisconsin-Madison students rallied at the university, standing in support of their faculty and staff, which would be prohibited from organizing as a union under the plan.
Here are four things you can do right at your computer in the next few minutes to stand with these educators and students in Wisconsin:
- Send a quick e-letter to Wisconsin legislators telling them you won’t stand for Gov. Walker’s so-called “budget fix.”
- Join the thousands of people amassing on Facebook today telling Gov. Walker ‘No!’ in this important cause.
- Sign up with to become a volunteer activist on EducationVotes. You’ll be a key player in the fight for public education!
- Want to help but don’t live in Wisconsin? Sign our national petition to support educator and worker rights!
Here’s a look at the crowd as it mustered in the capitol today, shot by SC-TV’s Jessica Arp: