Defend the Rights of Workers
The atmosphere in Wisconsin remains electric. Workers and youth from every region of the state and beyond and from all sectors of the economy have come together determined to defend their rights and the rights of all. They are resolute and convinced that only their staunch opposition can stop the growing state-organized attacks in the United States and specifically the blatant state-organized attack on workers’ rights unleashed by Governor Scott Walker.
February 22, rumors swirled that Walker was preparing to use force to remove protestors from the state capitol building in Madison. Immediately, 200 steelworkers organized themselves to march into the building and spend the night and defend the protest. They joined teachers from their various locals and unions, who along with firefighters are the main force. In large numbers as well are state public sector workers of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, industrial workers from various plants, machinists, meatpackers, teamsters and others. Also present are representatives of national minorities who see in this attack on union and workers’ rights an attack on their rights as human beings. Prominent in their numbers, exuberance and discipline are the youth of Wisconsin. Many schools across Madison, Milwaukee and elsewhere in the state closed as teachers and students alike protest the assault on the right to organize into unions, which from their collective strength can bargain for wages, benefits, pensions and working conditions commensurate with the work performed.
The state legislature is in session but Democratic members of the Senate have refused to attend, denying Walker and his cronies a quorum to push through their anti-people legislation. This legislation upholds monopoly right and privilege and blames workers for the economic crisis when everyone knows that to be a big lie. Workers and youth are hailing the state Democratic legislators as heroes of the people for their principled stand in defense of the people’s rights.
Across the state and the entire country, people are grasping the reality that paying the rich and their monopolies from the public treasury — and then under the hoax of deficits and debts cutting public services, social programs, wages, benefits and pensions and smashing public right — are not solutions. These actions will only make the economic crisis worse and send the country hurtling over a precipice to open dictatorial rule of monopoly right.
The elements of the ruling class who are attacking the working people only know violence as a response to the people’s demand for rights. Walker and his ilk refuse to negotiate in good faith to come to new arrangements upholding public right not monopoly right. Underlining this consistent fascist tendency to violence, Governor Walker has put the state National Guard on standby to threaten and intimidate the demonstrators. To intensify the atmosphere of intimidation Walker ordered the National Guard to “visit” a prison in Madison, in what was described as a “precaution” as many corrections officers have joined the protest to denounce the negation of their rights as workers.
The resistance is not naïve to these threats of violence nor is it passive. The Wisconsin South Central Federation of Labor (SCFL) endorsed holding a general strike at its meeting on February 21. SCFL defends more than 45,000 union workers in six counties. SCFL is actively preparing for such a general strike to force Walker to back down from his extremist actions. The preparations include broad discussion among union and non-union workers for the necessity of a mass mobilization and informational material for the public as a whole. The current legislation is aimed not only at wrecking the unions, but also the services being provided. Working conditions are no longer to be part of contracts, pensions are to be handed over to the monopolies, the conception that society is duty-bound to provide public healthcare, education, and other social services, eliminated. This is the content of the legislation, in Wisconsin and across the country.
Standing up for the workers and society, activities are going forward to strengthen resistance statewide. Unions are regularly bussing workers and their allies into Madison to join the main demonstration. Rallies are also taking place in other cities and small towns across the state. February 26 will see actions in every state nationwide. The organizing underscores the determination of all to see this struggle in defense of rights through to the end.
Of significant note is the broad participation of youth in the resistance movement. They are streaming into the Madison protest site from high schools and universities. Many bring their sense of social responsibility and experience from waging numerous struggles in defense of the rights of all around issues such as the movement against U.S. wars and occupations abroad and exposure of the reactionary nature of international organizations and trade agreements dominated by U.S. imperialism such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), NAFTA, etc. The youth have organized an information/media center manned 24/7, roving medics and squads to leaflet on campuses and in the communities and to bring to the people throughout the United States the serious issue of the necessity to defend the rights of all from the state-organized attacks of Governor Walker and his cronies.
As an indication of the broad support for the determined stand of Wisconsin workers, groups of doctors came to the rally to provide sick-notes for all who needed them — whether from being out in the cold all day or being sick and tired of the state-organized attacks on workers. As well, unions and various organizations from across the country have called in to nearby restaurants to provide pizza and other food for those occupying the capitol building. These include contributions from unions in Egypt and other international organizations.
Madison itself has seen tens of thousands rally over a period of two weeks, with 70,000-100,000 protesting President’s Day weekend. Now, for Saturday February 26, workers are gearing up to defend their occupation of the state capitol building. The occupation represents in part the drive of the workers to have a decision-making role in the direction of the state and the country. As many have put forward, “This is Our Capitol,” and it is workers’ rights that must be defended. Targeting the demand by the workers to have a deciding voice in the urgent matters affecting their lives, the Joint Committee on Legislative Organization passed a resolution proclaiming that no one could be present in hearing rooms or legislative offices from 6pm-8am beginning February 26. Both areas have been used to organize resistance and to make clear that public buildings belong to the public and that public right must be defended. The Governor is again threatening the use of the National Guard to remove protesters from these areas come 6pm Saturday. The Capitol rotunda and other public areas are expected to remain open.
As has been the case from the start, Wisconsin workers, students and youth remain undaunted and are standing firm in defense of the rights of all and urging everyone to do the same.
Legislators Call for Protestors to be
Today’s vote to ban protestors from legislative offices and hearing rooms at the Capitol starting Saturday is a blatant attack on our democratic rights to be heard on the very important matter of the union-busting budget repair bill. Protestors, supported by up to 60,000 protestors outside, have been in the Capitol around the clock for more than a week, slowing down the vote on the bill and forcing the state government to hear the voices of workers on a bill that would crush the ability of public sector workers to unionize. Offices and hearing rooms have been used to organize the protest, and removing us from them cripples our ability to continue to make the voices of the people of Wisconsin heard.
Without the presence of the protestors, it is likely that the bill would have been voted on by the Senate last Thursday, after the Republican Co-Chairs of the Joint Finance Committee cut off debate early Wednesday morning despite having promised on Tuesday to hear everyone who wanted to speak. The presence of vast numbers of anti-bill protestors encouraged Senate Democrats to make the highly unusual move of leaving the state to slow down the vote in favor of debate. That has allowed Democrats to hear more than 100 hours of testimony, lasting well through the weekend and into this week, from people who are opposed to the budget repair bill.
The vote by the Joint Committee on Legislative Organization to remove from hearing rooms and legislative offices everyone other than legislators and legislative staff between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m., effective Saturday, is a blatant move to end democratic presence in the Capitol, which is the only thing that is making time to debate this bill. We call on the State to protect our democratic rights to be heard.
The ballot vote by the Committee:
“I vote (yes|no) that it is the policy of the Joint Committee on Legislative Organization that no one, other than legislators and legislative staff who possess a valid legislative identification card, may be in any legislative office or hearing room between the hours of 6:00 PM to 8:00 AM. This policy is effective beginning at 6:00 PM on February 26, 2011, until modified by joint directive of the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the Assembly.”