It was thrilling! Wrapped in solidarity 50,000 like-minded, commited people converged on capital square in Madison on a cold, crisp Saturday morning to show their passion and love for their home state of Wisconsin. Unity, pride of purpose and a long history in this state for labor's rights brought people out in droves for the 19th straight day of protest against Gov. Walker's union busting agenda. And I was honored to participate.
I do not intend to get "political" on this blog very often, in fact in two years this is the first time. But one cannot live in Wisconsin these days and ignore this firestorm. Every community no matter how small seems to be hosting their own protests repeatedly. It's everywhere and it's hot.
A group of us drove the two hours from our homes early Saturday morning to Madison. We were excited to experience the demonstration and to finally be a real part of it. The crowd was lighter in the morning but still huge. It grew exponentially throughout the day. So did the fervor. There was a continual line throughout the day to get inside the rotunda. Once inside we were immediately put through a search and metal detectors, police passing the detection wands over our bodies.
To explain briefly what the protests are really about - it's not about the budget as the Governor and his people like to parrot - the Democrats have very early on agreed to the concessions the Governor requested. But he stubbornly refuses to drop his demand that unions give up their collective bargaining rights. Their rights! Americans do not like anyone curtailing or stealing their rights. What this really is is a Republican Governor trying to turn the future Wisconsin electorate forever in the Republican's favor. It is really a nation-wide anti-democratic, anti-American effort at an abhorrent, disgusting power grab by Republican Governors and the National Republican Party. You see if you can bust the unions in Wisconsin, you can bust them everywhere. Why would they want to do that? Because the unions are the only source of "big money" for the Democrats at election time. In 2010, of the top 10 big money donor institutions for campaign coffers only 3 of them went to Democrats - and they were all unions. The other 7 were corporate interests and they all went for the Republicans. If you kill the unions you can desimate the Democratic Party! But I believe their greedy power grabbing has awakened a sleeping giant in this country and the Republicans will come to regret their actions!
Unions and Wisconsin have a long and bloody history. Some of the "perks" every working American enjoys that came from unions in Wisconsin are: the Worker's Compensation Law won in 1911 in Wisconsin, the first state in the union (USA) to achieve it; unemployment benefits, a right won in Wisconsin first in 1932; collective bargaining rights granted in 1959. Wisconsin had the first national union to survive established in 1859. And that everyone have the concept of "weekends off" or the equivalent, the securing of a 40 hour work week, 8 hour work day. It was a hard fought nation-wide battle won in 1886 in Miwaukee, Wisconsin. Following is a short discription of that bloody episode that took place at Bayview Rolling Mills in Milwaukee when 7 people including one child were killed by the Wisconsin state militia.
On 1 May 1886 about 2,000 Polish workers walked off their jobs and gathered at Saint Stanislaus Church in Milwaukee, angrily denouncing the ten hour workday. They then marched through the city, calling on other workers to join them; as a result, all but one factory was closed down as sixteen thousand protesters gathered at Rolling Mills, prompting Wisconsin Govorner Jeremiah Rusk to call the state militia. The militia camped out at the mill while workers slept in nearby fields, and on the morning of May 5th, as protesters chanted for the eight hour workday, General Treaumer ordered his men to shoot into the crowd, some of whom were carrying sticks, bricks, and scythes, leaving seven dead at the scene. The Milwaukee Journal reported that eight more would die within twenty four hours, and without hesitation added that Governor Rusk was to be commended for his quick action in the matter.
This is why this battle is being fought in Wisconsin, why it has to be fought here, why so many of us are so passionate about this issue! It's in our DNA!
We may lose this battle, but we must, we will win this war! Beware, the awakened sleeping giant awaits! On Wisconsin!