After the huge wave of protests throughout February and March, the focus of activists in Wisconsin moved to the impending recall elections this summer. The winter actions erupted as a result of an anti-union bill which threatened to remove essentially all collective bargaining rights for public employees as well as hamstring unions by requiring the almost impossible tasks of annual recertification and individual opt-in dues collecting. In response, besides assembling in numbers reaching nearly one-hundred thousand, Wisconsin citizens amassed signatures on petitions to facilitate the recall of numerous state senators who had voted for Governor Walker’s duplicitous legislation.
In the past two months, though a presence of protesters has remained – with their t-shirts, buttons, signs, banners, vuvzelas – around the vicinity of the capitol building, it appeared the united front of thousands had waned. Groups still came to meet for solidarity sing-a-longs and to attend governmental committee hearings on the many new regressive, pro-corporate, anti-human bills being forwarded by the Wisconsin legislature. But with the recall elections on the horizon and with the recent small victory of the Dane County circuit court dismissing the anti-collecting bargaining law (as it had been passed so hastily as to not adhere to common legislative requirements), it appeared that Wisconsinites might be done with the fight, resting on their own laurels and those of the Democrats they hoped to elect via the recall.
Of course, the corporate media, who operate under the same anti-human system that fosters plutocracy and redistribution of wealth from the many to the few, would like nothing better than to make it appear that all is “back to normal” in the cheese state. So, perhaps few people outside of Wisconsin and even outside of Madison realize that we were serious when we said that this was not a protest but a movement. There is much yet to be accomplished.
As of 7pm on Saturday, June 4th, a diverse group of citizens, representing unionists, non-union workers, students, teachers, immigrants, farmers, families and people with no formal affiliation (save for being a part of the empathetic class who truly seeks liberty and justice for all) laid down their tents and founded “Walkerville” around the perimeter of the Wisconsin capitol building. With a nod to the Hooverville tent cities of the Great Depression, these activists are demonstrating that we are not only opposed to the aforementioned anti-union bill, but that we are opposed to the entire regressive budget of this state, which wholly removes the rights and social safeties for the most vulnerable members of our society and shifts all of the state’s bounty to the wealthiest and most anti-social corporate oligarchs. The police state enacted by the Walker administration has severely hampered the lawful and peaceful assembly of citizens in our own statehouse, so Walkerville exists to re-establish the constant presence and occupation by the people of the state, whose voice is being muted within the capitol.
Most importantly, Walkerville demonstrates that we in Wisconsin are not going to let up. Just as we are being attacked on all fronts as citizens, we will be fighting back on all fronts. Though the Democrats in our state legislature have stepped up to the plate and helped to support the will of the people, it is unlikely that they would have done so had their feet not been held to the fire. If we had not gathered in the capitol clearly proclaiming our will, our presence, and our solidarity, it is not clear the state Democrats would have had the impetus to help us fight. Thus we know that simply electing new officials will never be enough to ensure justice for the people from the government.
States like New York and California serve as prime examples of how the Democratic agenda is just as corporate as the Republican. Governor Andrew Cuomo, the son of a man once considered one of the strongest liberals in NY State history, is promoting many of the same brutal and unnecessary cuts to education and poverty programs. The underserved of California are faring no better under Jerry Brown. If we citizens fail to realize that we must pressure ALL politicians of all politician affiliations, and we must be prepared to fight indefinitely against the bipartisan corporate takeover of our local, state, and federal our government, we are sure to lose.
Walkerville signifies the fortitude of the Wisconsin people, and the recognition that our struggles as citizens are not soon to end. Our actions may take new forms or may morph as they are reassessed for utility, but they are far from over.
For those of us in Wisconsin who cannot camp out day and night around the capitol but still want to volunteer with the movement, there are numerous opportunities to be present for more protests and actions against the state budget, which will be negatively affecting all of us. (See Defend Wisconsin for full details.) For those in other states who will likely see similar developments, please know that we are still fighting, as you will surely have to fight too. The more we acknowledge that this struggle against the ruling class will be ongoing, that it affects us all, and that we may not ever be able to “return to normal,” the more likely we may have a fighting chance for our future.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) appeared Friday on Fox News, and explained to Neil Cavuto that a judge’s ruling Thursday that struck down his controversial anti-public employee union law, based on a procedure involved in passing it, would not be a major issue — that the state is appealing the decision, and in any case they could simply re-pass the same law without the procedural defect.
“Governor, what do you do now?” asked Cavuto.
“Well, for us, the clear thing that was — we found out of that ruling is not that the law was not valid, but that the process was used, at least according to the circuit court, was not correct,” said Walker.
“So, either next week when the Supreme Court starts to hear this case, either by the time they’re done in June, or ultimately by the end of June, when we have to have the legislature passing a state budget — one way or the other, either through the Supreme Court or the legislature, these reforms will be put into place, and we’ll ultimately be able to protect middle-class jobs and middle-class taxpayers here in the state of Wisconsin.”
Walker also explained to Cavuto: “the process was not the vote itself, it was the timing of the vote, and how far in advance notice was given. They could take this same vote again, as part of the state budget process, or in separate legislation, and still have the same outcome.”
On Thursday, Dane County (Madison) Judge Maryann Sumi — who had previously blocked Wisconsin’s controversial anti-union law from taking effect, pending litigation — officially ruled that the manner in which the bill was passed violated the state’s Open Meetings law, and that the law itself is therefore not valid.
The matter revolves around a key conference committee used to advance the bill — and to get around the state Senate Dems’ walkout from the state — and whether it violated the state’s Open-Meetings law by failing to give enough prior notice. Therefore, it is ruling on procedural grounds, rather than on the substance of the bill itself, which was not addressed. And as such, it would be possible to pass the bill again, giving full notice for all the meetings involved.
Two months ago, Sumi blocked the law on these procedural grounds, issuing a temporary restraining order on the grounds the plaintiff, the Dane County District Attorney, had a likelihood of success in his complaint.
By: Eric Kleefeld, Talking Points Memo, May 27, 2011
The Wisconsin board that oversees elections rejected most challenges Monday to a recall effort targeting three Republican state senators, clearing the way for a July 12 election.
The Government Accountability Board rejected the challenges made to recall petitions targeting Republican Sens. Dan Kapanke of La Crosse, Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac and Luther Olsen of Ripon.
They are among nine lawmakers, six Republicans and three Democrats, targeted for recalls for their positions on GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal taking away collective bargaining rights from most state workers.
Democrats are pushing the recalls as a way to gain majority control of the Senate, which they lost in the fall 2010 election. Democrats need to pick up three seats to gain a majority.
Republicans currently control both houses of the Legislature, providing GOP Gov. Scott Walker a clear path to passing his legislative agenda.
It was passage of Walker’s collective bargaining proposal that motivated all nine recalls. Republicans were targeted for supporting the bill while the Democrats were targeted for leaving the state for three weeks in an ultimately vain attempt to block passage of the bill.
The law has not taken effect pending a legal challenge.
State lawmakers are considering passing the law again, as part of the state budget in June, if the courts have not resolved the issue by then.
Most of the recall elections are likely to take place July 12, unless delayed by a court challenge. If a primary is necessary, that would occur July 12 with the general election likely Aug. 9.
The other Republican lawmakers facing recall elections are Sens. Robert Cowles of Allouez, Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls and Alberta Darling of River Hills. Democrats facing recalls are Sens. Dave Hansen of Green Bay, Robert Wirch of Pleasant Prairie and Jim Holperin of Conover.
The board plans to evaluate the challenges to those six recall petitions at its May 31 meeting, and likely would certify all the petitions that same week.
By: Jason Smathers, Associated Press, May 23, 2011
Hundreds of Wisconsinites lined Madison’s Capitol Square, Saturday, to welcome bikers from all over the Midwest and to protest Scott Walker’s attack on Wisconsin unions.
Just when Governor Scott Walker thought he memorized all the chants and signs, Wisconsinites revved it up a notch. Every kind of bike from Harley-Davidsons to Huffys descended onto the Square from Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and South Hamilton St.
Eric Hartz, the organizer of the event, complemented the thunderous entrance with songs from the Raging Grannies, a social justice organization made up of older women. Other speakers included Sen. John Erpenbach, Sen. Mark Miller, Rep. Cory Mason, Rep. Peter Barca, Milwaukee Public School Teachers and the City of Middleton Fire Fighters.
Throughout the speeches you could hear the low rumbling from motorcycles surrounding the capitol building. “The sound from the engines and the crowd was overwhelming,” said Miriam Kopelow, a teacher at Wringra Middle School. “I could feel the chants of the people and the rumbling of the bikes.”
According to Rep. Cory Mason, motorcycles and collective bargaining rights have a special place in Wisconsin’s history. “There are two great things that were invented here in the state of Wisconsin,” said Mason. “One is public sector collective bargaining rights and the other one is Harley Davidson and no governor in their right mind would try to get rid of any of those fine institutions.”
Most of the bikers participating were veterans supporting the unions. Dave Boetcher, a member of the State Veterans Board, rode in support of public workers, but also talked about the privatization of the new veteran’s home in Chippewa Falls after private nursing home owners lobbied Gov. Walker.
“We are first and foremost a compassionate state,” said Sen. John Erpenback. However, Gov. Walker’s budget wants to “cut a third from the vocational colleges… a billion dollars from K12…turn back 20 years of
recycling” and ultimately wants “to destroy clean and open government in Wisconsin,” said Rep. Peter Barca.
Another Wisconsin invention Rep. Cory Mason pointed out, that will prove to be important in the coming months, is the right to recall elected officials. “We will continue this fight until we finally prevail, until we bring back our proud Wisconsin tradition that stands up for working people,” said Barca.
By: Summer Abdoh, Center for Media and Democracy, May 1, 2011
Former half-term Gov. Sarah Palin (R) — remember her? — headlined a conservative rally in Madison yesterday, apparently hoping to generate support for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) far-right agenda. More interesting than the message, though, was the turnout.
Attendees heard fairly predictable rhetoric. Palin, for example, insisted that Walker’s anti-union agenda is “not trying to hurt union members.” The Fox News personality also excoriated congressional Republicans for not being even more intransigent. The whole thing was organized by the Koch brother’s right-wing Americans for Prosperity, and Palin spoke behind a podium with a sign that read, “I am AFP.”
But who exactly heard all of this?
Away from the stage, the passionate arguments went right on, each side claiming the upper hand, the larger crowd, the right side of history. The police estimated a crowd — at its highest point — of about 6,500 people, though it was uncertain how many of those were Tea Party supporters and how many were there to protest. Either way, the figure was far smaller than the tens of thousands of demonstrators that had been reported around the Capitol on several days in recent months.
At the height of progressive protests in February and March, tens of thousands braved the elements to condemn the Walker agenda — and wouldn’t leave. Yesterday, Palin led a parade of odd right-wing figures, at an event paid for by powerful billionaires, and about 6,500 people showed up.
And of those 6,500, most of those in attendance were there to oppose Palin and her far-right allies, not support them.
It’s a reminder about the changing tide. When Tea Partiers organize a rally and bring one of their highest-profile stars to headline, but are nevertheless outnumbered at their own event, which suffered from poor attendance anyway, it’s not a good sign.
By: Steve Benen, Washington Monthly, Political Animal, April 16, 2011