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'Class War' in American Midwest as Republican legislators and governors in several states strip away democratic rights while hundreds of thousands protest

Within a few hours after what they thought was a clever way of getting around the stalemate in the Wisconsin state legislature by passing a bill stripping collective bargaining rights from public worker unions, the dwindling number of Republican leaders and legislators in Madison, Wisconsin, were faced with protests at the Wisconsin capitol building by thousands of people, while tens of thousands were heading towards Madison and other Midwestern capitols (including Indianapolis, Indiana, and Lansing, Michigan, where similar coups were being tried) for protests that are expected to include a widespread student strike by Friday, March 11, 2011.

By nightfall on March 9, 2011, videos from Madison, Wisconsin, showed that protesters had re-taken the rotunda of the historical state capitol building, and the drums had resumed. Most Wisconsin law enforcement officials have reported repeatedly that the protests have been peaceful, and have refused to take sides with the Republicans against the protests. Virtually all uniformed services in Wisconsin (except the Wisconsin National Guard) are unionized. Governor Scott Walker attempted a "divide and conquer" move by exempting the police and firefighters from the legislation banning collective bargaining, but union leaders denounced it.

On URL from Madison on the evening of March 9 was receiving an enormous number of hits throughout the night:

http://www.livestream.com/theuptake

Filmmaker Michael Moore with Wisconsin protesters two days before the new explosion of protests following the illegal vote of the Wisconsin Senate.As March 9, 2011, ended and March 10 began, the news from Wisconsin was that the Republican members of the Wisconsin State Senate had voted in favor of legislation to take away collective bargaining rights from public workers, even though the Senate did not have the required quorum. The vote had been stalled since Valentine's Day, when Democratic senators left Wisconsin for Illinois, depriving the Wisconsin Senate of the quorum needed to pass the legislation drafted by Republican Governor Scott Walker.

Chanting "Let us in! Let us in!" a growing number of people swarmed around the famous Wisconsin state capitol building as night fell in the American Midwest, while a number of Wisconsin law enforcement officers were ordered by Walker to keep them out, using violence if necessary.

Throughout the night and day, Substance will try and update this story from as many sources as possible.

A 14-minute You Tube video entitled "This is Class War" featuring filmmaker Michael Moore and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow is currently available, as are a growing number of other first hand accounts of what is taking place. For those who cannot get the You Tube video directly through the hotlink above, the URL is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95251noVhRM

A March 9 rally in Madison Wisconsin.In Chicago, a number of student groups are planning to follow the lead of Wisconsin students in striking on Friday, March 11, 2011. Details were forthcoming as Substance continued reporting these stories.

Among the first stories, biased by sourcing in favor of the Republican and ruling class spin on the events of March 9, 2011, was the following Associated Press story from Wisconsin.

ASSOCIATED PRESS VERSION OF WISCONSIN SENATE VOTE ON PUBLIC WORKER UNION RIGHTS

Within a few hours after what they thought was a clever way of getting around the stalemate in the Wisconsin state legislature by passing a bill stripping collective bargaining rights from public worker unions, the dwindling number of Republican leaders and legislators in Madison, Wisconsin, were faced with protests at the Wisconsin capitol building by thousands of people, while tens of thousands were heading towards Madison and other Midwestern capitols (including Indianapolis, Indiana, and Lansing, Michigan, where similar coups were being tried) for protests that are expected to include a widespread student strike by Friday, March 11, 2011. As March 9, 2011, ended and March 10 began, the news from Wisconsin was that the Republican members of the Wisconsin State Senate had voted in favor of legislation to take away collective bargaining rights from public workers, even though the Senate did not have the required quorum. The vote had been stalled since Valentine's Day, when Democratic senators left Wisconsin for Illinois, depriving the Wisconsin Senate of the quorum needed to pass the legislation drafted by Republican Governor Scott Walker. Chanting "Let us in! Let us in!" a growing number of people swarmed around the famous Wisconsin state capitol building as night fell in the American Midwest, while a number of Wisconsin law enforcement officers were ordered by Walker to keep them out, using violence if necessary. Throughout the night and day, Substance will try and update this story from as many sources as possible.

A 14-minute You Tube video entitled "This is Class War" featuring filmmaker Michael Moore and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow is currently available, as are a growing number of other first hand accounts of what is taking place. For those who cannot get the You Tube video directly through the hotlink above, the URL is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95251noVhRM

In Chicago, a number of student groups are planning to follow the lead of Wisconsin students in striking on Friday, March 11, 2011. Details were forthcoming as Substance continued reporting these stories.

Among the first stories, biased by sourcing in favor of the Republican and ruling class spin on the events of March 9, 2011, was the following Associated Press story from Madison, Wisconsin.

ASSOCIATED PRESS VERSION OF WISCONSIN SENATE VOTE ON PUBLIC WORKER UNION RIGHTS

"The jig is now up," Barca said. "The fraud on the people of Wisconsin is now clear."... Wisconsin GOP Strips Public Workers' Bargaining Rights, Mar 9, 2011 – 10:23 PM, By Scott Bauer

AP

MADISON, Wis. -- The Wisconsin Senate succeeded in voting Wednesday to strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers, after Republicans outmaneuvered the chamber's missing Democrats and approved an explosive proposal that has rocked the state and unions nationwide.

"You are cowards!" spectators in the Senate gallery screamed as lawmakers voted. Within hours, a crowd of a few hundred protesters inside the Capitol had grown to several thousand, more than had been in the building at any point during weeks of protests.

"The whole world is watching!" they shouted as they pressed up against the heavily guarded entrance to the Senate chamber.

All 14 Senate Democrats fled to Illinois nearly three weeks ago, preventing the chamber from having enough members present to consider Gov. Scott Walker's "budget-repair bill" - a proposal introduced to plug a $137 million budget shortfall.

The Senate requires a quorum to take up any measures that spends money. But Republicans on Wednesday took all the spending measures out of the legislation and a special committee of lawmakers from both the Senate and Assembly approved the revised bill a short time later.

The unexpected yet surprisingly simple procedural move ended a stalemate that had threatened to drag on indefinitely. Until Wednesday's stunning vote, it appeared the standoff would persist until Democrats returned to Madison from their self-imposed exile.

"In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin. Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten," said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller. "Tonight, 18 Senate Republicans conspired to take government away from the people."

The state Assembly previously approved the original proposal and was set to consider the new measure on Thursday. Miller said in an interview with The Associated Press there is nothing Democrats can do now to stop the bill: "It's a done deal."

The lone Democrat present on the special committee, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, shouted that the meeting was a violation of the state's open meetings law. The Senate's chief clerk said hours later the meeting was properly held.

Senate convened within minutes of the committee meeting and passed the measure 18-1 without discussion or debate. Republican Sen. Dale Schultz cast the lone no vote.

"The jig is now up," Barca said. "The fraud on the people of Wisconsin is now clear."

Walker had repeatedly argued that collective bargaining was a budget issue, because his proposed changes would give local governments the flexibility to confront budget cuts needed to close the state's $3.6 billion deficit. He has said that without the changes, he may have needed to lay off 1,500 state workers and make other cuts to balance the budget.

Walker said Wednesday night that Democrats had three weeks to debate the bill and were offered repeated opportunities to come back, but refused.

"I applaud the Legislature's action today to stand up to the status quo and take a step in the right direction to balance the budget and reform government," Walker said in the statement.

The measure approved Wednesday forbids most government workers from collectively bargaining for wage increases beyond the rate of inflation. It also requires public workers to pay more toward their pensions and double their health insurance contribution, a combination equivalent to an 8 percent pay cut for the average worker.

Police and firefighters are exempt.

Walker's proposal touched off a national debate over union rights for public employees and prompted tens of thousands of demonstrators to converge on Wisconsin's capital city for weeks of protests.

Wednesday's drama unfolded less than four hours after Walker met with GOP senators in a closed-door meeting. He emerged from the meeting saying senators were "firm" in their support of the bill.

For weeks, Democrats had offered concessions on issues other than the bargaining rights and they spent much of Wednesday again calling on Walker and Republicans to compromise.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said earlier that Republicans had been discussing concessions offered by Walker, including allowing public workers to bargain over their salaries without a wage limit. Several GOP senators facing recall efforts had also publicly called for a compromise.

"The people of Wisconsin elected us to come to Madison and do a job," Fitzgerald said in a statement after the vote. "Just because the Senate Democrats won't do theirs, doesn't mean we won't do ours."

Union leaders weren't happy with Walker's offer, and were furious at the Senate's move to push the measure forward with a quick vote. Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin state AFL-CIO, said after Wednesday's vote that Republicans exercised a "nuclear option."

"Scott Walker and the Republicans' ideological war on the middle class and working families is now indisputable," Neuenfeldt said.

While talks had been going on sporadically behind the scenes, Republicans in the Senate also had publicly tried to ratchet up pressure on Democrats to return. They had agreed earlier Wednesday to start fining Democrats $100 for each day legislative session day they miss.

Associated Press writers Todd Richmond and Jason Smathers contributed to this report.

Throughout the night, stories were coming in from blogs and news reports. Among them was the following from the AFL-CIO of Minnesota.

For those who cannot access the hotlink above, the URL for the "Workday Minnesota" story is:

http://www.workdayminnesota.org/index.php?news_6_4801

'Tonight, Scott Walker and his cronies have turned Wisconsin into a banana republic...' Protests mount after Wisconsin Republicans ram through anti-worker legislation, Workday Minnesota, 10 March 2011

MADISON, Wis. - Thousands of people occupied the state Capitol in Madison Wednesday night after Republicans in the Senate rammed through legislation stripping teachers, state employees and most other public workers of their collective bargaining rights.

The Wisconsin AFL-CIO called on people to come to the Capitol and said numerous protests will be held across the state Thursday.

“This will not stand. We are holding an emergency vigil at the Capitol in Madison TONIGHT and a rally there first thing in the morning,” the federation said Wednesday night in a posting on its blog.

“Thousands are gathering right now to raise their voices against the great travesty that occurred tonight in the Senate. Come join us.

“Please get to the Capitol right now and plan to be back in the morning. Stand in solidarity with the people of Wisconsin. If you can't come now, come in an hour or in two hours or at 8 a.m. tomorrow morning.

“Tomorrow, Thursday, March 10, at 9 a.m. there will be rallies in support of worker rights across the state at the following locations: Dodge County Administration Building, Eau Claire City Hall, Veterans Park in Fond du Lac, Green Bay Chamber of Commerce, La Crosse County Courthouse, Milwaukee County Courthouse, Senator Ellis' District Office in Neenah, Oshkosh Opera House Square, Platteville City Hall, Monument Square in Racine, Richland County Courthouse, Ripon at 303 Blackburn St. and River Falls City Hall.”

With their approval ratings in a free fall and Democrats standing firm, Wisconsin Senate Republicans used a hastily called conference committee Wednesday evening to strip Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to eliminate public employee collective bargaining from the budget bill.

The committee then sent the bill immediately to the full Senate, which advanced the measure 18-1 with no debate. None of the 14 Senate Democrats was present.

The Democratic senators have been in Illinois since Feb. 17, denying a quorum to consider the budget bill. Their determination forced the Republicans to show their true intentions: to deprive hard-working men and women of the freedom to bargain collectively. Under Senate rules, Republicans did not need any Democrats to be present to pass the collective bargaining changes as a stand-alone bill because it is not fiscal in nature.

The Senate’s action may violate the state’s opening meeting law and court challenges are likely, Democratic lawmakers said.

Unions, meanwhile, plan to keep up the pressure through protests and are focusing on the recall of several Republican state senators

“I ask Wisconsin's educators to be at work tomorrow,” said Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, which represents teachers. “We will not back down...we will continue this fight.”

“Tonight, Scott Walker and his cronies in the Senate Republicans turned our proud state of Wisconsin into a banana republic,” said Marty Beil, president of the Wisconsin State Employees Union.

“The struggle is not over,” the Wisconsin AFL-CIO said. “Working people are mobilizing and working on recall efforts to change the Wisconsin state Senate, and are exploring legal challenges to the manner in which tonight’s vote was conducted.”

This article contains reports from the Wisconsin AFL-CIO and the national AFL-CIO news blog.



Comments:

March 10, 2011 at 8:11 AM

By: The Retired Principal (RP)

Wisconsin Union Workers

WOW!

March 11, 2011 at 12:09 AM

By: Barb Heywood

Cowardly Republicans

Stripping the bargaining rights from workers is a cowardly Republican act. No doubt these sneak thieves will eventually pay for it, but now the workers should not go quietly. Hopefully, they can turn this around.

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