After enduring a year of Gov. Scott Walker’s disastrous agenda—tax cuts for corporations and the richest 1 percent at the expense of public services and the dismantling of collective bargaining rights—Wisconsinites are more united than ever in our fight to recall the governor and repair all the damage his policies have done to our state.
The Rally and March on Madison was the capstone event to a full week of activities leading up to the anniversary of the night Gov. Walker stripped workers of their rights by forcing his collective bargaining law through the legislature.
On Monday and Wednesday, the Reclaim Wisconsin bus tour made stops in Racine and Milwaukee to amplify the stories of workers, parents, and community members who have suffered under Gov. Walker’s drastic cuts to public services.
In Racine, about 200 people withstood the cold to stand strong and show support for the effort to recall Gov. Walker and their state senator, Van Wanggaard. Teachers, public safety workers, and jobless workers spoke out about how Gov. Walker’s policies have affected Wisconsin’s middle class for the worse.
Kelly Albright, a mother of three who relies on public healthcare for her sons, told the crowd, “Thank God we had BadgerCare, but you shouldn't have to be wealthy or lucky to have healthcare. If we don't stop Scott Walker now, he will destory Wisconsin. We must repeal the tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations and make them pay their fair share.”
At the Reclaim Wisconsin stop in Milwaukee, local workers were joined by a delegation from Public Services International, a federation of public sector unions from around the world. AFSCME Local 952 Secretary, Jason Otto from the Milwaukee Water Works, told the crowd of over 500 people about the attempt to privatize the city’s water service two years ago. Because the Water Works employees had a union, they had a voice to advocate for the people of the city and defeat privatization.
His story resonated with the remarks made by PSI member Michael Whaites, with the New South Wales Nurses' Association. Whaites spoke about the attacks on workers’ rights that he was seeing in Australia and emphasized the need for international solidarity in order to fight for union rights, decent public services, and our communities across the globe.
Last year in Wisconsin, it was Gov. Walker’s assault on union rights that galvanized the movement to reclaim the state and recall him from office. This past Friday marked one year from the night he illegally rammed his anti-worker bill through the legislature. Candlelight vigils were held in almost a dozen cities across the state to remember that dark time and to vow to never let it happen again.
But if Friday was a night to mourn the theft of workers’ rights and the governor’s corruption of democracy, Saturday was a celebration of the united grassroots coalition that rose up from Gov. Walker’s overreach.
WI AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt opened up Saturday’s rally by saying, “Brothers and sisters, this is our way of showing the world that unity and solidarity are alive and well. And in Wisconsin, those are not just words and chants, but those are the ways that we function and we move forward."
It was a sentiment echoed by the other speakers at the rally, which included SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin President Mahlon Mitchell, first grade teacher Ed Ludwig, state Sen. Jennifer Shilling and Lori Compass, organizer of the campaign to recall Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.
Journalist and Wisconsin native John Nichols, noted that the crowd today came from “every small town, every village, every city to say in one voice, ‘Wisconsin believes that workers’ rights are human rights!”
He invoked Wisconsin’s history of strong labor activism and progressive politics to explain why the people of the state felt so deeply the need to Reclaim Wisconsin after Gov. Walker and his Republican allies flouted justice and honesty in government the night they passed the anti-collective bargaining bill.
He closed by saying, “We bring this movement together to advance an ideal of democracy. Democracy is a life…it’s something you participate in every day. Democracy is a life and Wisconsin is living it.”
And from the energy and size of the crowd, it was obvious that attendees were eager to stand together and continue the work to recall Gov. Walker and restore democracy, workers’ rights, and quality public services to the state we all love.
Sending the crowd off, WI AFL-CIO Pres. Neuenfeldt said, “Stand up brothers and sisters and march with us today, march with us tomorrow, and march with us into the future!”
View pictures from the rally here.
Check out the video wrap-up here.
And make sure you've taken the Pledge to Reclaim Wisconsin!