USA:Mass protests and strikes in Wisconsin

For an All-Out Mobilization. To stop Walker in his tracks!

For an All-Out Mobilization

to stop Walker in his tracks!

Build up to a one-day public sector strike if necessary

Socialist Alternative members (supporters of the CWI in the USA) distributed this leaflet out at the mass demonstrations, walkouts and strikes held on February 17 in both Madison, the state capital, as Wisconsin state legislators debated Republican State Governor Walker’s plan to cut state workers’ wages by between 8 to 20 percent and attack trade union rights. Walker’s plan, announced on February 11, has provoked a wave of protest throughout Wisconsin and daily strikes and demos. Last Tuesday, February 15, up to 15,000 demonstrated in Madison, the next day 20,000 teachers and students marched in the city chanting “What’s disgusting? Union busting!” Sizable protests in a state with a population of less than six million. Then, on February 17 workers were joined by mass walkouts of school students as the police estimated 30,000 joined the protest.

The Republican plans include:

limiting collective bargaining to wages which would be capped at the inflation rate

prohibit employers from collecting union dues

require yearly votes on certification (i.e. recognition) of all local unions

deny all University of Wisconsin employees bargaining rights on working conditions and benefits

This is an outrage! Governor Walker’s plan to strip state workers of collective bargaining rights is nothing short of an attempt to effectively break the public sector unions.

Working people and their unions are not the cause of the economic crisis and fiscal woes of the state.

The bankers, Wall Street speculators and corporate politicians are to blame, so stop scapegoating unions. Make the super-rich pay for their own crisis!

The attack is not just on unionized state workers. It is an attack on all working people and youth. If they can beat back the state workers, it’s open season on all workers jobs, wages, benefits, future pensions and on public services.

If today’s demonstration is not enough to stop Governor Walker, it should be the launching pad for an all-out mobilization which stops at nothing. We must take enormous inspiration from the heroic and determined struggle of the Tunisian and Egyptian people who would not give up until their voices were heard.

Preparations must begin for a mobilization which will stop business as usual. This means being prepared for a one-day public sector strike if necessary. The public sector unions should issue a call to all working people to join a mass demonstration on that day and for mass student walkouts to shut down their schools.

Even if strike action is not legal for all state workers we must remember that the unions were built in the first place by struggles which often defied anti-union laws. The right to strike must be defended and extended. If we’re not prepare to take a stand now when will we especially once the power of unions has been stripped away?

The stakes are extremely high. If this anti-union legislation passes it will embolden those seeking to attack unions elsewhere, but if it is defeated it will give confidence to workers across country to stand up. That is why a national call to mobilize the labor movement must be made to pour as much union resources as possible into this central battle for the future of the union movement.

Wisconsin has become in the center stage in what is a full-scale attack on the public sector all across the country. Other state governments are also targeting not only wages and benefits but collective bargaining rights as well. This is the naked agenda of the ruling class and their corporate servants in office. The capitalist system is in deep crisis, and they want to solve it on our backs by steamrolling over all obstacles including unions.

It is up to us to stop these attacks. We can have no faith in the Democratic Party. Why haven’t they stood up to the lies of the Tea Party and Right-wing Republicans? Why did they make the bipartisan agreement for tax cuts for super-wealthy? Why are teachers unions in the cross-hairs of Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan? What happened to EFCA? The Democrats with all their nice rhetoric are no friend of working people.

It’s time that we build a political alternative to the two parties of big business. Campaigns should be launched across the country to stop the budget cuts and defend jobs, services and workers’ rights. Out of these campaigns we could run our own independent candidates as the first step towards forming a new party that gives a real voice to workers and youth and fights for our interests.

The time is now to begin the fightback. The Egyptian workers have shown is it possible to stand up to injustice everywhere. If you agree with the ideas in this leaflet please contacts us and we can discuss how to organize a united struggle to fight for our rights and our future.

Report of earlier Tuesday, February 15, protests published on The Nation (

More Than 10,000 Protest Move by Wisconsin’s ’Dictator’ Governor to Destroy Public-Sector Unions

John Nichols | February 15, 2011

More than 10,000 Wisconsinites marched on the state Capitol Tuesday as crowds rallied in cities around the state, students walked out of high schools and public employees lined roadways holding aloft banners declaring their determination to battle an attempt by Republican Governor Scott Walker to strip state workers of their collective bargaining rights and pack state government positions with political patronage appointees.

The protests, unprecedented in recent Wisconsin history, are being organized by union—the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, the Wisconsin Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin and others—in anticipation of a Thursday vote on whether to give the governor powers that the senior member of the state legislature describes as nothing short of dictatorial.

Many of those who showed up for one of the first of what expected to be days of ever-expanding protests borrowed themes language and themes from the crowds that filled the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities to call for the end of President Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorial reign.

Signs at Tuesday’s rally — which the AFL-CIO said attracted a crowd of 15,000 and which news outlets broadly reported drew more 10,000 state and local employees and their backers — referred to the governor as “Hosni Walker” and declared: “Protest Like an Egyptian.”

Another asked: “If Egypt Can Have Democracy, Why Can’t Wisconsin?”

One senior state employee had gone online to find the Arabic words for “Remove Walker” and made a picket sign with the message.

Police barricades were erected on streets around the state capitol as uniformed officers were posted to block protesters from entering parts of the building where a day-long hearing on the governor’s proposal was being held. But the crowd surged into the building after a rally that featured, among others, AFSCME President Gerald McEntee, who identified the Wisconsin fight as a “ground zero” struggle for organized labor.

As evidence of the dawning recognition that the Wisconsin fight is an essential one for organized labor—and that Walker’s union-busting strategy poses a threat that could spread to other Republican-dominated states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania—unions that the governor had tried to break off with sweetheart deals began to break with the conservative governor. Hundreds of firefighters, whose contracts would be protected under the plan Walker proposes, showed up at the Tuesday’s rally and were drew roars of approval.

McEntee, the firefighters and others showed up not merely to protest but to lobby. While Republicans control the governorship and both houses of the state legislature, some veteran Republican legislators, such as state Sen. Luther Olsen, who represents many unionized workers, have suggested that the governor’s power grab is simply too “radical.” The longest serving member of the legislature, state Senator Fred Risser, a Madison Democrat well liked by senior Democrats and Republicans, has said: “Without a willingness to even discuss what concessions need to be made with state employees, the governor comes across more like a dictator and less like a leader.”

AFSCME put Republican members of the union front and center Tuesday, with Mike Recklies, a correctional officer from Republican-leaning Walworth County, reminding conservatives that “there is no bigger government than the one that takes away an individual’s rights and freedom—and that’s exactly what we’re seeing going on in Madison right now. The legislature needs to think hard about what it means to be an American and stop this Big Government power grab against individual rights.”

Brenda Klein, a food service worker from Green Bay, said: “I went to the polls last November and voted to protect our freedoms from government threat and to create jobs. I never dreamed that this would be the result. The bill being rammed through the legislature does the opposite and it must be stopped.”

A shaken Walker, conscious that he has stirred up unprecedented anger, has threatened to call out the National Guard to put down protests.

But an archivist for the Wisconsin Historical Society showed up at Tuesday’s rally wearing a white T-shirt on which she had written: “I am not afraid of the National Guard.”

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February 2011