Sunday, February 20, 2011

Taking a breather...
So, it took an assault on workers rights in Wisconsin to update this blog!! I've just transferred a LONG Facebook "note" to this blog, 'cause I don't think Facebook is meant for essays!

Here's something to think about, that doesn't fit on a poster. I wonder how many private-sector employers save money by not having to pay for health care benefits for their employees covered by a public employee spouse's health care plan. (See, it really doesn't fit on a poster.) I know my mom's employer, a private trade association, couldn't begin to match the health care plan my dad got through the state. (They did use the dental benefit my mom's employer offered.)

It's a dreary day in Madison. We have what the weather people call a "wintry mix." In the space of a few hours, it's snowed, sleeted, and rained. There was a rally today inside the Capitol--a good turnout on a rotten weather day, but crowds were definitely not as big as at the formal rallies on other days. My favorite displays this time around: a sign comparing Jimmie Walker ("Dy-no-mite") and Scott Walker ("troglodyte"), and 6 people in inflatable deer head costumes. They walked around the rotunda, then unfurled a banner that said "It's not about the doe. Haven't you herd?"

State Street is way quieter today as well. Memorial Library, on the other hand, is busy. I think students are catching up with homework. But there are hardy souls marching around the Capitol. Two women were holding a banner in front of a statue on the Capitol grounds. With great cheer, they stood in the cold rain in their sweatshirts, thanking people for coming.

As usual with the rallies in the Capitol, it's hard to hear the formal speeches. The speakers are using portable electronic megaphones, but are not connected to the building's sound system. That's okay. The drumming is fun to listen to, and the chants are energizing. What's best is looking at the different people there, and all the cool signs. Thursday I saw a few signs saying "Private school teachers 4 public workers." Today I saw quite a few signs along the lines of "I don't work for the state/non-union member/self-employed, but I support the unions."

The activity around the Capitol grows more organized by the day. Lots more volunteer marshals were there today, wearing day-glo vests, directing people, keeping an aisle clear on the second floor of the rotunda. There's an "information station" near one staircase, with people providing--what else--information. They have a homemade mini-pamphlet rack, with sheets of info on testifying and other things. They can direct you to places where you can recharge your phone. In a remarkably clean, well-stocked women's bathroom, there were notes on the sink and the tp dispensers saying "Dear fellow protesters, Don't vandalize our beautiful Capitol building." I describe the conditions of the bathroom as remarkable because THOUSANDS of people have been through this building over 6 days. Hundreds have spent at least one night there.

When I took the bus to the Capitol this morning, one couple got on at the Greenbush Bakery, holding a box of donuts. At the Capitol, they walked around, offering protesters donuts. Someone else was offering some kind of yogurt bar, and I saw some in the center of the Rotunda passing around pre-packaged veggie trays. The TAA has a list of businesses who've made physical donations. Evidently, people from around the world have been calling Ian's Pizza and ordering pizzas to be delivered to the Capitol.

I also spent about 90 minutes making phone calls at the TAA office. The previous two times I've phone-banked, my fellow callers have mainly been TAA members. Today there were some retired state workers, and UW students. That was encouraging. I was calling people in Ripon, asking them to contact their state senator, Luther Olson. I got a few hang-ups or quick brush-offs, but also some very supportive people. And then, the usual wrong numbers and answering machines. One of the supporters asked what the plans are if this bill does pass as is. That's the big question that I think a lot of us don't want to face.

I hope that at least some of this energy carries over to local and state elections. I hope we remember how angry we are at Gov Walker and the Republicans in the legislature. I hope we learn that state and local elections matter as much as, if not more so, than national elections. I'm not big on the recalls--I think Scott Walker was pretty up-front in his campaign about his dislike of unions and state employees. His tactics may have caught us off-guard, but they make sense, from his perspective.

I also hope we remember all those who supported us, and how that support lifted us and inspired us. I hope we stand in solidarity with private-sector unions around the state and country, and public-sector unions around the country, and the immigrant rights activists standing with us.

Now it's time to go home and do some laundry!


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