It began a year ago yesterday. A sleepy Friday evening when the first panicked call came followed by emails. Newly elected Governor Scott Walker had introduced a Budget Repair Bill late on Friday which was scheduled to be fast tracked throught the now Republican dominated Wisconsin State Legislature.
Not a surprise that there was a $130 million deficit in the state budget considering his $140 million corporate tax break that he rolled out shortly after taking office. What was a surprise and shock was how he intended to fix the "deficit" that he and his Republican controlled Legislature created in the first place.
He laid the deficit on the backs of every single public employee in the State of Wisconsin. He took away collective bargaining rights from every state worker and stripped every other person who worked for any town, city, or county of their right to bargain over anything but wages. And those wage increases couldn't be any higher than the limit that would be set annually by ... wait for it .... the state. Additionally, municipalities and counties would no longer collect union dues through payroll deduction - forcing unions to go from member to member to collect biweekly dues themselves which made union dues voluntary contributions. And the bill forced unions to undertake a recertification vote every year (the same procedure used by a union organizing a brand new bargaining unit). If that wasn't bad enough, there would be a severe reduction in state aid to municipalities and counties which was to be reimbursed by charging public employees with large amounts of the costs of their pension and health insurance plans (minimally $250/month) by deducting it from their paychecks.
In essence, unions would cease to exist for public employees. What union would or could be able to go from member to member to collect dues and only be able to bargain for wages within a limit set by the state? What union could afford the expense of that and holding a one year certification vote?
The early warning had come from someone, likely a legislative aide in Madison, who was just doing their job examining new bills late on Friday, February 11, 2011. I still don't know who that hero is. On reading the Budget Repair Bill that had just come in, that individual sounded the alarm.
And the alarm kept on sounding throughout unions in our state.
Even knowing Scott Walker as I did (I used to work for him as an RN in Milwaukee County), knowing his hatred of county workers and their unions, knowing the sleazy tactics (especially the threats of massive layoffs - illegal for private sector unions under the National Labor Relations Act, but "legal" for Wisconsin public employees under the Wisconsin Department of Labor and Human Relations) he used every time contract negotiations were occurring, and even knowing that his poor management and choices of cronies to manage Milwaukee County departments were designed to ruin those departments in order to make privatization necessary; I was still shocked, stunned, gobsmacked, and in disbelief.
I was asked for some time that weekend to call through our membership to find anyone off on Tuesday to encourage them to come to Madison for rallies at the State Capitol. We couldn't get one for Monday since the bus company offices weren't open on the weekend. Since nurses work weekends, some people would be off one of those days and those numbers would be supplemented with our active retirees, like me. Busses would be available so getting there and parking wouldn't be issues.
I spent hours on the phone that weekend talking to members and retirees who couldn't believe what I was telling them. "He can't do that" and "isn't that illegal" were the most common responses. None of this was being reported in our lazy, RW leaning, corporate media. We filled a bus for Tuesday.
Day after day of protests with Scott Walker happily doing press conferences at least twice a day to deride public workers and promote his solution only increased our outrage. The smile on his face at the pressers and the national attention he was receiving only increased his vitriolic rhetoric and arrogance.
The growing crowds in Madison forced him into a defensive strategy. He had to pretend that the tens of thousands showing up every day weren't Wisconsinites. He blamed "union goons", "outside agitators", and anyone else he could think of. But, no. It was the people of Wisconsin gathering together to tell the Governor he had gone too far. They brought their families with them. Kids came with their teachers. Private sector unions came to support their public sector brothers and sisters. Community groups, private citizens, and others came. People just came and came and came. And the people kept on coming. Every day more thousands came.
Walker then said that the protests would die down as we "got tired" and "accepted" the changes. He kept saying it as if the repetition would somehow make it true.
It never happened. There are still protests every day in Madison. The Solidarity Singers, bless their hearts, sing every day at noon. And Walker can go no where in the state without being "greeted" by protesters. He can't go anywhere nationally, either, without a similar greeting.
The tens of thousands of protesters became tens of thousands of activists. We left to recall State Senators, won 2 seats in heavily Republican districts despite tens of millions of dollars in attack ads. And now we've petitioned for the recall of an additional 4 State Senators as well as submitting more than a million signatures to recall Scott Walker and Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch despite a $10 million media buy by Walker to polish his image.
He's got another $700,000 from his masters, the Koch Brothers, for more ass-saving propaganda ads. Here's the new propaganda - a full and expensive minute per buy (hang on to your lunch - it's packed with lies):
The protesters and activists are the least of Scott Walkers worries.
Day after day we're seeing revelations of a secret government, with private email networks with fundraising, attacks on opponents, and praise of all things Scott Walker done on the taxpayers dime. We've seen 15 indictments so far from the ongoing 20 month John Doe Probe that revealed theft of funds for veterans as well as child enticements. Scott Walker has been asked to meet with prosecutors in the investigation (despite trying to get ahead of the news by saying he "volunteered" to meet). He has still not proclaimed his innocence or responded to the numerous indictments.
In fact, the John Doe has become so big, the Wisconsin Democratic Party has set up a web sitefor those of us who want to follow it. Enjoy.
And the rest of the news lately hasn't been good for Governor Snotty, either.
We're Number One (in job losses). And the headline today in our local newspaper talks about sweet deals and financial windfalls that out of state firms have received from Scott Walker to create 202 new jobs (taxpayer cost works out to $247,000 per job).
During the past year Kossacks have been with us. Supporting our efforts. Donating to the cause. Let me take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you. It has kept us going.
Right now over one million Scott Walker recall signatures are being databased for GOTV efforts in the recalls and 2012 election. Right now we're still fighting. Right now we're still here. Right now we're still committed to getting our state back.
Right now we're still winning.
Link to video of yesterdays protests here.
Crickets from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on the anniversary.
For new and interesting developments in the Republican Redistricting Rampage, see stcroix cheeseheads diary.