Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Unionists from the Steelworkers and Fire Fighters spent the night in the occupied capitol building last night. An activist walked the building and counted 600 people spending the night. Amazing!

Unions are taking shifts sleeping in the capitol building, along with grad students from the TAA union and many other supporters. Tonight (Tuesday) the Steelworkers will again spend the night; tomorrow is AFSCME’s turn; and so on.


The capitol building had a different atmosphere today as the Governor brought in 600 police from many other cities. I’d say that instead of seeing police every 100 feet, in groups of two, now you see police every 20 feet and in groups of six. The Republicans claimed in the State Journal that they brought in other police to give the Madison police a break from long shifts, but the reality is they wanted to intimidate the protesters with a heavy presence.

The spirit of the activists, though, hasn’t changed. The movement hasn’t retreated in the slightest. As every day brings new busloads of unionists and supporters, the activists are re-energized.

Over the past week the Madison police as individuals have been often been friendly and supportive.


Last night 5,000 people, half of them U of W students, enthusiastically applauded several musicians in a quickly organized rock concert, led by Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello. I attended with my two teenage daughters, Wyatt and Eva.

Every time a speaker or a singer said/sang “union,” thousands of fists rose in the air. The concert was kicked off by a speech from Mahlon Mitchell, the local union president of the fire fighters’ union and an African-American union leader. He defied the Governor to arrest fire fighters spending the night in the occupied state capitol building. Despite being exempted by the Governor from the union-busting legislation, the local fire fighters have repeatedly turned out in force in solidarity with the protesters. See: http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/govt-and-politics/blog/article_d8a5fda8-3ece-11e0-9501-001cc4c002e0.html


The Madison teachers union, which has played an outstanding leadership role in the struggle, voted on Sunday night to return to work, and they did so today. Their members had called in sick since Wednesday, forcing the shut down of area schools. The teachers felt that they couldn’t create hardship for parents and students and so returned to work.

Parents were seen marching around the capitol building carrying signs signifying that they were marching in place of their children’s teacher who had to return to work.

There’s no doubt, though, that if the teachers feel it necessary, they will walk out again.


Meanwhile, the South Central Wisconsin Federation of Labor, led by a great labor leader, Jim Cavanaugh (who I’ve known since his group did remarkable work in solidarity with the locked out Staley workers in the early 1990s), voted to call a general strike if the union busting legislation passed. See: http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_64c8d7a8-3e8c-11e0-9911-001cc4c002e0.html


And, as I previously noted here and as is getting wide publicity, Ian’s Pizza continues to be flooded with calls donating money for the protesters. Now pizzas are not only being regularly delivered to the occupied Capitol building, but activists can come into the pizzeria and get a free meal thanks to donations from scores of countries. CJ was there today and heard a call reported from the Czech Republic. Even Conan made a joke about it tonight in his monologue. They closed the phone lines for donations tonight, so they could take a break and just cook and serve pizza and not answer endlessly ringing phones. Ian’s: http://www.ianspizza.com/

1 comment:

  1. This solidarity is truly inspiring to those of us who have seen very little Union solidarity since the 1970s.As workers rights slowly deteriorated, the possibilities began to be scarce. The threat of removing the collective bargaining process, is really becoming a North American Rallying point. After years of people slipping off into lower and lower paid Macjobs, it is clear that cooective bargaining solidarity is even more necessary than ever. Deborah P Graham.