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News :: Labor
Live Reporting from the Wisconsin Protests
20 Feb 2011
There is no functioning IMC in Madison, Wisconsin right now, but the website for the Center for Media and Democracy has live coverage of events as they happen.
Article location: http://prwatch.org/news/2011/02/9944/live-reporting-wisconsin-protests
Tuesday, February 15, tens of thousands of Wisconsin residents have been flooding the State Capitol in Madison in protest of Governor Walker's proposed budget "repair" bill that would end 50 years of collective bargaining for Wisconsin workers. CMD reporters are out providing live coverage of these historic events. Votes scheduled for Thursday, February 17 and Friday, February 18 have been delayed, and protests continue through the weekend. Send your stories, photos and videos to us at: PR Watch Editor!


Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill Protest from Matt Wisniewski on Vimeo.

5:06 p.m. Brendan Fischer reports that pizza, water and bagels are still being handed out, and that rally leaders are reiterating the message that the protest must be kept peaceful, and that the Capitol must be treated with respect.

5:03 p.m. Brendan Fischer sends reports that rally leaders are urging protestors that simply protesting and being present in the capitol is not enough, they must also write letters to representatives and speak at hearings: the goal is to change minds.

3:00 p.m. -
Despite freezing rain and snow, inspired contingent of protesters descends upon Capitol Sunday for rally

Erica Pelzek

The rally was indoors in the Capitol Rotunda, unlike the past few days' speaking events, due to weather.
Carol Weidel, a UW System programs analyst with pro-union sentiments, reported from the rally Sunday.
She said chants rang out of, "Hear Our Voices, Hear Our Voices" before the speakers took the stage in the Capitol Rotunda. When the firefighters made their presence known at the rally, she said, they were met with chants of, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

“Walker’s bill goes too far. It denies workers their rights and it has nothing to do with the budget," declared WisconsinAFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt. “I was raised to believe that government was here to protect our rights not take away our rights.”

Neuenfeldt continued, saying he wants to open up a dialogue and move the state forward to protect our rights.
He noted there were hundreds of people in Times Square in New York City Saturday night shouting, "Kill the bill!" in solidarity with Wisconsin union workers.

38 states will rally next week in solidarity with the unions.

A middle school student, Haddi Tanner, also said his piece. "If educators don’t get time to prepare and plan, we don’t get an education," he said, referring to the collective bargaining rights that would be stripped from teachers under Walker's bill. "We’re learning about speaking up for our rights. It's happening here—it’s happening all over the world."
Tanner ended by leading the crowd in a chant: "Show me what democracy looks like!"

"This is what democracy looks like!"

Amusingly, Jamie Domini, a Wisconsin teacher, took on her authoritative role as an educator during the rally and made everyone in the Capitol pipe down and "quit talking."

"I want people way up there on the fourth floor to be able to hear me!"

Ron Domini, her father, worked for AFSCME for years. When he passed away, Jamie was left with his ashes, not knowing where to scatter them. Saturday, she brought his ashes to the Capitol, knowing that he would be in staunch support of the protests.

Domini also said she was able to speak to the Joint Finance Committee, and thanked them.

“The time to sit on the sidelines is over. We can’t sit down," she said. "Isn’t it lovely that tomorrow is a furlough day? They need to get down here," referring to state employees who have Monday off due to mandatory, unpaid state furlough days.

The rally ended with Madison's own Sean Michael Dargan, of The Kissers and other bands, playing the bagpipes and leading the crowd in cheers.

Sunday Protests News Round-Up:

Wisconsin State Journal, Weather drives protesters indoors as Capitol protests enter seventh day

“Police estimated that 68,000 people crammed Capitol Square on Saturday, including 60,000 on the grounds outdoors, in the largest day of protests yet. Saturday featured the first time that Walker supporters joined the throng, but their numbers were swamped by his opponents.”

Capital Times, Tea party activists trap state senator with recall effort and YouTube video

Tea Party activists around the state are threatening recalls of Democratic senators who fled Wisconsin to prevent the State Senate from being able to meet quorum to vote on Walker’s budget repair bill.
Two Illinois Tea Party activists accosted Sen. Jim Holperin, D-Eagle River, and Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, with questions and a video camera as they were getting into their car in Rockford, Ill. The YouTube video has gone viral and can be seen here

JSOnline, Walker to appear on ‘Good Morning America,’ MSNBC

ABC News reports this afternoon that Gov. Scott Walker will appear on "Good Morning America" on Monday. Walker will be interviewed by George Stephanopoulos. Walker also is scheduled to be on MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown," on Monday.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Tom Morello
RALLY FOR WISCONSIN! 12:00 Noon and 5:00 p.m. Rallies!
Capitol Square, Special Acoustic Performances by:

Tom Morello (The Nightwatchman, Rage Against the Machine)
Wayne Kramer (The MC5)
The Street Dogs (featuring Mike McColgan, former lead singer for the Dropkick Murphys)
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Sunday there will be rallies at 12:00 noon and 5:00 p.m. For those coming from out of town to attend the protests, go to the protester information booth, 1st floor in the capitol for guidance. Other events are also happening around the state -- find those here.

Keep in mind that Sunday is expected to see snow and freezing rain. If you come from out of town, the folks running the information booth are helping match people up with lodging and room shares.

11:00am -- heavy snow with at least 1-2 inches by 10am, now turning to freezing rain. Nasty weather.

Saturday, February 19, 2011
8:00 p.m. - Signing off.

Saturday's rallies were the largest yet! News reports have put the number of Walker protesters at the Capitol today at 70-80,000 compared to 3-5,000 for Tea Party participants.


Another night at the Capitol

Photo From Egypt: "Egypt Supports Wisconsin Workers." (Photo courtesy of twitpic)








5:00 p.m. - Brendan Fischer reports on the Tea Party rally:

In what appears to be the largest day of protests yet, opponents of the budget repair bill filled the capitol square and paraded through packed streets while Walker supporters, Tea Party members, and conservative activists congregated in the state capitol's East spur. Approaching the spur at the height of the noon rally (organized by the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity), a deafening mix of competing chants ("Kill the bill!" "Pass the bill!" "Si se puede!" "What's disgusting? Union busting!") made it difficult to hear the speakers.

Based on conversations with Walker supporters and statements on their signs, I came away with the impression that Walker supporters felt more strongly about requiring employee contributions to pension and health care than about collective bargaining rights generally. The opposition to collective bargaining rights seemed to arise from the belief that requiring increased contributions could not be accomplished without also ending the right to unionize.

I was able to have several conversations with people who seemed genuinely concerned about what they perceived as the state's fiscal crisis and supported Walker's bill because it would require public employees to make sacrifices. These people expressed surprise that, upon arriving to the capitol, they found that bill opponents were primarily concerned with losing collective bargaining rights. Walker's repeated message that the bill is a necessary budget fix (and refusal to acknowledge the concerns of his opponents) has apparently been successful.

At least one person held a sign that said "even FDR opposed public unions." I asked the sign-holder why she thought FDR opposed public unions and she replied "Google it." When I suggested that FDR opposed public unions because he had so much faith in government that he believed it would always act in the best interest of its employees, and that such faith in the inherent altruism of government seems kinda contrary to Tea Party ideals, she became flustered and repeated her suggestion that I "Google it."

Other signs held by bill supporters suggested additional contradictions. Signs like "I have no healthcare, so why should I pay taxes for yours?" seemed like they could have been directed towards politicians in a call for universal healthcare; other signs also expressed the sign-holder's resentment about not having health insurance. Which leads one to wonder where they stood in the healthcare debate one year ago.

4:00 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports on the Tea Party rally attendees. Steve Horn live-Tweeted the rally.

We Work on Weekdays: Inflammatory Signs Fan the Flames of Political Dispute in Madison
Of the approximately 500-1,000 Tea Party members in Madison, Wisconsin, Saturday afternoon, at least 3 this reporter spoke with had misspelled signs. It should also be noted, that of the 15 Walker supporters this reporter interviewed, every single one was employed in the private sector, in non-unionized jobs, with no chance of their own salaries being cut due to pension and rising health care premiums under Walker's budget repair bill.

A 17-year-old senior in high school from a Madison suburb declared, "We voted Scott Walker into office and we need to support him through this."

Her sign read: "DEMS: RUNNIG TO ILLINOIS"

"As a teacher, did you know that your sign is spelled wrong?" asks a dark-haired woman with a "CARE ABOUT YOUR EDUCATORS THE WAY THEY CARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN" sign in hand.

"Well, I bet I'm smarter than you," retorted the girl.

Laughter ensues.

"I'm going to an Ivy League school!" she shouted.


Tea Party member's misspelled sign, "Dems: Runnig to Illinois"
Others, however, are more reasonable.

Diane Kennedy, a Wisconsinite holding a Support Walker sign, said she pays 22% of her health care insurance premium and works at a 152-year-old insurance company in Wisconsin.

"If the bill doesn't pass, we're frankly screwed. We're already paying too much for taxes. If it doesn't pass, people will be laid off or terminated."

Kennedy said she is "not officially affiliated" with the Tea Party but supports their views.

"I'm just a conservative who believes in smaller government, more freedom and less taxes."


Tea Party Crowd
Mark and his entire family from Milwaukee, also support Scott Walker's "budget balancing" efforts. "I'm supportive of Scott," Mark said, noting that he is in sales for a career.

Mark has a personally funded retirement plan, meaning no pension is taken out of his salary. He notes that he was not aware of the Koch brothers campaign contributions to Scott Walker's campaign.

"I think everybody gets there campaign money from who knows where today."

At this juncture, a mild-mannered man with a coffee cup in hand walks up, asking Mark pointed--but polite--questions about his opinions on collective bargaining rights.

"Do you feel like collective bargaining rights are necessary?" asked the union man. "How would you feel if the bill was amended to preserve collective bargaining rights but make unionized workers pay pension and higher health care premiums?"

"I don't think we need collective bargaining. If it (working conditions, presumably) gets bad, unions will come back," Mark said. "It's not the '20s and '30s anymore. People have attorneys. They will sue."

"Would you rather see layoffs than give concessions on collective bargaining?" asked the union man, again keeping his tone steady and polite.

Mark, also playing nice, replied, "Financially, we can't keep going the way that we are. The unions are going to kill themselves if they keep up with the collective bargaining. I think it'd be a shame to see layoffs, but we can't spend more than we have until the budget is balanced."


Mark with his daughter
Debbie Bierman from Grant County wields an Americans for Prosperity sign, explaining, "The only reason I am here is because the teachers called in sick this week. My problem is that I, as a taxpayer, paid them to protest. That's blatant lying. They're not sick, and they're not doing their jobs."

When asked if she supported Walker's bill, she replied, "I do now."

Bierman, who also works in the private sector as an accountant, said that her employer requires her to pay 6% of her pension and matches it by 3%.


Debbie Bierman and friend
"Wouldn't workers affected by the bill only have to pay 5.8% of their salaries to their pensions?" her friend wonders aloud.

Notably, the average unionized truck driver is paid far less (approximately $43,000) annually than the average certified public accountant (approximately $60,000).




Thank you Governor Walker (Submitted by Steve Horn)
1:30 p.m. - Steve Horn reports that the Tea Party rally is barely 1/10th of the size of other rally groups.


State employees must pay their share! (Photo submitted by Katie Zaman in Madison, Wisconsin)
1:28 p.m. - John Nichols reports on Jesse Jackson's speech from Friday, February 18:

"This is a Martin Luther King moment!"

So declared the Rev. Jesse Jackson, as he finished addressing a crowd of more than 40,000 at that had filled the grounds of Wisconsin's state Capitol. A few minutes later, he would enter the Capitol and address a crowd estimated at 8,000, which filled what has been called America's most beautiful government building to capacity.

The Capitol was never more beautiful than on Friday night.

Read the full piece here.

1:22 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports sign spotted: "Why can't we be friends with benefits?"

1:21 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that ralliers around the square chant "Don't drink the tea!"

1:20 p.m. - Steve Horn reports that Vicki McKenna is now speaking amidst chants of "Stand with Scott! Pass the bill!"

1:14 p.m. - Steve Horn reports that Tea Party ralliers are chanting "Thank you Scott!"

1:12 p.m. - Steve Horn reports that the head of Fire Feingold PAC from Racine is now speaking. "Tea stands for Tax Enough Already and Walker gets this!"

1:06 p.m. - Steve Horn reports that Meg Allison of the Wausau Tea Party is now speaking. "Rick Santelli was my catalyst for 2009," she says.

1:03 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that Walker supporters are chanting "Pass the budget!"

1:00 p.m. - Steve Horn reports that Kim Simac of Northwoods Patriots is now speaking.



12:55 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports a Tea Party sign spotted: "We work on weekdays"

12:54 p.m. - Steve Horn reports that Dave Westlake reads a Sarah Palin letter from her FaceBook fan page.

12:48 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports a sign spotted: "This is a Civics Lesson"

12:47 p.m. - Brendan Fischer reports that a mix of chants arise from the crowds: "Kill the Bill!" "Pass the Bill!" "Si Se Puede!"

12:37 p.m. - Ben Manski reports on the efforts of protesters participating in the Madison, Wisconsin, rallies:

This week's protests are a revolt in defense of the right of public employees to self-organize. But not all the protesters here are public sector workers, or their family members. Many have recognized the role of college and high school students in initiating and energizing these protests. But few journalists have yet noted the efforts of Hmong, African American, Latino, and other activists of color to deepen and broaden the protests.

Monica Adams of the Madison-based community justice organization, Freedom, Inc., is one activist who has tried to add some color to the standard portrayal of this uprising. In an unpublished submission to the Wisconsin State Journal, earlier this week, she wrote that:

"Let's be clear: Gov. Walker has been after all of us from day one — and not just on the union issue. The Republican legislature's drafts of Arizona-style anti-immigrant bills threatens immigrants and would make it more likely than ever that people of color would face discrimination while driving. Unemployed workers took it on the chin when Gov. Walker vetoed high rail jobs. And Gov. Walker's threat to cut BadgerCare, FoodShare, and other life-saving services for millions of Wisconsinites imperils the health and welfare of our residents."

"Gov. Walker's mistake is the orchestrated political attack on all of us. Such an attack requires an orchestrated response. Labor unions must work to unite their struggle for their members with the struggle of the unemployed, threatened communities of color and abandoned low-income communities in Wisconsin."

I spoke with Sangita Nayak, communications director for Freedom, Inc., just now. She informed me that the organization has succeeded in mobilizing scores of southeast Asian and African American youth to participate in the protests. And she expressed frustration that, as of yet, this solidarity has not been noticed. As one African American MATC student told Sarah Manski yesterday, "protesting while Black" is often a risky business.

For both students and for youth of color, the risks they have taken this past week may pay off next week, when Governor Walker begins to release the details of his next full biennial budget proposal. Will public sector unions, already mobilized and in the fight of their lives, come to the aid of students facing 26% tuition hikes? Or unemployed youth of color facing drastic cuts to life-sustaining services? After this week, more of them may.

And that's what the organizers at Freedom, Inc. are counting on -- the broadening of the uprising to unite all the poor and working people of Wisconsin. As Nayak put it to me on the phone just now, "there are more young people, youth activists, coming out here every day, and we need to keep this movement growing."

12:08 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that the Tea Party rally is pitiful in comparison to pro-rights groups.


Boycott Walker's Contributors: Gordon Flesch, Stark Realty, Strand Assoc., Woodmans, Zimbrick, Jon Lancaster, Flad Development, Menards (Photo submitted by Katie Zaman in Madison, WI)
11:44 a.m. - Walker supporters begin to march around the Capitol.


Darth Walker (Photo submitted by Katie Zaman in Madison, WI)
11:21 a.m. - Brendan Fischer reports that the AFSCME parade is the biggest he has seen, with a large United Auto Worker (UAW) presence. UAW representatives have traveled from Flint, Michigan, to participate in the rallies.


Square dance
11:17 a.m. - Brendan Fischer reports that Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" seems to be the theme song for the Madison rallies.



11:16 a.m. - Mary Bottari sends these photos from the Wisconsin rallies:


Bought and pwned



Magnolia (Photo taken at a rally on the evening of Friday, February 18)
Right wing radio has been using ominous terms to describe the protesters. Here is the littlest dangerous protester Magnolia Stryker and her mother Martha. Magnolia is wearing an "I Voted" sticker on her hat.

In the background Reverend Jesse Jackson addresses a crowd of over 40,000 explaining, "When we fight, we win!"

11:15 a.m. - Brendan Fischer reports that the band Clovis Mann is taking the stage as a huge AFSCME parade around the Square kicks off.

11:11 a.m. - From Erica Pelzek: Sign spotted: Walker steeps our $ - Not my cuppa tea!

11:07 a.m. - Brendan Fischer reports that the Director of Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant rights organization, says that many of the immigrants to the U.S. are fleeing countries that suffer union repression in search of better life. "But now, Walker is trying to make Wisconsin into a third world country. Engaging in class warfare. Your fight is our fight," she says.

11:05 a.m. Industrial Workers of the World from as far away as Nebraska are in attendance at the Madison, WI rally to show their support to Wisconsin workers.

11:03 a.m. - Sign spotted: "Middle class America, do you get it now? Stop the Republicans!"

10:57 a.m. - Brendan Fischer reports that Professor Stephen Baumann says "My teaching assistants make for robust education and make the University of Wisconsin great. Taking away their collective bargaining rights will destroy the quality of education."

10:52 a.m. - Brendan Fischer quotes the speaker: "The safety of nurses and conditions in hospitals depends on their right to organize and negotiate."

10:51 a.m. - Brendan Fischer: Signs spotted "Walker is a Koch head" and "My son is fighting for our freedom, Walker is trying to take it away"

10:36 a.m. - Signs spotted: "Remember, this is a peaceful protest."

10:35 a.m. - The rally kicks off with a bike parade around the Capitol.

10:22 a.m. - Unions have organized peace keeping teams to direct traffic and prevent any incidents. Marshals are stationed around the Capitol Square.

Saturday February 19, 2011 Three Rallies Today
Make sure you pick the right rally for you and do not falsely inflate the numbers for groups you do not support.

1.AFSCME Rally at 10:30 a.m.
2.Tea Party/Koch Brothers Rally at 12:00 p.m.
3.WEAC Rally at 4:30 p.m.
Not Your Cup of Tea?
Rep. Governor Scott Walker has had a hard time finding anyone in the state that supports his radical plan to do away with collective bargaining rights. So he is bringing in an array of national right wing leaders to noon rally. The rally is planned by the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity, the Sam Adams Alliance-funded American Majority, and several Wisconsin Tea Party groups. (corner of Main, S. Carroll & Hamilton).

Scheduled to appear are:

Andrew Breitbart, right-wing superstar and founder of Big Government
Tim Phillips, president of Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity
Jim Hoft of the "Gateway Pundit" blog (who recently blamed CBS reporter Lara Logan for her sexual assault in Egypt)
Ned Ryun, President of American Majority
Herman Cain, Tea Partier and 2012 presidential candidate (who has hired as his campaign director Mark Block, former director of Wisconsin Americans for Prosperity investigated for repeat fair election law violations)
Vicki McKenna, talk radio host for Madison's WISN and WIBA
News Roundup from Wisconsin
Wisconsin State Journal, Nation's eyes turn to Wisconsin amid struggle over collective bargaining: This is a coordinated effort by the Republican Party to destroy the labor movement in this country," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, in town Friday for the largest day of rallies, estimated by Madison police at 35,000 to 40,000 people. "If Wisconsin passes this, there are at least another 12 to 15 states that will try it." Wisconsin Education Association Council President Mary Bell and Wisconsin State Employees Union Executive Director Marty Beil have both said the state's unions are willing to consider the governor's changes to their pension and benefits plans. But the unions remain dead set against his bid to end most collective bargaining rights.

Capital Times, Tea Party activists form exploratory committees to recall state senators: "It's embarrassing for the state of Wisconsin to know that half of our senators have gone AWOL," says Kim Simac, a small business owner in Eagle River who heads the Northwoods Patriots, a Tea Party group.

Capital Times Op-Ed from Robert Craig, Wisconsin Citizen Action, recaps the National guard debate: "At his Feb. 11 press conference itself, Walker made extremely broad statements, which can be fairly construed as thinly veiled threats to use the National Guard against workers exercising their constitutional right to protest government actions they believe are unjust. Walker did not once mention using the National Guard to staff prisons, and used broad and sweeping language when referring to what they could be called to do."

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Protests at Capitol Keep Growing: The protests that have swept the Capitol this week have stunned even longtime legislators for both their breadth and intensity. "This is the biggest demonstration I've ever seen," said state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills).

Progressive Magazine Editor Matt Rothschild sums up where we are in a one minute Radio Editorial. Madison's own Progressive Magazine recently celebrated its 100th birthday. Click [https://www.progressive.org/mp3/18feb11.mp3 here] to listen.

AND THIS JUST IN: WINTER STORM SET TO POUND WI SUNDAY, SIX INCHES, GET OUT THOSE SNOW PANTS.

Friday, February 18, 2011
10:30 p.m. - Mary Bottari: WI Congressional Rep. Paul Ryan who was far from the protests in Washington this week, said disapprovingly that WI was beginning to look a lot like Cairo. Today, one person responded with a sign in 20 degree weather: "I thought Cairo would be warmer."

10:00 p.m. - A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter gives a dramatic account of what happened on the Assembly floor today.

The Assembly teetered on the brink of chaos late Friday but then adjourned peacefully after Republicans rescinded a vote on Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair bill that the GOP lawmakers took without Democrats present.

In the Wisconsin Assembly Friday, Republican leaders had called lawmakers to the floor at 5 p.m. to take up Walker's bill to fix a budget shortfall by cutting public worker benefits and bargaining rights. But they began business just before that hour, when Democrats were not yet on the floor.

Democrats charged into the chamber and shouted to stop the action as Republican staff urged their leaders to "keep going, keep going." Republicans took the voice vote, putting the bill in a stage that prevented it from being amended in that house. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) called the move an "illegal vote" and demanded that Republicans rescind it.

"Unbelievable!" Barca screamed. "Unprecedented! Un-American! Not in keeping with the values of the state! You should be ashamed of yourselves."

Minutes later, Republicans agreed to effectively cancel the vote by allowing the bill to return to a stage in which Democrats can offer amendments. Democrats may have dozens of them, and the debate on the bill - whenever it happens - is expected to take hours. The Assembly adjourned until Tuesday.

9:45 p.m. - Almost as soon as Gov. Walker unveiled his radical budget proposal, the conservative political action committee Club for Growth went up on TV and Radio championing the proposal and bashing state workers leading many to believe that the proposal to end collective bargaining originated with prominent national republicans like Karl Rove. Politifact tackles the adds here and our own Anne Landman reports on the issue here.

9:45 p.m. - News reports indicate that Gov. Walker held a press conference at 5:00 p.m. today and rejected AFSCME leader Marty Beil's offer of concessions. Beil reiterated this offer at today's noon rally. This evening, Walker rejected any attempt at compromise repeatedly saying that the state "has no money and can't negotiate." Walker was newly elected in November, since then he has not sat down with any union in an attempt to negotiate a contract. As we reported last night, unions had already signaled their willingness to make concessions before the drama of the week began, but before any negotiations could take place, Walker announced his radical proposal to eliminate most collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin workers, rights workers have had in this state for 50 years.

9:30 p.m. - "Missing" WI Senator Lena Taylor said tonight on the Ed Shultz show on MSNBC that she thinks a quarter of a million people have visited the WI Capitol in the last 4 days.

Missing Senators Offered "Sanctuary"

8:30 p.m. - Mary Bottari: From outside the Capitol you could see that the offices of some of the "missing" 14 Democratic Senators were adorned with messages today. The Senators appear to be spending the weekend in Illinois. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that religious leaders in that state are offering the Wisconsin Democrats "sanctuary."

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Religious leaders in Illinois and Wisconsin on Friday offered their congregations and homes as sanctuary for Democratic senators who walked out of the Legislature Thursday to block a vote on Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to roll back collective bargaining rights for public employees. The invitations, by a handful of Christian churches and Jewish synagogues in Madison, Chicago and Glencoe, Ill., are the latest show of support by religious leaders whose faiths support worker rights on moral grounds."This is antithetical to all religious traditions," said Kim Bobo, executive director of Chicago-based Interfaith Worker Justice, which is coordinating the sanctuary effort. Bobo said she's spent the week fielding calls from faith leaders around the country where similar efforts are under way. "They are using the guise of a budget crisis to completely undermine workers' rights to organize," she said."

Wisconsinites like to gripe about their neighbors in Illinois, but with so many Illinois signs at the rallies, including "This is corruption: Trust me I am from Chicago," and with Chicago native Jessie Jackson Sr. speaking tonight at the latest rally, we are reminded that what we have in common is greater than what keeps us apart. (Except perhaps for football.)

More on the Drama in the Capitol
8:10 p.m. - Mary Bottari: Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) explained what happened on the Assembly floor this evening. At 3:00 p.m. Republican leadership called members of the Assembly to the floor at 5:00 p.m. At about 4:57 p.m. Republican legislators took to the Assembly floor and immediately started a series of votes on the Governor's budget even though the Democrats were still in caucus. Democrats rushed to the floor shouting objections. It was a bit chaotic there for a while but the Democrats succeeded in slowing things down. Pocan said "our Republican colleagues keep telling us that they are not hearing from their constituents on the bill. So we gathered up all the blue slips [slips citizen's use to register to testify], we organized them today by district -- it took us forever -- and then we started handing out stacks of them to each Republican legislator. They really didn't like that -- it helped them agreed to adjourn." Tens of thousands of people have visited the capitol in the past few days and the Assembly Democrats have held a continuous hearing, allowing thousands to testify.

Don't Miss Out, Spend a Weekend in Madison!
8:00 p.m. - From the Wisconsin AFL-CIO: "Can you make it to Madison, Wis., this weekend? This could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to feel incredible energy and make a difference—don't miss out. Two rallies are confirmed in Madison for Saturday: one at 10:30 a.m., and another at 4:30 p.m.

If you can't make those, there are also other events throughout Wisconsin, and more events are being announced all the time. So it is very likely there will be protests on Saturday & Sunday. For regularly updated information on what's happening in Wisconsin this weekend, go to AFSCME website.

Reverend Jessie Jackson Speaks Out
7:23 p.m. - Brendan Fischer reports: Calling Wisconsin's battle to maintain collective bargaining rights "a Dr. Martin Luther King moment," the Reverend Jesse Jackson spoke to an enthusiastic crowd. Rev. Jackson's call for action encompassed both collective bargaining rights and the broader challenges facing the middle class, including banksters, corporate power, and health care. Noting that "no bank is too big to fail," Rev. Jackson instead called on leaders to "bail out our schools, bail out our future."

"We are making school teachers scapegoats. But they aren't the ones who got us into the financial crisis. They aren't the ones foreclosing people's homes. They aren't the ones who got us into two wars."

Jackson led crowds to chant "workers have a right to be at the table. We build the homes, we cook the meals, we fight the wars. Save the children, save the families, save the workers."

"We will not surrender, we will not go away, we will keep hope alive."

7:01 p.m. - Steve Horn quotes Rev. Jessie Jackson: "Workers have a right to be at the table"

6:59 p.m. - Lisa Graves reports: MSNBC is reporting that "Gov. Scott Walker on Friday ruled out a compromise proposed by a key union to retain collective bargaining rights in exchange for public workers accepting benefit cuts. At a press conference, Walker said he could not consider the offer by the largest state workers union because it only covered some public employees and came late in the process."

6:00 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports on INFORMATION STATION inside the Capitol building:

Amidst the bodies clad in red Badger sweatshirts, among the signs flailing in the protesting crowd, several block-lettered signs taped to the Wisconsin State Capitol's pillars jump out. "INFO HERE!" "Don't know where to go? Want to know about rallies? Stop here!"

The UW-Madison Teachers Assistant Association organized the rag-tag information booth Thursday night, using a table and recycled posters for signs to announce its existence. The Information Station sprung up at exactly the correct moment--two nights into the Madison protests, when everyone was low on sleep and accompanied by ever-crankier children.

"We have:
- Legal support cards
- Earplugs
- Toys and Crayons for kids," another sign reads. Smaller handbills inform protesters of their rights if arrested.

"AVOID MEDIA SPIN WITH A UNIFIED FRONT," advises one poster, listing below those words of wisdom the protesters' major media talking points:

"The Budget Repair Bill will take away power from everyday workers and only allow corporations to have a voice.

The purpose of the Budget Repair Bill is to exploit workers and destroy the freedom of collective bargaining. The budget is not the issue; Walker is attempting to make political gains instead of creating jobs.

The right to negotiate both wages and benefits through a union is a fundamental underpinning of middle class livelihoods. Wisconsin's public workers are already under-compensated by 8.2% compared to their private sector counterparts; loss of bargaining rights would widen this gap.

The proposed bill would cut services across the state because Wisconsin's collective bargaining law helps stabilize services by promoting peace and mutual agreement between workers and government.

Active TAA member and UW-Madison sociology grad student Danny Spitzberg said he is ensuring the Information Station is staffed throughout the day for new arrivals, as well as coordinating UW-Madison under graduate groups at the Capitol. Thousands more undergrads joined the protests today, both through the TAA's coordination and through a hundreds-strong march at noon from UW-Madison's Library Mall to the Capitol.

Over the click-clacking of 20-plus students Tweeting, Facebooking and YouTubing on laptops in the middle of the crowded TAA Capitol stakeout, Room 330 NE, Spitzberg emphasized that the protesters have no intention of petering out for the weekend. They intend to keep the Capitol open 24 hours, as it has been for the past three days.

"People want to come on the weekend. They have off work--they want to be here," he said. "The Dems wouldn't have fled the state if we hadn't been here, with this firm of a presence, holding down the fort."

DON'T FORGET TO WATCH ED SCHULTZ MSNBC TONIGHT BROADCASTING LIVE FROM MADISON AT 10 EST, 9CST.

Drama in the Capitol Tonight: Republicans Try a Fast One
5:50 p.m. - Mary Bottari reports that the Republicans in the Assembly tried to pull a fast one and brought the bill to the floor a few minutes before 5 o'clock when only one Democrat was on the floor. Democrats rushed from caucus to the floor and started shouting to be heard. After 15 minutes of chaos the Republicans backed down adjourning until Tuesday. None of thousands outside people knew any of this was going on until democrats came out to the stage to announce that for now the people were winning. Assembly Democrats came running out, a little like a football team to the roar of the crowd to announce that the Republicans finally agreed to push back any floor action until next Tuesday. Minority leader in the Assembly, Rep. Peter Barca "They didn't just wake up a sleeping giant, they woke up the largest group of badgers ever assembled!" Score one for the protestors today.

4:51 p.m. - Breaking News: The Assembly is being called back in to session at 5:00 p.m.

4:38 p.m. - Madison could lose $45 million if Walker wins. From Channel 3000:

Madison's Metro bus system could see big changes under the governor's budget repair bill. The city's transit system would have two options if the governor's bill passes. Either the system must be completely restructured, or lose $45 million in federal funding. The situation came about because federal law requires collective bargaining rights on wages, pensions and working conditions for that aid. City officials say this detail is something that was overlooked by many. "Well, we'd have to look at dramatic cutbacks in service. It's too early to say exactly what that means, but people love their bus services here in the city of Madison. They wouldn't vote for this. And again, it's something that I'm sure wasn't thought about when this bill was so hastily put together," said Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz. Madison Metro could not be reached for comment.

4:17 p.m. - If you want to participate in these historic events but aren't sure how, we have resources available to help you. Call our office at 608-260-9713 or visit www.WEAC.org. Transportation is being organized statewide to help you get to Madison. If you are unable to travel, please consider rallying in your hometown. Activities have already been organized for people in the Sturgeon Bay and Milwaukee areas.

4:11 p.m. - Mary Bottari reports that Majority Leader Scott Suder's office has sent out an e-mail announcing the Assembly will come to the floor at 5:00 p.m. today. "I don't think they are coming in to hear Jesse Jackson's convocation," says Bottari.

3:48 p.m. - Brendan Fischer reports with photos from the student walk-out and march down State Street that took place earlier today.




Who's going to teach me how to Bucky?

I prefer Walker Texas Ranger!

Can you read this? Thank your teachers!
3:44 p.m. - Brendan Fischer reports that the President of Americans for Prosperity President Tim Philips will be speaking at a Madison rally on Saturday, February 19.

3:42 p.m. - Brendan Fischer reports that the Koch funded Americans for Prosperity has launched a new action campaign at We Stand with Walker.

3:39 p.m. - Anne Landman has published a new report on the Koch Brothers connection.

The Koch Connection in Scott Walker's War on Working People
Wisconsin's embattled Governor Scott Walker took large donations from Koch Industries in the run-up to the 2010 election that swept him into office. OpenSecrets.org reports that Koch Industries donated a total of $43,000 in two separate contributions -- $15,000 on July 8, 2010 and another $28,000 on September 27, 2010 -- to the Friends of Scott Walker Political Action Committee (PAC), to help get Walker elected governor.

The Koch Industries' PAC also helped Walker through a now-familiar political maneuver that lets corporate donors avoid campaign finance limits. The Koch's PAC gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which spent $65,000 to support Walker, along with a whopping $3.4 million on mailers and television ads attacking Walker's opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Walker beat Barrett by 5 points, thanks in part to Koch funding.

Walker has taken a total of more than $70,000 from gas and pipeline companies, and opposed a high speed rail project that would have reduced Wisconsin's dependence on oil. Koch Pipeline Company, L.P. operates a pipeline system that crosses Wisconsin, part of the nearly 4,000 miles of pipelines the company owns or operates, and the Koch's paper and wood products division, Georgia Pacific, has six facilities in Wisconsin. A Koch subsidiary, the C. Reiss Coal Company, has locations in Green Bay, Manitowoc, Ashland and Sheboygan. All of these business interests give the Kochs ample reason to attempt to influence Wisconsin politics.

This is About More than Just Wisconsin
More and more the events taking place in Wisconsin are seen as the front line in corporate interests' increasingly pitched war on middle-class and public sector workers. Corporate leaders see organized labor as the last real line of serious, grassroots resistance against a corporate takeover of the government. The gains made by labor unions provide a ceiling for the level of benefits and wages that the rest of the American workforce is able demand, which draws the ire of corporations that want to boost profits by driving down wages and benefits for workers. Walker is just one of a group of Koch-sponsored politicians who are helping the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch dismantle organized labor in the U.S.

The portrayal of events in Wisconsin as American workers' line in the sand against corporate power makes the situation even more compelling and underscores the importance of these events to workers across the country. Keep your browser on PRWatch as we continue to cover the events unfolding in Wisconsin.

3:36 p.m. - People are waiting for Jesse Jackson to speak at 5:00 p.m. Want to attend the rally but not sure how? Call our office 608-260-9713 and ask to speak with Page or visit www.weac.org for more information.

3:27 p.m. - Brendan Fischer reports that Andrew Breitbart will be rallying to support Scott Walker. Find more here: http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/weigel/archive/2011/02/18/andrew-breitb

3:00 p.m. - Mary Bottari sends these photos from inside the Capitol.





2:59 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that the protests have escalated as a huge wave of teachers roll in from Milwaukee. A sign reads: High speed rail would have gotten me here faster!

2:51 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that the TAA Union is providing an enormous amount of food for protesters, including crockpots full of penne and stew. They are also providing coffee, tea, earplugs, toys and crayons for kids. They are organized. And they have no intention of leaving or slowing down despite the weekend.

2:44 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that WKOW in Madison has a live stream of the Department of Revenue walk-out. http://www.wkow.com/global/video/flash/popupplayer.asp?ClipID1=5582742&h

2:00 p.m. - Watch videos on top news from WI protests:

MSNBC TODAY show: Thousands protest Wis. 'anti-union' bill

CNN: Teachers under the budget ax

NBC15: Video and Interview with Rev. Jesse Jackson

NBC15:Helicopter Video Over The Capitol 2/18/2011

1:41 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that State Street is barricaded at Johnson Street. Madison Metro buses are rerouting due to the magnitude of the crowds of protesters.

1:30 p.m. - Steve Horn reports: standing room ovation cheers for Firefighters for Labor. Blaring loud in here. Incredible energy.

12:45 p.m. - David Boecker from IBEW and State Veterans Board said "You people have to remember that when a veteran returns home from war a public employee is there to greet him. When they need counseling for PTSD a public employee is there to speak to him. If they need therapy because they lost limbs, a public employee helps them out. When veterans make the ultimate sacrifice, a public employee helps the family with all their needs."

12:36 p.m. - Mary Bottari sends in photos from the field.





12:30 p.m. - Mary Bottari reports that two of the featured speakers at the noon rally were head of police and firefighter unions. Their presence was important because they were explicitly exempted from the collective bargaining provisions of the bill.

The Madison chief firefighter Mahlon Mitchell said "I talked to a friend and a firefighter from out of state today and he said "My, there seems to be a lot going on in your state!" But then he told me a sad story. He said that one of their firefighters was in a hospital today in critical condition after suffering injuries from a house fire earlier this week. And he told me that when that firefighter went down he was transported by EMTs, public workers. And when he arrived at the hospital he was met by nurses, union workers. And when the ambulance went through the street, public employees blocked the street to let them get through. That is what we do. We stand together." Mahlon relayed the story to underscore the point that the firefighters and the police officers would not allow themselves to be treated differently than the other unions.

Jim Palmer, the head of the Wisconsin Professional Police Assocation made the same point. "Despite the best efforts of this Governor to divide the house of labor, we are here to say that the police and firefighters will stand with the workers."

AFSCME President Speaks to Crowds for the First Time
12:20 p.m. - Mary Bottari reports that Marty Beil, the President of the State AFSCME, took the stage for the very first time. Biel spoke briefly but to the point. "We have said all along that we are willing to sit down with this Governor. We are prepared to implement concessions to help bring the budget into balance because for us, it is not about $. No one every said I want to be a correctional officer to get rich. No one every said i want to be a teacher to buy a big house on the lake. We will make concessions, but we will not be denied our rights to collectively bargain. We will never -- under any circumstances -- give up our God-given right to join a real union." Beil's union represents some 22,000 employees.

12:15 p.m. - Mary Bottari reports from the rally, which is enormous, the biggest yet.


AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka stepped up to the podium and said "Brothers and sisters, there is no place in the world I'd rather be today than right here in Wisconsin defending our civil rights. What you are doing is inspiring the people of Ohio to stand up and fight. It is inspiring the people of Indiana to stand up and fight. It is inspiring the people of Missouri and New Hampshire and Pennsylvania and all across the nation. This is the strongest movement yet; stronger than Governor Walker and his corporate backers.

Let's be clear about what is happening here: Governor Walker came in to office with a $120 million surplus. That didn't fit his vision so he gave the money away. $117 million in tax breaks to the rich. Now he comes back to us with his sorry puppy dog look to play the role of the brave fiscal soldier willing to make hard choices. You know and I know it's a crock. He did it to destroy to our collective bargaining rights and to pay back his cronies and CEOs. This is just what happens in Washington D.C. Tax cuts create deficits that create urgency to cut, cut, cut.

We have been playing this game for three years and we are not going to take it anymore. Governor Walker, you are asking too much and we won't give it to you and you can't take it away from us.

Governor Walker, I want to give you a piece of advice: Enough of the political games and vendetta politics. You are on the wrong side of history. The Wisconsin teachers did not cause the Wisconsin budget problems. Wisconsin nurses are not responsible for all that red ink. Road crews build highways, not deficits. You are targeting workers and that means you are targeting Wisconsin and you should stop it now.

12:18 p.m. - Steve Horn reports that Jesse Jackson is leading rounds of song in standing room only Capitol.

12:07 p.m. - Steve Horn sends these photos from the midst of the University march down State Street.



12:01 p.m. - From Lisa Graves: Headed to the noon rally and wow, more people around the Capitol than I've ever seen!

11:59 a.m. - WI AFL-CIO head Phil Neuenfeldt got the rally started with a chuckle and a soft "we're ba-ack"



11:51 a.m. - Mary Bottari reports that Wisconsin firefighters have always been a big part of this fight because they were specifically exempt from the Governor's attempt to destroy collective bargaining. By exempting the firefighters and the police the Governor proved the point that collective bargaining works to protect communities. Today the largest number of firefighters ever showed up at the Capitol, a crowd some 2,000 strong from across the state escorted by the traditional bagpipe brigade.



11:48 a.m. - Brendan Fischer reports that students march down State Street chanting "What's disgusting? Union busting!"







11:36 a.m. - Wisconsin Democratic Senator Lena Taylor who walked out of the State Capitol on Thursday posted a message on her Facebook Page: "brb" (abbrevation for "be right back")

11:35 a.m. - Steve Horn reports that a teacher in Bristol, WI could not make to the rally today, and instead participated in a walk in this morning at the local K – 8 to school.

11:33 a.m. - Mary Bottari reports that she is arriving at the Capitol and sees a huge crowd that could be the biggest one yet. Walking down the street right now she sees Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. arriving. Many friends from the neighboring state of Illinois are joining us here and Reverend Jackson is no exception. Two time presidential candidate and civil rights hero, Jackson is no stranger to marching for worker rights. He is greeted by a roar of the crowd and now thousands of people are walking behind him in a route circling the Capitol building. The rally is set to begin at 12:00 noon.



11:26 a.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that TAA representatives are distributing talking points to those present at the University walk-out: there will be a clean-up of the Capitol facilitated BY the protesters throughout today.

11:22 a.m. - Steve Horn and Erica Pelzek report that there are hundreds of people on the University of Wisconsin Madison campus ready to march to the Capitol. The entire School of Education and many others are present, including children from area schools.



11:13 a.m. - Alternet has issued a report on the Koch Brothers connection to the Wisconsin worker battle. Read the full item here.

The fact is, Walker is carrying out the wishes of his corporate master, David Koch, who calls the tune these days for Wisconsin Republicans. Walker is just one among many Wisconsin Republicans supported by Koch Industries -- run by David Koch and his brother, Charles -- and Americans For Prosperity, the astroturf group founded and funded by David Koch. The Koch brothers are hell-bent on destroying the labor movement once and for all.

During his election campaign, Walker received the maximum $15,000 contribution from Koch Industries, according to Think Progress, and support worth untold hundreds of thousands from the Koch-funded astroturf group, Americans For Prosperity. AlterNet recently reported the role of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Americans For Prosperity in a vote-caging scheme apparently designed to suppress the votes of African-Americans and college students in Milwaukee. In 2008, Walker served as emcee for an awards ceremony held by Americans For Prosperity. There, he conferred the "Defender of the American Dream" award on Rep. Paul Ryan, now chairman of the House Budget Committee.

11:04 a.m. - Watch "This is What Democracy Looks Like!" submitted by UW-Madison student Lisa Rosenblum:

10:04 a.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that rumors are circling that the State Patrol has been sent to Senator Miller's home; he is allegedly still absent.

9:59 a.m. - Mary Bottari reports that schools across Wisconsin are closed today, but this sign from Thursday's teacher rally says it all.


This teacher's sign says it all
9:57 a.m. - Lisa Graves reports that she is hearing in Madison that people are excited to hear Richard Trumka, President of the National AFL-CIO, speak at the 12:00noon rally. And, there is buzz on Facebook that the Reverend Jesse Jackson will be speaking to the protesters today. Call our office at 608-260-9713 to find out how you can attend the rally.

9:52 a.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that Senator Fitzgerald calls the state Capitol building a "powder keg" and says that he told Senator Miller that his staff and others should not be operating with this in here.

9:39 a.m. - Brendan Fischer reports in with photos from Thursday's rallies.


9:00 a.m. - News roundup for Friday, February 18 from Wisconsin protests

The Ed Schultz Show reports live from Madison

The Capital Times, Campus Connection: Key Republican will fight Walker's UW plan

University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin and Wisconsin State Governor Scott Walker have been talking behind the scences for a month now about Martin's proposed New Badger Partnership, in which UW-Madison would become more autonomous from the state, purchasing its own resources, constructing its own buildings with private funding and paying workers outside the state process. Of course, tuition hikes would be necessary. State Rep. Steve Nass (R-La Grange) plans to introduce legislation that would cap at four percent the amount tuition and most mandatory fees can be raised for those attending the state's public colleges and universities. Nass says he believes tuition hikes at UW are unconscionable and will take whatever means necessary to avoid them.

WisPolitics.com, Budget Blog: Assembly, Senate to take another shot at budget repair bill Friday

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Democrats flee state to avoid vote on budget bill

State Senator Tim Cullen (D-Janesville), confirmed Thursday that Democrats were boycotting Senate action on the bill to block quorum and keep the measure from passing. Because 20 senators of the 33-member house must be present to pass a fiscal bill, the body's 19 Republicans are not enough to pass the budget repair bill. As Democratic Wisconsin senators hid out in Rockford, Illinois, yesterday to prevent the State Senate from reaching quorum, Republican Senators expressed some discomfort regarding Governor Walker's budget repair bill. Ultimately, though, Sen. Luther Olson (R-Ripon), said he will "probably vote for it" on the Senate floor. Protesters blocked the front entrance to the Senate chamber, banging loudly on the door as Senate convened. Air horns, drum circles and angry chants abounded in the echoing Capitol lobby, and at least 9 arrests were made on the third straight day of peaceful, nonviolent protesting.

The New York Times, Politics of Wisconsin Labor Fight Spread to Washington

The Washington Post, Obama joins Wisconsin's budget battle, opposing Republican anti-union bill

Front page, banner headline news in Washington -- Obama and the Democratic Party are on board to help prevent union-busting. Besides mobilizing opposition to Walker's budget-repair bill, the Democratic Party has also organized additional demonstrations in Indiana and Ohio, other states facing the trimming of their collective bargaining rights and benefits.

Wall Street Journal, front page story Union Fight Heats Up: Absent Teachers March; Wisconsin Democrats Flee to Halt Vote

8:30 a.m. - The Wisconsin State Journal banner headline "State of Chaos" reports on phase two of the Governor's budget plan:

School officials fear anticipated cuts to K-12 education in Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal next week could have a "devastating" effect on public education — from up to 85 teacher layoffs in Janesville to a $17.5 million hole in Madison's K-12 budget.

The Wisconsin Association of School Boards warned members this week that Walker is likely to announce a $900 million cut in general state school aids over two years to help close a $3.6 billion budget deficit, and prevent districts from raising property taxes to cover the losses.

7:15 a.m. - Madison's best radio show, "Sly in the Morning" on WDTY is broadcasting 6-10 a.m. this morning with protestors and politicians. You can tune in at 1670 AM or on-line at WTDY.

7:00 a.m. - Friday - It is a cold, crisp, clear day here in Madison. Wisconsin is on the front page of newspapers across the nation and on every major broadcast news channel. Schools are still closed this morning across the state. There will be a massive rally today at noon at the Capitol with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. Because the Joint Finance Committee voted on the Senate version of the budget bill on Wednesday night, there can be no vote in the Assembly. The Joint Finance Committee would have to regroup to vote on the Assembly version of the bill in order for there to be floor action in the Assembly today. So as of this morning, the 14 Democratic Senators are still missing, and the bill is still bottled up as protesters planned.

Thursday, February 17, 2011
9:30 p.m. - Mary Bottari: Outside the capitol, I bumped into UW Professor (Law, Political Science, Sociology, Public Affairs) Joel Rogers and asked him to explain the budget number to me. The national media can't seem to decide if Wisconsin has a budget deficit or not, or whether $30 million in concessions being demanded from workers is significant or not. Rogers explained that the $3.5 billion shortfall projected over the next biennium is about half what the one projected last time, which Wisconsin survived, and that $30 million was both trivial and dwarfed by new concessions unions had already offered to make. Says Rogers, "you just can't make sense of this as a deficit reduction strategy. It's a political strategy. Destroy public sector unions and you destroy the campaign organization of your opposition, Democrats. Of course he won't ever just say this." Rogers thinks the budget repair bill is "in three words: deceptive, dishonest, destruction. Deceptive because its not what people elected him to do. He's got no mandate to take away worker rights. Dishonest because unions are really not the source of our budget problems. A lousy national economy is, and unions are anxious to work with him in surviving in it. They're really not the problem, but can be part of the solution. And it's destructive because their help is needed. Nothing is gain by blowing up a 50 year tradition of public sector collective bargaining that was born in Wisconsin and gives a lot of people a great deal of civic pride."

9:00 p.m. - Ed Shutlz MSNBC is broadcasting LIVE in Madison now with a huge crowd of thousands standing behind him. "Welcome to Ground Zero for every single American worker," say Shultz. Signs read 'What would Bob do?" (referring to WI own Fighting Bob LaFollette) "Aaron Rogers is a Union Rep!" (Do I need to explain that one?) "Illinois Middle Class backs this Pack," and my favorite "Screw Us and We Multiply." The fog has lifted. It is a clear warm night in Madison and the prettiest state capitol building in the nation is shining brightly behind the crowd.

8:35 p.m. - Mary Bottari: Just received an automated message from the school district that Madison schools will be closed for the third consecutive day. Good thing my daughter likes a good protest.

8:30 p.m. - Mary Bottari: Inside the capitol tonight there are still people testifying and waiting to be heard. Democrats have heard 63 hours of testimony so far, tomorrow is another day.

8:08 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports hundreds of uniformed police officers and firefighters marched the Wisconsin Capitol Square at 5:30 this evening, pausing at the City-County Building, 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., to hear out Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's generous proposal.

According to Cieslewicz, City of Madison unionized workers will have their collective bargaining contracts extended through the end of 2012. In order "to ensure that all employees can continue to receive current pension and health benefits for the next two years," Cieslewicz said he realized he needed to extend these contracts today before Gov. Scott Walker's union-busting budget-repair bill potentially passes.

Representatives from 12 Madison labor unions in the city cheered, continuing their march down State Street to a Special Council Meeting held at the Overture Center for the Arts, 201 State St., to discuss the contract extensions.

7:44 p.m. - Mary Bottari reports that Richard Trumka, President of the National AFL-CIO will be headlining at the 12:00noon rally in Madison tomorrow. Want to attend the rally? CMD is here to help! Call our office 608-260-9713 or visit http://www.wiafscme.org/

7:23 p.m. - Read Brendan Fischer's new report on the budget crisis.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker alleges that dismantling public sector collective bargaining rights is made necessary by a $3.6 billion deficit in the next budget, and a $137 million shortfall this year. Setting aside the fact that the ability to negotiate shifts, seniority, benefits and conditions of employment would have a negligible impact on the deficit, and looking beyond Walker's deceptive claim that the alternative to union-busting is to kick 200,000 children off Medicaid (called "false" by Politifact), how deep is the state's economic crisis?

Representative Mark Pocan (D- Madison) has looked more closely at the numbers and writes that the $3.6 billion deficit is bogus. The alleged deficit is based on $3.9 billion in new agency requests for the 2011-2013 budget, a 7.2% spending increase. However, these are merely requests, not dollars actually allocated or spent, and Pocan writes that the legislature never votes to grant 100% of agency requests: "I don't think there is a member in the legislature that would vote for [the requested budget increase]. In fact, I asked [Legislative Fiscal Bureau] Director [Robert] Lang when was the last time we gave agencies exactly what they requested and was told he couldn't think of one and he's been here decades."

For example, the state's non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau reports that the difference between the amount requested for the 2009-2011 budget and the amount actually allocated was almost $3.5 billion, a sum nearly identical to Walker's alleged "deficit" for the next budget cycle. State agencies had requested a 9.7% increase but were actually granted a reduction of 2.6%.

For this year's budget, any shortfalls are a direct result of Walker's policies. The Fiscal Bureau told legislators in January that the state will end the year with a balance of $121.4 million. The $137 million deficit Walker uses as an excuse to crush collective bargaining results from the tax cuts and incentives Walker has pushed through since taking office; this includes the loss of $48 million in revenue from private health savings account taxation, a move lauded by the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce business lobby (who spent nearly $1 million on Walker's campaign).

7:10 p.m. - From Lisa Graves: Research indicates that it is possible to recall a governor in the state of Wisconsin. Article XII of the Constitution and Section 9.2 of the statutes allow a petition to go forward if a registered committee obtains enough signatures in a 60-day period.

How many are enough? The law requires 25% of the vote cast in the last gubernatorial election, or about a half million signatures. Specifically, at least 540,208 signatures, since 2,160,832 Wisconsin residents cast votes (Walker got 1,128,941 of the votes cast, and his opponent, Tom Barrett got 1,004,303) so it seems feasible numerically. But, it would require a big on the ground effort to gather that many signatures in a two-month period.

A Facebook group has been formed to help push this idea forward: "540,000 To See Scott Walker out of WI." And, on Facebook, Russ Feingold "likes" this page.

7:06 p.m. - Do you want to join your fellow citizens in Madison? Not sure how? Call our office at 608-260-9713 or visit AFSCME for more information.

6:57 p.m. - Mary Bottari reports that there are few

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