Wednesday marked another day of tumultuous protests at the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison. With Governor Scott Walker standing firm on his decision to take the right to negotiate health and pension benefits way from public employee unions, thousands again converged on the Capitol for a third day. “He needs to step back, and figure out what’s going on here, and work with people, not just telling them what to do,” said Chris Heller, a high school math teacher from Appleton.
“Walker wanted us to stop negotiation before we was elected, now look what he’s doing,” said Tammy Foust, an office worker at Mauston’s Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center. “He’s not even willing to talk.” Susan Clark was one of hundreds of members of the Madison teachers union who staged a ‘sick out’ in order to protest. “We felt backed into a corner,” said Clark. “Although I did not want to do this, I felt I had to show support of the union.”
Kevin Duffield was among their supporters of Madison Teachers Inc., who said Walker was “declaring war” on unions. “If they’re ready for a fight, I think MTI and many other worker unions are as well,” said Duffield. “This is not Appleton Area School District’s fault,” said Heller, who used a bargained day to attend the protest without taking a sick day. “We certainly do not want to pollute the learning environment in our school district. Unfortunately, the only way to make a statement is to band together and work through it. So if something happens, it has nothing to do with Appleton school district, nothing against the students or the parents. It’s this bill.”
“I’m just praying that his eyes will be opened, that he will realize that negotiating is better than bullying” said Clark of the Republican governor, who threw the state’s public employee unions into turmoil last week when he announced the labor provisions contained in his budget repair bill. “We want our government to support us, back us, listen to us,” said Faust, the AFSCME member from Mauston.
Walker, who maintained confidence that he has the votes needed to pass the bill, said he was not surprised by the intensity of the protests, which began Monday and surged Tuesday and Wednesday, when Capitol Police estimated some 10,000 people were on the Capitol grounds and surrounding streets.