Leaders of labor organizations and activist groups announced formation on Monday of a new effort to resist what they characterized as a move towards austerity and corporations in Wisconsin. They also plan a protest, this time at the headquarters of Wisconsin’s largest business lobby. “What is happening in Wisconsin is incredible, but it was also inevitable,” said Ben Manski, executive director of the Madison-based Liberty Tree Foundation. “This past week, the governor came out and he attempted to not only force us to bear an incredible increase in the cost that we pay, but he also attempted to take away our ability to advocate in our own interest as working people.” Manski said the new Wisconsin Wave organization is a long term effort intended to bring together the majority working people in the state of Wisconsin, including working people in and our of unions. The group plans a picket and protest at Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce on Wednesday.
“We’ve been carved out on paper, of the governor’s budget repair bill, but they couldn’t carve us out in our hearts,” said Joe Conway, President of Fire Fighters Local 311 in Madison. Fire fighters and law enforcement officers were exempted from provisions of Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill which seek to drastically restrict the ability of public employee unions to collectively bargain. “I can’t be more passionate in speaking about this. Our fire fighters have always been supported by the community, we’re going to support to the community back. We stand with you, and they can never carve us out.” Fire fighters from Madison and other communities have been a presence throughout the protests at the Capitol.
“I tell you what this bill is not about, it’s not about budget repair. It’s not about the money,” said Kevin Gibbon, co-president of the Teaching Assistants Association at UW Madison. “It’s about basic human rights. It’s about fair representation, it’s a about a firm belief in the public sector. People are tired of hearing ‘government’ as a four letter word, of hearing about public services, social services, as bad things.” Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, said the Wisconsin effort is the first of several Waves in the country, and she charged that Governor Walker’s budget repair bill is part of a larger effort, “about destroying and dividing the working class in this country.”