Protesters have been converging on the Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, since mid-February to protest the governor’s budget bill. Their voices are angry, energetic, accusatory.
The bill, which proponents say reels in spending but critics say is an overt attempt at union-busting, prompted 14 Democratic state senators to leave the state so they wouldn’t be forced to vote on the bill.
Despite reports of progress in the negotiations, there are still several bones of contention. The original bill by Gov. Scott Walker requires all public workers but police officers and firefighters to increase contributions to their pension and health insurance, and it prohibits unions from collecting dues.
It also restricts the unions’ collective bargaining power, caps wages and requires annual votes for unions to remain certified, which critics say would be costly.
The crowds have thinned since the protests first began, but many remain adamant that Walker’s bill must be defeated. Here is what some of them are saying:
The 58-year-old from Madison said he’s worn out from walking 5 or 6 miles a day during the last 12 days of the protests.
He accuses the statehouse of “bully politics” and said he doesn’t appreciate “the way they’re trying to change things, ram things down our throat without a chance of really seeing the bill.”