Students defend public employees' stance in Wisconsin
A student holds up a sign during a rally this week at Wisconsin's state Capitol in Madison.
February 18th, 2011
12:59 PM ET

Students defend public employees' stance in Wisconsin

Thousands of demonstrators massed for a third day Friday in Madison, Wisconsin, to protest Gov. Scott Walker's drastic budget-cutting proposal.

The proposal includes the elimination of some bargaining rights for public employees and slashing of benefits.

Teachers have been prominent among the protesters, so much so that school districts in Madison, Milwaukee and other cities were forced to cancel classes because of short staffing.

Many students came out to march in support of their teachers.

"I believe that their rights are really being violated. This is something they've fought for generations to achieve, and for Scott Walker to just take away their collective bargaining rights is just wrong," one young man told CNN affiliate WISC-TV in Madison.

"This is our time, today. And I realize just as I'm standing here that this is our time - our time to fight, our time to do something," said another.

"I have a mom who works for the state," he continued. "She's part of a union. I know what this is going to mean to our family, to families of my friends, to my family, if this bill passes. This means she's going to be taking home less money. This is going to be a big hit to our financial income."

The issue is personal for another student as well.

"My father's a teacher and we're strong advocates for public education, and we feel like these cuts aren't necessary and we feel it's unfair to many thousands of workers," high school student Andrea Guardalabene told CNN affiliate WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee.

But the sentiment isn't unanimous among students.

"I don't believe that paying 12.6% of your salary toward your health care and 5.3% toward your own pension is anything radical whatsoever," student Chase Studinski of Sun Prairie told WISC.

Tough times call for sacrifice, small business owner Steve Bennett told WTMJ.

"I think everyone's gone a little too far," Bennett, owner of a meat shop in Port Washington, Wisconsin, told the station. "We all have to dig into our pockets in these times, and dig deep, and make sure we are doing what's best for everybody and not just for ourselves."

In Columbus, Ohio, Senate Bill 5 is attracting similar attention. It would end binding arbitration for safety forces, remove raises and sick days from state law for teachers, and forbid municipal workers to bargain for health insurance.

"If you think that the (original) collective-bargaining bill was a gift to trade labor, you're wrong," Herschel Sigall, representing the Ohio State Troopers Association, said during a public hearing on the bill, according to the Columbus Dispatch. "It works well for employers as well as the employees. Tweak it, but do not throw it out."

Sigall noted there were 25 work stoppages in 17 years before collective bargaining began, none since, the Dispatch reported.

Kristen Treadway, director of human resources for the city of Gahanna, Ohio, spoke in support of the bill.

"The cost of bargaining and the cost of continual wage and benefit increases when the city is not growing are not sustainable," she said, according to the Dispatch.

A Tea Party member in the crowd had no sympathy for the public union members.

"Their benefits are so much better than mine, and their pay is so much better than mine, but they are still crying," Rick Barry of Akron told the Dispatch.

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Filed under: Education • Jobs • Ohio • Politics • Protest • Wisconsin
soundoff (78 Responses)
  1. L64

    I would challenge anyone to spend a week teaching. Then complain. I go in at 7 and go home @5. I take work home nights and weekends. I deal with violent students who disrupt class, throw chairs and destroy property. The ones who are supposed to have meds don't get it because the parents don't bother to get it, even tho it's free. I get screamed at by the parents in front of the child when l take away a recess because their child knocked over his desk when l asked him to sit down. People as a general rule have no idea what teachers really do/deal with. Oh, and these are 9 yr olds. Imagine the teenagers...

    February 20, 2011 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
  2. tomaz

    cut all the wars funds, stop giving our tax $dollars to corrupt kings and presidents to silence their people' voices to please the natural resources vampires to profit why we're left to drink and eat cold air because our money and jobs are over there! Then, use all these collective billions and create jobs without having to get rid of hard working americans from their trades. End the wars and corruption/bribery. Save the unions!!!

    February 20, 2011 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  3. RMH

    CNN's TV coverage of the Wisconsin budget bill, especially that by Don Lemon, has been way off base in its claims that public employees are unreasonably opposed to making larger benefit contributions. They have already had frozen salaries _minus_ 3 percent furloughs for the past two years - and suffered that in silence. The "grand bargain" in Wisconsin has long been below-market salaries in return for generous benefits, so the issue here is not the share of contributions to health care or pensions, but the total compensation package. Reducing public-employees compensation by imposing a draconian increase in benefit contributions is a regressive policy that truly threatens the well-being of the least-compensated public employees, but will barely touch the larger state structural deficit in the next biennium. Neither is the issue the state budget - which is actually running a surplus this year according to the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau . The real issue in Wisconsin is the right to bargain collectively - a _right_ guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - which the Republican administration in Wisconsin is trying to eliminate without even offering to negotiate, and there is ample time to negotiate before the state needs to pass its next budget. And what will be next on the chopping block? The traditional high quality of Wisconsin's public schools? Health care for the poor? Or what? There is every reason to believe that, if the "budget repair" bill passes in its present form, that will lead to other massive reductions in service at both the state and local levels that will outrage even those who now support the new governor. And those "reforms" will rip billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs from the state economy. Be careful what you wish for.

    February 20, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. L64

    Amen!

    February 20, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Cesar

    L64, may I call you L65?

    February 20, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Eve

    I just got back on line & read all the comments I have to say "I'm proud to be an AMERICA" that we all agree to disagree.
    FYI – I have been on my job for over 30 years. I was in the union & not. I'm glad my voice was heard.

    February 22, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
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