Voices of Wisconsin: Protesters stand firm against budget bill
Demonstrators sing union songs as they protest inside the state Capitol in Madison on Monday.
March 9th, 2011
12:58 PM ET

Voices of Wisconsin: Protesters stand firm against budget bill

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:

Barney Decker, retiree

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.”

He has faith, though, that the protesters will prevail.

“People who use democracy and understand what democracy is, always win in the end,” he said.

Sherry Carr, animal control worker

Carr, 48, has been attending the protests since they began, stopping in during lunch breaks and on her days off.

The Madison union member said that when she first heard of Walker’s proposals, “my jaw just dropped and I knew we had to do something to stop this.”

She predicted that if the bill passes, it will be detrimental to the state.

“The more that comes out about what’s in this bill – both the budget repair bill and the budget itself – it’s going to rip this state apart. It’s going to rip this state to the seams.”

Deborah Weisser, mom

The Madison stay-at-home mother of two has been a mainstay at the protests, pushing her 2-year-old son’s stroller amid the demonstrations.

The boy has heard the chants for 20 days now, and Weisser said he asks every morning, “Are we going to kill the bill, mom?”

Wielding a sign that reads, “This is a fight for democracy and human rights. Hold the line,” the 31-year-old said she has no government or union affiliation. She simply feels her fellow Wisconsinites are having their rights trampled on.

She feels the bill has little to do with the budget and is more focused on “busting unions so that we have to live in a corporate-controlled world.” She worries that it will hurt services like recycling programs and increase classroom sizes for her 9-year-old, she said.

“Now that I have stood up, I can’t sit down,” she said. “I’m just a mom who sees my rights and the rights of my fellow people being violated, and I’m not going to sit down for it.”

Marianne Julian, retiree

The 65-year-old former health care worker was bundled in a University of Wisconsin jacket to ward off the 20- and 30-degree temperatures in Madison.

A union member, she said she has been to the Capitol about 11 times since the protests began.

She stated flatly that the budget bill is wrong and that the state should continue engaging in collective bargaining.

“My favorite book of the Bible is the book of James,” she said, “and it says if you don’t get up off your bottom and do something about your faith, then your faith is worthless.”

Asked if she was optimistic the protests would be effective, she replied, “We always hope. That’s what Christians are all about.”

Marvin Cartwright, boilermaker

Cartwright is from Gladstone, and he has taken time off work to attend the last nine days of demonstrations at the Capitol.

A member of Local 107, he said he’s disturbed that Walker’s first step in office was to disband the unions. He’d like to see a compromise and said he and other protesters are at the Capitol to support the 14 Democrats who fled the state.

“(Walker’s) on a beeline to make Wisconsin a right-to-work state,” he said, using the term used for states where workers decide for themselves whether to join unions. “That’s the ultimate goal for Mr. Walker. We’ve got to stop him on the front end. We’ll be here as long as those 14 Democrats are out.”

Francis Clark, cook

The 50-year-old Madison resident looked tired but said he’s “fired up and ready to go.”

He joined the protests on their third day because he felt the “whole bill just wasn’t right.” He lives and works near the Capitol “and when I get off work I come out here and make sure my voice is heard.”

“The whole bill and the whole budget are just so contrary to what Wisconsin is all about, from BadgerCare (state health care coverage) to union-busting to our environment to green power to green jobs to green energy to green trains. Everything is just wrong with what Scott Walker is doing,” he said.

Though Clark said he’d like to see the bill killed largely for environmental reasons, he also believes Wisconsin needs a constitution that prevents both corporations and unions from buying elections. He feels such a measure would allow unions to purchase more health insurance for their members.

“I’m not yelling so much, but I don’t need to,” he said. “I just need to think about how we’re going to win.”

Jim Ross, building engineer

Ross is one of only three building engineers for the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, and he comes out to join the protests every Tuesday, his day off.

He's from Milwaukee County – which Walker represented as an assemblyman and county executive before winning the governorship last year – and he believes the governor is attempting to dismantle the unions.

“He was that way in Milwaukee County and he was real stubborn there, and he’s carrying on here,” he said.

The 50-year-old member of Local 317 said the bill “cuts to home” because his father was a union teacher in Chicago, Illinois, and Wisconsin, which “afforded me the opportunity to go to college and just live a decent life.”

His biggest fear, he said, is “that they’re going to pass this and drag the senators back here illegally,” but he remains optimistic.

“I think that the people have been reinvigorated about this, and we’ll persevere,” he said.

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Filed under: Economy • Gov. Scott Walker • Jobs • Politics • Protest • U.S. • Wisconsin
soundoff (468 Responses)
  1. tilmeismoney

    Soory no more knockworst, and beer. The State is broke. So Solly.

    March 10, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. tilmeismoney

    The State is broke. So Sorry. Michale Moore stick a knockworst in it, and go back to work.

    March 10, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rustyone

    Protesters-–I wish you would show such dedication and passion to bring our troops home!! Your behavior shows the world how selfish you all are.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jeannie

    RightCoastVA A solution get rid of the unions i don’t want your solution because there’s nothing in it for me and l am better than you I am superior (I threw that in because it makes the nazi population among us get all riled up to hear any one saying they ARE SUPERIOR! to them) I keep forgetting I am of German descent but I have shed my soul of all that crap because I am worth more than that.
    Right2choose you know good and well there was no phucking money pumped into the school systems in ’09, l watch and read too shame on you for acting like people are so stupid like you.
    Lilyjumper it is the American worker who is as we know very educated to get that job who comes up the hard way did not go to drugs only to be hated and spit on by the corporate few who want to take it away from them because these corporate bullies will never let go of the mentality that everyone Is to be their slaves and they don’t want to phucking pay em! They are real mad cause’ they can’t have the black people for slaves it’s the same people.
    Thing55 the tax rate is not cut in half for the rich they don’t have to pay em it’s the law now after bush they don’t pay taxes stop playing on ignorance!
    Lostinsauce yea but sorry these 1000 working people are more important than you. Now that I know who’s who around here yea more important you are the one who made them that way isn’t that a trip how it REALLY works you choose to become garbage then hey real people are more important than garbage. So you would have laid off the real humans either way we know we got it.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. jeannie

    Mathew the “corporate masters” the unions protect the REAL PEOPLE no I weighed it and the people are worth it the Walkers are garbage all wrapped up pretty. Bio hazardous garbage the corporate masters are not the unions the unions protect REAL PEOPLE from the bio hazardous nazi corporate masters. You have nothing to say about the Wisconsin Democrat Senators as you don’t understand personal sacrifice for belief in WHAT’S RIGHT! And all the garbage food that the people eat provided by these runners of our lives ARE FORGIVEN for most of the AMERICAN PEOPLE because they are brainwashed way into and below the belt so those sins are yours too mr elite and wealthy runners of our lives.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dave

    Why does everybody keep calling themselves "the taxpayers"? Little know fact here that people seem to skip right over...TEACHERS ARE TAXPAYERS TOO!!!

    March 11, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rob

    The only person who screams louder than a govt worker at getting a pay cut, is a unionized govt worker. I got a 10% pay cut and zero bonus because of the downturn. Unionized govt workers are not better or more important than me.

    March 12, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. B

    Its funny how teachers get the blame for a childs failure. In the early 90s, the curriculum was too tough, and students were too stress. We lower standards for these kids to make things easier so kids can play xbox/surf facebook/watch cartoon network all day and get fat....heck anything but read a book that is fact based), and they fail on the same or worse level. Modern parents(outside the asian race of people who still use the phrase "don't dishonor your name" – I'ma black guy saying this) suck. Your kids fail because you're a failure as a parent (this statement covers all paygrades). If a kid doesnt do homework, or study to learn materials we present in class, how is it a teachers fault the kid is to dumb to pass dumbed down curriculum?

    March 23, 2011 at 2:11 am | Report abuse |
  9. B

    PS – I'm so tired of people complaining that teachers are paying "tax dollars" to unions for representation. Those are their dollars. They worked jobs for them building a platform for your child to work hard(if you're a good parent and you continually stress the importance of hard work) and build a future in the private or public sector. Guess what, if there were no puublic schools, you would have to find a home school teacher or send your child to a private school which cost way more per private citizen than the public system in place. Cheap system per individual means more participation. More participation means we are a better educated society than those who lived prior to the 1930s (which is why most white people prior to the rise of public high schools were under the impression that black people would ruin swimming pools and cleaned them if one happened to fall in. If you want to create a villian, lets make it where no one can receive government benefits without a high school diploma or GED.

    March 23, 2011 at 2:24 am | Report abuse |
  10. B

    also, not a fan of federal taxes at all, unless it goes to infrastructure and energy sources that dont pay terrorist or ruin perfect trips to the beach or a potential national park. military is greatly over used and over funded, federal reserve is a waste because there is no reserve, and I cant stand the national propaganda that is owning the current conversation. I say have term limits of 1 6 year term for all elected officials and more would get done. Everything is black and white. I'm a huge fan of local(i.e state and city) investment. Investments have returns. Most state and city investments you can feel directly. Federal investments aree only felt through propaganda. support home, cut federal taxes, problem is solved.

    March 23, 2011 at 2:38 am | Report abuse |
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