Fire Fighters Stand With Wisconsin Public Employees
17, 2011 – The similarities are impossible to miss.
Madison, Wisconsin this week is looking quite a bit
like Cairo last week, as public employees and their
supporters crowd the State Capitol, city streets and
plazas to protest Governor Scott Walker’s assault on
demonstrations are likely to get larger as much of
the nation turns its eyes to Governor Walker’s
attempt to destroy public sector unions under the
guise of solving the state’s budget woes.
The fast-moving legislation, which would shut down
virtually all union rights for public sector
workers, appeared to stall Thursday when State
Senate Democrats left Madison to avoid participating
in Walker’s anti-union budget bill. That move left
the Senate without the minimum of 20 members
required to act on legislation.
Both outside and inside the State Capitol building
throngs of protesters marked their fourth day of
demonstrations with chants of “kill this bill!” and
“Walker must go!” according to the Wisconsin
State Journal. This
YouTube video posted Thursday captures the
extent of the demonstration, which showed no signs
of letting up.
The measure had been moving quickly through the
Wisconsin state legislature on its way to Governor
Walker’s desk. Despite several attempts to amend the
bill, it sailed through the legislature’s Joint
Finance Committee in a 12-4 vote.
Governor Walker has indicated that he wants the
budget bill signed into law by February 22 before he
begins work on the next year’s budget. IAFF 5th
District Vice President Joe Conway says he expects
more attacks on public sector unions in the next
budget proposal as well.
It was unclear when lawmakers would again begin
moving the legislation forward.
such an assault and counter-protest could even occur
in a pro-labor stronghold like Madison serves as a
stark signal that the coast-to-coast assault on
public employees – fire fighters, police, teachers,
maintenance workers and government office workers –
is for real.
“The attacks against fire fighters and other public
employees have moved from nasty rhetoric to action,
but we are not taking this lying down,” says IAFF
General President Harold Schaitberger. “We will
fight these unfair attacks wherever they happen.”
President Schaitberger left Washington, DC for
Madison Thursday to join in the protests and help
convince state lawmakers to reverse course.
Though Governor Walker has exempted fire fighters
and police from much of his union-busting budget
plan, Wisconsin’s fire fighters are standing strong
with their brothers and sisters in other public
sector organizations. Hundreds fire fighters have
joined the throngs of protestors marching, chanting
and wielding signs demanding the governor, the
Wisconsin State Senate and Assembly stop the bill
that would kill 40 years of collective bargaining.
“The governor has sought to divide labor by carving
protective services out of his bill to destroy
collective bargaining, but we are not going to let
that happen,” says DVP Conway. “If we don’t
stand together we will hang separately.” He adds, “This has nothing to
do with balancing budgets.”
The Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin (PFFW)
has summoned hundreds of fire fighters from across
the state to join in the demonstrations. PFFW
President Mahlon Mitchell met Thursday with his
counterparts within the police union to form a
unified front of first responders.
“When we fire fighters and police see and an
emergency, we respond together, and this is an
emergency," he says. "If this bill becomes law, it
with hurt all working people in the long run.”
the Madison demonstrations have gathered steam, the
nation has begun to notice the growing number of
vicious anti-union budget battles unfolding in
Wisconsin and other states.
Barack Obama spoke February 16 with WTMJ about
Governor Walker’s bill. “Some of what I’ve heard
coming out of Wisconsin, where you’re just making it
harder for public employees to collectively bargain,
generally seems like more of an assault on unions,"
he said. "It’s very important for us to understand
that public employees, they’re our neighbors,
they’re our friends. These are folks who are
teachers and they’re fire fighters and they’re
social workers and they’re police officers. They
make a lot of sacrifices and make a big
contribution. It’s important not to vilify them or
to suggest that somehow all these budget problems
are due to public employees.”