GOP to public employees: Screw you: For weeks, Gov. Scott Walker and the Republicans have been saying that gutting collective bargaining is absolutely essential to deal with the state's budget crisis, as it will give local governments and schools "the tools" - i.e., no other choice - but to impose the same unilateral benefit cuts on their employees as those Walker wants for state workers.
But suddenly, on March 9, the Senate's leadership decided that this part of the bill really wasn't a fiscal matter at all, and so there was no reason it couldn't be split off from the rest of the budget bill and voted on.
Afterward, Rep. Peter Barca, the Assembly's minority leader, held a press conference: "What they did was improper and illegal."
- Bill Lueders
Carry out: Maxwell Love was among about 30 protesters who slept in the foyer of the Assembly chambers Wednesday night, planning to make sure they could see their government in action when it met on March 10 to vote on Gov. Scott Walker's union-busting legislation.
But as dawn broke and the Assembly prepared to meet, they noticed an unusually large police presence. "All of a sudden about five state troopers came in," Love says. "They didn't say anything, they just carried people out. They just dumped them on the other side. People started yelling."
- Joe Tarr
No peace: The Capitol was a heavily guarded fortress on the morning of March 10 as the Assembly prepared to vote on a bill gutting collective bargaining for public employees. Several officers stood in front of every door as sign-carrying, whistle-blowing, drum-beating protesters demanded entry. The peaceful relations between cops and protesters - much remarked upon during the past three weeks of labor unrest - were threatening to break down.
A UW-Milwaukee student described an officer hitting a protester in the face and drawing blood; another speaker said a cop closed a door on his leg. A woman with a trembling voice described being "assaulted" by an officer from the Division of Criminal Investigation, who pinned her arm and accused her of trying to grab his gun.
- Dean Robbins
March 10: Day of shame: The toughest thing I did today was get into the Wisconsin state Capitol. It took more than two hours. For the first time in a month of protests and restricted access, my press credentials got me nowhere.
"Let us in, please," people were shouting, all around the building, as they banged on the various closed entrances.
When I finally got in, just before 1 p.m., the Assembly was deliberating a motion to remove Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald. Rep. Barca argued that last night's surprise vote to pass the budget bill in the Senate violated the state's Open Meetings Law and that the denial of access to the building was a travesty. "Democracy is ceasing to exist in the state of Wisconsin." The motion failed.
- Bill Lueders
A teacher pretends: The morning after the Republicans stripped me of my rights, I stood in the hallway of my school, watching my four-year-olds stream in. And for a little while, normalcy returned to our world. I had spent the evening before at the Capitol, in the crowd of thousands that pushed against the locked doors, demanding to be let in. I think I spent most of the night in shock at how suddenly the country I thought I knew could become unrecognizable.
But this morning, I had to pretend that none of that had happened. I had to pretend that my colleagues were not sobbing in the teachers' lounge, wondering why the world had suddenly turned on them. I had to pretend that teaching is still a respected and valued profession. I had to pretend that the future for my young students is still as bright as it seemed a few weeks ago.
- Vikki Kratz
Man the ballot boxes!: Were the protests against Gov. Walker's budget repair bill a "revolution," as some have said? We got our answer on the evening of March 10, after the Legislature finally passed the bill.
The answer is no.
Protesters did not break down the Capitol doors to overthrow the uncompromising Republicans. Instead, they gathered for a rally at the top of State Street and gave passionate speeches about...the democratic process.
"We now need to channel our energy to the ballot boxes!" said Rep. Barca.
As marchers circled the Capitol, the rally ended with a John Lennon song. No, not "Revolution," but "Power to the People."
- Dean Robbins
End to workers' rights: The gathering of media for Walker's 3 p.m. bill signing on March 11 was the largest I've seen, though the event was destined to be the most pro forma of them all. From outside of the room, the chants could be heard loud and clear: "Shame!"
Walker again referred to the concessions he's secured from state workers as "a very modest request." And, for the umpteenth time, he talked about his brother David, who runs his own small business and would "love to have" the deal public employees still have under this bill. By which Walker must mean a sudden average salary loss of $4,000 a year and the permanent eradication of the right to bargain over benefits, overtime, sick pay and workplace rules. His brother David would just love this.
- Bill Lueders
Return of the Fab 14: A month ago, if you'd told me that Wisconsin's Democratic senators would be greeted like rock stars by a sea of humanity on the Capitol Square, I'd have said you were crazy. Though Hollywood actors, Jesse Jackson and a member of the Foo Fighters also appeared at the massive rally on March 12, the crowd saved its wildest cheers for the 14 senators, who became working-class heroes after decamping to Illinois to stall passage of Gov. Walker's anti-union budget bill.
Despite the tension surrounding their three-week exile, the senators managed to retain a sense of humor. "Wow, you go away for a couple of weeks and look what happens!" said Sen. Jon Erpenbach, facing a brand-new army of 100,000 people.
- Dean Robbins
The Dems' silence: We're supposed to act surprised that the governor so callously overreached. And yet, many Dems fully expected Walker to target unions. They just never said it in public.
Democrats never made workers' rights an issue in the last election because they didn't think it was an issue voters would care about. The result is that at no point last fall did Scott Walker ever have to take a position on collective bargaining rights. He was able to speak in euphemisms about making local governments more "flexible," without ever drawing the ire of the state's hundreds of thousands of union members.
Democrats now point out that Walker never talked about union-busting on the campaign trail. Duh. That was the point! And it's their fault.
- Jack Craver
Free and open: State Sen. Bob Jauch, a senior Democrat, says that what he is witnessing feels like "a coup." A coup? By a majority of state senators, all of whom were elected in free and open elections?
Rushing this legislation through? After 61 hours of debate in the Assembly, 30-plus hours of public testimony and three weeks of public debate?
Tell you what is rushed: Madison city government's scramble to give its city employee unions a sweetheart contract complete with pay raises and no givebacks on benefits a bare month before the spring elections, when the unions are sure to reward their friends. And screw the taxpayers.
- David Blaska
Who could blame them?: I strongly doubt that any public employee wants to do a general strike. Most folks just want to do their jobs, serve the state they love, and bring home a paycheck to support themselves and their families. But now, when it's been made so abundantly clear that the ruling party has no respect for them, no intention of negotiating or compromising, I would hardly blame them for choosing to strike.
- Emily Mills
Scorched earth: Gov. Walker and I have a few things in common. We both sported very bad haircuts in our high school yearbook photos. In interviews, the governor calls himself president of the "eternal optimist" club, and I'm proud to say that I'm a card-carrying member as well.
But governor, you've made it quite a bit harder to remain upbeat these days. I am a mom, so it is my duty to figure out how to make lemonade out of lemons. But I am hard-pressed to figure out how to make something palatable out of arsenic - the only ingredient your scorched-earth method of balancing the budget has left folks to work with.
- Sari Judge
Isthmus, AP prevail in lawsuit: The office of Gov. Scott Walker has agreed to a settlement in a lawsuit brought by Isthmus and the Wisconsin Associated Press over access to emails sent to the governor in response to his "budget repair bill." The settlement requires the governor to pay more than $7,000 in attorney fees for the plaintiffs' costs in bringing the suit, though the office admits no liability or violations of the law.
In exchange for this access, the media requesters have agreed not to use the names of individuals who have sent emails to the governor in cases where there is a reason for withholding them. The requesters also agreed not to use, publish or disclose any home addresses, email addresses, telephone numbers or Social Security numbers that may be contained in these emails.
- Bill Lueders