Wisconsin Educators Stand Firm, Fight For Workers’ Rights Goes National
by Tim Walker
As the historic protest in Madison stretched into it its sixth day, educators and public employees have succeeded in exposing the true intent behind Gov. Scott Walker’s so-called “budget” proposals: an all-out attack on the right of state workers to have a voice in their profession.
State employees have already signaled their concessions on pay and benefits, overtures that have been rebuffed by Walker.
“It’s about compromise,” Wisconsin Education Association Council President Mary Bell said. “We will meet the governor half way, but we will not be denied our right to collectively bargain.”
National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel joined Bell and WEAC on Thursday to let them know that NEA’s 3.2 million members were united behind them.
“Middle class workers and their families are not asking for special treatment,” Van Roekel said. “I know that teachers and public employees love Wisconsin and are willing to help shoulder the state’s financial burdens, but they are not willing to give up their voice.”
Support for Wisconsin workers has surged across the state, the nation and overseas. On Sunday, All-Pro cornerback Charles Woodson of the Super Bowl Champions Green Bay Packers issued a strong statement of solidarity.
“Thousands of dedicated Wisconsin public workers provide vital services for Wisconsin citizens. They are the teachers, nurses and child care workers who take care of us and our families. These hard working people are under an unprecedented attack to take away their basic rights to have a voice and collectively bargain at work. Today I am honored to join with them.”
Unfortunately, these basic rights are being targeted across the country. Educators in Ohio, Idaho, Indiana and other states are out in force, mobilizing at rallies and on Facebook to oppose similar efforts to scapegoat public employees over budget deficits.
Last Thursday, more than 5,000 teachers, firefighters, other state employees and supporters converged on Columbus, Ohio capitol to oppose Senate Bill 5, Gov. John Kasich’s attempt to strip away the state’s collective bargaining law.
Columbus teacher Philip Hayes, grandson of legendary Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes, said the union produces better educators.
“Students need their teachers to focus on them and their classrooms, and allowing the union to represent teachers allows them to do what they do best—teach.”
The pattern continues in Indiana, where Governor Mitch Daniels is also trying to take an axe to bargaining rights, one of many shoddy “reform” proposals being considered in the legislature. Hundreds of educators will be in the State House in Indianapolis on Tuesday to meet with lawmakers to discuss the negative impact the legislation will have on Indiana working families. NEA Vice-President Lily Eskelsen will also be joining Indiana State Teachers Association President Nate Schnellenberger for a joint news conference.
“All eyes are on Wisconsin educators and public workers right now, but the fight is also on in Indiana against what is surely an anti-union pattern by many governors around the country,” said Eskelsen. “Indiana’s working families can be assured that our 3.2 million members are behind them and those in other states fighting these politically-motivated bills to strip their bargaining rights away.”