Tens of thousands public sector workers in the US are blocking the streets of Madison, the capital of Wisconsin.
They are demanding that Republican governor Scott Walker withdraws plans to smash state workers’ collective bargaining rights.
Protesters have even taken over the state senate house in opposition to the plans—and have vowed to stay there until they win.
This is the biggest upsurge in protest in the US since Barack Obama’s election in 2008.
The Republican-controlled state senate was due to vote on Walker’s proposals on Thursday of last week.
But thousands of workers surrounded the building in protest and Democratic senators left, leaving the Republicans without a quorum to pass them.
Some 30,000 firefighters, police officers, teachers, nurses, steel workers, pensioners and students joined a lunchtime rally—and another 20,000 took part in one in the evening.
Many public schools shut on Monday as teachers continued to protest.
Workers are furious after the state senate passed a whole host of tax cuts for corporations in January, and then said in February that workers had to face huge cuts because the state budget was running at a deficit.
Sigurd Midelfort, who has been involved in the occupation, told Socialist Worker, “When Governor Walker made his union-busting announcement, it produced an immediate uproar.
“Many of us made the quick decision to push back and push back hard by demonstrating.”
Sigurd went into the occupied senate building on Friday of last week.
He said, “I saw thousands of people there with signs gathered in the building but concentrated in the central rotunda.
“Some were leaning over railings on the two upper floors. There were people playing drums, singing and holding placards.
“Republican senators and representatives leaving the building had to run a gauntlet.”
Walker was elected governor last year. The Kochs—very rich, conservative and anti-union oil and gas magnates—bankrolled his political career.
The right wing Tea Party and the American Majority, a conservative activist group that trains young footsoldiers to become state-level candidates, are bussing in Walker supporters to join counter-protests.
But so far these have been vastly outnumbered by the ones involving angry workers and their families.
Unfortunately, the unions have already agreed to the benefit and pension concessions demanded by Walker.
However, his attack on collective bargaining, a right won by Wisconsin workers in 1959, sparked the state-wide movement.
This could be the basis for a continuing battle.
Send messages of support to Wisconsin teachers at [email protected]