Today in Madison, Wisconsin, upwards of 30,000 demonstrators gathered to kick off a petition drive to recall Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and to protest policies that have had direct impacts on workers throughout the state.
"We're Afraid He'll Lose His Job"
Among the tens of thousands gathered were Sue and Tom Roberts from the Waukesha area, Walker's hometown. Sue is disabled, and the health insurance that Tom gets through his job as a custodian for the Waukesha School District covers them both -- for now. Tom has a one-year contract, and Sue says, "We're afraid he's going to lose his job because of my health problems."
During the budget negotiations earlier this year, Tom says of himself and the other custodians in his union, "We were willing to make concessions, but they pulled away from the table." Sue adds, speaking for them both, "We were told on paper that even if we made concessions, they would not guarantee the jobs."
The couple were also victims of the housing collapse and the economic downturn. They moved to Mukwonago from Rhinelander, Wisconsin three years ago because three schools had closed in that area. They then had to live apart for two years after Tom started work in Waukesha, because they couldn't sell their house in Rhinelander.
"Cuts to Education Have Been Horrific"
Another Waukesha resident, David Spies, teaches the arts at Carroll University in Waukesha and Marian University in Fond du Lac. "The impact [of Walker's budget] on education has been nothing short of horrific," he claims.
"Carroll and Marian are private universities," Spies adds, "but our students come from public education, whose resources and financial aid has been decimated. At Marian, we have a lot of first generations students (earlier generations of their families didn't go to college), and they're having to drop out because they can no longer get financial aid from the state."
Mike Pyne, a steelworker from Menasha, attended the rally to "protest and to celebrate collecting signatures to finally rid [Wisconsin] of Scott Walker."
Pyne tells the story of a machinist union in Manitowoc, WI which, "as a result of Scott Walker firing the public workers in Wisconsin, is now faced in the private sector with an open shop clause." Pyne says the company has since forced employees out on strike.
"Those brave brothers and sisters are going to be just like the rest of us if we allow [Walker] to get by with what he is trying to do with the unions ... in the state of Wisconsin," Pyne says.
"Conservatives Care for Corporations"
John Domino, a Plant, Pest and Disease Specialist for the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection who lives in the Township of Otsego, about 35 miles from the capitol in Madison, claims that Walker's budget has cost him "$432 a month in take-home pay." He adds, "My wife lost her job in January, and she had been making more than me. She lost her job two weeks after we'd closed on a new house."
Domino was a lifelong conservative before this year. "Conservatives cared for people thirty years ago," he says. "Now, they care for corporations."
"Terrible for Working People"
Jim, who works in construction in Madison, spent his time at the rally collecting signatures for the recall petition. Early in the morning, Jim joined others just blocks from the capitol to get certified to collect signatures. Jim grew up in a strong union household. He cited healthcare and workers' rights as reasons he is signing the petition to remove Walker from public office. "Everything that is going on is terrible for working people," says Jim.
"This is About the Next Generation"
Telecommunications worker Mark Kruck drove from Park Falls, a city about 250 miles North of Madison, with future generations in mind. Kruck's two children, ages eleven and twelve, are inspiration for his protest efforts. "I'd like them to have a brighter future than what Governor Walker is planning for them," says Kruck. He believes that now is the time to take action, and encourages others to sign the petition.
"I think the things Walker is doing to society are incredibly hurtful and dishonest ... [T]his is about the next generation," says Kruck.
There were also about 50 Walker supporters who marched around the outside of the square. Jill Bertrand of Ozaukee County, who marched with the group, said about the recall supporters, "They're human beings too, just like we are. They just don't know the facts."
Another Walker supporter held up a T-shirt that said, "Scott Walker is my hero."
(The Center for Media and Democracy does not endorse or oppose any candidate for office. Since 1993, CMD has been reporting on corporate spin and government propaganda, exposing public relations tactics, and debunking PR campaigns.)