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Glorious Rallies in Madison, Ground Zero of the Fight Back

What glory it is to be in Madison, Wisconsin, this week, where the people of this state have risen up in revolt against the Neanderthal Republicans who are trying to bust public sector unions and inflict massive harm on their workers.

It’s not about balancing a budget. It’s about destroying unions as a political and economic force. That’s why the bill says every public sector union would have to recertify every year, and why it says that no employer could deduct union dues from paychecks. Neither of those things has anything to do with saving a dime of Wisconsin taxpayer money.

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This is ground zero in the fight back, and Wisconsinites are engaging in the closest thing to a general strike that I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.

This is what democracy looks like. One sign said, “This Is Our Tahrir Square.”

I interviewed protestors on Wednesday when the crowd swelled to 30,000. One woman was wearing a “Kick Me, I’m a State Worker” sign. But she declined to give her name. “I’m afraid I’d get fired,” she said.

Another woman named Mary Batt, who works for the Department of Justice, said, “I’m here for people who can’t be for fear they’d be retaliated against.”

I spoke with Allie Riefke, 17, of Mt. Horeb High School, who took off school to come to the rally. She held a sign that read, “Save Our teachers. And My Mom.” Her mom works as a guidance counselor at another school, and she couldn’t come to the rally “because she’d get into trouble.”

Allie said her mom is “going to lose $5,000 if they pass this bill.” She added: “That’s braces for my little brother. It’s not fair.”

She’s right. It isn’t fair.

And that’s why so many Wisconsinites are out in the street nonviolently but militantly fighting for their rights this week.

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Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild is senior editor of The Progressive magazine.

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