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The Progressive

Wisconsin 'Citizens Cheated Out of Democracy'

Decades of labor law was undermined in ten quick seconds, as the Wisconsin Assembly voted 53-42 to strip workers of their right to collectively bargain. “Once again citizens cheated out of democracy,” Rep Barca said after the vote.

The voting happened so fast. Decades of labor law was undermined in ten quick seconds, as the Wisconsin Assembly voted 53-42 to strip workers of their right to collectively bargain.

Throughout the hearing, Democrat after Democrat got up and made impassioned pleas against the bill. (See my colleague Ruth Conniff’s piece about the day in the assembly.)

After the roll call vote, the GOP pols quickly and quietly filed out, and left the chamber through the back door. The Dems stood defiantly, some with their fists in the air. From the gallery chants of “shame! Shame! Shame!” rung out.

After the vote, Rep. Barca, the minority leader, addressed the press. “We are very disappointed,” he said. “Clearly this was an improper vote.”

The Democrats contend that the GOP violated open meeting laws last night and today. “So amazing they can’t follow the rules,” he said. Barca has filed suit, and said DAs are investigating.

“Once again citizens cheated out of democracy,” Barca said.

I caught up with Representative Joe Parisi on the floor after the vote. “Once again, they adjourned illegally. They did not invoke rule 71. They could’ve done this legally, but they didn’t. Our contention is last night they violated opening meeting laws; they even violated emergency session meeting laws. Again today, they closed down debate illegally and ran out the back door.”

After the vote, I went out to the Rotunda to talk to people. So many looked stunned and shocked. People were hugging each other. Some were crying.

I spoke to a few people to get their response.

Kurt Lassig is with the Kenosha Firefighters, Local 414

“I feel the assembly went against the people. Polls show people in the state are against stripping workers of their rights. I haven’t seen people standing up for the bill. If they were, they’d be here,” he said.

“One important point I want to make is that unions had agreed to make concessions that Mr. Walker wanted,” he said.

This was Lassig’s second trip to Madison. It’s his birthday today and he said he couldn’t think of a better place to spend it.


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Karole Dachelet is a laid-off university employee from Madison. She looked tired and was wearing a sign that said listen to 100% of constituents, not just 52%.

“I feel shocked, stunned, and incredibly disappointed,” she told me. “No one got beyond bipartisanship. Moderation is key. I’m hurt that I’ve been here for weeks, and I wasn’t heard. I’ve lost my voice. Even though I’m a taxpayer I wasn’t heard.”

“Being this locked into ideology not good for politics at local or national level,” she added.

I asked her what she would do next.

“I’m going to work on recall efforts,” she said. “Politicians should listen to constituents and not to party line ideology.”

Will she camp out tonight or is she going to leave the building now? I asked.

“I will be here til they take me out.”

Outside of the Capitol, I spoke to some students. The area high schools called for a 10 am walkout and march to the Capitol. Middle schoolers also got into the act.

Gracie Armstrong, 14, is a student at Hamilton Middle School. I asked her how she was feeling after the vote.

“Feeling sick. I feel the Republicans and Walker are acting disgusting,” she said. “Closing doors to my state capitol? Not OK”

Ellie Pront, 14, another student at Hamilton Middle School chimed in. “You can’t close doors to people fighting for their rights.”

They said that a majority of the student body at their school walked out. They were part of a group that walked out at 10 am and went to West High, and marched with students from there.

“We’ve been here for 5 to 6 hours,” Ellie said. “It hasn’t been a waste of time.”

“I’ll be here tomorrow and the next day and the next day and the next day until they kill the bill,” said Gracie. “It’s not OK. I’m only 14, but this affects my future.”

Elizabeth DiNovella

Elizabeth DiNovella is Culture Editor of The Progressive. She writes about activism, politics, music, books, and film. She also produces Progressive Radio, a thirty-minute public affairs program hosted by Matthew Rothschild.

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