Since Monday, public workers, union members and activists, supporters of public workers, most Democrats, and those opposed to Governor Scott Walker have federated at the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin to evince their strong dissatisfaction with his proposed Budget Repair Bill. The dominant reason why many people in Wisconsin and across the nation are protesting Governor Scott Walker’s Budget Repair Bill is it makes significant changes to collective bargaining rights and dramatically reduces the power of unions in the state. Governor Walker contends that with a projected budget deficit of $3.6 billion it’s necessary to make changes to the costs of unions in the state, the costs of collective bargaining in the state, and the costs of benefits and expenses that are currently paid for by the Wisconsin taxpayers for state public workers. Many union members argue that it’s not about the money, but about the Governor Walker’s stripping of the ability of workers’ right to collectively bargain. I’m sure you have read, saw, and/or heard something about this issue and the reason for the protesting at the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin. Here’s a little more about the situation here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110216/ap_on_re_us/us_wisconsin_budget_unions. The dominant purpose of my article is to give an account of my experience with interviewing protestors at the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin on Thursday night, February 17, 2011.
Since I’m in the city where we are witnessing some pretty important historical protests and legislation, I thought the readers of Revolutionary Paideia would like to read some of the views of the people about the Budget Repair Bill who were at the capitol. I decided to engage in some discourse with some of the people who were assembled there. I asked the following queries: Do you support the Budget Repair Bill? Did you vote for Governor Scott Walker? If you don’t support the Budget Repair Bill, then what is your solution(s) to the massive state budget deficit? My goal was to have them to not simply be out there protesting without having alternatives to the proposed bill. For me, it’s not meaningful to simply protest without offering alternatives as solutions.
One University of Wisconsin-Madison junior who voted against Governor Walker contended that the Budget Repair Bill is a “manufactured crisis that the Governor cooked up to bust up unions and end the rights of workers in the state to collectively bargain.” This student said that “the worst thing that we could do right now is take money, rights, and protections away from the poorest public workers in the state.” He proposed solution to the state deficit problem is to “raise taxes on the rich citizens in Wisconsin, impose a 10% internet tax, and begin to invest more in small businesses.”
An unemployed White man who did not vote for Governor Scott Walker supports the Budget Repair Bill. He said, “It’s time out for kicking budget deficit after budget deficit down from one governor to the next. I’m proud of Scott Walker for having the balls to help us to become fiscally responsible and get Wisconsin back to work.”
A White female public school teacher who voted against Governor Scott Walker said that she did not support Governor Walker’s Budget Repair Bill. She said that “the best thing to do right now is to work on recalling the governor and recalling the seven republicans in the state senate who we can get out of there and hold up this bill from ever seeing the light of day. I don’t want to offer you any specific solutions, but I do want to offer to you that collective bargaining has nothing to do with our state budget and that cutting the pay of public workers is only going to drive down the economy. If you want a solution, we can get rid of Scott Walker and replace him with a new governor who will go line by line and make appropriate cuts. We should not make cuts that are going to harm people who don’t make nothing already. This man is going to destroy our state. We must recall him and recall other republicans asap.”
A White male small business owner who held a sign in support of Governor Scott Walker said that “Governor Walker’s Budget Repair Bill is a historic piece of legislation that will get Wisconsin back to work and will end the burden to our state economy that unions place on it. This state just imposes unions on you. You don’t have a choice here. Thank God for Governor Walker because the days of union thugs, big government, and high taxes are over. Welcome back Wisconsin! I enthusiastically support the Budget Repair Bill and Governor Walker.”
The aforementioned statements are just some of what the people I interviewed at the capitol had to say about Governor Scott Walker’s Budget Repair Bill. I interviewed a number of other people supporting the bill and opposed to it. These previously mentioned people and statements are representative of the larger feedback I received. I’m glad to see people actively engaged in the political process. This protesting on the capitol is what democracy looks like in action—like it or not.
Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison