Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ground Zero For American Labor: Madison, Wisconsin

I am watching the Ed Show, which is coming out of my hold hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. Big crowds are at the Capitol Square. Not sure how many were out today, but there were 30,000 yesterday. They are out to protest a completely unreasonable move by the new Republican Governor, Scott Walker, to eliminate collective bargaining for state workers. He claims that there is a budget crisis, which is wildly exaggerated, and has made no effort to negotiate with the workers. Both houses of the legislature went Republican in November, and he is trying to ram this change through, threatening to bring out the National Guard. But there has been a rising and peaceful demonstration against this. In response, 14 Dem state senators have left the state, causing a failure of quorum and blocking the move (they were led by Fred Risser, in the state senate since 1956, now the longest serving legislator in the US, who is completely articulate and on top of things).

Make no mistake, Ed Schultz is right. This is of significance across the country. The move in Wisconsin is the front edge of a major battle to crush the US labor movement. This is ground zero for American labor. There are apparently a few moderate Republicans in the senate holding back from backing Walker's plan, but so far Walker has not negotiated. We shall see what happens, and it is very important, whatever the outcome.


run75441 said...


Former Gov Dreyfuss called MadCity 100 square miles of dreamland surrounded by reality. Madison is not a reflection of the state and neither is the state (today) reflective of the state's progressive history. This is not the first time the state has reached this boiling point:

"La Follette's career as a reformer began in earnest a few months later when the state Republican leader, Senator Philetus Sawyer, offered him a bribe to fix a court case against several former state officials. Furious that Sawyer would try to use money to influence the legal system, La Follette refused the bribe, angrily denouncing the use of money to shut out the voice of the people. For nearly ten years, La Follette traveled around the state speaking out against the influence of crooked politicians and the powerful lumber barons and railroad interests that dominated his own party. Elected governor in 1900, La Follette pledged to institute his own form of political reform.

Until that time, the candidates whose names appeared on ballots were selected by party leaders in private caucuses. Drawing on the ideas of other reformers to make politics more democratic, La Follette successfully pushed the legislature to pass measures instituting direct primary elections, which gave voters the right to choose their own candidates for office. He supported measures that doubled the taxes on the railroads, broke up monopolies, preserved the state's forests, protected workers' rights, defended small farmers, and regulated lobbying to end patronage politics. La Follette worked closely with professors from the University of Wisconsin to help the state become "a laboratory of democracy." By the time he joined the U.S. Senate in 1906, La Follette had become a national figure."

I am not surprised at people's reactions in MadCity

Barkley Rosser said...


Sorry, you are out to lunch, and not a cheesehead with Pack back winning the Super Bowl. This is bigger than any of the old student demos I was in, much bigger. This goes way beyond Mad City, even if it is happening there, where regular folks have taken over the Capitol building, and nobody is going to move them out. Sorry.

And attempting to poke at the great Robert M. LaFollette, former Progressive candidate for president, is not going to win you any points except maybe with likes of Glenn Beckr. He is viewed as the greaatest politician in the state's history, with a huge bust in the state Capitol, now occupied with these citizen demonstraters in mass numbers that nobody is going to mess with. You are seriously ignorant and out of it with this sort of nonsense.

run75441 said...


Having lived in MadCity for 15 years and a supporter of its progressive politics; Barkley, I believe you have misinterpreted the intent of my message. I have a serious concern with this battle within this state, a state which has prided itself with the services it had provided to the elderly, the young with better than average schools in the Midwest, the indigent, labor, and the community.

What I pointed out in my first paragraph is the difference in the outlooks of progressive Madison and the rest of the state (not including Milwaukee). That today's events have reached this level of discord in a city I hold dear, having raised my children there, is saddening as I know many of my friends, workers, profs, professionals are aligned with Labor at the capital as I write this. It was and still is a great place to live and be safe with many ammenities and had few of the conflicts one would see in the flatlands.

What is occurring today is not reflective of Wisconsin's more recent past snce LaFollette and is reflective of when LaFollette began his crusade across the state. The state has reached another pivotal point in its future. How the scales will tip for many of the people and Labor, will depend upon one legislator. Can the 14 hold out? Is there another LaFollette amongst the 14 to keep the group together and defy the majority? Time will tell.

We always called our city on the Isthmus "MadCity" because we believed we were fortunate to be there . . . the state capital dome is the 3rd largest after the Vactican and Washington DC. Flying into the airport and seeing Lakes Monona, Windota, and Winga glistening amongst the forests; it was a return to sanctuary for those of us who lived there and for this father of three raising a family there, a life I dreamt of as a bricklayer's son growing up on the streets of Chicago.

My apology if I have offended you with my incomplete remarks Barkley. I am a huge supporter of both you, Bruce, and Labor. I have not written in a while on Angry Bear; but, if you have captured my words there, you would know of my ilk and my words on the cost of labor.

Barkley Rosser said...


Thought I posted already, but not here. So, again. Thanks, run, and I retract my jibe at you. Those of us who know and love Madison call it "Mad City" with smiling affection (although, of course, some of us who do so are quite mad ourselves, :-)).

The latest seems to be that there is now an "opposition to the opposition," with some bused-in demonstraters for the Tea Party engaging in various shenanigans and publicity stunts. This is not anywhere near over.

run75441 said...


Angry Bear will post the EPI study on WI public workers salary, the bill itself, and the concessions offered up by WI public works unions.

You are welcome to post to us.



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