Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Cold Day in Wisconsin

Today I took my trembling outrage about the Badger State's union-busting bill to Hudson, Wisconsin, just across the St. Croix river. A group of Minnesota and western Wisconsin unions organized a rally and show of support along a busy highway, followed by a march to City Hall for some singing and speeches.

I thought it was important for people like me who aren't part of a union to show up and say that we value the services we get from state and local workers, and that we support the right to bargain collectively.

It was maybe 10 degrees ambient, and the wind was blowing. I'd guess it was about -5 windchill. I tried to dress for it, though I forgot about my feet and my *!%$#*$# ear muffs kept falling off for some reason.

I spent most of the two hours talking to a fourth grade teacher from nearby River Falls. She told me that she contributes 50 percent to her retirement and I think she said the same about her health insurance. Clearly, those contributions vary by district and the specific contracts for each group of teachers. I keep hearing that Wisconsin public employees pay nothing for either benefit, but that was not at all the case for this woman.

It was a too cold to take off my mittens for photography, but here are a few signs I managed to snap.

Woman with a sign reading Negotiate! Don't Dictate!
The key point of the whole megillah.

Woman with a hot pink sign reading Screw Us and We Multiply
Probably the cleverest sign I saw today.

US flag with a fresh water fish superimposed next to a sign that looks like a gravestone, reading RIP Collective Bargaining Rights
Poignant and Wisconsin-specific at the same time.

Man with sign reading Then they came for the trade unionists
It may be almost corny after all this time, but I have to admit that Pastor Niemoller's famous saying has motivated me to speak up many times when it would have been easier to stay silent. So this man's sign was well worth taking off my mittens for.

Woman walking away, carrying a sign reading Welcome to Wississippi
Okay, maybe this sign is just about as clever as the other one.

Man with sign reading People have died fighting for unions
Reminding me of movies like Union Maids and Matewan, and that I should see those again soon.

Counter demonstrator with two large signs reading If you're a teacher & collect pay thank a taxpayer, with two Scott Walker bumper stickers attached
I saw one group of about five counter-demonstrators holding Scott Walker campaign signs, and then this guy, who seems to be ignoring the main point: that it's not about the money, but about destruction of the right to collectively bargain and organize. Ironically, his signs were made from a large screen TV box.

Oh, and my sign? It was double-sided.

On one side it read "Privately Employed Citizen Supporting Collective Bargaining Rights" and on the other it said "I Like My 8-hour Day. Thank You, Unions."


Barbara said...

When there was a union to join, I have always joined, despite the disapproval of my family. It's not about the wages. It's about fair treatment, safe working conditions, and most of all: due process.

For employees of any level of government, the danger of being replaced by a campaign donor or by someone put forward by a campaign donor, is only one of the dangers from which unions guard their members. And even so, depending on the particular government job, there are often years of humiliation and exploitation to endure to get that health care and retirement.

And municipal garbage collectors? I don't know what we're paying them or what their benefits are. Even if it's all that we can afford, it isn't enough.

"Don't mourn--organize."

Barbara said...

And I forgot to say,: Thank you, DN3, for going out in the cold to support them/us!