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85,000 rise in Wisconsin

On 10 March, in the teeth of mass political opposition, Wisconsin’s Republican-dominated state assembly passed the governor’s bill to repeal most collective bargaining by public employee unions, after police carried demonstrators who had been occupying the assembly ante-chamber.

The grounds given for the measure were that it would help the state to balance its budget There had been daily demonstrations at the state capitol building in Madison, often very large, since 15 February, leading up to a three-week occupation.

On 17 February, the 14 Democrats in the state senate crossed to Illinois to deny the senate (which has only 19 Republicans) the quorum of 20 needed to pass a bill with spending provisions. On 9 March, these spending provisions were removed, allowing the Republicans on the senate to pass the measure the next day.

However the struggle continues. On 12 March, 85,000 protesters gathered at the capitol building for a rally against the new law.

The protest included a parade of farm tractors bearing signs including: “Farm Labor Feeds America: Support Labor” and “If You Think Education Is Expensive, Try Ignorance.”

There are also plans to continue the struggle through the courts and the recall of 16 state senators.

The events in Wisconsin have a wider significance with other Republican-governed US states considering limiting union rights. Idaho has already acted to strip state school teachers of bargaining rights and similar measures against public employee unions in Michigan were met by an occupation of the state capitol there.

David Polden is the PN news editor.

Topics: Labour movement