Voices from the massive pro-union rally in Wisconsin

MADISON, Wisc. Sat Feb 26, 2011 7:12pm EST

MADISON, Wisc. (Reuters) - More than 70,000 people converged on the state Capitol on Saturday to protest Republican Gov. Scott Walker's plan to curb public sector union power in order to balance the budget.

Here are some voices in the crowd:

Joel DeSpain, spokesman for the Madison Police Department: "Last week's protest drew somewhere between 60,000 to 70,000 people. We're in excess of that -- somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 -- but we don't have a firm number yet. What we do know is that it is one of the largest protests in Wisconsin history. And it's the largest sustained protest we've ever seen in Madison since the Vietnam War. And there were absolutely no problems. Democracy took place and we had absolutely no problems."

Alice Kaye, 65, retired high school guidance counselor from Ozaukee, Wisconsin: "Last week it was about public-sector employees and most of the people demonstrating here were public teachers. This week, you're seeing them coming from everywhere. If the unions go, the Democratic Party goes, too. I want a two-party system in this country -- or even a three-party one. Not a one-party state."

Amy MacDonald, 35, a stay-at-home mom from Madison, Wisconsin: "I was so moved by the whole scene. There were so many people in peaceful opposition to what the governor is doing and it just really meant a lot ... It was 15 degrees outside and people were totally undeterred. People need to know about the persistence here because it's going to be a long struggle with lots of ups and downs ... It was very Wisconsin. People were congenial and happy and calm and nonviolent and it was just really important to see that people can come together and express themselves in that way and hopefully be effective but do it in the right way."

Scott Sumer, a public teacher from Rockford, Illinois: "I brought my son here because this is what democracy looks like and feels like. He needs to see this. He needs to know this."

Vicki Guzman, a Canadian government employee and a member of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, who spent $400 to rent a car and drive the more than 600 miles from her home in Guelph, Ontario to be among the demonstrators. "It's about solidarity, eh? I lived here for 11 years and saw a lot of protests, but nothing this big."

Jeff Skiles, US Airways co-pilot who helped safely ditch a packed passenger jet on the Hudson River in New York City in 2009: "On that day, there were many many heroes: pilots, flight attendants, traffic controllers, firemen, policemen, folks in the ferry boats, EMTs. We didn't abandon those passengers to save themselves. We all worked together to save everybody. That's a lesson that people in this capitol building need to learn ... Every one of them was union."

Actor Bradley Whitford, a Wisconsin native who played a staffer on the West Wing TV show: "I want to thank you for coming out here today to exercise those pesky First Amendment rights again ... When a governor refuses to invest in the people who educate our children and keep us safe, he needs to know this will not stand."

Peter Yarrow, folk singer and founding member of Peter, Paul and Mary: "If the scales of justice weighed in the wrong direction ... then we lose the essence, the heart, the decency of America and we cannot let that happen."

"The eyes of the world are upon you my friends."

"If there are 100,000 people here, and it's not essential that there be in this weather 100,000 people here -- you double that, add another half and that's how many people we had in the march on Washington that changed the history of this country forever. Do not doubt your strength."

"You are the first time this has happened in so long, I cannot tell you. Do not stop."

(Reporting by Stefanie Carano, David Bailey and James Kelleher in Madison)

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Comments (8)
MCos wrote:
For those of you who wish to be rid of unions I suggest you move out here to Bangkok where they did not exist in any meaningful way. As a conseqeunce the workers are dependant on the generosity of the fat-cats. The rich are extremely rich and the poor live from day to day. A worker we quizzed at the local Shell petrol station earned about $US6 for an 18 hour day. America or anywhere else has the potential to be the same without the advocacy of unions.

Feb 26, 2011 8:29pm EST  --  Report as abuse
skipgainer wrote:
Look the union leadership, is not what it started out to be. The union has turned into a big money making machine for politicians and union leadership. I believe that the unions have a great function to perform for their members. When you take away the right to replace someone for not doing or doing their job poorly. That hurts all of us taxpayers,we not only have to pay for our benefits but all so pay for poorly performing workers. You know there are a lot of people gaming the system by retiring at an early age, then take another state job for a second pension. I am a card carrying union member but we have to meet in the middle so we all benefit, epically our kids. If you know you can not be fired from your job you can do just about whatever you want to do at work. Try that in the real world see how far you go. Do not forget these are the people, your neighbors who are paying you not the government!

Feb 27, 2011 2:10am EST  --  Report as abuse
cornelius wrote:
“Strip the union of bargaining rights,” is an exercise in left wing hyperbole. Read the Bill, it merely exempts from collective negotiation several items that are unsustainable without busting the public treasury and overcoming the constitutional requirement of a balanced budget. The governor cannot print money like they do in DC. The only responsible action is to reign in reality and cure these budget busters or our children will pay the price.

If the BOE fired every teacher right now, in no time the ranks would be filled with enthusiastic recent graduate teachers interested in teaching – not tenure, not lifetime healthcare or generous pensions on the public dime. Or, big bucks for Democrats.

Only one third students in WI are now proficient in reading; new blood would welcome the BOE basing their pay on whether the kids can read. To have both teacher and lawmaker playing hooky is a grievous role model for the children, and counterproductive defiance of the outcome of an election. It is heresy by someone that calls himself “Democrat.”

Feb 27, 2011 12:58pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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