Following the Republican Senators’ 18-1 vote to pass the collective bargaining provisions of Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill, Wisconsin unions were considering a general strike but encouraged workers to tentatively return to work Thursday until more concrete plans can be determined.
Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, addressed the organization’s members through a video conference Thursday evening urging them to allow the democratic process to take its route by attending classes and not creating further disruption in Wisconsin’s education system.
Classes were shut down for four consecutive days in February when Madison Metropolitan School District teachers staged sickouts to protest the repair bill.
“For weeks our members, teachers, nurses and public workers have pushed forward to have their voices heard about the need to protect their rights, and we have won in the court of public opinion,” Bell said. “We know this is not over – we are outraged and we are betrayed, but we will not be broken. I ask Wisconsin educators to be at work tomorrow as we determine the next steps to make the voices of Wisconsin workers and working families heard.”
Bell said the Senate’s actions were not an example of what democracy looks like, and has only given Wisconsin workers more fuel to fight for what she said is “right for our state.”
Marty Beil, executive director of Wisconsin State Employees Union, joined Bell in the video and said Thursday’s legislative actions were proof the collective bargaining provisions in Walker’s budget repair bill are not about fiscal matters.
“Senator Republicans used a nuclear option to ram through their bill attacking working families in Wisconsin,” Beil said. “The truth is that none of the provisions that [Walker] asked for in this workers’ rights attack had anything to do with the budget.”
Beil said the speed at which the revised bill was passed through the Senate was “criminal,” but said unions had to allow the democratic process to run its course rather than immediately taking serious actions against the bill.
He said while the unions have clearly demonstrated their disagreement with the Wisconsin government, they had to allow the appropriate process to change it and said he was asking union members and any Wisconsinite affected by the “assault on civil rights” to join the recall efforts against Republican Senators in the eight districts where the process is already underway.
The Teaching Assistants’ Association’s Executive Board voted Wednesday night to spend the night in the Capitol building despite threats of civil disobedience arrests because of a March 3 court order prohibiting overnight stays, TAA co-president Alex Hanna said.
Hanna said the association had not yet discussed a teach-out or any kind of work action, but said he was uncertain what actions TAA would take if the bill passes through the Assembly Thursday.
“I don’t know what the TAA will do if the bill passes [Thursday] – it’s up to our members to decide what actions need to be taken,” Hanna said. “But, we are absolutely furious about it – everyone here is furious about it.”
Hanna said he is certain whatever decisions TAA makes the University of Wisconsin campus will “act with one hand.”
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 24 Council member Lori Wisnicky said she predicts there will be a general strike if the bill passed the Assembly.
“I do think a general strike can come out of this if the bill passes the Assembly – I believe that is what is going to happen next,” Wisnicky said.