On February 12, 2011 I woke up hoping that Friday and Walker’s announcement had been a bad dream. Unfortunately, one look at email and Facebook proved that it was real. What are we going to do, how do we stop this, can he really do this to us? Emails were being sent to legislators and servers got overloaded by the numbers of emails sent. Beyond that, what do you do on a Saturday? Turns out it was a busy day. At one point, I decided that we needed to let Ed Schultz, the liberal radio commentator and host of an MSNBC show know what was happening and ask for help. Turns out that I wasn’t the only one who took that route.
As we found information we were sharing it with our local members, “talking” to Executive Board members and encouraging members to attend the lobby days that had been scheduled on February 15 and 16th. These had been scheduled for several weeks. Two days were scheduled, earlier in the legislative session. We knew when Walker was elected that we’d be one of his early targets. Lobby Day was nothing new, our Council had them every year, union members came to Madison from around the state, usually on buses. We’d have appointments with our legislators and talk about issues. The day would start at the Madison Masonic Center with speakers and we would walk several blocks to the Capitol for our appointments. We’d returning to the Center for a lunch and share information before going back home on the bus. Friday’s events made lobby day more important than ever and we wanted to make sure as many people as possible could attend either Tuesday or Wednesday…
Later in the day came plans for an action in Horicon on Sunday. The IAM Lodge at John Deere in Horicon were planning to let Assembly leader Jeff Fitzgerald know exactly what they thought of the “budget repair bill” on his turf. Turns out that the private sector unions took the attack on Public Employees as the first step toward Right to Work in Wisconsin and were not going to set and watch while it happened. Word was going out about the action. There was also a plan to picket at the Governor’s Mansion in Madison. I shared the event, really wondering how many would show up on a winter Sunday afternoon.
Saturday was also the day the conference calls started. That would become the way groups met quickly and shared information. The Dem. Party held one on talking points and shared exactly what the repair bill meant. LC1 was in a leadership position in our county party and participated in those phone calls. I was on also, and I remember both of us expressing some emotional feelings and thoughts on those calls.
There were also emails about a meeting on campus on Monday, Academic Staff folks were having a meeting on Monday to share information.
Later in the day, after spending time with family, I got a call from our Council President who had seen my email about the Horicon event. He didn’t know anything about it and wondered who was planning it. We both decided we’d go, just to see what it was about.
What would have probably been a quiet Saturday doing things around the house and relaxing was a taste of life for the next weeks.
Sunday was a sunny, blue winter day. The Horicon event was scheduled for mid-afternoon. Our local Chief Steward decided to go to the Horicon event. Still not totally sure about what we would find, we drove to Horicon. This kind of event wasn’t really new to us, since our union had “attended” Lincoln Day events in 2002, “welcoming” hen Assembly Speaker John Gard after he spearheaded delaying approval of our contracts. Sometimes there would be a handful of folks, sometimes it would be 100. We weren’t sure what to expect in Horicon. Finding one hundred or more people had come to “visit” our current Assembly Speaker on short notice was amazing. That day I realized that using social media was going to be important.
From a park we walked several blocks to a neighborhood of modest homes. Turns out that a union member lived right across from Representative Fitzgerald and had no problem with people in his yard, the people in the yard spilled on the street. The curtains were drawn pretty tight in the Fitzgerald house and no sign of life, but, the appearence of several police officers told us that someone was home….
Folks spoke spontaneously about what Walker’s action would do to unions, the state and encouraged the group to get involved. The solidarity of the event was overwhelming
….this is what being part of a union means.