Thursday, February 13, 2014

Storm Warning Part 2, The weekend

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.  


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Storm Warning Part 1

It has been a long time since we've posted.    February 11 brought back a lot of memories again this year and LC2 decided to record memories of February and March 2011.  So much has changed and Wisconsin doesn't seem like the same state it was 3 years ago.   It all started with the "Budget Repair Bill" introduced 3 years ago. 

Three years….in the grand scheme of things, not a very long time.   For public employees in Wisconsin, so much has changed in that time.   Three years ago today, Governor Scott Walker shared the news that he was going to change the historic relationship between the public and those who worked to provide service to them.   Historic, in that Wisconsin was one of the first states where public employees organized, the birthplace of my union, the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the state where civil service took root over 100 years ago, a state where Workers Compensation began, the state with the strongest retirement system for Public Employees, the state where Public Employees were granted the right to collectively bargain over 50 years ago.   A state where public employees were respected.

That all changed on February 11, 2011.   There have been numerous books written on the events leading to and the reasoning behind Walkers decision.  Those same books talk a lot about what happened in Madison during those February and March days in 2011.  Few of the books written talk about what was going on outside of Madison.   Even in Unintimidated,  Scott Walker's vanity book, little is said about outstate activities, except for an exaggerated discussion of an incident in LaCrosse and references to several incident in later in 2011.   Walker goes so far to mention that the people outside of Madison for the most part supported him and he blames the activities in Madison on the locals there and out of state agitators brought in by the Union “bosses”.  For this third anniversary, I thought it was time to talk a bit about what was happening in one city 100 miles from Madison….Oshkosh.

By Friday morning, Feb. 11, 2011, most of use who were involved in our unions knew something was coming down that day.   We had been ready for something since Walker’s election in November.   
No one expected it that week, Wisconsin was celebrating the Packers Superbowl victory the past Sunday.  But, on Thursday, social media was full of reports of an announcement from the Governor, and it wouldn’t be good.  There were emails and enough information that we knew it would happen on Friday.    

Here’s a Facebook comment I made on Thursday night.  Guess we did have a pretty good idea of what was coming.

Gov. Scotty must be pee in his pants excited tonight ....tomorrow he gets to do what he has dreamed about for years--screw the State Employees. Except for the State Troopers---he doesn't want his drivers or Daddy Fitz to get to upset with him.

As a local President and a member of the Council 24 Executive Board, I had shared as much as possible with my local members and others in the area.   We had been telling our political friends that we were going to need their help.
I guess February 11, 2011 is one of those days for many Wisconsin Public Employees that you remember what you were doing when “Walker Dropped the Bomb”.  

I had plans for that Friday.   LC1 and I had taken a day of vacation to go snowshoeing in Door County.  There was snow on the ground, but, unlike this winter, forecasts sounded like it wasn’t going to last long.  I think we debated a little on whether to go or not in light of what might happen, but we decided, this could be our last chance to get out for the season.   So, we headed up to Door County and Peninsula State Park.

 I still have the 1 day permit on the windshield of my car from that day….it reminds me of what we had and what we need to keep fighting for. 

I don’t think we listened to the radio on the way up to Door County.   We figured we’d find out soon enough how bad it was going to be.   It was a great day on the trail.   Not surprisingly, I got a phone call from my local Vice President when we were almost done on the trail.  He shared how things were going on campus.   There were messages on my phone from a reporter from the Northwestern, Later, after lunch in at a Fish Creek restaurant,  I’d talk with him driving up the hill out of Fish Creek.  He shared about what would eventually be known as Act 10.    It was pretty tough accepting that the rumors were true.  With less than a month in office, Walker would throw Wisconsin statutes that had been in existence for over 50 years in the garbage.   Walker boasted that the legislation would be passed in a week, and he would end what he believed to be holding the state back, he would eliminate collective bargaining for Public Employees.

What was the plan, how do we react, how can you stop this…..those were everyone’s questions that night…..