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…..