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Wisconsin passes bill stripping public sector workers of collective bargaining rights; campaign to recall Governor and GOP Senators planned

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DAVID DOUGHERTY, TRNN: A Wisconsin proposal to eliminate collective bargaining rights for most state employees was passed in the state legislature on Thursday and is to be signed into law by Governor Scott Walker on Friday morning. By removing fiscal measures from the legislation, Republican senators were able to pass the anti-union law without the required presence of the 14 absent Democrats, who remained out of the state when the first vote was cast late Wednesday night, just two hours after the new version of the law was introduced. The legality of the move is still in question, and thousands of people have gathered at the State Capitol in Madison to challenge the bill.

MATTHEW ROTHSCHILD, EDITOR, THE PROGRESSIVE: So today the state assembly here in Wisconsin passed the same bill that the state senate rammed through last night in very illegal and dubious practice. And as a result, collective bargaining for public sector workers is pretty much down the tubes here in Wisconsin. This is a shocking development, because we’ve had public sector union rights, collective bargaining rights here for 50 years. We are the first state actually to recognize [inaudible] unions. So this is a real turning back of the clocks, but it’s certainly not the end of the story. There are tremendous [rallies] scheduled for all the next three days. Saturday there may be the biggest rally yet, which would be exceeding 100,000 people. This is one of the amazing things. This is the largest sustained mass rally for labor union rights that this country’s seen since the 1930s, and it’s the biggest mass sustained rally for public sector workers ever in the history of the United States. And these protests aren’t going away. People are not taking this lying down. This isn’t the end of the story. There is an ongoing legal challenge to what the state senate did yesterday, and there’s some good grounds to believe that that can be won in court because they didn’t follow the open records and open meetings law the way they were supposed to. So that’s one hope. And then another hope is that there may be labor actions. There may be general strikes. I was at the Capitol today at the protest, and many people held signs calling for a general strike. We haven’t seen that anywhere in the United States since the 1930s. And then there are other creative nonviolent strategies that people might take. There may be other wildcat strikes going on. There may be other ways to slow down business as usual and make the state pay and make Scott Walker pay. There are people trying to boycott, for instance, corporate donors to Scott Walker, some of the big corporations and their executives who gave them thousands and thousands of dollars in state businesses that deal with the public, for instance, Johnsonville bratwurst company, which advertises having the best bratwurst in the state of Wisconsin, which is a real claim to fame out here, and they gave a ton of money to Walker. And so there’s a boycott being planned of that company. Those kinds of tactics people hope will continue to put the pressure on Walker on the Republicans. And, above all, there’s a huge recall effort underway, recalling not just Scott Walker–that can’t happen until November 2–but right now recalling some of these Republican state legislators who voted for this bill and helped push it through in the most undemocratic way possible. Those recall efforts may bear fruit as early as July. We may be able to kick some of those state senators out.

DOUGHERTY: Rhode Island is the latest of an increasing number of states across the country to have introduced similar legislation attacking organized labor. In Wisconsin, mass mobilizations are planned for Saturday, as talk of a general strike heats up among various social sectors. This is David Dougherty with The Real News Network.

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Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine. Rothschild has appeared on Nightline, C-SPAN, The O'Reilly Factor, and NPR, and his newspaper commentaries have run in the Chicago Tribune, the L.A. Times, the Miami Herald, and a host of other newspapers. Rothschild is also the author of a book entitled You Have No Rights: Stories of America in Our Repressive Age (New Press, 2007). Rothschild is also the co-founder and director of The Progressive Media Project, which since 1993 has been distributing opinion pieces to newspapers around the country in an effort to diversify and democratize the national debate.