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Standoff in Wisconsin

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DAVID DOUGHERTY: Tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in Wisconsin over the weekend to express their discontent with officials over policies aimed at effectively eliminating collective bargaining rights for most state employees. Several other states, such as Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana, Florida, and Idaho, also saw demonstrations against similar state legislation on Saturday, March 5. The 14 Democrats who fled Wisconsin in an attempt to block a vote on Governor Scott Walker’s budget remain out of the state, in spite of being found in contempt by the state senate, as the two opposing sides appear to remain at an impasse. Demonstrators in and around the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison expressed their concerns over what they perceive to be an attack on the rights of public employees.

DEMONSTRATOR (MADISON, WI): It’s very important that people understand that public workers are important for your sanitation. Whether it’s the Department of Transportation, the Department of Natural Resources, workforce development, any of them, our public workers actually work and do a very good job, because if we didn’t work, Wisconsin would already be in chaos.

KRISTINE MATTIS, GRADUATE STUDENT, ACTIVIST WITH TEACHING ASSISTANTS’ ASSOCIATION: On Saturday there was a large rally at the state capitol, as there has been in the past three weeks. This rally was attended by about 50,000 people, despite the quite frigid temperatures. There was a strong showing of solidarity amongst all sorts of disparate groups, union and nonunion, and just lay people from the state. It seems clear to everyone now that this is a bigger struggle than just a struggle for the unions. It’s a struggle against those of the corporate and elite who have been paying fewer and fewer taxes and who caused the entire economic breakdown on Wall Street, a struggle between the rest of us who are being forced to pay for it and being forced to take losses in our wages, losses in our health-care benefits, losses in our pensions because of that. It was sort of a small battle against the budget repair bill, and now it’s really just a war of the working people against the people they see as the real group who has not done their fair share of dealing with the economic hardships that we’re all facing. We’re being told that we need to sacrifice, while those people have never sacrificed. And I think it has to do with just all of us having come together and discussing this issue and probably talking to one another rather than listening to the mainstream media and realizing more broadly where these problems emanate–from where they emanate and what are the true solutions.

DOUGHERTY: In Ohio, the state legislature is expected to vote as early as this week on controversial Senate Bill 5, while labor groups discuss the possibility of holding a referendum vote on the law later this year. This is David Dougherty with the Real News Network.

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