As the streets of Madison, Wisconsin and inside the capitol fill with protesters the country’s eyes are glued to the high emotions that started last Tuesday. Thousands of people are now demonstrating for a second week of protests against the Republican governor Scott Walker’s plan, which opponents say would break the back of the state’s public employee unions. Supporters of the proposal say it is needed to control state debt and spending.
Wisconsin, where the first demonstrations were staged Feb. 6 outside the governor’s residence, has become the flash point for a nationwide struggle over efforts to roll back pay, benefits and bargaining rights for government workers.
If the majority Republicans prevail, other states could be emboldened to take on the powerful unions.
Fourteen Democratic state senators, who have left Wisconsin to deny the legislature a quorum needed to consider the proposal, have “failed to do their jobs,” Walker said.
One of the Democratic senators has said they are prepared to be away for weeks.
The Wisconsin State Assembly is due to take up the proposals Tuesday. Republicans have a large enough majority to reach a quorum without the Democrats.
A major showing was expected Monday, when the Wisconsin Education Association Council, representing about 98,000 public education employees, is set to hold a rally.
Those backing the proposal were planning a nationwide demonstration Tuesday, said Ned Ryun, the head of American Majority, which sponsored a rally Saturday attended by about 5,000 supporters of the conservative tea party movement.
“If the governor of Wisconsin is successfully in eliminating that right, it’s going to happen country wide. Other states will soon follow,” says John Carr, president of Education Support Employees Association.