Around 185,000 people crowded the streets of Madison, WI this past weekend, showing support for the state’s public sector workers. Paul Moist and other representatives from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) attended the “We are Wisconsin” rally in and around the state capital building on Saturday, March 12, 2010.
“It was an incredibly uplifting and inspiring show of solidarity for the public sector workers under attack in Wisconsin,” said Moist, national president of CUPE. “Being surrounded by union members and supporters from across the state was an exceptional experience, and I was proud to stand beside them in solidarity.”
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Moist was joined by Sister Tania Jarzebiak, and Brothers Jim Laverie, David Michor and Greg Taylor to show CUPE support for Wisconsin workers.
Saturday’s rally was organized by the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO in response to Governor Scott Walker’s attempts to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public workers. Earlier in the week, Walker and state Republicans used legislative maneuvering to force thought the so called budget repair bill.
“The massive turn-out to this rally is a clear message to Governor Walker and Republicans, that their unwarranted and malicious attacks on the rights of Wisconsin public sector workers won’t go unanswered,” said Moist. “Even if Walker manages to get this bill passed into law, Wisconsin workers won’t give up.”
Saturday began with a “Tractorcade.” Dozens of tractors were driven into Madison by Wisconsin farmers as a show of support for public workers. Thousands greeted the tractors, which encircled the capital building. While the rally wasn’t scheduled to start until 2pm, by the time the Tractorcade arrived at 11am, the streets were already full of union members and supporters.
The day’s events also included a pre-rally rally by Wisconsin Service Employees International Union (SEIU) health care workers. Moist had the opportunity to speak to the large and very vocal SEIU contingent, and pledged CUPE support for them and all other public sector workers in their fight to protect their rights.
The rally brought out a broad range of supporters. Many union members, public and private sector, were joined by their families, students carrying signs supporting their teachers, and Wisconsin citizens marched together around the capital building throughout the day.
The rally speakers program included Rev. Jesse Jackson, actors Susan Sarandon and Wisconsin-native Tony Shaloub, and many state labour leaders.
The emotional climax came when the 14 Democratic State Senators took to the stage. Known as “The Fab 14,” the senators had fleed the state in order to stall passage of the anti-union measures. As they left the stage, the crowd erupted with shouts of “thank you.”
Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President Tom Buffenburgar wrapped up the rally by introducing Moist and other Canadian labour leaders, thanking them for their support.
“Walking through the crowd, talking and hearing the stories of the public sector workers, I got a true sense of just how determined they are to fight back against and protect their rights,” said Moist following the rally. “It was a true privilege to be in Madison and stand beside these dedicated public sector workers.”
For more news and information on rally’s being held across the state visit these websites: