MADISON, WI—Representatives of three Canadian unions are in Madison, Wisconsin this weekend, joining with thousands of workers and supporters to fight Governor Scott Walker’s union-busting budget bill.
Teachers, firefighters, steel workers, state employees, university students, religious leaders and veterans have streamed into the state capital by the thousands over the last 10 days. More than 1,000 students have been occupying the Wisconsin state capital building, sleeping in Senators’ offices and maintaining a 24-hour a day occupation. Today, more than 100,000 people will fill the streets of Madison to demand that Walker remove the sections of the budget bill that would prevent public sector workers from bargaining collectively.
“Walker’s bill represents a direct attack on workers’ rights,” says John Gordon, President of the 180,000-member Public Service Alliance of Canada. “Public sector workers shouldn’t have to pay for the financial crisis they didn’t create. We are here to say that Canadian workers are watching – we won’t stand for this type of treatment at home or anywhere else in the world.”
“This is really one of the most inspirational moments I have witnessed since I’ve been involved in the labour movement,” says Gaétan Ménard, Secretary-Treasurer of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada. “To see 100,000 people gather to defend public employees’ rights to collectively bargain against a government that so intent on union busting is a unique experience we will certainly cherish and treasure upon our return to Canada.”
Wisconsin union leaders have made it clear that they are willing to make compromises and agree to concessions in the face of a difficult budgetary climate. Their only demands are that cuts to Medicaid and the restrictions on collective bargaining be removed from the budget bill.
Paul Moist, National President of the 605,000-member Canadian Union of Public Employees, denounced Gov. Walker’s attack on Wisconsin’s public sector workers.
“Using the current recession and a Republican majority in the State Assembly and Senate to strip away fundamental rights from dedicated public employees is plain wrong and totally unjustified,” Moist wrote in a recent letter to Walker.
CUPE, PSAC and CEP collectively represent over 900,000 employees across Canada, of which 750,000 are employed in the public sector.