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Tens of thousands are expected for a rally in support of Wisconsin public service unions in the state capital today. CUPE representatives are also there, showing their support and solidarity for Wisconsin’s over 280,000 public workers. They have sent this report on their first day in Madison.

When we first arrived in Madison, we were struck with how much support there is for the public service workers. From signs in storefronts, to our taxi driver, the people of Wisconsin are supporting the workers and their peaceful protests.

Our first day started with a briefing from Arlene Holt Baker, Executive Vice-president of the AFL-CIO. She told the Canadian union delegation how 74 per cent of Americans oppose the plan to strip collective bargaining rights.  “It’s time for lawmakers to show leadership, come to the table and open up a dialogue and get Wisconsin moving forward again,” said Baker.

We participated in a demonstration against the Koch Brothers, at the Koch Industries lobbying office. The Koch Brothers are major funders of the Tea Party movement and Republican Scott Walker’s gubernatorial election campaign. 

Koch Industries have extensive business interests in the state, including Koch Pipeline Company, Flint Hill Resources, which distributes refined oil through pipeline and terminal and the C. Reiss Coal Company.  The demonstrations aim was to put focus on the domination of big business on the dismantling public services and attacking the collective bargaining rights of workers.

We then went to the Wisconsin capital building, which has been the site of continuous protests since the attack on bargaining rights began. Inside there is a broad range of front line workers, union and non-union public sector, private sector, along with the students and other supporters. Many municipal workers come to protest at lunch and after work, and firefighters - though exempted from the legislation - have rallied today from across the state with their families.

Excitement is building as workers and supporters are converging in Madison for what is expected to be the largest rally so far on Saturday.  We’ll send a report and more photos later in the weekend.

Visit cupe.ca over the weekend for updates and photos from the rally!

For more news and information on rally’s being held across the state visit these websites: