Protesters march in Superior, Wis.Barely 12 hours after Wisconsin state senators voted to strip collective-bargaining rights from public workers, protesters massed in front of the Douglas County Courthouse on Thursday to voice their outrage.
By: By Peter Passi, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
SUPERIOR, Wis. — Barely 12 hours after Wisconsin state senators voted to strip collective-bargaining rights from public workers, protesters massed in front of the Douglas County Courthouse on Thursday to voice their outrage.
About 200 people showed up at 7 a.m. with placards bearing slogans such as “Workers not Walker” and chanting “What’s disgusting? Union busting.”
A number of passing motorists on Belknap Street and Hammond Avenue honked in support.
Mike Swanson joined the throng before heading off to work as a seventh-grade math teacher at Superior Middle School.
“Why are we bearing the brunt of this?” he asked, noting his belief that public workers are “an easy target.”
While Swanson was eager to make his feelings known, he said he would not be missing any work. “I’ve got to be there for the kids,” he said.
Jim Mattson, staff representative for American Federation of County, State and Municipal Employees Council 40, said word of the protest spread quickly via e-mails and phone trees.
“People are very upset,” he said. “This is just the beginning of things. We’re not going to go away. A recall is our No. 1 priority right now.”
Mattson said he’s not resigned to accept the actions of the Wisconsin Senate, suggesting the state’s open-meeting law had been violated Wednesday.
“I think this will be murky for some time,” he observed.
Kim Tesch, a Douglas County social worker, said Wednesday’s Senate action was a blow not only to public workers in Wisconsin but to working families throughout the nation.
“I don’t think we (public employees) are the problem. We are taxpayers, too,” she said. “And we have been doing a lot with very little.”
Bobbie Peterson, a fourth-grade teacher at Bryant Elementary School in Superior, described Wednesday’s developments as a huge disappointment.
“I was shocked. I thought some headway was being made and that they would get together and work things out,” she said.
Peterson said that when she learned the news Wednesday night, “I was speechless. I couldn’t believe it.”
Douglas County Commissioner Doug Finn joined demonstrators on the sidewalk.
“I think people are disgusted with how the bill was passed,” he said. “I’ve been in government for more than 30 years, and I’ve never seen such a total railroad job.”
Finn said officials in local government seem to be held to greater account than lawmakers in Madison and remarked: “If I ever tried to do something like that, they would throw me out of the courthouse.”
Pat Ryan, another Douglas County commissioner, joined Finn at the demonstration.
“I think it’s wrong, the way this was done,” she said. “But I don’t think it will stop here. The nice thing Gov. Walker has done is to get young people to get involved and start taking their government back.”
After 34 years on the job in the classroom, Peterson said she’s now thinking of accelerating her retirement plans.
“I’m afraid that everything I’ve been working for could be pulled out from under me.”
Peter Passi is a reporter at the Duluth News Tribune which is owned by Forum Communications Co.