Following the Wisconsin state Senate Republicans’ surprise move to unilaterally end collective bargaining rights for thousands of state workers, union activists are keeping up their protest pressure — but steering clear of a rumored general strike — for now.
At 9:00 Thursday morning Madison time, union supporters across the state will gather for the latest round of protests aimed at Gov. Scott Walker (R) and his plan to strip state unions of many of their current rights. In the social media cacophony following last night’s vote, many supporters called for union workers to walk off the job as early as Thursday in protest of Walker’s plan, and the latest Republican moves to get them through the legislature.
So far, union leadership hasn’t signed on to that plan. But worker representatives in Wisconsin told TPM Wednesday night that strike is still an option — and one they’ll use if they have to.“This movement has been pretty spontaneous,” Dian Palmer, president of the SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin union told TPM in an interview. “It remains to be seen what the outcome will be.”
Palmer said that in her mind it’s “too early” to be talking strike, but that doesn’t mean one won’t come.
In a video statement released late Wednesday night, leaders of the Wisconsin teacher’s union and the Wisconsin State Employees Union called on workers to stay at work following the Senate vote. In the early days of the struggle between the unions and Walker, public school teachers stayed home from work, drawing attention to the cause and criticism from Republicans.
The Wisconsin union leaders called on their supporters to join in the numerous recall efforts that have sprouted up in Wisconsin with the goal of flipping the state Senate back to Democratic control.
For now, protests, the ballot box, and the courts seem to the main tools those union workers and their supporters will use fight back against the Republican state Senate and Scott Walker.
But some union workers say a teachers’ strike could come as early as Thursday, when the state House will likely pass the bill approved by the Senate Wednesday evening. Leaders of the Wisconsin Teaching Assistants’ Association told the UW-Madison Badger Herald that they’re waiting for that vote to decide what they’ll do in response.