chapter
4 Pages

Winter 2011: Madison, Wisconsin

WithTina R. Nolan, Cynthia Robinson

Tens of thousands of public service employees from across the State of Wisconsin descended on the capitol to protest Governor Scott Walker’s plan to remove collective bargaining rights for unionized state workers. Governor Walker argued that this provision in his budget was necessary to close a massive budget gap, brought about by the 2008 financial meltdown that led to the current recession. As many as 100,000 teachers, police officers, factory workers, firemen, and nurses left their homes and families to march on the capitol square and camp in the capitol rotunda. Together they implored the governor to reconsider his plan. At the same time, supporters of the governor’s plan were mobilizing, making their way to the capitol to argue in favor of its implementation. Everyday life in the state had become contentious: Neighbors argued with neighbors, lifelong friendships ended, and public service employees faced vocal opposition in such unlikely places as their local grocery stores and restaurants. Students in classrooms asked their teachers to talk about what was happening - clearly a teachable moment and an opportunity to discuss democracy and civic dialogue, but union rules prohibited teachers from discussing any aspect of the conflict while on school property. 1