March 16, 2011- I went back to Wisconsin this weekend to participate in and document what is being considered the largest demonstration in the state's history. On Saturday, March 12, up to 100,000 people marched in Madison against the passing of Gov. Scott Walker's anti-union "budget repair" bill.
After almost a month of deadlock, Republican senators introduced an edited version of the controversial bill last week, removing economic language from the original to maneuver around a Democrat strategy to block it.
Fourteen Democratic state senators had been camped in Illinois for three weeks, depriving the Senate of the basic majority, called a quorum, required for decisions involving budgetary issues. Their absence had blocked the bill from moving forward.
Indiana state Democrats are using the same strategy now to stall a copycat bill in that state.
The idea in Wisconsin was to delay the vote to give space for the mass movement, which flooded the Capitol with record-breaking protests to respond to the illegal methods used by Republican lawmakers to ram the bill through, while also building grassroots power around the state to challenge it politically.
Though the power-building aspect of the delay tactic was effective, Senate Republicans passed the edited bill, which is being legally contested, and the House followed suit the following day. The governor then signed it into law.
As of Sunday, March 13, state workers in Wisconsin have been stripped of their right to collectively bargain on almost every front and have been blanketed by harsh organizing restrictions.
The response from the mass movement was clear: this is only the beginning of a long fight.