By Lynda L. Jones
They have been dubbed the ‘Fab 14’, the Democratic Senators that left the state and forced the GOP, and Governor Scott Walker to slow down their efforts to push through the Budget Repair Bill. After the governor and the GOP legislators met behind close doors last week, and privately developed a strategy to pass the striking of collective bargaining portion of the bill without the presence of the ‘Fab 14’, the Senators returned on Saturday.
The crowd welcoming the ‘Fab 14’ was estimated to exceed 100,000, one of the largest since the weeks of protesting began.
Sen. Spencer Coggs credited the people in Milwaukee and supporters across the state for keeping the message alive that the workers’ rights of working families are under attack by Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans in the recent Budget Repair Bill standoff.
“The Republicans in Madison didn’t give us a voice, they tried to ram this punitive bill through the Legislature. So we left the state to stop the bill by denying them a quorum to pass it, and the people rose up. And they gave voice to working men and women across Wisconsin,” Sen. Coggs said.
Sen. Coggs was one of 14 Democrats in the state Senate who went to Illinois on Feb. 17th and stayed there for more than three weeks. This spurred tens of thousands of people from across the state and nation to rally for weeks. Working men and women amassed at the state Capitol every day since the Senators left Wisconsin protesting Walker ’s so-called Budget Repair Bill. The bill had been stuck in the Legislature since that time because Republicans in the Senate needed 20 votes to pass the bill and only had 19.
On Saturday, the “Fab 14,” as the 14 Senators are called returned to Wisconsin and attended a “Welcome Home” rally at the Capitol in Madison that drew 100,000 to 125,000 people, said to be one of the leaderlargest labor rallies of all time.
“We’re back!” Sen. Coggs told the masses of people. “Thank you for inspiring us and sustaining us. Now, we want to unite, we want to fight, and we want to take back workers’ rights!” Also attending the rally were the Rev. Jesse Jackson, actress Susan Sarandon, and Wisconsin native Tony Shalhoub, lead actor of the TV show “Monk.”
This past week, Republicans pulled a questionable procedural maneuver, thereby illegally passing a stripped down version of the bill during a hurried nighttime session. A lawsuit has been filed by Democrats saying Republicans in the Senate violated the state Constitution, Open Meetings Laws, and their own Senate rules. The case is pending.
Sen. Coggs said the battle now turns to recall elections aimed at eight Republican senators. “To reclaim the state Senate in the next few months, we need to hold all Democratic Senate seats and recall at least three of the eight seats from the Republicans. After hearing the urgent voice of the people, I’m confident we’ll do just that,” Sen. Coggs said.
In addition to the Madison return home rally on Saturday, Senators Chris Larsen and Lena Taylor made their Milwaukee return at UW-Milwaukee on Monday. The rally entitled, ‘United We Stand Rally in Wisconsin’ was held at the campus from noon to 2:00 pm, featured speakers were the two senators, Larsen and Taylor, along with student leaders, and other labor and Democratic leaders. The rally was organized by UWM United, a coalition of political leaders and student, faith, labor, and community organizations that formed due to concerns with dividing the Wisconsin University system.
Speakers including Shelia Cochran, of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council spoke on how we move forward after this assault on Wisconsin’s working class and middle class.
Recall efforts are being kicked into high gear, the initiative, “Recall the Republican 8” is directed to the following vulnerable Republican Senators; Alberta Darling, Sheila Harsdorf, Robert Cowles, Randy Hopper, Dan Kapanke, Luther Olsen, Glenn Grothman, and Mary Lazich.
“We left the state to give you the citizens of Wisconsin an opportunity to examine the many items in this bill about one third of them that had nothing to do with balancing the fiscal concerns of the state”. Senator Taylor said at the rally.
Senators Taylor and Larsen spoke about the various bullying tactics that the GOP used to intimidate them. “They issued fines against us $100.00 per day, they held our paychecks, they even attempted to lock you the people out of your own state house and finally issued arrest warrants for us, knowing that it was illegal. They harassed our staff in our absence, and even made their jobs more difficult.” Senator Larsen said.
Student representatives vowed to volunteer their time and efforts in collecting the necessary signatures needed to recall the GOP Senators who refused to listen to the thousands of voices who opposed this bill and the proposed budget bill as well.
Student representative, Joel Ramirez spoke eloquently on the effects of Walker’s plans that are directed to the UW System, stating that such financial measures would prevent him and fellow students from even continuing their college educations.
Senator Taylor reminded the crowd, that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4th and that one of the last fights that he died fighting for was for collective bargaining rights, the Rev. Jesse Jackson stated the same fact during an interview with The Courier (see this March 12, 2011 article). “Let’s use the anniversary of Dr. King’s death on April 4th to motivate us to vote in big numbers on April 5, 2011.” She asked of the crowd, who responded with a loud cheer.