Wisconsin Teachers Protest Over Budget Cuts
Scott Walker, new Republican governor of Wisconsin, proposed a budged that triggered a massive protest in Madison today. The budget cuts include making public workers pay more for health insurance, which will reduce take-home pay for many by about seven percent. Walker also wants to strip unions of much of their collective bargaining power. He says the measure is necessary to make up the $137 million deficit.
Thousands of teachers attended the protests, one estimate said that 40 percent of the state’s educators came to the capitol. Many schools were forced to close as teachers took a sick day to attend the protests. Some who are against the cuts are concerned that education will suffer if the school systems loses teachers. “Nobody got into this because they were going to get rich, but they did think they would get treated fairly,” Wisconsin Education Association Council President Mary Bell told Channel 3000.
The teachers’ unions are getting support from Washington. “We view the events in Wisconsin as one of the worst attacks on workers’ rights and their voices in the workplace that we’ve ever seen,” said Kim Anderson, director of government relations for the National Education Association. Her organization is urging Wisconsin unions to demonstrate and contact their representatives.
“I think Governor Walker is using this financial crisis as an excuse to attack unions,” Kevin Gibbons, a union leader representing teaching assistants at the University of Wisconsin, told The New York Times. “If Wisconsin goes, what will be next?”
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