Several New York unions sent activists to Wisconsin to help unions there cope with the sudden strain on their resources. Teamsters Local 237, Transport Workers Local 100 and CSEA all sent delegations.
“It’s an important issue and a legitimate cause,” Local 237’s Pete Gutierrez told the Daily News. Wisconsin’s Gov. Walker “has awakened a sleeping giant,” Gutierrez declared.
PSC President Barbara Bowen was asked by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to go to Wisconsin for a week to team up with the head of Wisconsin AFT in their organizing efforts. “Don’t underestimate what our solidarity means to people in Wisconsin,” Bowen said after her return. The eventual outcome in Wisconsin, she noted, will have a big effect on whether New York unions face the same intensity of attack.
Bowen traveled 800 miles across the state with AFT Wisconsin President Bryan Kennedy (a former adjunct), speaking to union members in northern and rural Wisconsin towns.
In a blog post on the PSC website, she described one such event: “Last night more than 300 people stood calmly in the falling snow for an evening rally and vigil in the little town of Superior, built by longshoremen on the banks of Lake Superior,” Bowen wrote. “A teacher talked about her Republican friends who had come to her house to apologize for voting for Scott Walker. The whole group presented a box of homemade food to the wife of one of the fourteen Democratic State Senators who have fled the state to prevent a vote, sympathetic with her need for support, as a retired teacher whose husband has had his paycheck embargoed.”
Bowen said she was glad to also have “the honor of welcoming the newest local into the AFT: the faculty at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.” The same day as the rally in Superior, they had voted by a wide margin to organize with the AFT. “The support only grew as Governor Walker’s assault intensified,” she reported.
Excitement about the next rally in Madison ran high in these small northern towns, several hours’ drive from the state capital, Bowen said: “I think people’s sense of the possibilities of political protest have been expanded and transformed by what they have seen here.”
For more Wisconsin coverage in Clarion, click here and here.