Timeline: What's Happening in Wisconsin?

Monday, February 21, 2011

College student Heather Roberts joins protesters who filled the steps and grounds surrounding the State Capitol building on February 16, 2010 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Mark Hirsch/Getty)

A lot can happen in a week, especially in a state that's trying to balance its budget by asking for historic concessions from public employees.

Last Friday in Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker introduced a budget repair bill, which is intended to close an immediate budget gap of $137 million for the current fiscal year, and a $3.6 billion deficit in 2013. The bill requires greater health insurance and pension contributions from government workers, limits the ability of public sector unions to collectively bargain, and grants authorities the right to terminate any employees who participate in strikes or walkouts during a governor-declared state of emergency. Firefighter, law enforcement, and trooper unions would be exempt from these changes.

Union leaders consider this a big blow. Anticipating backlash, Governor Walker said that that he has briefed the Wisconsin National Guard, which stands ready to respond to unrest. And unrest there has been. In the week since the bill was proposed, protesters have been camped out in the state capitol of Madison, even bringing their sleeping bags. Amidst the noise, here's a day-by-day breakdown of what's been happening in Wisconsin.


Monday, February 14

After a weekend that saw protests forming outside the homes of state lawmakers, students and teachers from two University of Wisconsin campuses begin protesting inside the state capitol in Madison. Demonstrators reportedly pack the hallway leading directly to Gov. Walker's office. Meanwhile, public and private union leaders hold a press conference denouncing the governor's proposal.

Tuesday, February 15

Demonstrations continue in and around the capitol building, with thousands of protesters inside demanding to speak in an open forum. Their request granted, citizens are given the opportunity to speak in turns until 3 a.m. the next morning, at which point Republican state senators left the building. Democratic assemblymen hold a press conference immediately afterward. Hundreds camp out overnight in the atrium of the capitol, some sleeping, some continuing the open forum.

Wednesday, February 16

Wisconsin's Joint Finance Committee passes the budget repair bill by a party-line vote of 12-4, sending the legislation to the state Assembly and Senate. Schools close in Madison after an estimated 1,000 teachers called in sick to protest the legislation. Wisconsin's largest teacher's union calls on its 98,000 members to attend rallies rather than classes in the coming days.

Thursday, February 17

Fourteen Democrats in the Wisconsin state Senate disappear, making it impossible for the legislature to hold a vote on the bill. With 19 Republicans left waiting, and a requirement that at least 20 legislators take part in this vote, the Senate is effectively shut down until a single Democrat returns to the chamber. Reports indicate that some Democrats crossed state lines to Illinois, removing themselves from the jurisdiction of Wisconsin police.

Gov. Walker defends his budget repair bill in a press conference as "modest," and calls for Senate Democrats to return to the capitol.

About 25,000 protesters descend on the state capitol. Madison schools are closed for a second day, and other districts shut down because of teacher absences. President Obama directs attention to the crisis, calling Gov. Walker's budget repair bill an "assault on unions."

Friday, February 18

Republicans in the state Senate return to the floor and call for the missing Democratic lawmakers to come back for a vote on the budget repair bill. Wisconsin state police begin searching for the Senate's Democratic minority leader, Mark Miller.

Madison schools are closed for a third straight day. Milwaukee schools are also closed.

With this conflict taking the national stage, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka speaks to protesters in Madison, and the Reverend Jesse Jackson makes a surprise appearance in the capitol.

Gov. Walker shows no signs of budging, again calling his proposals "modest" in a nationally-televised interview on Fox News.

Saturday, February 19

In a surprise move to confront protesters, the Tea Party organization American Majority organized buses of pro-Walker activists from across the state into Madison to show support for the governor's proposals. "America is going to be community-organized no more," Liberatrian publisher Andrew Breitbart told the crowd.

Sunday, February 20

In the state capital, Madison teachers voted 741-731 to return to the classroom on Monday. The vote to return Tuesday passed by a wider margin.

Monday, February 21

State teachers unions are split on whether they are urging teachers to return to the classroom this week. The Wisconsin Education Association told teachers to return to work Monday if their contracts did not recognize President’s Day. Other unions planned to continue protests.

Democratic Senators say they will wait outside state lines and denying quorum for a Senate vote until Republicans agree to remove collective bargaining restrictions from the bill.

Tuesday, February 22

The Wisconsin State Assembly is expected to take up the controversial bill. Debate is expected to stretch on for hours, possibly days, as Democrats introduce several amendments.

Rallies in states across the country took place in protest of Gov. Walker's budget plan for Wisconsin, including Pennsylvania, Nevada, Vermont, Rhode Island, Minnesota and Iowa. New Jersey workers are planning a protest for Friday.

According to the Associated Press, paychecks are behing witheld for the 14 Democratic Senators who left the state to prevent a vote on the budget proposal.

Wednesday, February 23

Protests continue in Wisconsin's state capital. The Daily Local News reports, classes at Wisconsin University in Madison have been largely interrupted by the rallies.


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Comments [5]

joe mannersw

That talk show host got it right when he said that rabid liberalism is a mental disease..... it seems the rabid liberals have 'blinders" on and offer no response when asked the following question: "given the fact that we're broke, out of money and can't afford collective bargaining, what do you want us to do"? The problem with collective bargaining is that when a mediator enters the fray, he/she always assumes the cities and counties have infinitely deep pockets and award raises WAY out of proportion to anything that is: 1) sustainable and 2) to what the very tax-paying public gets in THEIR wage increases in their own jobs. It's almost insidious that our very tax dollars are taken from us and then used against us again by union thugs who then come at the taxpayer at the next collective bargaining session for even more money. Given the limited tax dollars available, this practice must stop. And when you try to explain this to liberals, their eyes glaze over, they get that "deer caught in the headlights of an on-coming car" look and then the "mental block" (mental disease) sets in wherein they ignore the facts because "facts get in the way of their argument" for collective bargaining. And there you have it: the "mental disease cycle" of a liberal.....

Mar. 02 2011 02:21 PM
Miichael Meltzer

When the framers of the Constitution added the Bill of Rights, the Industrial Revolution was only about to begin and the Labor Movement over a century in the future. "Collective Bargaining" as a concept was in no ones' picture.
In spirit, there is little difference between the right to collective bargaining and the other rights delineated in the Bill of Rights, and it is too important to be subject to the vaguaries and whims of conflicting jurisdictions and guidelines that shift from state to state.
A Constitutional Amendment clarifying the definition and parameters of Collective Bargaining is long overdue, and jurisdiction over its process needs to be taken out of the hands of the individual states, once and for all.

Feb. 26 2011 08:50 PM
John Dickerson from Washington, D.C.

Nick Lento,

You say: "what I said was that the immediate budget crisis was manufactured"

My point was that this is not true. It is not manufactured:

Feb. 22 2011 07:54 AM
Nick Lento from NJ

A quick rebuttal to John Dickerson's distortion of what I said when I called in.

Dickerson rebutted a point I did not make! He claims that there IS a deficit crisis as if I stated otherwise... what I said was that the immediate budget crisis was manufactured and that stands......again, I went out of my way to acknowledge the longer term deficit problem...and I also said that virtyually every state had one! In fact there WAS an ideologically driven massive tax cut given to interests that didn't need the money and the amount "saved" by cutting the employees package would be close to that amount. The reporting on Maddow's show was and remains essentially correct. Maddow never said the state had no debts, just that the tax giveaways were about equal to the "savings" to be garnered by killing the unions...which is what happens when you strip away their rights to collectively bargain.

It's sad that Dickerson had to construct a straw man to make his case in de facto support of Walker's action. Listen to the exchange

Now if Dickerson still thinks Maddow is a liar then perhaps he'll consider reading Krugmans latest column where he says, "Why bust the unions? As I said, it has nothing to do with helping Wisconsin deal with its current fiscal crisis. Nor is it likely to help the state’s budget prospects even in the long run: contrary to what you may have heard, public-sector workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere are paid somewhat less than private-sector workers with comparable qualifications, so there’s not much room for further pay squeezes.

So it’s not about the budget; it’s about the power. "

Here's another good article on this...

Feb. 21 2011 12:56 PM
tomNYC from new york city

Why are government obligations for government workers pensions, etc., not seen as a form of bond just like other government issued bond obligations.

How many tea bag business owners would accept their clients saying you did the work but I’m only paying 50% of the agreed price.

Feb. 21 2011 10:38 AM

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