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Wisconsin YEOs Fighting for Workers' Rights
YEO Spotlight: State Senator Chris Larson and State Representative Kelda Roys
YEOs Fighting for Workers’ Rights in Wisconsin
We have all seen the news coverage of the battle to save collective bargaining that took place in Wisconsin. This was a courageous fight and we are proud of the YEOs who played a prominent role in protecting workers’ rights. There were YEOs among those who stayed at the capital and those that left the state to stop the union-busting vote. Here they share some of their experiences on the front lines.
State Senator Chris Larson:
In mid-February, the spotlight of the country turned to Wisconsin. Republican Governor Scott Walker announced that he would be using a budget adjustment bill to reverse 50 years of Wisconsin history and go after worker rights in our state. Over the next few days, I and the other 13 Democratic state senators saw that the bill was on the fast track to be rubberstamped by the Republican majorities in both houses. They shut down the public hearing while hundreds were yet to be heard, cut off the legislative hotline, and voted it out of committee on a party line vote while just down the hall, peaceful protestors did everything they could to have their voices heard.
Left with no other option, all 14 of us left the state in order to block a vote from happening, to give our neighbors a voice, and let the rest of the state see what this bill would really do to Wisconsin. We stayed away from our family, friends, and community for 22 days. In that time, the entire country found out what was really going on in our state.
Gov. Walker and other regressive governors like him are seeking to scapegoat unions as the cause of the fiscal crisis in an effort to divide the middle-class against itself as they opened up tax loopholes for the richest in the country.
With similar bills popping up in states across the country, the balance in our society again tilts to the powerful over the powerless. The ability to organize and get fair treatment are qualities that built our country. This is what the last generation fought for in the 60s and the 70s – to make sure we all had a better life. Now it’s our time to keep these rights for the next generation.
State Representative Kelda Helen Roys:
I was present in the capitol nearly every day and night of those first, intense several weeks. We had hundreds of thousands of citizens engaged in the noble pursuit of petitioning their government. There were children and seniors, workers from all walks of life, the public and private sector – all standing up for the rights of workers to collectively bargain. With creative protest signs, joyous chants, and songs of solidarity, they inhabited not only the state capitol, but also the entire city of Madison and many communities around Wisconsin.
Although the bill eventually passed, the Republicans in what we’ve dubbed “Fitzwalkerstan” sunk to unprecedented lows – violating our state’s constitution and laws, disobeying our legislative rules and traditions, silencing the public at hearings and locking down our state capitol. At every turn, my Democratic colleagues and I were proud to stand against these abuses of power and work to preserve the right to democracy in the workplace and in our society at large. We will continue to work in solidarity to move Wisconsin forward, once again.