It was 2011 or 2012, you youngsters. I forget which year, but I can never forget what went down. And oh, boy, did it go down!
Wisconsin’s newly elected governor decided to take a piece out of all the people who worked for the state in any way, shape, or form. His goal was to destroy our unions’ rights to bargain, to cooperate with our employers and negotiate. He focused in on teachers, but we (yes, that included me back in the day) weren’t alone by any means. All public employees began to feel like public enemies as he vilified (look it up, honey, there are still dictionaries in this home) vilified us for daring to earn a living from a public source, a.k.a. tax monies, instead of a private company.
As the recently-elected Governor Walker introduced and tried to pass his union-busting bill, claiming it was a budget issue, he needed a quorum in order to call for a vote. Sweetheart, do you know what a quorum means? No? What are they teaching these days…. never mind. A quorum is a set minimum number of people in a voting group who need to be present in order to vote on important issues. Budget issues, those that involve money, need a quorum. If that quorum is not present, the bill cannot go to a vote.
So, my dears, in order to prevent this bill from reaching the floor for a vote, the Democrats in our state senate made a run for the border. They traveled to Illinois so the Wisconsin state police couldn’t come after them and force them to come back. Without the Democrats, the Republicans had their hands tied. They had to just sit there and look smug while the protests raged in and around the capitol. Clever, eh? It’s not that first time in history this runaway tactic was used, either. But back to Wisconsin’s drama –
Walker, it turned out, was acting as a puppet for his billionaire backers and a dangerous think tank named Alec. Or was the billionaire named Alec? But anyway, he wasn’t doing his own thinking. His goals included not just destroying public unions, but putting women’s rights back a good forty years. His motto was Divide and Conquer.
So what did we do? We did what Wisconsinites have always done: we looked at our progressive history, said to that guy in Madison, “Oh, no you don’t!” and we took to the streets. Thousands marched on Madison. Hundreds more participated in local marches and demonstrations. Ask your elderly neighbors about the demonstrations in downtown Appleburg. They were there. They were there sending a message: “Governor Walker’s got to go. This isn’t Wisconsin. If he thinks the citizens of our fair state are going to just lie down and go gently into that good night, he’s dead wrong. We won’t go quietly. In fact, we won’t go at all.”
And that’s when the recall effort began.
Okay, kidlets, it’s time for my nap. I’ll tell you later about the tactics. It was an exciting and scary time to live in Wisconsin…zzz… it was the best of times, it was the worst of times…zzz.