Collective bargaining supporters and opponents plan to rally at the Capitol Saturday, reacting to a proposal by the governor of Wisconsin to cut costs by making union members pay more for their benefits and limiting their bargaining rights.
Two advocacy groups, the Freedom Foundation and MoveOn.org, have scheduled competing rallies on the Capitol campus in Olympia, with one side applauding Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for reigning in state spending and the other calling his proposal an attack on workers’ rights.
The Wisconsin proposal that the events are centered around would strip most collective bargaining rights from state workers in an effort to address the state’s budget shortfall, which amounts to $137 million for the current fiscal year and $3.6 billion over the next biennium. The measure passed the Wisconsin Assembly early this morning, but has yet to pass the Senate.
The Freedom Foundation’s event, which is in support of Walker’s proposal, will begin at 11 a.m. on the north steps of the Legislative Building, and the MoveOn.org event, against the proposal, will start at noon at the Tivoli Fountain.
“First and foremost we’re working to show our solidarity with union workers in Wisconsin,” said MoveOn event coordinator Wade No’oy. “We shouldn’t be using this budget crisis as an excuse to take away rights.”
No’oy said about 600 people had signed up to come to the rally, including groups from several local unions. MoveOn.org has scheduled similar rallies against the Wisconsin proposal in all 50 state capitols, he said.
Lasse Lund of the Freedom Foundation said his organization was holding a rally because taxpayers were under-represented in the collective bargaining negotiations that happen in Washington state even though they ultimately pay for the agreements. He said he expected several hundred participants.
Though he said the foundation was not necessarily pushing for a Wisconsin-like proposal in this state, he would like to see lawmakers discuss and scrutinize collective bargaining practices in the state.
“This rally is not an attack on the workers themselves,” Lund said. “We just want to look at what’s happening with union officers and the elected officials they work with.”
American Majority, a conservative group, has announced that Tea Party groups throughout the country will be organizing similar events in support of Walker.