THE LATEST FROM WISCONSIN…. If Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) and his supporters were hoping pro-labor protests would slowly fade away as the week progressed, they were no doubt disappointed yesterday. Indeed, with each passing day, the demonstrations against the union-busting campaign appear to be getting stronger.
Estimates vary, but by some counts, 65,000 protestors appeared in Madison yesterday — tens of thousands outside the building, and several thousand more inside — to express their concerns. For the first time, the Republicans’ Tea Party wing and other right-wing activists joined the demonstrations in an organized way, with notable-but-C-list conservative celebrities making appearances, including Andrew Breitbart and Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher.
Let’s pause to appreciate the irony: in a dispute between working families and government officials, the Tea Party crowd is siding with the government.
In any case, it’d be a mistake to somehow equate the size and strength of the competing factions at the state Capitol yesterday. Both sides were represented, but only one side produced real numbers.
[E]very estimate in the media has shown that the pro-Walker demonstration was outnumbered several times over by the pro-union demonstrators.
Reuters reports: “Both sides drew thousands to the state capital Madison on Saturday — unofficial estimates put the total near 40,000 — but opponents appeared to have several times as many as those backed by Tea Party groups, the first appearance by members of the conservative, limited-government movement this week.”
Separately, WisPolitics reports that the state Department of Administration has estimated 55,000 demonstrators — 50,000 outside the Capitol, and 5,000 inside. They also add: “This is the first day there has been a significant number of people demonstrating in favor of Gov. Scott Walker’s bill. The number of bill supporters, however, was dwarfed by the massive throng of bill opponents.”
The good news, under the circumstances, is that there were no incidents during the massive protest, and no arrests were made.
As for the state of the debate itself, union leaders continue to emphasize their willingness to accept less pay and fewer benefits, just so long as they keep their collective bargaining rights, won generations ago. The Republican gubernatorial administration still refuses to consider the compromise, and has ruled out any talks.