Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wisconsin Teachers Inspired by Egyptian Rioters

PHOTO Area residents turn out during a rally to protest Governor Scott Walker's budget repair bill
Madison WI, Feb 17, 2011. The Wisconsin Teachers Union continues to protest against Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to cut budget deficits.

Around 30,000 protestors gathered in Madison on Wednesday and thousands more continue to pour into the state Capitol today.

School districts across the state cancelled class as teachers threatened to stay home or called in sick.

"We've seen student walk outs, faculty teach-ins, citizens setting up camp overnight in the rotunda. Since Monday, spontaneous rallies have popped up in every corner of the state, denouncing Walker's extremist agenda," the president of the American Federation of Teachers in Wisconsin, Bryan Kennedy explained.

"We feel a strong solidarity with the protesters in Egypt," he added.  The teachers in Wisconsin earn between $60,000 and $85,000 a year, including benefits. In Egypt, a teacher earns roughly $6,500 per year. "They riot for bread.... we riot for 32 paid holidays. It's really the same thing."

Walker's proposed changes, which are part of a budget repair bill introduced on February 11, would strip workers of the right to bargain over anything other than wages, which could not rise faster than the Consumer Price Index.

Teachers and other state workers would also no longer be able to negotiate for better pensions or health benefits.

Walker defended the bill on Wednesday, saying "This is all about balancing the budget."

Governor Walker put forth the bill in an effort to curb the state's budget shortfall; Wisconsin is facing an immediate deficit of $137 million for the current fiscal year which ends July 1.

"We must take immediate action to ensure fiscal stability in our state," Walker said when he announced the bill last week.

"This budget repair bill will meet the immediate needs of our state and give government the tools to deal with this and future budget crises."

The bill passed the legislature's budget-writing committee just before midnight on Wednesday with no Democratic support.

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