500 march to governor's office over labor proposal - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

500 march to governor's office over labor proposal


MADISON (WKOW) -- More than five hundred chanting demonstrators marched into the state capitol Monday, vowing to advocate to kill Governor Walker's proposal to strip public employee unions of most of their ability to collectively bargain.

Rally organizers urged participants to "behave,"  as dozens of people jammed into the building's rotunda and the hallway leading to Walker's east wing office.

"Kill this bill!   Kill this bill!"  shouted demonstrators in response to the proposed bargaining changes and a proposal to force workers to contribute more to their health care premiums and pensions. 

Demonstrators left dozens of Valentine's Day cards at the governor's office, with their messages consistent with opposition to the labor union proposal.

Rally participants included teaching assistants, university students and others.

"This is not just about unions,"   UW-Madison professor of curriculum and instruction Julia Eklund Koza told WKOW27 News.

"It (proposal) is also absolutely gutting the university.   We're having a hard enough time attracting and retaining faculty members as it is."

State supreme court candidate Joel Winnig participated in the demonstration.   Winnig said he was not concerned his presence would affect perceptions of impartiality if he wins election and a case involving Walker's proposed legislation reached the high court.

"I'm not here to talk about the law.  I'm here as supporting the people."

Authorities reported no arrests in connection to the noontime demonstration.

Across the street from the capitol in a hotel banquet room, representatives of more than half a dozen private worker unions vowed solidarity with their public sector counterparts.

"Well managed corporations don't destroy decades of practice with a week's notice,"   Steelworkers district-2 representative Michael Bolton said.

"Our members are deeply concerned about this bill would have on patients,"   said Candice Owley of the federation of nurses and health care workers, noting Walker's proposal would also eliminate collective bargaining on workplace practices.

Walker has said the proposed increased benefits contributions would bring public sector workers more in line with private industry practices, and the bargaining changes would restrain labor cost increases and avoid mass, state employee layoffs.

On Monday afternoon, Walker said he appreciated that the protests were peaceful, and said he expected they would remain that way through the end of the week.

"This is not easy," Walker told reporters. "This is not something people relish. But again, this is not a yes or no proposition. This is a yes, we make these reasonable, modest changes, or the alternative is layoffs."


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