MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A state Capitol thrown into political chaos swelled for a fifth day with nearly 70,000 protesters, as supporters of Republican efforts to scrap the union rights of state workers challenged pro-labor protesters face-to-face for the first time and GOP leaders insisted again Saturday there was no room for compromise.

A few dozen police officers stood between supporters of Republican Gov. Scott Walker on the muddy east lawn of the Capitol and the much larger group of pro-labor demonstrators who surrounded them. The protest was peaceful as both sides exchanged chants of “Pass the bill! Pass the bill!” and “Kill the bill! Kill the bill!”

“Go home!” union supporters yelled at Scott Lemke, a 46-year-old machine parts salesman from Cedarburg who wore a hard hat and carried a sign that read “If you don’t like it, quit” on one side, and “If you don’t like that, try you’re fired” on the other.

The Wisconsin governor, elected in November’s GOP wave that also gave control of the state Assembly and Senate to Republicans, set off the protests earlier this week by pushing ahead with a measure that would require government workers to contribute more to their health care and pension costs and largely eliminate their collective bargaining rights.

He says the concessions are needed to deal with the state’s projected $3.6 billion budget shortfall and to avoid layoffs of government workers.

“We did have an election and Scott Walker won,” said Deborah Arndt, 53, of Sheboygan Falls. “I think our governor will stand strong. I have faith in him.”

At a rally organized by Tea Party Patriots, the movement’s largest umbrella group, and Americans for Prosperity, supporters of Walker carried signs with a fresh set of messages: “Your Gravy Train Is Over . . . Welcome to the Recession” and “Sorry, we’re late Scott. We work for a living.”

“We pay the bills!” tea party favorite Herman Cain yelled to cheers from the pro-Walker crowd. “This is why you elected Scott Walker. and he’s doing his job. . . . Wisconsin is broke. My question for the other side is, ‘What part of broke don’t you understand?”‘

Nearby, nearly two dozen cabs blocked a major intersection near the Capitol. The driver of the lead cab leaned out of the window and played a trumpet, while others attempted to honk their car horns in sync with a chant from pro-labor protesters: “This is what democracy looks like.”

“One of the reasons the company decided to support the protesters is because the members of this company started off striking their employer for better wages and that employer . . . refused to allow them to bargain collectively,” said John McNamara, the marketing director of Union Cab.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald reaffirmed Saturday that Republicans have not been swayed by the pro-labor protesters who since Tuesday have filled the Capitol with chanting, drum-beats and anti-Walker slogans.

“The bill is not negotiable,” Fitzgerald said inside a heavily guarded Senate parlor at the Capitol. “The bill will pass as is.”

Fitzgerald said Republicans have the votes needed pass the so-called “budget repair” bill just as up as soon as 14 Senate Democrats who fled the state on Thursday and remain in hiding return to the Statehouse. The missing Democrats have threatened to stay away for weeks and remain more resolved than ever to stay away “as long as it takes” until Walker agrees to negotiate, Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach said Saturday.

“I don’t think he’s really thought it through, to be honest,” Erpenbach said.

Democrats offered again Saturday to agree to the parts of Walker’s proposal that would double workers’ health insurance contributions and require them to contribute 5.8 percent of their salary to their pensions, so long as workers retained their rights to negotiate with the state as a union.

Fitzgerald said he was unimpressed given that the offer was something the GOP has rejected for months. The restrictions on collective bargaining rights are needed so local governments and the state will have the flexibility needed to balance budgets after cuts Walker plans to announce next month, he said.

Walker, who was spending time with his family Saturday and wasn’t expected to make an appearance at the tea party-organized rally, also rejected the Democrats offer. His spokesman, Cullen Werwie, said the fastest way to end the stalemate was for Democrats to return and “do their jobs.”

Sen. Tim Cullen, a Democrat from Janesville, refused to say where he was Saturday but said he didn’t expect the Senate to meet again until Tuesday. Cullen said he was watching Saturday’s rallies on television with some friends.

“I’m hoping to see no violence, that’s what I’m hoping most to see,” Cullen said. “This has been a very peaceful, respectful thing all week given the size of the crowds.”
Madison police estimated 60,000 or more people were outside the Capitol with up to 8,000 more inside. Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney had planned to add 60 deputies to the 100 who patrolled during the week. But Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said there had been no arrests or problems by midafternoon.

“We’ve seen and shown the world that in Madison, Wis., we can bring people together who disagree strongly on a bill in a peaceful way,” DeSpain said.

Steve Boss, 26, a refrigerator technician from Oostburg, carried a sign that read “The Protesters Are All ‘Sick’ — Wash your Hands,” a reference to the teacher sick-outs that swelled crowds at the Capitol to 40,000 people Friday and raised the noise in its rotunda to earsplitting levels. Boss said the cuts Walker has proposed were painful but needed to fix the state’s financial problems.

“It’s time to address the issue. They (public workers) got to take the same cuts as everyone else,” he said. “It’s a fairness thing.”

Doctors from numerous hospitals set up a station near the Capitol to provide notes covering public employees’ absences. Family physician Lou Sanner, 59, of Madison, said he had given out hundreds of notes. Many of the people he spoke with seemed to be suffering from stress, he said.

“What employers have a right to know is if the patient was assessed by a duly licensed physician about time off of work,” Sanner said. “Employers don’t have a right to know the nature of that conversation or the nature of that illness. So it’s as valid as every other work note that I’ve written for the last 30 years.”

John Black, 46, of Madison, said he came out to the rallies in order to help bridge the gap between the pro-labor protesters and tea party members. He carried signs that asked for a compromise on the budget bill while a friend’s son handed out purple flowers.

“We liked Scott Walker as a change agent, but he moved too quickly and because of that there’s always room for compromise,” Black said.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (51)
  1. Juls says:

    Seriously check this show out. republicans vs democrats. And I think he asked the speaker if he was deaf!

  2. Rusty says:

    The contributions are resonable, giving up the right to collective bargaining is not!

    1. Matt says:

      You couldn’t be more wrong, how is it fair to collectively bargain against an entity without a profit motive? I’m fine with unions in the private sector where competition can decide the fate of the company and the union (unless Obama bails them out like GM) The public sector doesn’t have the competition and there is no motive for profit, just more and more greed. Unions should have never even have gained collective bargaining rights and it’s about time that they are removed.

      If you want to know how far off this is? Even the biggest lefty there has been said that unions should exist in the public sector because of the conflict of interest. That would be FDR…

  3. Sum It Up says:

    A compromise and $$ would be easily acheived if ALL activists did a bit of research! They must stop and prosecute those in corrupt alliance doing ‘padded fixed-bid contracts’ ala kickbacks in their K-post grad,/universities; the kickbacks are laundered via govt./sch.- approving-board members’ private LLC-companies as ‘subcontractor/suppliers’ (e.g. HVAC, building-supplies, realty LLCs,, etc.)

  4. Sum It Up says:

    A compromise and $$ would be easily achieved if ALL activists did a bit of research! They must stop and prosecute those in corrupt alliance doing ‘padded fixed-bid contracts’ ala kickbacks in their K-post grad,/universities; the kickbacks are laundered via govt./sch.- approving-board members’ private LLC-companies as ‘subcontractor/suppliers’ (e.g. HVAC, building-supplies, realty LLCs,, etc.)

  5. Diana says:

    Of course would Wisconsin be in this hole if the tGovernor – who came in to office with a 139 million budget surpluse (according to the state auditor) and then gave over 141 million dollars as tax breaks to the wealthy. The fat cats are getting fatter and you want to take away grandmas pension.

  6. Gary says:

    I think Scott Walker bit off alittle more than he can chew. His statement’s remind me of gun safty classe’s remark’s, U can’t bring the bullet back, after the trigger has been pulled. Scott Walker would have to admit he was wrong with what he has proposed. Kinda like Obummer and his Obumacare bill.

  7. mark from MNTAXWASTE.COM says:

    Work force 10% Union 90% non-Union

  8. And that's what I have to say about that says:

    Teachers have been one of the sacred cows in politics for too long. Yes, they’re important and yes, we need and appreciate them. But, like the rest of us, it’s time for them to pay their own way too.

  9. Taylor says:

    The promises dems made to the unions has always been an unsustainable lie. If union workers want to blame someone they need look no farther than the party that has promised them cradle to grave benefits. A high school student can do the math. Each coming year will get worse and worse as the number of employees retire and draw on the system. You can keep raising taxes and adding fees but eventually, and we are seeing it now, the system will not be able to handle it.

  10. mark from MNTAXWASTE.COM says:

    The Unions sold out America when they bailed on Detroit and wanted to Unionize the Illegal Immigrants

    1. Don't have enough info says:

      Those were private sector unions, not public employees. THere you go lumping everyone together in the same pile again. Apples and Oranges. Why don’t you think they should have the right to negotiate? Haven’t they made it illegal for police officers and firefightes to strike? (Which seems to be one of the main issues here) They have arbitration instead right? Why not make it the same for the other unions?

    2. How's life at Lake Minnetonka? says:

      Hey Mark, how come when someone asks you legitimate questions on other srticles, you ignore them and move on to making the same comments over and over and over and over on other articles? You’re just as bad as the dems you’re so good at bashing–you just keep running away from the questions!

  11. helper says:

    I just love of uneducated this Wisconsin fiasco makes the republicans look!

    Yeah, teachers get paid too much…

    Don’t waste your time with ‘mark’ oe whatever he calls himself, he’s a a troll!

    1. Give Saint Mark a break says:

      Mark can’t answer right now. He’s busy sitting in the front row of his church, acting all high and mighty, making sure the whole congregation sees him putting a big check in the collection basket, all the while hoping they are thinking he’s so wonderful and god likes him best. Actually Mark, they are thinking you’re a selfish brat who padded your bank accounts by not paying your employees a fair wage or benefits and complained constantly about all the little people that you think you are so much smarter than taking all your hard earned money.

      1. How's life at Lake Minnetonka? says:

        Of course he is! Because as a true Republican, he’s not paying his fair share of taxes anyway, so he has plenty to give away and then claim a charitable contribution on his taxes so he can pay even less. He probably pays less in taxes than all those evil public employees he’s always whining about!

      2. mark from MNTAXWASTE.COM says:

        @ Hows like on Minnetonka I do pay my share, you just want me to pay more. Please read below about how selfish I am.

    2. mark from MNTAXWASTE.COM says:

      @Hows life on Lake Minnetonka and Don’t have enough info A Union is a Union as far as I am concerned. I went to Church today and did sit at the front. Not to impress anyone, but that is where we like to sit. Now let me ask you a question. Why do you settle for what you have? Why do you want more from others that have done better with there life? Is it because you just gave up? or is it because you have such a low standard? I think it is both. You can have 5th or 10th place, me, I’ll take first any day I can get it. Arrogant? No not at all just confident. You said before that I never worked a day in my life. Did you read my reply to that, or just get angry at me for my answer and more at yourself for not having standards? You can hate me, I will sleep very well tonight. I give my money to my Catholic Church, because God has told me to do that. I am sorry you hate people for helping others. In a way I think you are both very talented, just turn that hate and anger in a wonderful direction

      1. How's life at Lake Minnetonka? says:

        Since you have no idea who I am, your statements mean nothing! I probably make more than you will ever dream of making, and I’m not in a union job. I do know who you are–I put up with you almost every day. Who could I be? I could be your neighbor, I could be your grocer, I could be your priest. You don’t get it. Not everyone has been as fortunate as you.and you blame them. How do you know I’ve settled for anything? You don’t know me. That’s the point I’m trying to make to you–you have no idea what anyone else has gone through and you don’t seem to care. You just act like everyone should be perfect as you think you are. Life doesn’t work that way. Get over yourself.

      2. Don't have enough info says:

        I think you aimed your bullet at the wrong person, I simply asked some questions about arbitration and strikes, I didn’t say anything about you going to church or hating anyone. Can you aim better next time? I’m here looking for legitimate answers, not hating anyone! Who said I’ve settled for anything? Please get your facts straight before you attack others, thank you.

  12. Melissa says:

    Can anyone tell me how much the average teacher in Wisconsin makes, and how Wisconsin rates among other states in regards to test scores? Lets put some actual numbers on this comment board.

    1. Brandon says:

      I don’t know actual numbers, but I can tell you that Wisconsin is in the Top 10 in regards to test scores and right about the middle in terms of wages.

    2. mark from MNTAXWASTE.COM says:

      $69,000.00 a year

      1. Lori says:

        Hey Marky Mark…whats your job? what do you make? How about you take a pay cut, ASAP, like tomorrow? If they cut my families pay tomorrow, where I work, down 5,000. I can tell you I wouldl not be going shopping, or going out for dinner, or even thinking of buying anything new. Things that break, will stay broken. If you think putting an immediate loss on middle americans is going to save us, you are highly wrong. For starters, lets cut the defense budget, and get out of the two Wrong wars we are in and we’ld have a BILLIONS in the bank again. Cut the flow of gas from the Middle East and move forward.

      2. info please says:

        The average teacher makes $69,000? That means some make less than 30 and some make over 90? Where’s the break down? Are the ones who make more better educated? Do they live in major cities? Why do some make more and some make less? Where did you get your information? Not doubting it, just want to verify these things myself.

    3. juls says:

      It’s actually 54000 a year. Teachers in wisconsin average 4% more over the rest of the country while other public workers average 4% less over the rest of the country. and most public workers are making around 40000 a year or less. I’m from the lacrosse area originally so I read the tribune down there.

  13. Another Bob says:

    Weekends and the minimum wage.

    Brought to you by UNIONS!.

    Read between the lines people.

  14. mark from MNTAXWASTE.COM says:

    2 Lori, I pay 40% in taxes. You seem to think that I was given this golden spoon. I can assure you I did not, I was very poor at one time. I remember going to get free cheese back in the 80’s just to eat. What is wrong having money? Because I worked hard do I have to give more back? Hows that fantasy working for you? You thing I have no soul or compassion for people. I do have compassion and empathy for people. I help many people who worked for me get a home, I have given products I have to Habitat for Humanity, I have not only helped at St. Davids to help homeless women but have given money to these woman so they could get an apartment, I have done allot in my town to help others, I don’t know you and maybe me and you would be good friends. I don’t judge others, but make my comments heard any way I can.

    1. How's life at Lake Minnetonka? says:

      You don’t judge others??? What are all your posts about??? In previous posts, you said you never had any help–free cheese doesn’t count??? You do nothing but judge.

    2. CheeseMonger says:

      Free cheese–brought to you by your friendly neighborhood democrats. Friend of unions. Trying to help the little guy survive. Oh how soon we forget where we came from…

    3. Cant we work together? says:

      Ummm, Mark? With all your anti-union comments on previous posts, with apparently not having been a part of a union, aren’t you “judging” unions? Not disagreeing with you, but you do come across as a little arrogant, which might be why no one seems to want to listen to you…

      1. mark from MNTAXWASTE.COM says:

        Yes I am anti Union, but there has to be something we can agree on! Arrogant, some would say yes I am, others would say confident. People do listen to me I just have to figure out who?

    4. Lori says:

      Mark, I dont know you. I dont know how many spoons you have. Usually, those that worked hard, and had a hard time, have sympathy for those less fortunate. Sounds like you help where you can. Good job. But your eye-sight is short-sighted. Yes its true many people milk the systems, always have, always will. But that does not mean that we trash an entire Education System and create a world of hatred and discord. The rich are stiring the bellies of the Middle Class and soon there will be no middle class. It will be the Elite Rich, and the down and out. We will be the have’s and have-nots. Doesnt anyone, anywhere remember a favorite teacher who went above and beyond and opened their eyes to a what they could be and made them you they are? Why in the name of God would any University Student want to be a teacher in this day-in-age? Why are they attacking the very people who hold our Nations Future. What’s next? Day-Care Providers? How about Farmers. There are plenty of them in the Dairy State. And each and every one of them are getting checks in the mail to not plant, or throw it away, or leave it alone. Isnt that a Welfare Check for doing nothing? Why is this ok? I dont know the answer. Im just asking. Because im not a farmer, and I dont get it. Whats the difference? Why dont they get paid for what they produce and what they do.

      I think this is more about being truly nasty, and an abuse of power. Without a balance, one person feels the power and overthrows. Like Rome, we will fall.

  15. mark from MNTAXWASTE.COM says:

    @CheesMonger I am so sorry you hate me and others who work hard for their family. I am sorry you are so full of HATE that you can’t see beyond what you are typing. I am not judging, I am posting my opinion just like you. You must not have scrolled up to see what I wrote.

    1. Don't hate you Mark says:

      I think Mark is trying to say that he picked himself up by his bootstraps during a tough time, worked through it and made something of himself. Is that not the “American Way”? I think there is a huge misunderstanding about unions. Of course people should have the right to negotiate for FAIR wages, however from the outside looking in, it does seem that public employee unions get a lot of benefits off tax dollars. My brother is a police officer and he says public service used to be low pay/high benefits. Now it’s high pay/high benefits. It has to change somewhere. BUT, if I was a union member would I give up with out a fight? Probably not–that too is the “American Way”.

      1. mark from MNTAXWASTE.COM says:

        2 don’t hate Mark well said.

    2. CheeseMonger says:

      Telling someone they are full of HATE iwihtout knowing a thing about them s pretty judgmental… The difference between you and me? I never claimed not to judge and I don’t think I’m perfect. Take a good look at yourself in the mirror before you sleep well tonight–you might not like what you see you’ve changed into.

      1. Cant we work together? says:

        I admire Mark’s tenacity. Maybe you should run for public office and get some things done! How’s Life seems to know some things we don’t, right or wrong, it’s really not fair to argue that here. I think everyone does agree that changes need to be made and compromises are needed on both sides. Unfortunately that is not happening in WI right now. The sad part is that tax dollars are being wasted on the hundreds of extra police details needed in Madison, tax dollars are being wasted by schools being shut down and tax dollars are probably being wasted paying for hotels and food for the missing dems. They’ve agreed to change their contributions, can’t they keep their right to negotiate? Why is it that teachers can strike and not police? Maybe they could work out a deal like that? The only people coming out ahead at these protests are the police getting overtime! Which ironically makes their pensions go up 😉

  16. mark from MNTAXWASTE.COM says:

    @CheeseMonger I was just going off the hate you wrote, I am sure you are a wonderful person, full of passion. Your passion shows in what you are writing, and for that I do respect you. Another reason why I love America, people can speak their minds no matter how much a person disagrees with them.

  17. How's life at Lake Minnetonka? says:

    Mark, another question, I hope you don’t run away from this one. You asked me why I settled–if no one should “settle”, why are you so angry at the union in WI for fighting? They are not settling. What’s the difference between you and them?

  18. See Both Sides says:

    Good question! It’s not like someone who wants to be a teacher but doesn’t like the one in their town can just go open up their own school, like someone can their own business! Education is paid for with tax dollars, no getting around it. They don’t want to give something up? Well, they might have to, that’s the way it is for everybody, but workers rights shouldn’t be one of them. Good question about why police can’t strike but teachers can–anybody know the answer? If police use arbitrators, why don’t teachers?

    1. mark from MNTAXWASTE.COM says:

      @ See Both Sides The Police can’t strike under Federal Law. Fed law will always trump the State.

      1. See Both Sides says:

        Makes sense. Thanks. Why can’t Federal law say teachers can’t strike? Can they use arbitrators too? The way I understand it, correct me if I’m wrong, I often am ;-), police and fire fighters still get to negotiate, but if they reach a stalemate, they still go to work and an arbitrator decides and both sides live with it. Why can’t teachers do that?

  19. mark from MNTAXWASTE.COM says:

    First of all, I never run from anything, that’s my standard. I am not angry at the Unions in WI per say, they are asking for something the voters of WI can’t afford. The State of WI can’t afford to pay the high wages and benefits they want. Why should the voters of WI pay for Viagra for an employee, this the Union will not budge on! That’s insane. The voters of WI put Republicans in the majority to take care of the over whelming debt that they have, not to continue the crazy spending that was going on. The Union has every right to do what they are doing, I support them on that. I blame both parties in the messed up budget the states and this country have, not just Dems.
    The difference between the Union and me are many, but here are a few. When I was at the U of Minn I worked at what was then Hennepin County parks, what I saw of the Union there disgusted me. People making high wages getting paid the same, no matter how hard a person worked. They guy or woman busting their butt was making the same as the person milking the clock. I worked with a few of them who would take that 2 hour lunch and it did not bother them or the fact that I knew what they were doing. I think the Union was and still is a great organization, I think that they sold out the American worker. The workers they were to protect and support. Over in St Paul last month the Unions were protecting the working rights of illegal immigrants, that is a knife in the back of Americans in my opinion. The Unions would not budge when Detroit was going down hill fast, and now they have the highest unemployment rate in the country 18% That is why I dislike Unions.

  20. How's life at Lake Minnetonka? says:

    Finally! When you explain yourself without the attitude, you make sense. Thank you! And guess what? We agree!!

  21. juls says:

    We not just talking teachers, we’re talking about the people that plow the roads, the crime scene analysts, scientists, foresters, the people that make sure the sewer works and your water is safe to drink and so on and so on. I agree that they do have to make concessions but to give up their right to bargain, that is a toss up for me.
    sure there are laws to follow but that doesn’t me they have to follow them. There are federal laws but states can amend the federal laws to suit their own needs. There is always a catch with federal and state laws and regulations. I strongly suggest you check out what the republicans did over in Wisconsin to see just how badly they want to pass this. It’s on the Wisconsin Eye, assembly sessions 4 session. They are playing dirty when they don’t even need to.

  22. mark from MNTAXWASTE.COM says:

    @juls, Fed law trumps State Law anytime. Ie.AZ and Illegal Immigration and National Healthcare

    1. Not quite true... says:

      Actually, that’s not quite true. When someone is arrested, Fed law says they have to be in court within 36 hours, not including Sundays and Holidays. MN law says within 48 hours, including Sundays and Holidays. MN law wins when it gets the arrests out sooner, because it is more lenient and gives the arrestee more rights. Has nothing to do with what you’re talking about here of course, but is just one example that Fed law does NOT always win.

  23. Erik says:

    Flexibility and nimbleness is the only path to success in today’s global economy. The company/organization/government entity that has the most efficient way to deliver a product or service sets the standard. The private sector is way ahead of the public sector in recognizing and adapting to this reality.

    I get the sense the Teacher’s Union would be better served to find a way to deliver a superior, results-based service rather than pining away for the “old days”.

    There are private sector examples of how the “old way” failed organized labor — see GM and Chrysler. More efficient competition eroded market share resulting in less or no money to pay anyone — neither management nor union. If only Teachers had competition to force them to adapt more quickly.

    LACK OF COMPETITION LEADS TO PROLONGED SURVIVAL OF ANTIQUATED SYSTEMS LIKE TODAY’S LABOR UNIONS. I wonder why a group of forward-thinking teachers doesn’t organize separately using a system based on merit, efficiency and results… THEY WOULD NEVER BE OUT OF WORK OR BENEFITS as the “old guard” withered on the vine.

    I’m sure it was painful to watch buggy whip manufacturers fail too. Cheers to dreaming.

  24. Public Employee says:

    It’s not that the public sector hasn’t tried to move forward in technology or services, it’s just that every time we try, we have to get approval for funding from the state, teh county board, the city council, the school board or whatever board controls our purse strings. We are constantly told NO, make do with what you have, the taxpayers don’t want to pay for it, they think we take too much money already…

  25. Kevin says:

    Shoot them all……save on my tax money…

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