News | Rachel Maddow | Wisconsin

Watch: Rachel Maddow Interviews Defiant Democratic Wisconsin Senator on the Union Protests


Wisconsin is in turmoil as legislation to restrict public workers' collective bargaining rights has sent thousands to the streets, and a group of Democratic senators to neighboring Illinois.

Dem The Wisconsin State Journal:

In a last-ditch effort to stop the passage of Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial budget repair bill by depriving the Senate of a quorum, all 14 Senate Democrats staged a walkout Thursday, leaving the state to avoid a forced return to the Capitol and a doomed vote against the bill.

The missing legislators traveled across the state line, spending at least part of the day at the Clock Tower Resort in Rockford, Ill. — far enough away that state troopers could not force them to return. They then spent the afternoon in a cat-and-mouse game with members of the media, sometimes speaking by cell phone but not revealing their locations.

Rachel Maddow explained that the situation is really about Republicans vs. Democrats ("This is an existential fight for the Democratic party"), and spoke with Senator Jon Erpenbach from an undisclosed location.

Watch her excellent report, AFTER THE JUMP....

Teabagger Governor Scott Walker says Wisconsin Republicans won't be "bullied" by the Democrats.

Expect this issue to get a whole lot bigger:

Even as Democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin fled their own state in an attempt to stall a vote in the Republican-controlled state senate, Mr. Obama decried the tactics of Mr. Walker as “an assault on unions.”

That prompted House Speaker John Boehner to rip into Mr. Obama, accusing him of having “unleashed the Democratic National Committee to spread disinformation and confusion in Wisconsin.”

Mr. Boehner, in a statement, praised Mr. Walker and other Republican governors for making the tough decisions to cut spending. And he chided the president for siding with the wrong side in the contentious Wisconsin debate.

The protests are spreading to Ohio...

And: "Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New Mexico are among the two dozen other states considering narrower but substantial changes in how government treats its workforce."

Watch Maddow's report, and a YouTube clip of the Democratic senators getting harassed by a Tea Party supporter, AFTER THE JUMP...

Why is this happening? Rachel explains:

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Rachel's interview with Senator Jon Erpenbach:

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Maddow talks to Ed Schultz in Madison:

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  1. The good people of Wisconsin elected a teabagger Governor and a Republican congress and are now unhappy about what those they elected are doing? Admittedly, I am not 100% familiar with the situation in Wisconsin, but generally, people deserve the government they elect.

    However, when the a government is elected by a majority and that government turns and tries to strip rights or benefits away from the portion of the electorate that did not vote for it, then those in the minority are right to take to the streets and demand to be heard.

    The US is not a Democracy where the majority always wins as many believe. We are a Republic and in that format, the rights of the minority are protected, which is problematic for the many who want to take away gay rights.

    Would those protesting in the streets of Wisconsin be so quick to protest if it were not their rights being taken away? Being targeted is a bitter pill to swallow and hopefully this will give a whole huge bunch of straight people a taste of what it has been like for the gay community for the last few decades - hell, for the last few centuries.

    Posted by: Chadd | Feb 18, 2011 10:44:17 AM

  2. It's great that you posted this, but the first segment of Rachel's show described what's at the core of the conservative drive to kill off unions. It's very enlightening.

    Posted by: stranded | Feb 18, 2011 10:52:27 AM

  3. What's really astounding is how blatantly the new governor took a budget surplus and created a deficit by giving money to special interests and then used that deficit as an excuse to bust unions. Without unions the Dems are screwed and all the big money in politics is Republican. Almost brilliantly evil. This is now happening in OH and TN as well, suddenly, almost as if this is... pure political strategy.

    Posted by: Wes | Feb 18, 2011 10:54:55 AM

  4. The governor of Wisconsin NEVER campaigned or ran on a platform of ending all collective bargaining for public workers in Wisconsin. The Teacher's Union has requested to meet with him 17 TIMES and he has refused. He will not meet with anybody on the other side, and is trying to push through this bill of monumental consequence in just one week.

    This is not about benefits. The Union Leaders said they are prepared to make sacrifices in their benefits plans. This is about collective bargaining RIGHTS, which are being taken away.

    The Governor just recently passed a tax cut for corporations, and is now curtailing the rights of middle class workers. He has exacerbated the budget situation by decreasing revenue. In his new budget, tuition rates at public universities will go up by atleast 20%. This is class warfare on the middle class and working people.

    What will be left when no one in Wisconsin can afford an education or decent health care, except for the top 10%?

    Posted by: Damen | Feb 18, 2011 10:58:03 AM

  5. I missed the first segment last night - just went and watched it. I've added the clip. Thanks Stranded.

    Posted by: Andy Towle | Feb 18, 2011 10:59:33 AM

  6. Years of cushy outlays to unions have to end or the country will go down the tubes. This confrontation in Wisconsin is merely the first taste of what is to come. And if you look closely, the GOP is not backing down -- because the people are behind them.

    The union gravy train is coming to an end. Finally someone is making them accountable.

    PS You don't have a RIGHT to collective bargaining.

    Posted by: Dan | Feb 18, 2011 11:02:05 AM

  7. Good for Gov. Walker. It is a fact that public sector pensions are significantly more generous than private sector. Recent public polling shows support across party lines to bring these pensions more into line with the marketplace.

    There is no magic pot of money. The free-spending Democrats see a problem, and they throw money and programs at it. It doesn't work, and now the Republicans have to be the bad guys. Gov. Walker did NOT change his spots overnight. He had a long record as County Executive et al, and the people of Wisconsin handily elected him. They knew what they were getting.

    Posted by: Lin. colnLounger | Feb 18, 2011 11:15:13 AM

  8. Looks like the Republicans don't care for the taste of their own medicine. Oh wait, they don't believe in that, either.

    Posted by: ANON IN SO CAL | Feb 18, 2011 11:23:57 AM

  9. As much as I like Rachel Maddow, she's got this one wrong. This is not a turf issue over party lines, this is a bottom-line issue regarding fiscal solvency. Public service unions have been feeding at the public trough for many years & there's no way that the public will stand by for ever-increasing taxes to pay bloated salaries and pensions. States like Wisconsin, New York, Illinois, California, and many others, have turned into fiscal fiascos. And no, there's no "right" to collective bargaining.

    Posted by: Joseph | Feb 18, 2011 11:24:17 AM

  10. Joseph, Wisconsin was not in a 'fiscal fiasco' until the governor gave millions of dollars in tax breaks to huge corporations. Why don't you oppose that kind of 'belt-loosening'? Teachers and public employees are willing to take cuts but eliminating union rights doesn't affect the budget at all. Its a clear power grab pure and simple.

    Posted by: Wes | Feb 18, 2011 11:33:05 AM

  11. The unions said that they were prepared to take the cuts. But Walker is overreaching by taking away their collective bargaining rights. He also exempted the fire fighters and police unions, the only ones that endorsed him in November's election. Nurses will no longer be able to negotiate safety standards. Teachers won't be able to collectively negotiate pay.

    Its not like teachers are bankrolling in millions.

    Posted by: Damen | Feb 18, 2011 11:39:11 AM

  12. For all you folks who are claiming that Wisconsin was in the black before Governor Walker took over: the previous governor, Doyle, a Democrat, claimed the budget deficit was 1.5 billion just before he left office. Here's a link to a Politifact report that states it was likely higher than that:

    Wisconsin was never anywhere near running a budget surplus and to suggest it was is nonsense.

    Posted by: Matt | Feb 18, 2011 11:52:25 AM

  13. If GM goes on strike you can just buy a Ford. If your fire department goes on strike you can't shop elsewhere. Unions for government employees should not and cannot be compared to unions in the private sector.

    Listen carefully to the protesters to hear the "veiled" threats of violence if they don't get their way.

    Posted by: Brad | Feb 18, 2011 11:55:41 AM

  14. "the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau recently released a memo detailing how the state will end the 2009-2011 budget biennium with a budget surplus.

    In its Jan. 31 memo to legislators on the condition of the state’s budget, the Fiscal Bureau determined that the state will end the year with a balance of $121.4 million.

    To the extent that there is an imbalance -- Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit -- it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January. If the Legislature were simply to rescind Walker’s new spending schemes -- or delay their implementation until they are offset by fresh revenues -- the “crisis” would not exist."

    with link to memo in article:

    Posted by: Wes | Feb 18, 2011 11:58:32 AM

  15. Also: if a public union strikes to demand gold-plated pensions, they're not extracting those pensions from millionaire CEOs. They're extracting them from everyone else.

    If everyone else is OK with that, OK with the higher taxes, then that's fine, but Wisconsin elected a whole bunch of Republicans, and it seems likely that they did so as a way of indicating that they are not.

    Posted by: Matt | Feb 18, 2011 12:00:10 PM

  16. Again, no need to take away union rights in order to make cuts. Crickets on the millions in corporate tax cuts paid for by everyone else.

    Posted by: Wes | Feb 18, 2011 12:03:12 PM

  17. Of course you can "shop elsewhere" for firemen and policemen! I'm guessing it is illegal for them to strike, as it was for the air traffic controllers. If that is the road chosen by any of these public employees, I'm guessing that with the Obama unemployment numbers as they are that there will be plenty of people available to work in their places.

    Ronald Reagan called PATCO's bluff, and it's time for more of that. Those saying that the employees "were willing to take the cuts" are on another planet or just aren't paying attention.

    Posted by: LincolnLounger | Feb 18, 2011 12:04:36 PM

  18. Wes, the report that you linked to states that appropriations shortfalls and the fact that federal stimulus money is drying up means that the state of Wisconsin will be in the red, not the black, because all of that supposed surplus has to go towards the shortfalls and the Patients' compensation fund.

    It's a long and badly written memo, and people who need to because of their political beliefs are seizing on one spot where a surplus is mentioned, but to say that Wisconsin was running a surplus based on this report is liking Borders is doing well because one store in New Hampshire is selling books like hotcakes, when in fact the other 600 stores are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

    I mean, think about it. Think about the economy right now. Do you really think it's like that states are turning profits? Doesn't that seem a bit unlikely to you?

    Posted by: Matt | Feb 18, 2011 12:13:45 PM

  19. All you assholes who are trashing the unions are astoundingly misinformed. There is no union gravy train. Public worker salaries are not as high as the private sector. Did public employees get the big-ass bonuses that were being doled out during the economic boom? No. Did they get huge stock dividends during the housing bubble? No. The benefits for public employees are pretty good, and are a reasonable balance for pay rates that very rarely increase more than 1 or 2 percent and even then not every year. These are people who work hard every day at thankless jobs that make the government work effectively, and are ignored by most people until they need their help. It's not a question of paying more for benefits, that's already been offered. It's a question of having a voice in the workplace, a tradition of workers rights that goes back to the turn of the last century. Those of you trashing the value of unions need to check yourselves and recognize that unions set the bar for benefits in the private sector as well ... they're also the ones who gave you things like the weekend, the forty hour work week, and child labor laws. Thank them, and help them... and quit trying to blame the public sector workers for financial problems that they had nothing to do with causing.

    I am not a union member by the way.

    Posted by: the milkman | Feb 18, 2011 12:36:07 PM

  20. Regardless, Matt, why are corporate tax breaks priority over public employees losing their union rights? Cuts can be made to public employee benefits without this level of extremity, which is clearly beneficial to Republicans politically.

    Posted by: Wes | Feb 18, 2011 12:37:45 PM

  21. This was the comment of the day on Gawker for a reason, because it makes sense:

    "Politicians told working people in government, We can't pay you as much as the private sector, but we can give you some job stability, slightly better benefits and ensure you aren't a hobo once you retire.
    Many working people took them at their word and spent decades ensuring the government functions, streets are cleaned, regulations are met, children are taught, fires are put out, roads are built & maintained and rapists are caught then incarcerated.
    Since the government is public, these employers were also barred from using the union-busting tactics that Wal-Mart and their ilk use (thus the prevalence of union workers in gov't versus McJobs you're so much in favor of).

    Then, after decades of this arrangement, and of decades of these people working for less than they could make in the private sector, greedy asshats who want taxes slashed so they can buy a second boat buy a lot of commercials to convince people like you that firefighters, policemen and teachers are a cabal ripping you off, "leeching" off of Real 'Mericans™. And some of your more slow compatriots bought the lie as well.

    Meanwhile, these same public servants who have been underpaid are now told by pols, "Since WE didn't budget for obligations that WE agreed to, YOU get the double-shaft."

    What's quite sad is I'm fairly sure that your livelihood would be severely impacted were it not for these workers that you call leeches. Certainly your quality of life would be ravaged if your Libertarian paradise (a.k.a., Somalia) happened.

    But the bottom line is that politicians made promises they now want to change after the fact, simply because they were too incompetent to ensure their obligations were met. If that involves – gasp – raising taxes to fund them, so be it. Paying for The Shiny you've bought is part of being a grown up.
    You should consider joining the big table, and realize this."

    You want to know what unions achieved for the average American:
    1. The 5 day work week
    2. Health benefits
    3. Safer working conditions
    4. Child Labor Laws
    5. Retirement

    Do we really want to regress as a nation to the early days of Industrial Revolution?!

    Posted by: sugarrhill | Feb 18, 2011 12:43:14 PM

  22. Taxing corporations to feed the public trough will result in the corporations leaving the state entirely. The state does not have a right to all of the money people make. There needs to be a fair evaluation of taxation - but sustaining the idea that they are just ripe for picking is flat out killing the golden goose.

    Posted by: ted | Feb 18, 2011 12:45:46 PM

  23. No, not 'additional taxes.' Just the taxes that were in place before reckless cuts a few weeks ago. 2/3 of WI corporations paying NO tax while joe-schmoe public school teachers get the axe (and insulted in the process). Disgusting.

    Posted by: Wes | Feb 18, 2011 12:49:22 PM

  24. Once again the Republican-Corporate Party are engaging in class warfare as evidence by the reckless sockpuppet governor Walker of WI.
    Do you really think he didn't know what he was doing when he excluded only the unions that backed his candidacy?
    Please you corporate shill commenters are mislead.

    Posted by: mcNnyc | Feb 18, 2011 1:01:02 PM

  25. Wes, I understand why you feel the way you do about taxes vs. what public employees are paid, but the governor and legislators of Wisconsin were duly elected and were quite clear about their intentions. When public employees unionize, they do not extract money from rich CEOs -- they aren't paid by rich CEOs but by the people in their state, and the people in their state, through elections, can register their opinions on that pay.

    Posted by: Matt | Feb 18, 2011 1:06:50 PM

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