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

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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Comments

  1. Chadd says

    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.

  2. stranded says

    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.

  3. Wes says

    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.

  4. Damen says

    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%?

  5. Dan says

    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.

  6. Lin. colnLounger says

    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.

  7. Joseph says

    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.

  8. Wes says

    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.

  9. Damen says

    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.

  10. Matt says

    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:

    http://politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2010/nov/29/jim-doyle/gov-jim-doyle-says-wisconsins-projected-budget-sho/

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

  11. Brad says

    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.

  12. Wes says

    “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: http://host.madison.com/ct/news/opinion/editorial/article_61064e9a-27b0-5f28-b6d1-a57c8b2aaaf6.html

  13. Matt says

    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.

  14. LincolnLounger says

    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.

  15. Matt says

    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?

  16. the milkman says

    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.

  17. Wes says

    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.

  18. sugarrhill says

    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?!

  19. ted says

    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.

  20. Wes says

    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.

  21. mcNnyc says

    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.

  22. Matt says

    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.

  23. anon says

    This is best handled by referendums. I doubt the people of any state support retirement at 50 at half pay with full health coverage and allowance for multiple pensions from multiple state jobs for as little as two year service for their state workers. Largely because for similar work they don’t receive anywhere near the same benefits. However, it always is politically impossible to make any changes like this within state legislatures. Also, such votes must be tied to the necessary tax increases to show what the people are really voting for.

  24. the milkman says

    Are you serious? Retirement at age 50 with full benefits? Multiple pensions? You’re dreaming if you think that’s what the lives of state workers are like.

    When times are tough, it’s a lot easier to take out frustrations on people whose only political power is through their union, rather than the hyper-rich ultra – connected corporate entities whose flagrant bullshit shenanigans caused the trouble to begin with. Yes, the public pays public employees. They pay a shitload more for the welfare payments to banks and for the fact that the majority of businesses in Wisconsin don’t pay any corporate taxes whatsoever.

    I get it… businesses are part of our community too. As such, they need to pay their fair share of support to make our communities work. If their only plan is to pay shitty bennies and less than a living wage and pay no taxes, then that’s not much better than having that business leave the state. And frankly if Mr. Walker is that concerned about losing Wisconsin jobs then he would have supported the thousands of construction jobs provided through the high speed rail efforts. But no. Instead his first act as governor was to eliminate those jobs and return the money to Washington … which were promptly snapped up by Illinois.

  25. the milkman says

    Are you serious? Retirement at age 50 with full benefits? Multiple pensions? You’re dreaming if you think that’s what the lives of state workers are like.

    When times are tough, it’s a lot easier to take out frustrations on people whose only political power is through their union, rather than the hyper-rich ultra – connected corporate entities whose flagrant bullshit shenanigans caused the trouble to begin with. Yes, the public pays public employees. They pay a shitload more for the welfare payments to banks and for the fact that the majority of businesses in Wisconsin don’t pay any corporate taxes whatsoever.

    I get it… businesses are part of our community too. As such, they need to pay their fair share of support to make our communities work. If their only plan is to pay shitty bennies and less than a living wage and pay no taxes, then that’s not much better than having that business leave the state. And frankly if Mr. Walker is that concerned about losing Wisconsin jobs then he would have supported the thousands of construction jobs provided through the high speed rail efforts. But no. Instead his first act as governor was to eliminate those jobs and return the money to Washington … which were promptly snapped up by Illinois.

  26. says

    If you’re a working person, who’s working week to week just to get by, Governor Walker’s actions — as part of a giant national strategy — has made things very clear: The GOP is out to get you. They must be resisted to the bitter end. I don’t think the protesters in Wisconsin should stop until Walker is forced to resign.

  27. Trevor says

    Rachel Maddow’s assertion of a budget surplus for Wisconsin’ current fiscal year is actually completely false. You can see the proof here: http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2011/feb/18/rachel-maddow/rachel-maddow-says-wisconsin-track-have-budget-sur/

    The problem is that she did not read the entire report from the state fiscal bureau, particularly the part about $258 million in unpaid bills. Has she retracted the story yet?

  28. mstrozfckslv@yahoo.com says

    the only sure way to reduce a deficit is raise taxes

    plain and simple

    Eisenhower had it right with 90% tax on every $ over 1 mill a year and he was a repub. Whatever happened to those kinds of repubs

  29. Michael says

    “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

    Back in 2005 in Wisconsin, a fiscal bureau memo showed a similar surplus, but lawmakers approved a major fix of a Medicaid shortfall that would have eaten up that projected surplus.

    In 2009, federal stimulus money was used for the budget because of the shortfall. There was no surplus! What that fiscal bureau decided not to calculate were unpaid bills, and expected losses from state medical services which was $174 million alone. Also the state of Wisconsin owes 58 million to another state.

    Also, the $200 million owed to the state’s patient compensation fund, a debt courts have declared resulted from an illegal raid on the fund under former Gov. Jim Doyle!

    As far as busting the union, it’s not a bust rather it’s restricting their power. Public employees will have an option to pay dues, on a yearly basis. Plus, unions can still bargain for wages, not benefits. Are the workers without representation in benefits? No, lawmakers represent them in that part of the bargaining.

    Also, lawmakers should stop their illegal activity by fleeing the state and face the music, the increase in health care is half what the private sector pays, and pensions is nowhere near what the public pays!

  30. ratbastard says

    Jesus…where to begin:

    Our big business, too big to fail, Corpocracy have been bum raping the average American for years. BOTH main political parties, and ALL presidents and congresses for at least the past 40 years have been on the same page as far as this is concerned. They’re all in bed with each other.

    Public sector unions should never have been allowed to begin with. GROSS conflict of interests for both the union, public employees and politicians [who receive a lot of campaign contributions and ‘Help’ from unions that they are responsible for overseeing and negotiating with.]

    We now have a situation where the Corpocracy [A.K.A. WALL St.] and big unions [ESPECIALLY public sector unions] are bleeding us [the average, majority American] dry. They get away with this because their money and influence with politicians at local, state, and the national level is omnipotent. This evil conspiracy [it is a bona-fide conspiracy] must be broken, but it may already be too late.

    The WORSE things to happen in the U.S. over the last half century are:

    Neoliberal economics [supply-side,A.K.A Reaganomics.] It really started before Reagan though.

    Globalization and especially ‘Free’ trade, and in particular our giving China a gigantic free pass.

    The 1965 Immigration ‘Reform’ Act. It has flooded the U.S. with uneducated immigrants most of whom are incompatible with a our post-modern, post-industrial society. They have devastated our homegrown working class and middle class, lowered wages and benefits levels, created a large, pernicious under-class and unemployment level. They have also bankrupted our social services. And because social services are the largest single cost for state and federal governments, it has contributed hugely to the present dire financial situation. I won’t even go into crime, etc., Ironically, both Dems and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, for their own selfish reasons, benefit from their presence. Again, the average majority American does not benefit.

  31. ratbastard says

    I should have included also our out of control so-called Military-Industrial Complex. But it isn’t the Pentagon who’re to blame for this, it’s Congress. Congress, and the billions [trillions over the decades] in defense related pork they fight over, is to blame.

  32. TANK says

    It’s not a surprise that the middle class american incomes have been stagnant for forty years with the steady decline of collective bargaining power.

    Since government employees make about fifteen per cent less than their private sector counterparts with similar education (and teacher income has been steadily declining), attacking this in the name of “budget shortfalls” is a tactic of division. It’s like attacking public jobs on the federal level–the go to strategy to of the republicans to destroy the middle class by making it eat itself–when payroll accounts for less than five per cent of the budget. It’s working given the salary freeze implemented by obama. None of it matters, it won’t impact the deficit at all, and it’s a distraction promulgated by thieves and liars.

    Anyway, there’s very little hope…enthusiasm of the deranged, sure…but they’ve got nothing else or are getting paid to pump up the stupid and ignorant.

  33. TANK says

    But by all means, blame unions for bleeding america dry somehow when less than twelve per cent of the workforce is union…. There are legitimate criticisms of unions…but that they’re somehow “bleeding america dry” and on a par with the outright criminals that manage hedge funds is a sad, though common theme amongst utterly ignorant peasants.

  34. ratbastard says

    Tank,

    The public pensions, benefits [which, on average, are FAR better than comparable private sector bennies], early retirement, etc., have bankrupted states and municipalities.

    And public teachers on average make excellent salaries and benefits.

    I’m not anti-union or collective bargaining at all. But the public sector has become totally broken and is hemorrhaging $. Our private sector is also f’ed up.

  35. TANK says

    Hmmm, let’s take your average public school teacher’s pension. It’s around $19,000 per year. More secure than a 401k, but not equivalent. As to them bankrupting states and municipalities, why is it that states that don’t allow bargaining power to teachers (and other state employees), like nevada, have tremendous budget deficits compared to states that do? Clearly that indicates that it’s not the public pension program that’s bankrupting these states, but horrendous management by incompetent fools and lack of basic budget making skills. You’re going to tell me that something that, on average, costs a fraction of a fraction of a state budget is bankrupting it? You’re a useful idiot, and there’s no other way to cash it out.

    Public teachers on average make excellent salaries? Well, let’s look at the BLS and find out what constitutes “excellent.” However, the teacher salary in wisconsin starts at about 22k cutting off at about 46.5, and the average nationally for a public primary after working for about fifteen years is 43k. Excellent? Nah.

  36. TANK says

    And don’t get me wrong…I’m no fan of public education in this country…it has failed generations of americans. the competition is good because competition is good crowd think public funding of charter schools are a way to improve the fundamentals (and we need more than fundamentals). Not necessarily, especially when you consider the percentage that would send their spawn to an inferior religious indoctrination camp. There are lot of stupid public school teachers–I know some of them…and aside from the science teacher, they’re retarded…good people, but dumb as sh it. The teacher’s union protects the jobs of a lot of extremely unqualified people, but it helps a lot of qualified people, too. The way of decreasing ineptitude has never been to slash salaries or the mechanism by which salary levels are sustained and improved upon….even republicans opposed to capping executive salaries agree to that much.

  37. ratbastard says

    Everything’s relative Tank. Cost of living in most of Wisconsin is a lot cheaper than say NYC, L.A. or metro Boston. Statistics can be very deceptive, especially concerning ‘Averages.’ I have zero doubt public sector salaries for the typical public employee like a public H.S. teacher is competitive with their comparable private counter-parts,job security at least until very recently better, benefits better.

    And there’s zero question extravagant public pensions, very generous heath insurance plans are bankrupting public treasuries.

  38. TANK says

    Once again, the numbers reveal that your dogma is false….to repeat, pensions for primary public teachers is about $19k a year, and if you’re like most people, you don’t save a lot of money…so you live on under thirty k a year. That’s an extravagant pension, is it? Are you calling that extravagant? Maybe if cat food is gourmet. Should I remind you that this is the united states and not, say….somalia?

    Yeah, and a garbage collector in hoboken could live like a pasha in bangledesh on his salary… I would imagine that you think you’ve got a point by arguing about the varying costs of living between states like new york and wisconsin…oh, wait…new york city and wisconsin…as if that in any way reflects a national average.

  39. TANK says

    “And there’s zero question extravagant public pensions, very generous heath insurance plans are bankrupting public treasuries.”

    AND, as a bonus, you can repeat yourself and be wrong until you’re blue in the face…but that doesn’t mean that you’re anything but wrong. This isn’t true. “generous” health insurance plans, pensions, and the right to collective bargaining don’t exist in states with crippling deficits that are absent from the balance sheets of states with generous health insurance plans and pensions…and offer collective bargaining to state employees. So what could possibly explain this amazing discrepancy, dr.? It couldn’t be that “generous” (everything you say is suspect form here on out given the volume of false statements you generate on a day to day basis) cadillac health insurance plans, pensions (next you’ll be screaming about welfare queens that live in mansions) have little to nothing to do with the budgetary shortfalls these states face due to mismanagement, or perhaps that we’re in a terrible recession and state revenue is down across the board? No…no…it’s the little guy’s fault….

    Alright, that’s it…I’m sick of running circles around idiots like you.

  40. says

    WI rules. Lets follow Egypt’s lead and take to the streets to demand:
    1. End to wars of occupation in Iraq etc;
    2. Universal Health Care like ever other
    industrialized country;
    3. End bailouts of Wall St, and start criminal proceedings against the Street;
    4. Freeze military aid to Israel-Palestine, and other regimes;
    5. Jobs, Jobs, and living wages now!
    Cheers, JAM, Washington Green, T

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