An estimated 25,000 protesters converged on the state capitol Friday for the fifth day of demonstrations against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to curb public employee bargaining rights. Prison guards, students and teachers have turned out en masse for the rallies this week, forcing schools across the state to cancel classes.Protesters were invigorated yesterday by state Senate Democrats’ surprising decision to flee the state in order to prevent a vote on the legislation. The Republican-controlled Senate is expected to pass the bill, but needs one Democrat for a quorum.
The Senate adjourned last night after a futile police search for the 14 missing Democrats. The Senate Minority later called CNN to say that the lawmakers were in “a secure location outside of the capital.” AP reports that the lawmakers do not plan to return before Saturday.
Gov. Walker lambasted the move as a “stunt,” adding that his bill is “bold political move but a modest, modest proposal,” according to the WSJ.
The Wisconsin showdown is being closely followed by other state executives considering similar efforts to trim employee costs and curb the power of public-sector unions.
In a rare interview with a local television station, President Obama weighed in on the debate yesterday, saying the legislation sounded like “an assault on unions.” The Washington Post reports that “organising For America,” the grassroots political machine spun off from Obama’s 2008 campaign, has been working to mobilize protesters in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and other states.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) blasted Obama’s comments, and admonished the President to call off his political machine and leave Walker alone.
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