Faces of Wisconsin

Since Gov. Scott Walker introduced a bill that would effectively outlaw collective bargaining for public-sector workers, Madison, Wisconsin, has seen tens of thousands of people flock to the State Capitol Building to voice their opposition to the proposed legislation. Here are a few of their reasons for coming out.

Photo: Mario Garcia

Karin Kalish was spending the night at the capitol without a sleeping bag – she had been chatting to a friend and didn't realize how late it was, and didn't want to leave the building in case she couldn't get back in.

Though she admits she isn't “having my best night,” Kalish is committed to staying at the capitol because she believes the bill “may actually endanger peoples' lives.”

“If you don't have any control over your working conditions” and you are a public worker who works with people with disabilities, you have no reason to work extra hours if needed. “Things will happen, people will actually die or get hurt,” Kalish says. “People will fall through the cracks.” Kalish is disabled and relies on a wheelchair.

Anthony Paladino, a political science and education freshman at the University of Wisconsin, was holding his sign on the steps of the capitol “because I find this bill to be very bogus. It's an entryway to destroying unions and it's pretty much everything that Wisconsin is not.”

Jennifer Haynes, left, and Veronica Harried, both Republicans and from families with long lines of public workers, drove to Madison from nearby cities to support the right to collectively bargain.

“I have a father who is a counselor for a school district; his girlfriend is a counselor at a school district, and I have a stepfather who works at another school,” said Haynes, from Pardeeville, Wisconsin.

Harried, who lives in Rock County, said that she comes from a long line of teachers and “won't tolerate” the attack on unions and community. “We'll be here till it's over, and if it doesn't go our way, we'll be here when that happens too.”

“We're all here because we don't feel like we're being heard,” said Tony Gomez, a city employee at the Parks Department who pays union dues and will be affected by the proposed legislation. “This is a basic demonstration of our democratic rights in this country, the right to assemble,” he said, “and if we take for granted those rights then things can spiral out of control.”

Erin Harris teaches elementary school Spanish in Fox Point, Wisconsin, and came to the capitol for both her family and her students. Harris is personally at risk of losing her home if the proposed legislation passes, but she says she doesn't “think it's just about this bill. It's about our rights, it's about the rights of our students and their right to a good education.”

“I couldn't stand by and watch it happen,” said Harris.

Photo: Mario Garcia

Quinn Jacobson, on the far right, is 18 and in his final year at Madison East High School. Along with a group of friends, Jacobson walked out of his high school on Tuesday, February 15, and was spending the night of the 17th in the capitol. He said it was important to clarify that students at the capitol weren’t there because they were confused. “We weren't lied to or coerced by the teachers or the teachers' union,” said Jacobson. “I think what this bill really represents and exacerbates the rift in our society between the upper and lower classes of our society, and the best way to fight against it is to be unionized.”