Wisconsin Democrats Could Hide, Stay Away from State Capitol in Madison for Weeks

Democrats on the run in Wisconsin avoided state troopers Friday and threatened to stay in hiding for weeks, potentially paralyzing the state government in a standoff with majority Republicans over union rights for public employees.

Democratic senators haven’t returned from Illinois since fleeing Wisconsin on Thursday, and the Assembly adjourned after a brief but heated session Friday. — but major union officials came forward Friday to offer concessions.

Faced with a near-certain Republican victory that would end a half-century of collective bargaining for public workers, Wisconsin Democrats retaliated with the only weapon they had left: They fled.

Top leaders of two of Wisconsin’s largest public employee unions (WEAC –Wisconsin Education Association Council and AFSCME — American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) announced they are willing to accept the financial concessions called for in Walker’s plan, but will not accept the loss of collective bargaining rights.

Tens of thousands of people are descending on the state Capitol Saturday for the sixth day of protests in Madison, Wisconsin.

About 40,000 protesters showed up Friday to help cheer on Democratic lawmakers who successfully delayed action on Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s bill by leaving the state and depriving the Senate of a quorum.

The Democratic National Committee’s ‘Organizing for America’ (OfA) arm — a remnant of the 2008 Obama campaign — is playing an active role in organizing protests against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker attempt to pass Senate Bill 11 to abolish the collective bargaining rights of many public employees.

OfA Wisconsin’s field efforts include filling buses and building turnout for the rallies this week in Madison, Wisconsin. OfA is organizing 15 rapid response phone banks urging supporters to call their state legislators, and working on producing rallies, according to a Democratic Party official.

The Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) is an education union representing the public policy, labor and professional interests of its 98,000 members. WEAC is affiliated with the National Education Association. Its headquarters are located in Madison, Wisconsin.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is the second- or third-largest labor union in the United States and one of the fastest-growing, representing over 1.4 million employees, primarily in local and state government and in the health care industry. AFSCME is part of the AFL-CIO, one of the two main labor federations in the United States.

Employees at the federal government level are primarily represented by other unions, such as the American Federation of Government Employees, with which AFSCME was once affiliated, and the National Treasury Employees Union; but AFSCME does represent some federal employees at the Federal Aviation Administration and the Library of Congress, among others.

AFSCME VIDEO: Wisconsin 2/15: “Everything’s at risk” Prior to marching to the Capitol in Madison on Tues., Feb. 15, Wisconsin AFSCME members talk about the impact of Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s proposals to strip collective bargaining rights from public service workers while also cutting their pay, retirement and health benefits.

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