March 1 witnessed another crucial day of militant mass action in Midwestern states against an all-out assault on public unions. Protesters converged on the capitals of Ohio, Wisconsin and Indiana. Workers and students in these states are fighting on the front lines of a war unleashed on working people by the billionaires and their servants in Washington and state houses from coast to coast.
What happens in the Midwest battle over state budgets and who will pay for the crisis—workers or Wall Street—will affect the lives of all working people. The determination of the workers and students in this region-wide labor uprising will undoubtedly help spark a new era of peoples struggle against the power of the corporate fat cats.
ANSWER Coalition organizers participated in all three protests and filed the following reports.
Photo: Richard Becker
Over 25,000 workers, students and activists surrounded and filled the Ohio Statehouse to demand an end to Senate Bill 5, which would ban strikes and collective bargaining for workers in Ohio. The AFL-CIO and major unions in Ohio such as AFSCME and SEIU organized buses from cities across the state to get workers to the Statehouse.
More than 20,000 packed the Statehouse lawn only an hour into the demonstration. Chants of “Kill the Bill!” echoed throughout the day. Police were initially planning on keeping the Capitol building closed, but thousands of militant workers forced them to open the capitol.
Signs at the rally not only stated support for Ohio workers, but also those struggling in Wisconsin and Indiana. Speakers saluted the struggle of the Wisconsin workers in their occupation of the Capitol and stressed the need to mobilize labor’s power.
Unions in Ohio have stated that protests will continue until Senate Bill 5 is struck down. If it should pass, unions have vowed to strike.
ANSWER volunteers received hundreds of signatures on a petition demanding “Stop the Budget Cuts, Tax the Rich!”
Photo: Ana Santoyo
Over 5,000 workers and students came out at the capitol of Wisconsin to continue two weeks of the largest protests in the history of the state. They are fighting against a bill that would severely curtail the rights of public union members. The bill would also strip health care rights and drastically reduce benefits for state employees.
Starting Sunday, Governor Walker’s administration and the police have illegally restricted access to the capitol building. For over 14 days, workers and students have been sleeping in the capitol to stop the legislation. Now, a tent city has also been set up on the capitol grounds. All day, protesters massed at the doors of the capital chanting, “Who’s House? Our house!” and “Let us in, Now!”
The day of protest in Madison included mass pickets, two union rallies and a day long peoples speak out. At 4 pm, teachers and students flooded the capitol grounds, scaling the capitol steps and pressing the barricades to loudly oppose Governor Walker as he delivered yet another arrogant speech defending his pro-billionaire, anti-worker bill.
Contingents from many private sector unions and workers from all over Wisconsin and the Midwest continue to support the labor and student uprising in Madison. The Madison area labor council has voted to prepare for a general strike should the bill pass.
Photo: Heather Benno
In Indianapolis, Indiana about 500 workers and families continued rallies in the capitol building against separate bills that would end collective bargaining and attack public worker salaries and benefits. Rallies took place throughout the day, with unions bussing members and friends in from all over the state.
“This is our house!” demanded protesters, rallying in the capitol rotunda. Many of the attendees were returning after having attended protests through last week and the weekend.
Lindsay, a 24 year-old mother of three, who is a member of Laborers Local 120 said that she was attending the rally because she wants to defend workers like herself from anti-union attacks: “These politicians want to take our benefits, our pensions, and cut our pay in half… we are still fighting. We want to work; we want to make our own way. But if I get paid less, I will have to go on the system. I would probably lose my house. Ninety percent of us would probably lose our homes.”