A record number of protesters shouted slogans and carried signs in what appears to be a wasted effort to persuade Wisconsin lawmakers not to support legislation which would force union workers to pay more for health care and pension plans and reduce to almost nothing their collective bargaining rights.
In November Republicans swept into the Wisconsin legislature, including the newly elected Governor Scott Walker, on a wave of discontent with government spending and a depressed economy. The Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald explained that despite the noise and crowds outside the Capital, no lawmakers on his side of the aisle have been persuaded to change their minds.
"What they're getting from individuals back home is stick to your guns, don't let them get to you," Fitzgerald said. "Every senator I've spoken to today is getting that back home, which is awesome. It's great to hear from people who are part of a rally … (but) two people you meet at a fish fry or a person who comes up to you at a basketball game, those comments sink in."
Republicans explain that cuts and concessions are absolutely necessary to ameliorate the huge projected state deficit budget shortfall of $3.6 billion, and to avoid firings of many government workers. Lawmakers also see a need to cobble the bargaining rights of unions, which has been gaining in popularity and has already happened in such states as Tennessee and Indiana.