Inspiration from Madison

Our team here at 350.org has been watching the events in Madison, WI with a good dose of admiration and excitement. After the Governor announced legislation that would slash the collective bargaining rights for public workers, tens of thousands of people  joined demonstrations that have effectively shut down the capitol.

We asked one of our awesome 350.org volunteer organizers, Madeleine Para, to give us an update of what it's like to be in Madison right now (you can see a photo from a 350 event in Madison in this post). Madeleine reports:

"The lesson I draw from this is that things can change unbelievably quickly when the right conditions arise, and even ordinary non-political people will join the struggle at those times. It's been crucial to model courage and confidence and to have experienced union leadership at the helm. "

It's early in 2011 and we've already seen many examples of people power, from Egypt to the midwest of the United States. We've got a lot of work left to do this year, but as Madeleine says, when change comes, it come come with unbelievable speed.

Read the rest of Madeleine's update from Madison below:

The chants roll through the capitol: "Kill this Bill!" "Union Busting is Disgusting!" "This is what democracy looks like!" I'm surprised that we haven't literally raised the gilded mosaic dome of the Capitol. A week ago I never would have imagined that I would be standing in the Wisconsin Capitol singing Solidarity Forever with other teachers from my school. There are tens of thousands of people from all over the state, defending our right to collective bargaining. Each day since Tuesday the crowd has grown larger.

We learned from the Egyptians to never go home–so many students in particular have stayed the night. I testified at a public hearing in its 17th hour and that hearing has now lasted more than 80 hours and still has people waiting to speak from their heart. The noise is unending of chanting and drumming, but at no time have I felt unsafe. I've been here all day for two days now and will be back tomorrow.

The teachers at my school have not been particularly strong union supporters–until now. This unbelievable attack on our right to organize and the draconian cuts to our pay have united us in a way I never dreamed of. On Tuesday night we were very nervous about having a sick-in–but with one day's notice 40% of the staff called in sick and forced the Madison schools to close. On Wednesday afternoon the statewide teachers union called for all teachers to participate. A few hours later the evening news looked like a snow day, as school closings throughout the region were posted along the bottom of the screen due to the teacher sick-ins.

We've been joined by firefighters, electricians, nurses, and many others across the state, as well as thousands of university and high school students. When the 800 students of East High, half their student body, marched downtown to join the rally, it was impossible not to cry.

Despite everything, I was deeply afraid we would lose the battle today, but all 14 Democratic Senators walked out and left the Republican Senate without a quorum. I know that this only happened because we were there in such numbers. The battle is not over and will be long, but we had our first taste of unexpected victory.

The lesson I draw from this is that things can change unbelievably quickly when the right conditions arise, and even ordinary non-political people will join the struggle at those times. It's been crucial to model courage and confidence and to have experienced union leadership at the helm.

 

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