by Mary Bell
Wisconsin has become the national stage for middle class workers fighting to retain a voice in our state’s future. Teachers, nurses and other public employees have agreed to pension and health care concessions, doing their part in the current budget crisis.
Denying workers their voice, however, goes too far. Taking away their rights does nothing to balance our budget. Silencing front line workers hurts our schools and all public services because it means decisions will be dictated by politicians without input from those who teach our children, care for the sick and protect our citizens. Remember, a school employee’s working conditions are a student’s learning conditions.
For Wisconsin teachers and Education Support Professionals, this is and always has been about ensuring that they retain a voice for their students and schools.
They know the severity of the governor’s extreme proposal would have a devastating long-term impact on our schools, communities and state. Coupled with his extreme cuts to public education, those most vulnerable – children and senior citizens – will be left without a voice from the employees who are best able to speak up in their best interest.
This movement is apparent from Madison to Milwaukee and in communities across the state.
Thousands of public employees are turning out alongside their neighbors, other labor groups and national groups.
Our voices are having an impact. Seventy-four percent of Wisconsinites oppose the bill to take away the rights of middle class families.
With the governor refusing to meet workers half way, Wisconsinites will continue their advocacy in local communities.
It’s time for elected officials to step up, show leadership and represent working families. Our request is one of fairness and common sense: Work with us to find solutions that move Wisconsin forward.
Ms. Bell, a Wisconsin Rapids teacher for 33 years, currently serves as president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. Members of the union of 98,000 educators include teachers, classroom aides, custodians, secretaries and other public school and technical college employees.