Wisconsin protests: updates and discussion

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Juan Conatz's picture
Juan Conatz
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Mar 10 2011 20:37
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A large group of 8th graders from #Madison walked out today in support of #wiunion today #wisconsin http://yfrog.com/h0wv0faj

Wisconsin GOP Bill Allows State to Fire Employees for Strikes, Walk-Outs
http://motherjones.com/mojo/2011/03/wisconsin-walker-union-republican-senate-budget-bill

Live video of Assembly debate on the bill
http://www.channel3000.com/localvideo/index.html?v=live

Dumb-ass Jesse Jackson was in Madison, as well, telling people not to be mad at the police. Fuck that guy. Sick of hearing about these professional leeches saying their BS.

Wisc. Conservatives Trample Democracy: State Troopers Dragging Protesters Out; Wisc. Dems Head Home After GOP Union-Busting Measure Rammed Through
http://www.alternet.org/economy/150192/wisc._conservatives_trample_democracy%3A_state_troopers_dragging_protestors_out%3B_wisc._dems_head_home_after_gop_union-busting_measure_rammed_through/

Malcy
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Mar 10 2011 21:20

Anyone in Wisconsin, have you seen any evidence of the wildcat strikes that Mike Elk has been referring to?

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Juan Conatz
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Mar 10 2011 21:44
Malcy wrote:
Anyone in Wisconsin, have you seen any evidence of the wildcat strikes that Mike Elk has been referring to?

You're gonna have to be more specific. Who is Mike Elk and what wildcat strikes has he been referring to?

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Juan Conatz
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Mar 10 2011 22:03
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Firing Provision in Wisconsin Bill Could Chill General Strike Talk

One of the loudest and most persistent slogans from protesters last night in the Capitol in Madison, beyond “Recall,” was “General strike.” The Capitol Times looks into that possibility:

Representatives of the union that represents blue-collar, technical and safety officers at UW-Madison said the possibility of a general strike has been discussed. “Anything is possible,” said Local 171 steward Carl Aniel.

Aniel said only locals can call a strike, and it would be up to each one to do so individually.
Anne Habel, a steward with AFSCME Local 171, said Wednesday’s action will further inflame the unions, which have staged repeated protests since Walker introduced his budget repair bill in mid-February.

“Every time something happens, people become more militant,” Habel said.

But some labor leaders did not join the call for a general strike. WEAC (the teacher’s union in Wisconsin) Mary Bell said, “I ask Wisconsin’s educators to be at work tomorrow. We will not back down…we will continue this fight.” Leaders with Madison Teachers Inc. also asked teachers to be in the classroom tomorrow.

Part of this is a pose. Most people don’t realize how the federal Taft-Hartley Act makes general strikes extremely difficult. And there are state statutes governing this as well. Reasons for striking are extremely limited. Labor can only endorse the general concept, rather than explicitly calling for a general strike. However, there are two items working in labor’s favor. First, labor contracts for most state employees expire March 13. Really all bets are off after that. Second, while under Wisconsin Statute 111.70(4), public employees are unable to strike during negotiations with an employer, a recent court ruling stipulated that the legislature is not the employer of public workers, and therefore workers could go out on strike against them.

However, there’s a part of the bill passed by the Senate last night that would make a general strike nearly impossible. Thomas Bird of the ASO (Autonomous Solidarity Organization) caught it:

In the Legislative Financial Bureau’s memo on modifications to SB 11, page 16, there is a provision titled “Discharge of State Employees.” It states that under current law, “the Governor may issue an executive order declaring a state of emergency for the state or any portion of the state if he or she determines that an emergency resulting from a disaster or imminent threat of a disaster exists.” Remember that the Wisconsin Republicans have shown a disturbing penchant for complying with existing law in the most limited sense. In the event of a Governor declaring a state of emergency, the new SB 11 would allow an appointing authority to discharge any employee who fails to “(a) report to work for any three days during the state of emergency, (b) participates in a strike, work stoppage, sit- down, stay-in, slowdown, or other concerted activities to interrupt the operations or services of state government.” There is a clear coordination between the language used to vilify those exercising their 1st amendment rights and the language used to activate this provision. The Republicans very clearly are interested in giving Governor Walker the ability to wield unreasonable, unprecedented power.

I don’t see any reason why Scott Walker would not call a state of emergency upon the first attempt of the general strike, and fire all the workers. He worships Reagan for firing the air traffic controllers. The threat of this is probably holding many labor leaders back. As Marty Beil of the Wisconsin State Employees Union said last night, “Tonight, Scott Walker and his cronies in the Senate Republicans turned our proud state of Wisconsin into a banana republic.” That rider is certainly a banana republic kind of move.

So this fight will probably be taken to the ballot box in recall elections. That’s what Mary Bell and Marty Beil discussed last night and what many are discussing this morning. Labor leaders must figure that Democrats would return the favor very quickly and restore bargaining rights if and when they regain control of the Governor’s position and Legislature. However, with all the union-crushing provisions in the bill, they’d better hope they can survive long enough.

I should note that all this does not mean that there won’t be some actions of disobedience occurring today. from the CapTimes:

Outside the Assembly chambers, about 50 protesters were sleeping and planned to remain until the body takes up the Senate’s amended budget-repair bill, scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday. Police and protesters continued to get along, with no incidents reported and no arrests.

http://news.firedoglake.com/2011/03/10/firing-provision-in-wisconsin-bill-could-chill-general-strike-talk/

scottydont
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Mar 10 2011 22:08

Thanks for update Jaun!

Also:
Analysis of the UWM occupation here

Jared
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Mar 10 2011 22:23

The old 'vote 'em out' trick.... stick to the law and maybe you can vote in another bunch of cronies who may or may not 'return the favour'...

Juan, do you think people are in the mood to disregard both the law that can fire workers, or their union officials sending them back to work?

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Mar 11 2011 00:00

Raw Video: Protesters Hauled From Wis. Capitol
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p07UGL5fVd8&tracker=False

Do We Need a General Strike?
http://www.thenation.com/blog/159152/do-we-need-general-strike

Jared wrote:
The old 'vote 'em out' trick.... stick to the law and maybe you can vote in another bunch of cronies who may or may not 'return the favour'...

Juan, do you think people are in the mood to disregard both the law that can fire workers, or their union officials sending them back to work?

I couldn't tell ya. It's been 2 weeks since I've been up there and I won't be back until Saturday.

syndicalist
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Mar 11 2011 00:47

Thanks Juan for all the postings!

Malcy
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Mar 11 2011 02:02

Juan, Mike Elk is a labor journalist.

I was referring to one of the articles you posted a link to. The alternet.org one ....

Malcy
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Mar 11 2011 02:05

One of Elk's tweets says that the mayor of Madison was leading a walkout by public workers. That was 9 hours ago.

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Mar 11 2011 02:12

As far as Facebook goes, this page has grown by over a thousand people in less than two days.

http://www.facebook.com/wigeneralstrike#!/wigeneralstrike

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Mar 11 2011 03:01
Intifada1988 wrote:
is it true about the calls for a general strike?

oh HELL YES IT'S TRUE!
We're like Charlie Sheen now.

We're winning here,
we're winning there,
we're winning here too!

I guess we could say...we're tri-winning?

Anyway, it seems the generally accepted strike date is March 31. The IWW has a series of posters for the General Strike that came out before the specific date was set. I've seen those in English, Spanish and Arabic. Put those up around your school/place of work, be sure not to get caught. You can't strike if you don't have a job. so fuck yeah, let's do this.

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Mar 11 2011 03:30

Well, as far as who has called for a general strike. Well, no one....

The SCLF has endorsed the idea of one and begun educating its affiliates on what that means. There have been a number of individuals who have said that a general strike is needed. The IWW of course has been putting out a lot of propaganda on the subject and have been actively involved in talking to people about it.

But as far as I know, no actual labor union has voted on a general strike. I also haven't heard about this March 31st date, either. Where's that from?

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Mar 11 2011 05:22
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Calls, preparations for general strike grow

Calls for a general strike are growing among union members and supporters as the state Legislature advanced a law stripping public sector unions of almost all bargaining rights, but it remains unclear whether strikes or pickets will appear soon.

Union leaders say the Republicans' fast-track passage of the bill has fueled strike talk, but for now most are urging legal measures such as recall of Republican legislators as a way to repeal the law.

"A general strike would be playing the trump card, and you don't play the trump right away, you build up to that," said Jim Cavanaugh, president of the 45,000-member South Central Federal of Labor in Madison.

The federation endorsed a general strike on Feb. 21 and on Thursday began distributing educational materials on how such a strike can be accomplished.

"To do it right, there's a lot of preparation," Cavanaugh said. "If you do it lightly you're going to end up with more problems. You're exposing people to job loss and other repercussions if appropriate steps aren't taken."

Among the materials are two pages of logistical issues that were dealt with in series of general strikes in Ontario in the late 1990s, and a memorandum on how to strike and picket without risking discipline, fines or jail.

"General strike" has been one of the chants that resounded through the Capitol during massive protests Wednesday and Thursday after the Legislature passed a bill that would remove bargaining rights for about 175,000 workers and create major obstacles to basic operations for unions representing teachers, state workers and local government employees.

Gov. Scott Walker said the measures will help governments cut costs and resolve a state budget deficit.

Sick teachers

Many teachers called in sick for one or more days last month after Walker announced his plan, but this week Wisconsin Education Association Council president Mary Bell urged the union's 98,000 members to go to work.

"There are lots of things that can happen when people feel their rights have been trampled," Bell said. "We've asked people to be in class."

Sun Prairie teachers walked out for a day in February, and their union leader said he hopes it doesn't happen again.

"That was desperate move at a desperate time," said Brad Lutes, president of the Sun Prairie Education Association teachers union. "People are upset."

Recall campaigns against Walker and his supporters in the Legislature, public support for unions and court challenges to the law itself are offering hope, Lutes said.

Widespread and selective

In almost all cases, a strike could be authorized only by a vote of local union members.

A successful strike would need to be both widespread and selective in order to show strength without alienating the public, union leaders said.

"That's a decision that has to be made with a lot of other unions," Laura Peterson, a member of the AFSCME Local 171 executive board.

Madison firefighters union leader Joe Conway Jr. said he believes a general strike would be effective, but his union is looking for ways to participate that wouldn't endanger the public, such as violating work rules by wearing uniforms during off-duty protests.

Union members have been aroused by the collective bargaining law, accusations that it was passed without proper public notice and the belief that it's an attempt by Republicans to bust unions and gain a permanent upper hand over the Democratic Party, Conway said.

"We don't mind a fair fight, but when someone chooses to break the law, and we're still playing within the rules, it gives you cause to notice," Conway said.

— State Journal reporters Matt DeFour and Sandy Cullen contributed to this article.

http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_db0d20d0-4b80-11e0-b664-001cc4c002e0.html

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Mar 11 2011 06:14

Thanks for the comradely welcome, Chilli, what ever and Juan. Unfortunately my union postponed the trip at the last minute. I really wish I could be out there, but c'est la vie.

Thanks again and solidarity from NYC!

Intifada1988
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Mar 11 2011 06:24

Thanks for the credible info Juan I always look to digest objective info myself before I read the papers...Jazzhands thanks for the links as well

Anyways seeing how Striking is grounds for firing now this should get really interesting. If there is a strike this whole thing could get very interesting and volatile very quickly. And I mean inna class war kinda way.

squaler
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Mar 11 2011 09:08

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/03/10/954963/-Bank-that-funded-Walker,-now-Closed

bootsy
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Mar 11 2011 10:02

Just saw this:

Quote:
Martial Law in Michigan and Republicans’ End Game

While we were venting our outrage at shenanigans in Wisconsin politics, in fact while Republicans were planning last night’s attempted coup, the Michigan state legislature quietly passed a bill giving the Governor of Michigan martial control over the state. Except instead of using actual military, the Governor is more likely to use private security. But make no mistake–rights would be suspended.

Here’s how it works:

The governor, on his own initiative, can declare an economic emergency in any town and appoint an administrator. The administrator can be any person, including a corporate person.

The administrator has the power to do anything in the name of economic stability, including void contracts, void collective bargaining agreements, dissolve the town council, dissolve the school board, fire anyone including elected officials, hire private security, unincorporate the town, and sell off public property.

http://www.politicususa.com/en/martial-law-michigan

huli
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Mar 11 2011 15:39

Union local leaderships are law-and-order types. It sucks, but it's realistic. Labor law places so many restrictions on strike action that under almost every circumstance, unions stand to face significant economic consequences by sanctioning strikes. (I'm not clear how this works for public sector unions, but in the private sector, unions can be sued by corporations for damages if they engage in secondary strikes or pickets. I don't know how a secondary strike in support of public workers would potentially affect private-sector unions. If anybody knows, please fill me in!)

It's true that careerist union bureaucrats have their own self-preservation in mind when they hold back militancy, but they also - for better or worse - have a kind of fiduciary responsibility to the institution, the dues-payers, etc.

This is precisely why a general strike at this point has to be the result of workers moving beyond the union institution.

In general, union staff will not call for it or publicly endorse it (though I am certain that many of them will privately support it.)

I am reminded, for example, of an unsanctioned sick-out by public workers in a neighboring city last year. Union officials publicly stated that they did not sanction it, though one did say to the press that he believed everyone got sick because they were "suffering from stress and anxiety" over the city's attack on the workers. I predict that this is an example of the furthest union officials will go to support a general strike.

But this only poses a problem if workers aren't willing to leave their leaders in the dust and do what needs to be done. I hope that happens. We'll see.

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flaneur
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Mar 11 2011 16:14

Sharp as you like.

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Chilli Sauce
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Mar 11 2011 17:25

Where did that come from Flan and what are the symbols on the bottom?

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Mar 11 2011 18:07
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Where did that come from Flan and what are the symbols on the bottom?

Well one's the IWW (obviously), one's the outline of the State of Wisconsin, one's the Rebel Alliance from Star Wars and I don't know the last one. tongue

Yorkie Bar
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Mar 11 2011 18:15

Fucking ace!

Convert
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Mar 11 2011 20:21

Not to discount the actions workers are already bravely taking but is it too cynical to suggest that class struggle can't really advance until the unions are dead (which surely is only a matter of time)?

Perhaps wildcats, direct action, workers councils can only be a possibility when the notion held by workers that we can fight this through the legally sanctioned dead ends?

Samotnaf
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Mar 11 2011 20:35

Just some information from a friend (not sure if any of this has been said on any of the large amounts of links here, as I've not checked everything, but nothing's been said in the posts directly, unless I missed them):

-Wednesday night: People blocking the doors to the assembly with their bodies and furniture were dragged out into the crowds by police.

-Wednesday night: Republicans were escorted out through the crowds by state patrolman. In a video of them first leaving the chambers (where only official people were allowed- Democrats, journalists, etc) someone says to a Republican over the noise of the nearby crowds, "You better hurry up and leave before the mob gets you.".

-Yesterday, over a thousand students from 6 different middle schools and high schools walked out and to the capitol (police in tow) even after principals warned them it might be different this time because there were "very, very angry people there." Kids said they planned for the same today. Anybody know what happened?

-The ACLU posted a photo of police readying in riot gear yesterday morning in a garage area (it was never used).

-State Republicans have received numerous death threat emails (some include their families!). If you that like that sort of thing, more details (like drinking their blood and heads on pikes in townsquares!) can be found here: http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/news/117738098.html

-Earlier this week police arrested a woman who banged on the windows of the home of the Republican Senate Majority Leader early in the morning.

-The M&I bank next to the Capitol was swarmed by crowds (hundreds) after their ties to the Republican Party was made known. Several people went into the bank and withdrew money in protest. But it was the growing crowds that worried them enough to close down the bank and call police.

-Wednesday night, 200 gathered (through social networking, the media says) on a few hours notice and marched through Milwaukee to the County Courthouse.

-In Janesville, 40 miles south of Madison, 100 teachers and students protested against impending cuts outside a school district board meeting. On Feb. 24, 600 students had already walked out in Janesville in support of the teachers and against the cuts.

-At UW-Stout (northwestern Wisconsin) on Wednesday, faculty there voted to
unionize.

-Media says non-unionized teaching assistants are discussing strikes at both UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee.

-Massive rally scheduled in Madison tomorrow.

-Headline of major Madison newspaper: "Calls, preparations for general strike grow" - it's almost no longer an "if" question, but a "when" (and "how") it seems. The article is here:[url= http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_db0d20d0-4b80-11e0-b664-001cc4c002e0.html]
http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_db0d20d0-4b80-11e0-b664-001cc4c002e0.html[/url]

-Meanwhile across the country in Atlanta, while most students were on Spring Break, small protests and arrests erupted in the State Senate as legislators made cuts to a widely-used state scholarship fund. Protests also targeted the largest state university in Atlanta (Georgia State Univ.) over the passage of a measure banning all undocumented youth from attending. Some chants were clearly borrowed from Madison.

There's something here on the strange Milwaukee occupation:
http://burntbookmobile.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/warts-and-all-on-the-occupation-at-the-university-of-wisconsin/
Seems like they are still there "occupying" the space and had an emergency meeting there last night to prepare for a general strike.

The 9-year-old daughter of my friend's girlfriend announced yesterday that she would walkout if similar things were happening at her school!!! When things start to move, everyone starts to move.

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Juan Conatz
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Mar 11 2011 20:45
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Reports of walkouts in CA, ID, IL, KY, MA, MN, NJ, NY, OR, TX, so far. http://bit.ly/fo5NQW #wiunion #wiwalkout
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flaneur
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Mar 11 2011 20:50
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Where did that come from Flan and what are the symbols on the bottom?

Spotted it on the Facebook wall this morning. If you right click and view image, it comes up larger. 4th symbol looks like a capitol building with Dream City on it.

That's what anarchist propaganda should look like. Creative and funny, and you can't go wrong with a pop culture reference neither.

syndicalist
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Mar 11 2011 23:56

I found the solidarity of the firefighters to be interesting. They were not cut out by Walker.

Anyway, I hope this wasn't posted here already (sorry if so).

Quote:
http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/515607/awesome%3A_wisconsin_firefighters_shut_down_bank_that_funded_walker/#paragraph3

Awesome: Wisconsin Firefighters Shut Down Bank That Funded Walker
Everybody knows the GOP's biggest weakness is money, so why not hit 'em in the sweet spot? That's what many amazing Wisconsin firefighters did yesterday when they collectively began withdrawing their funds from Madison's M&I Bank -- whose executives and board members were among the highest donors to Governor Scott Walker's campaign.

Heeding a call by Firefighters Local 311 President Joe Conway to 'Move your money,' union members withdrew over $100,000 from the bank, with some reports stating that number is as high as $192,000. Either way, it was a hefty enough chunk of change that M&I shut its doors and closed for the day at 3PM.

This is a very simple, very peaceful way to inflict some serious damage on the money-grubbers; super kudos to the Firefighters Union.

Anecdoctally -- 'M&I Bank received $1.7 billion in bailout money via President George W. Bush's Troubled Assets Relief Program. The bank was acquired by the Bank of Montreal in December of 2010 for $4.1 billion in stock,' reports Dane101.

UPDATE: Stranded Wind over at DailyKos has photos of the protest outside M&I, and says the ante has been upped to $600,000! 'What these pictures show are six hundred ordinary citizens descending on the M&I branch near the Wisconsin Capitol after learning of their purchase of the gubernatorial election last November. Two firefighters with old school ideas about saving had over $600,000 between the two of them and they demanded cashier's checks on the spot.'

By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd | Sourced from AlterNet

Posted at March 11, 2011, 7:23 am

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Mar 12 2011 01:56
Convert wrote:
Not to discount the actions workers are already bravely taking but is it too cynical to suggest that class struggle can't really advance until the unions are dead (which surely is only a matter of time)?

Perhaps wildcats, direct action, workers councils can only be a possibility when the notion held by workers that we can fight this through the legally sanctioned dead ends?

i think this only works if workers go beyond legalism etc of their own accord. if collective bargaining is axed and unions de facto decrecognised, struggles may well become struggles for 'union rights' etc rather than direct struggles over living conditions. e.g. in places like egypt the push for independent unions is among the demands of the more militant workers. i wouldn't propose a strict stagist idea of first struggle for legal unions, then push them to their limits, then go beyond them (the russian revolution kinda skipped most of that, and in spain legality was never a precondition of the CNT's activity), but i think unions dying is only positive when it's militiant workers doing the killing. in Wisconsin, it's clearly the bosses on the offensive.

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Mar 12 2011 04:49

Community Forum on the General Strike

Quote:
This Saturday, March 12th at 6pm, the Madison IWW and UTI (immigrant worker's union) Madison will be cosponsoring a community forum discussing the current crisis and ways to address it.

The event will take place at the Madison Labor Temple (Second Floor), 1602 S. Park, Madison, WI

There will be time for community groups and members of the public to voice their concerns and ideas relating to a General Strike or the general struggles we face in our communities. This is a forum to discuss tactics, practical paths to direct action, and ways to unite disparate communities with the message:

"The People United Will Never Be Defeated".

translators will be present.

Feel free to forward this flyer.

solidarity
Midwest IWW