Supporters of legislation to reduce public employee union bargaining power and benefits in Wisconsin were far outnumbered by opponents on Saturday, as the two sides shouted competing slogans under clear skies.
Tens of thousands have demonstrated throughout the week against Republican Governor Scott Walker’s proposals, which supporters say are necessary to bring state spending under control and opponents contend are aimed at breaking the back of state worker unions.
Both sides drew thousands on Saturday, but opponents appeared to have several times as many on hand as those attending a rally backed by Tea Party groups, the first such demonstration this week.
The bill’s opponents marched counter-clockwise around the State Capitol, encircling its supporters, and chanted “kill the bill” among other slogans.
The supporters countered with “Recall them all,” referring to Democratic state senators who fled to Illinois last week to avoid giving Republicans the quorum needed to consider the proposal.
“I’ve been working in a factory for 26 years. We pay 15 percent for the cost of our health care. The state workers get Cadillac insurance and pensions. They have no god-given right to collective bargaining,” said bill supporter Anthony Thelen, 46, who works in a non-union factory outside of Milwaukee.
In addition to sharply curtailing union bargaining power, the Republican legislation would make state workers contribute more to health insurance and pensions.