Several dozen people from around Chicagoland gathered early this morning outside Plumbers Hall in Chicago to board buses and travel to Madison, Wisconsin. There, they'll join thousands of Badger State teachers, nurses, emergency medical technicians, and other public employees battling legislation pushed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker and GOP legislators that would strip public workers of their collective bargaining rights. Progress Illinois caught up with a few of the protesters before they headed north. Take a look:
We'll have a full report about the massive demonstrations held Saturday in support of Wisconsin public employees a bit later in the day. In the meantime, much of the focus remains on the Wisconsin state senate. Democratic members of that body remain holed up in northern Illinois, preventing Walker's bill targeting public employee unions from coming up for a vote.
While there's been much discussion about how the Wisconsin battle will influence the 2012 presidential election, the protests are seeping into another political race that's a bit closer at hand: tomorrow's Chicago's mayoral election. "I think what the governor there is doing is not just fiscal, but a political agenda. That's not what we are about," Rahm Emanuel told the Sun-Times yesterday. " ... I would totally reject the approach the governor of Wisconsin has taken."
But Miguel del Valle, in a statement, criticized Emanuel for supporting the Performance Counts bill in Springfield, which would diminish teacher unions' ability to strike, and said current city workers shouldn't see pension cuts. “What’s happening in Wisconsin has implications for Chicago. In Illinois, we’ve seen recent examples of efforts to take away the rights of Chicago teachers. There is discussion in Springfield of reducing the pension benefits of current employees,” del Valle said. “As mayor, I will be totally opposed to any efforts to diminish benefits of current employees or any move to take away the right to strike.”