BOSTON — The union protests that started in Wisconsin have now spread beyond its borders. In Ohio and Indiana Tuesday, as Republican legislators pushed for bills to balance their budgets by curbing collective bargaining, pro-union demonstrators marched on their state capitols.
Closer to home, on Beacon Hill, union members and Tea Party supporters clashed over the stalemate 1,200 miles away, between teachers and the governor of Wisconsin.
Supporters of the Wisconsin teachers and supporters of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker tried to out-shout each other while holding signs across the street from the Massachusetts State House. While the teachers’ backers far outnumbered those for Walker, both were equally adamant in their positions.
“We don’t want to lose the right to collective bargaining,” said Mary Reese, a Stoughton schoolteacher.
Reese said the message she’s trying to get across is, “that we are united. That we are united in this effort, and that we are not going to lose these rights that we’ve worked so hard for.”
On the other side, Robert Cappucci of Medford stood on top of a snowbank and expressed his support of Gov. Walker, “Because he’s doing what he was elected to do — trying to balance the budget,” Cappucci said.
“He’s curbing the system in the public sector unions, not the private unions. We need to get back to fiscal sanity and fiscal responsibility, not only in Wisconsin, but here in Massachusetts where we’re [trying] to cut out $2 billion.”
Christen Varley turned out for the rally as well. She’s the president of the Greater Boston Tea Party.
“We should make sure that the taxpayers are heard as well as the people who live off the taxpayers money,” Varley said.
Tea Party supporters — relatively few in number — were not ignored by those backing the Wisconsin teachers, when they addressed the crowd from the podium set up on the front steps of the State House.
“There are two visions of America here: there’s the Tea Party vision, and there’s the vision of the American worker,” said Rep. Stephen Lynch, who noted the original Boston Tea Party site is in his district.
“Just for the record, for the Tea Party folks and for everybody else here. Just for the record, when the Tea Party actually occurred, back then, the colonists threw the tea overboard,” he said. “The colonists didn’t throw the teachers overboard. The colonists didn’t throw the senior citizens overboard. The colonists didn’t throw kids overboard on Head Start.”
The crowd also heard from Gov. Deval Patrick. Unlike his Wisconsin counterpart, Patrick spoke of the partnership between state government and public unions, saying there’s no need to attack public sector workers to make change for the people of the commonwealth.
“You and I have shown that working together, we can close our budget gap,” Patrick said. “Why? Because we are all in this together — every one of us, is in this together.”
Patrick told the crowd there’s a reason Massachusetts students are No. 1 in the nation in student achievement, and that, he said, is because “we turn to each other, not on each other.” That comment drew cheers. But with several other states expected to debate similar proposals to strip public workers unions of collective bargaining rights, expect more rallies to come.