Wis. gov.'s supporters to fight back amid protests

February 19, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats from Wisconsin who are hiding out here in Illinois plan to meet somewhere in this state, but they're not saying where or when. The lawmakers fled Wisconsin to avoid a vote on a proposal that would cut benefits and bargaining rights for state workers.

Wisconsin state Sen. John Erpenbach says the governor's position is simply unacceptable.

"To me, that's union busting. To the Senate Democrats, that's union busting. And it's really vicious, vindictive language that he put in there," said Erpenbach.

Erpenbach is in Chicago, one of 14 Wisconsin lawmakers who fled their state and are now playing a waiting game in Illinois.

"It's not acceptable when you won't listen to the people. You won't come to the table to talk to the workers. And in addition to that, then you want to take away their rights," said Sen. Lena Taylor, (D).

For a second day, tens of thousands crowded Wisconsin's capitol Friday protesting the proposed cuts for teachers and other public workers.

Carol Caref of the Chicago Teachers Union is also in Wisconsin in a show of support.

"It's important because this attack on union workers in Wisconsin is something that could happen to us in Illinois as well," Caref said.

Meanwhile, Governor Walker and his supporters criticized the Wisconsin Democrats for essentially running away.

"People talk about democracy. You can't participate in democracy if you're not in the arena," Walker said.

"We're broke, the city, the state, the county. Everybody's broke. We can't afford to give these benefits. We're asking for 12 percent. We're paying 88 per cent of their health insurance. We're paying 95 percent of their retirement. Do you have that good of a retirement?" said Dan Curren, a Tea Party supporter.

With many states --including Illinois-- in similar straits, Wisconsin's battle could have national implications.

But unless the governor gives in to the pressure, this all may be a moot point. The state Democrats left because they know he has the votes to pass the bill.

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