Wisconsin protests bring voices together and unify

By Kay Nguyen

It was early for a Saturday morning — 5:30 a.m. — and we were excited. It was time to get ready to return to Michigan Education Association headquarters even though it seemed as if we had just left.

The meeting of the board of directors had adjourned after 8 p.m. the previous evening and we had stopped for dinner on the way to the hotel.

It had been just midweek when MEA board members and local union presidents had received an invitation from the MEA to a rally scheduled in Madison, Wisconsin scheduled for March 12.

Three full buses departed Lansing at 7 a.m. Two were filled with board members and presidents and one with MEA staff. A fourth bus departed from the UP. Spirits were high as we sang and composed chants along the way. We arrived in Madison at 2 p.m. — one hour ahead of schedule.

Our group left the buses and joined the procession to the gathering area. Oh my, the cheers, tears and thanks we received from the Wisconsinites lining the route.

It wasn’t until we walked around the capital and then onto the lawn that we fully realized the size of the crowd. We have been told it numbered over 100,000. The streets surrounding the capital were filled with people as far as one could see.

The crowd consisted of people from all walks of life — union members, students, seniors, farmers, police and firefighters. It was colorful. There were costumes and homemade signs.

The sun was shining, but it was cold and windy and muddy. The crowd was orderly and united.

Speakers included the “Wisconsin 14,” the Senators who had gone into hiding to try to prevent the vote to take away bargaining rights from taking place.

This was a historic event. It wasn’t just a “union” issue. It was about the rights and respect of all workers. It was about awakening the voice of the silent majority — the workers that built America. It was to defend labor, sustain the middle class and prevent a plutocracy. We were proud and considered it a privilege to be a part of this event. It was solidarity at its best and it was most humbling.

We boarded the buses and departed for Michigan at 6 p.m. Many had driven their own cars to Madison, as well, after learning there were no more available seats on the buses.

We arrived at headquarters at 3:30 a.m. with two hours lost due to the rolling forward of our clocks that morning and the time zone change from Wisconsin. Participants said “good morning” and departed for home. It had been a wonderful experience and we MEA members were proud.

We had shown our strength and unity.

We had used our voices to assist others in their fight to save the middle class.