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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Public employees rally in Olympia to support unions

     

    Hundreds of public employees and other protesters showed up at the Capitol on Monday to oppose proposed budget cuts and show solidarity with Wisconsin government workers.

    Many were taking advantage of the Presidents Day holiday to send a message to lawmakers, who face a nearly $5 billion shortfall in the next two-year budget. A State Patrol trooper estimated more than 1,000 people were on the steps and hundreds more were inside the statehouse.

    Inside the Capitol Rotunda, protesters were largely focused on supporting unions and public employees in Wisconsin. Ohio Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich addressed the group wearing a union T-shirt from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

    Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker has proposed taking away collective-bargaining rights for most public employees.

    Protesters outside the Statehouse were concerned about bargaining rights and much more. Some held signs on the steps that read “”Solidarity with Egypt,”” “”Cut the bull, not the teachers”” and “”No more cuts to higher ed.””

    Becky Little, a maintenance technician with Pierce County Parks and Recreation, said she was there, in part, to tell legislators not to take away the bargaining rights of union workers.

    There’s been no serious discussion of such action in the Washington Legislature, but Little said she’s worried that what’s happening in states like Wisconsin could spread here.

    “”Once something like this happens in one spot, it’s kind of like what happens in the Middle East right now,”” Little said. “”It has a domino effect.””

    Other protesters were focused on funding for state services, including education and health care.

    “”We want more money for schools and for students,”” said Brenda DeJardin, a Kenmore parent and president of the Kenmore Junior High School PTSA. “”If they have to choose between many different things, the thing that should be first on their list is students.””

    Many protesters were calling for lawmakers to end corporate tax breaks as a way to raise money for education and other state services.

    However, increasing taxes requires a two-thirds vote in the state House and Senate, or voter approval, because of Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1053. Voters approved his initiative in November.

    In other words, it’s a near political impossibility for lawmakers to increase taxes on their own.

    Senate Ways and Means Chairman Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said it’s important for protesters to show up because “”it reminds people to try and fight to preserve the programs we can preserve,”” he said, but added the Legislature will still have to make budget cuts.

    “”We’re trying to be honest about what we can’t do, given the financial constraints of the budget.””

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