Day of Reckoning as Wisconsin Votes in Gubernatorial Recall Election

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Click on Photo to Read Timeline of Wisconsin Uprising Against Gov. Scott Walker

Click on Photo to Read Timeline of Wisconsin Uprising Against Gov. Scott Walker

Sixteen months after thousands of protestors occupied the Wisconsin State Capitol to protest Republican Governor Scott Walker’s public sector union-busting “Budget Repair Bill”, the movement’s struggle culminates in today’s statewide gubernatorial recall election. The recall election is an opportunity to oust Walker from Madison and install Democrat and current Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (who lost to Walker in the 2010 gubernatorial election) in the governor’s chair.

The outcome of today’s election is expected to be decided by a razor-thin margin, and could have implications far beyond Wisconsin, with the U.S. presidential election looming just five months away.

The UpTake was one of the few media organizations that provided live constant coverage of the historic 2011 protests at the State Capitol that emboldened progressives and unions, and led to today’s recall election. Here’s a timeline of events in Wisconsin with links to the UpTake’s blow-by-blow coverage of this historic fight.

Feb. 11, 2011: Gov. Walker proposes to limit collective bargaining for public-sector unions, ostensibly to pay off state debt. Reaction in Madison is swift, and thousands occupy the State Capitol by the weekend.

Feb. 14, 2011: By the following week, over 10,000 protestors have stormed the State Capitol. Meanwhile, The Nation columnist John Nichols calls Walker “a dictator governor.”

Feb. 15, 2011: Madison East High School students leave class and march three miles to State Capitol.

Feb. 17, 2011: Nichols fires up a pro-labor rally in Madison; meanwhile, GOP Congressman Paul Ryan compares the protests to riots.

Feb. 18, 2011: 40,000 rally at the State Capitol, and Rev. Jesse Jackson makes his first appearance there. Demonstrators occupy the capitol for the third straight night. Protestors claim Walker’s legislation is merely a bid to destroy unions. Meanwhile, Democratic state senators have left Wisconsin in an attempt to block the passage of an anti-union law. Supporters from around the world order pizza to be delivered to the State Capitol to feed the protestors. And students inside the capitol testify around the clock against Walker’s anti-union measure.

Feb. 19, 2011: 68,000 labor supporters rally at the Capitol, vastly overwhelming a few thousand Tea Partiers at a counter protest. Meanwhile, Wisconsin Democrats in the State Assembly accuse Republicans of using illegal tactics to pass their anti-union legislation.

Feb. 20, 2011: President of the Wisconsin Firefighters Union Mahlon Mitchell, an emerging hero of the labor movement, says that firefighters are willing to give up a pay increase to preserve collective bargaining. The following day, firefighters announce they’ll stay overnight in the Capitol as a show of solidarity.

Feb. 21, 2011: Calls to Ian’s Pizza on State Street (to order pies for the protestors in the Capitol) pour in from around the world, including a call from Tahrir Square in Cairo. Meanwhile, at a news conference in his secure governor’s reception room, Walker threatens layoffs if his anti-union bill is not passed.

Feb. 22, 2011: Activist-musician Tom Morello pumps up the crowd with his rendition of “This Land is Your Land” and offers an interview with The UpTake afterwards. Meanwhile, inside the capitol rotunda, protestors and police shake hands. And at East High School in Madison, Rev. Jesse Jackson explains that “economic justice is a civil right.”

Feb. 23, 2011: The Buffalo Beast’s Ian Murphy makes a telephone call to Gov. Walker posing as conservative billionaire David Koch and gets Walker to say things he probably shouldn’t have. Murphy records and immediately publishes the interview.

Feb. 24, 2011: Capitol officials propose closing the building at night to shut out the rotunda protestors.

Feb. 25, 2011: Just after 1 a.m., Assembly Republicans call a vote on the “budget repair bill” and pass it before most Democrats have a chance to vote, thus ending the longest continuous Assembly session in state history.

More than 70,000 rally in Madison Wisconsin

The People Strike Back- 70,000 rally in Madison Wisconsin on Feb 26, 2011 after the Wisconsin Assembly passes union-busting legislation

Feb. 26, 2011: More than 70,000 rally in Madison.

Feb. 28, 2011: Walkerville outdoor camp springs up in response to Capitol closure. Rep. Peter Barca refuses a Capitol official’s request to move the Democratic representatives’ desks back inside the Wisconsin State Capitol.

March 1, 2011: Judge Daniel Moeser issues temporary restraining order and says the Capitol needs to be reopened.

March 2, 2011: Wisconsin Senate GOPers vote to fine the Democrats who have left the state $100 per day.

March 3, 2011: Walker said that without passage of the “budget-repair bill” he’d be forced to layoff 1,500 state workers.

March 5, 2011: Michael Moore joins a rally outside the Capitol. Meanwhile, members of the Dane County Deputy Sheriff’s Association say they are in solidarity with protesters inside the Wisconsin State Capitol and will not kick them out.

March 7, 2011: Occupational therapist Bonnie tells The UpTake that if workers were to lose the right to collectively bargain as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has proposed, patients would be at risk.

March 9, 2011: On FOXNews, State Sen. Scott Fitzgerald tells Megyn Kelly that ACT 10 is about defeating President Obama’s reelection effort. The Senate passes the Budget Repair Bill.

March 10, 2011: Doors and windows are locked around the State Capitol to prevent more protestors from getting in. Some demonstrators use creative tricks to open windows.

March 11, 2011: Walker signs ACT 10 into law as protestors in the rotunda chant “SHAME” and “YOU LIED TO WISCONSIN!” Meanwhile, Madison Firefighters have started a movement encouraging people to move their money from M & I bank and other institutions that support Governor Scott Walker.

March 12, 2011: Over 100,000 rally outside the Capitol — the largest demonstration in Wisconsin history (including a parade of fire engines), as the “Wisconsin 14” Democratic state senators return to Madison. One of them, Lena Taylor, says that Scott Walker badly mismanaged Milwaukee County’s finances before becoming governor.

April 5, 2011: Back in Madison, Jesse Jackson invokes Rev. Martin Luther King’s name as he rallies the struggle for workers’ rights.

May 1, 2011: State Supreme Court challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg narrowly loses to incumbent David Prosser in her bid to unseat the conservative justice. Had Kloppenburg won, the court could have overturned the Budget Repair Bill.

June 9, 2011: Following a brief arrest at the Capitol, UpTake journalist Sam Mayfield recounts her ordeal.

June 16, 2011: At the Netroots Nation conference, United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard tells The UpTake why the battle for labor rights in Wisconsin is so important.

August 10, 2011: Wisconsin voters recall two GOP state senators, but the Republicans hold onto power in the Senate by one seat.

Jacob Wheeler

In addition to shooting videos for The UpTake, Jacob Wheeler is a contributing editor at the progressive political magazine In These Times, publishes the Glen Arbor Sun in his native Michigan, and authored "Between Light and Shadow," a recent book about the Guatemalan adoption industry. Wheeler's stories have appeared in such magazines as the Utne Reader, Earth Island Journal, Rotarian and Teaching Tolerance magazine, and newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor. He speaks fluent Spanish, German and Danish.

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