Budget Repair Bill – Antenna http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu Responses to Media and Culture Thu, 30 Mar 2017 23:48:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Through the Lens: The Wisconsin Protests in Photos http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2011/02/21/through-the-lens-the-wisconsin-protests-in-photos/ Mon, 21 Feb 2011 14:47:28 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=8489 Over the course of the past week, I’ve been in and around the Capitol Square capturing as much of the story as possible with my camera – this is something I tend to do in most situations, but it felt particularly necessary here. For a few days, my photos went unshared thanks to a misplaced card reader, and it felt like some form of injustice – now, having found what had been lost, it’s been almost thrilling to share pictures from “on the ground” with those who may not be in Madison, or who may have seen only parts of the goings-on at the Capitol.

Admittedly, this is not quite a journalistic perspective: most of the pictures share my own experience, or the experience of those I know personally, rather than that of the thousands who have their own stories to tell. However, I feel as though the pictures were taken with an objective eye, offering a glimpse of the overall atmosphere more than any one particular point of view.

All photos were taken between Wednesday February 16th and Saturday February 19th in Madison, Wisconsin.

Inside the Rotunda: The Capitol

Writing Testimony
A graduate student prepares to give testimony to the Democratic representatives who continued the public hearings after Republicans chose to end the hearings after a single day. Testimony only stopped late Friday night, as Democrats went home to visit their ridings.
Protesters camped out in the Rotunda – this photo was taken at around 4:15am on Thursday, but people have been sleeping in the Capitol since Tuesday evening.
The bust of former Governor Robert M. La Follette Sr. is adorned with a common t-shirt during the protests, a more direct example of the building’s history and meaning being co-opted by the protesters to bolster their message.
Thousands gather on all three floors in the central Rotunda – later in the day, capacity on the bridges was limited out of fear for their structural integrity.
The capitol was filled with signs and stray personal items throughout the week – this jacket and sign were left in an alcove on the third floor.
What's Jesse Jackson's GamerTag?
The volunteer-run Information Station is part of a central infrastructure which has emerged this week – here, function mixes with comedy in an example of the high-spirited atmosphere in the Capitol.
Peace Room

A third floor conference room has become headquarters for the TAA (Teaching Assistants Association), which works around the clock on data entry, communication (through both traditional and social media), and general support.

Capitol Square: Marching in Madison

Sign Station
While filled with people later in the weekend, the West Entrance to the Capitol was an information hub and sign-making station on Thursday afternoon.
Marching in Solidarity
Although unaffected by most of Governor Walker’s efforts to curtail collective bargaining rights, local Firefighters have been a constant presence at the Capitol; here, their bagpipes lead a Saturday afternoon parade.
While many of the coverage of the event has focused on less flattering comparisons to Wisconsin’s governor, some offer a more aspirational role model.
Many of the meme-driven signs feel as though they are explicitly designed to try to make it into online galleries of meme-driven signs – this individual was clearly successful.
"Wash Me": Protest Style
Protests can tend to feel fairly ephemeral, but this “Wash Me” style graffiti offers a unique example of temporary expression.
Air Support
The “We” here refers to no one in particular, at least as far as the crowd was concerned – the lack of branding raises questions of who sponsored the banner (The pilot? The banner company? A local business? A local union? An out-of-state union?), but it also renders it a selfless show of support rather than a shameless bit of self-promotion, which has been common throughout the rallies.
Young protesters may not have a full grasp of the reasoning behind the rallies, but this young demonstrator’s correlation between Wonder Woman, government, truth and justice seems to indicate that their involvement is opening their eyes to the political system (and the real world allegorical value of superheroes).
Of the various pop culture-oriented sign trends, Star Wars seems to be the most prevalent – our own Jonathan Gray has written about the proliferation of pop culture-themed signs at the rallies, although only a few took it to the level of cosplay.
Finishing Touch
They remain the minority, but the signs comparing Walker to Mubarak or Hitler were present throughout the week – here, a protester adds a finishing touch to their Photoshopped dictator.
While Saturday’s rally began at 10am, thousands were still on the Capitol for a second rally as the sun began to set later in the afternoon.
Sign Bins
Signs on sticks were not allowed inside the Capitol, which meant that those waiting in line (as if at Disney World) could see evidence of those who went before them.

An Alternate Voice: The Counter-Protest

Tea Party
While the Tea Party rally was not expected to start until noon, a small contingent were on the Capitol when the main rally against the Budget Repair Bill began on the opposite side of the Capitol.
A Peaceful Debate
While most of the Walker supporters stayed on the East side of the Capitol, some mingled among their “enemies” in order to discuss the bill and its implications – heated words were exchanged, but not a single arrest was necessary to calm the crowd.
As the Tea Party rally began, hundreds of anti-bill demonstrators moved to the other side of the capitol to attempt to drown out the much smaller group of Walker supporters (which generous estimates placed at about 2500).
While the group was smaller, the Tea Partiers operated much the same: various different flags and slogans were common, while representatives from both genders and from many generations were present (albeit in much smaller numbers).
By the Time I Finish My Song
As the evening waned, the Tea Party rally became considerably smaller, having not scheduled another speaker-supported rally later in the day – based on this picture, their smaller size emboldened some of Walker’s critics to wade into the fray.

Eye on Wisconsin: The Media in Madison

Truth and Lies
As the media narrative was being formed earlier in the week, this particular pair took to the streets to try to take it back – they were seen with the same sign on Saturday.
Schultz Show
MSNBC’s Ed Schultz was the first major media figure to arrive in Wisconsin on Thursday, and was met with a fairly raucous crowd still finding the media’s presence novel – it would seem commonplace by the weekend.
ABC News
News crews were camped out around the Capitol, although finding a place to set up was challenging as the various rallies were still somewhat spontaneous. Here, ABC News deals with constant traffic and considerable noise, as well as concern for the safety of their lighting setup which led me to serve as a human sandbag for ten minutes.
Media Outreach
On Saturday, the media seemed more integrated with the protests, looking to capture the intimacy and atmosphere more than (perhaps) the scale of the proceedings.
"Wash Me": Current Events Style
Another example of graffiti, although this one seems well-intentioned (and was left, fittingly enough, on a CBS News truck parked off the Capitol).
This is...
There were a few curious onlookers later on Saturday as CNN prepared their report on the rally, but for the most part the media presence had become a non-event compared to the novelty of Ed Schultz’s presence on Thursday.
Wisconsin Eye
Wisconsin Eye, the state’s online streaming service for public proceedings, was given new function and purpose during the ongoing testimony. Sitting in the room, it was always unclear whether anyone was watching from home, but even at 4am the Representatives would acknowledge their potential presence.
Love Notes for a Refugee
While Senator Lena Taylor has received various notes of support online, through both Facebook and Twitter, her office door has also become a real-life guestbook where visitors to the Capitol demonstrate their appreciation without the use of a ‘Like’ Button.

[For more photos from the week’s protests, feel free to peruse my “Wisconsin Protests – 2011” set on Flickr]


Embodied Voices and the Protests in Madison http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2011/02/19/embodied-voices-and-the-protests-in-madison/ Sat, 19 Feb 2011 15:58:48 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=8467 A core principle of democracy is that decisions ought to be guided by the “voice of the people.”  But what is the people’s voice?  And how do the people speak?  As citizens living in the United States and other democracies know well, contemporary news media present the people’s voice in a familiar form: the opinion poll.  Fifty percent of the people believe this.  Forty percent disagree with that.  People appear as percentages, even when real live bodies beg to differ.  In my most recent book, I describe how federal policymakers turned to pollsters to determine their constituents views on Social Security, even in situations where constituents packed committee hearing rooms to have their voices heard.

The protests in Madison have demonstrated forcefully the power of an alternative to the opinion poll, an embodied voice of the people.  During the past week, policymakers, news commentators, and citizens alike have looked to the protests as a sign of public sentiment.  And the protests are having a positive effect!  I remember first hearing about the planned protests this past Monday.  I was depressed about Walker’s proposals, and had resigned myself to the bill’s passage.  I had planned on attending the protests out of a sense of moral obligation, but I didn’t expect any change in the outcome.

Five days later, the bill still may pass, but the possibility of its defeat has gone from non-existent to a chance—a chance that tens of thousands of Wisconsinites are fighting for.  And they’re fighting by showing up at the Capitol to march, carry signs, chant, and register their dissent.

The people’s voice, resonating loudly from the halls of the Capitol and the streets outside, is inspiring their representatives to act.  As readers of this blog may know, the fourteen Democratic senators who left the state Thursday to deny the Senate a quorum did so spontaneously as they gathered on the lawn of the Capitol that morning.  One senator was quoted as saying that seeing so many Wisconsinites out in protests for several days convinced him that he could not abide by business as usual.  In subsequent interviews, other members of the fourteen have called the protesters heroes, and they clearly seem to draw considerable energy from the people.  What if no one was outside the Capitol?  Or just a few hundred?  What if the senators had commissioned an overnight poll showing that state workers opposed Walker’s plan, but state workers and others didn’t show up to make their dissent known?  Would the senators have been inspired to such dramatic action?  I don’t think so.

In my view, the reason that the bill wasn’t passed on Friday as originally expected is because tens of thousands of Wisconsinites embodied their dissent in the capital city.  And their representatives followed their lead (hat tip to Sue Robinson for calling this point to my attention).  By leaving the state, the Democratic senators spoke with an embodied voice that would not have been possible in their chamber.  I’m a scholar of deliberation and true-believer in its transformative power.  But, on this occasion, no matter what arguments the Democrats would have put forward, they likely would have been defeated on a party-line vote.  Physically relocating their bodies enabled the Senators to express their opinions and to prevent a vote.  And they did so, as several of them have suggested, so that their colleagues could hear the voice of the people.

To be sure, the situation bringing about these protests in Madison is depressing, since Walker’s bill seems to be designed more to inflict pain than save money.  But the protests are inspiring, heartening, motivating.  They are a tremendously eloquent statement about the power of democracy.  Behold the voice of the people!


Protests in Wisconsin http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2011/02/18/protests-in-wisconsin/ http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2011/02/18/protests-in-wisconsin/#comments Fri, 18 Feb 2011 15:56:53 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=8443

As you may’ve heard, something is going on in the state of Wisconsin. Needless to say, it’s wrapped up a lot of our time here at Antenna. Governor Scott Walker has proposed his Budget Repair Bill, which would effectively eliminate collective bargaining for public workers in the state (limiting unions to negotiating wages, and even then tying them to the Consumer Price Index unless a statewide referendum ordered otherwise), would increase the percentage of healthcare costs that state employees need to pay, and would similarly increase the amount that state workers need to pay towards their pension plan.

Wisconsin was the first state to extend collective bargaining rights to all public employees, back in 1959. And now Walker has proposed his bill, and attempted to rush it without any discussion, in a move that would make Wisconsin not the forerunner of union rights, as it once was, but the forerunner in union-busting. Indeed, I winced with pain when I read an LA Times article that discussed other states’ consideration of such “Wisconsin-style” measures, depressed to see the state has already become a descriptor of union-busting.

Most closely to home, this affects your beloved Antenna editors dearly. The TAA (Teaching Assistants’ Association), and with it, our TAs, stand to lose a great deal. The Department of Communication Arts runs on the philosophy that we should take only those graduate students whom we can fund. While sometimes that funding takes the form of fellowships, lectureships, and/or PAships, more commonly it takes the form of TAships. The bill would increase our TAs’ healthcare costs, but more drastically would kill their union, or render it impotent, unable to collect union dues by mandate and left solely to argue for marginal differences in salary. Of particular concern is tuition remission, a benefit which the TAA would of course no longer be able to fight for. At stake is also simple stability – the TA’s contract with the state could be negotiated anew each year. While there are possibilities that some of these state measures could be counter-balanced through university decisions and policies, nothing is clear as of yet.

Some have pointed out that our TAs already get a much better deal than do many across the nation. Indeed, we’re proud to be able to offer all that we do. Which is why the thought of giving it up is vexing. Why shouldn’t we be ahead and offering more, rather than just one in the mix? “The mix” and the national norm is deeply exploitative of graduate labor, shamefully underpaying those who increasingly are doing the lion’s share of undergraduate education. If graduate students traditionally gave their blood and sweat as downpayment on a good job down the line, as the nature of the academic market vastly reduces the number of those good jobs, universities’ undervaluing of TA labor becomes all the more egregious and completely unjustifiable. The norm is a shambles, in other words, not something to aspire to, nor even something to resign oneself to.

Also close to home, the faculty will be affected, facing increases in pension and healthcare costs. And many of the other members of the university community, such as support staff, will be deeply affected, especially since few of them make professor-level wages.

More broadly, though, at stake is the fate of unions in this state. Beyond the pension increases, and healthcare increases (none of which I like) is the larger issue of 180,000 workers across the state whose union rights may be thrown out the window, and with them the belief in the need for negotiation with labor. If the Republican decision to change the name of the federal Committee on Education and Labor to the Education and the Workforce Committee wasn’t a telling enough indicator of things to come, we’re seeing a sea change in how workers are regarded and what rights they are – or here, are not – accorded.

As a result, since Monday, thousands have been taking to the streets in Madison (and elsewhere in the state). Monday began with a focused protest about UW specifically, with protesters delivering valentines to the distinctly unlovable Scott Walker and talking about the effects to the university. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday saw progressively more protesters both surround and fill the capitol building in Madison, and today promises more of the same. Teachers have called in sick, resulting in schools closing, and infusing the protester ranks with a large number of teachers and students. Thursday saw a university teach out, as will today. Even the firefighters and police unions – who have been exempt from the bill (a nice reward for their endorsement of Walker in the recent elections) – have turned out in force. Despite the best efforts of Fox News to paint the protests as “union hate rallies,” they have been almost entirely peaceful, filled with upset people, for sure, but not “angry” mobs. And yesterday, to add to the intrigue, the state’s Democratic senators first left the Capitol to deny the Republicans the quorum they needed to vote on the bill, and then left the state to avoid being hauled back by the Sergeant at Arms, whose jurisdiction does not extend to hotels in Rockford, IL.

Needless to say, this is weighing heavily on all of our minds. It’s hard to think about much else. We hope to offer various perspectives and reports from the protests here in the coming hours and days, and I offer this post simply as a placeholder till those other posts arrive.


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