AUSTIN, Texas - Texans rallied in front of their state Capitol, Feb. 21, to show solidarity with Wisconsin workers fighting to maintain their union rights.
They had marched from the Texas AFL-CIO office in the early evening, led by state AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller and her second in command John Patrick. At least three Democratic state representatives joined her in congratulating the crowd of 500 or so. About 150 of them were union leaders from across the state who were gathering for a legislative conference the next day. The rest were Austinites. All were bursting with enthusiasm for the opportunity to express solidarity with the working people of Wisconsin, who were continuing to grow their numbers and national support.
Several speakers lamented the sorry performance of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican who is head of the National Governors Association and is publicly encouraging right-wingers to support union-busting in Wisconsin. "What's disgusting?" asked the Texas crowd, answering: "Union-busting!" "What's disgusting? Union-busting!"
One of several union leaders to take the microphone was Linda Bridges, president of the Texas Federation of Teachers. She pointed out that the governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, blamed public workers' bargaining rights for causing their state deficit. But Texas has a worse deficit, Bridges pointed out, and "public workers here don't have any bargaining rights!" "So what's the deal?" she asked.
Bridges and dozens of teacher leafleters in the crowd encouraged participants to build an even bigger statewide rally on Teachers' Lobby Day, March 14. Dozens of buses have already been chartered to go to Austin that day. If they are not successful, the governor and legislature are said to plan 100,000 layoffs of school employees!
The crowd responded to Linda Bridges: "Save our schools ... save our schools!"
The Texas State Employees Union, affiliated with the Communications Workers, also leafleted the crowd on behalf of their own lobby day and state rally on April 6. A third statewide event is planned for April 12 by a new coalition, Texas Forward, which includes the state workers, the teachers, the Texas AFL-CIO, and a dozen or so other progressive organizations. The growing coalition demands that Texas spend its giant "rainy day" fund and take all the federal help it can get before officials start any layoffs. Gov. Perry opposes both as he tries to build his demagogical anti-Washington and anti-people pro-corporate campaign for further political power.
The spirit of fightback in Texas is international in character. Several marchers carried signs saying, "We are all Egyptians" and similar slogans. One of several lively chants was, "From Egypt ... to Austin ... We're all for Wisconsin!"
Photo: Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller rouses the crowd in front of the Texas Capitol, Feb. 21 in Austin. (PW/Jim Lane)