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SR labor rally backs Wisconsin workers

Pro-union demonstrators rally in support of Wisconsin workers in Santa Rosa's Old Courthouse Square on Friday evening. CHRISTOPHER CHUNG/PD


About 200 labor union supporters gathered in Old Courthouse Square in Santa Rosa on Friday night to show support for beleaguered public employees in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans are pushing to eliminate or weaken collective bargaining by government employees, a move they say will save millions of dollars and increase the government’s flexibility to run its operations.

The move has sparked weeks of protests in Madison, the state’s capital. On Friday, local union leaders said if it can happen in Wisconsin, it can happen in California.

“If you think it can’t happen here, what’s going on in Wisconsin, think again,” said Jack Thomas, president of the Santa Rosa Firefighters Local 1401.

The debate has sparked intense interest nationally as people on both sides of the debate watch to see how the move plays out in Madison.

Walker and other Republican leaders contend overhaul is necessary to put the state back on solid financial footing and to prevent mass layoffs.

Protesters in Santa Rosa said public employee unions are being made into scapegoats.

“People died for the eight-hour work day. People died to negotiate. If that goes for them, it’s only a matter of time,” said John Kent of Napa, a 34-year troubleman for PG&E. “If it’s wrong there, it’s wrong here. We are one country.”

Scott Severson, a Sonoma State University physics and astronomy professor, had a more personal reason for bringing a candle to Friday night’s protest.

“I feel torn up about what is happening to the hard-working people in Wisconsin,” he said.

Severson, a Wisconsin native and University of Wisconsin grad, was wearing the bright red sweatshirt of his alma mater and taking pictures of the rally to post to his Facebook page for friends in the Midwest to see.

“I think that this will bring them cheer to see people rallying behind their cause,” he said.

31 Responses to “SR labor rally backs Wisconsin workers”

  1. NOTUTOO says:

    The descriptors that are being used in this thread to describe Public Pensions and their members are ridiculous.

    1. Public Enemys
    2. willfully dishonest
    3. On Drugs
    4. unsustainable
    5. Gravy Train
    6. The milk has run dry
    7. communist society
    8. New Utopia
    9. New World Order
    10. unholy alliance
    11. entitlements
    12. bankrupting

    And my all time favorite…”Free Ride”

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  2. Who cares what other union employees think? It’s about time the govt. employee unions got taken down, once and for all. They’re bankrupting our nation and their blatant obvious sense of entitlement is disgusting to the rest of us.

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  3. Ricardo Sorentino says:

    RE: Zorro – “Governor Scott Walker will lose his bid to crush the unions. He and several Republican senators may be recalled if they persist. The will of the voters rules.”

    So maybe you could explain the passage of ObamaCare. The Republicans fought it, but at least they didn’t leave the state, playing hide-and-seek, trying to figure out how to get their way.

    Can you imagine that with every bill, if the politicians not in the majority, fled, rather than voted, on the issue at hand? Round of applause to the Wisconsin Democrats that bailed-out on their responsibilities.

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  4. Kim says:

    Well, they did it. Took away many of the bargaining rights…but left some (I guess). What happened in Wisconsin is much of the same thing that the Democrats pulled in Congress to give us Obamacare. Two different issues, opposite parties, yet the same results…it changed.

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  5. Chris says:

    All I’m going to say is that labor unions had their hay day…that’s long and gone. These same labor unions keep the workers who should get fired in their jobs, and the ones who work hard are usually the first to be let go. I am against Labor Unions, and I have seen what they’ve done to people as well. And if bargaining to keep your job is on the table, don’t go through and fight it. It’s common sense, hmm, keep my job or get laid off? I don’t know, doesn’t seem tough to me.
    Again, Labor Unions have had their hay day, it just isn’t there anymore.

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  6. John Sakowicz says:


    Just a reminder that Stanford professor and long-time Nor Cal Assemblyman, Joe Nation, will be a guest on “The Truth About Money”, on KZYX, this Friday. The show airs on 9-10 AM.

    Joe has characterized public pensions systems as “Ponzi schemes”.

    The show can be heard throughout Mendocino County at 88.1, 90.7, and 91.5 FM.

    Audiences in Sonoma, Napa, and Marin Counties can hear the show streaming live from the web at http://www.kzyx.org.

    Our other guest on Friday’s show is Brett Wilkison, the Press Democrat reporter who has been covering the public pension system.

    We’ll take a few listener calls during the show. Listeners can call in at: (707) 895-2448.

    Listeners can also email questions to our guests before the show to thetruthaboutmoney@kzyx.org, or during the show to dj@kzyx.org.

    Lisa Maldanado, of the AFL-CIO North Bay Labor Council, has been extended a standing invitation to be a guest on a future show.

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  7. Josh Stevens says:

    @ Susan

    With an annual U.S.budget of 3 trillion+(that’s not counting what is “off budget”).You could confiscate EVERY LAST CENT from the fortune 500 and every small business from here to Boston Harbor,and you could fund this gov’t for a year…maybe.And that’s not even factoring interest payments on the Nat’l debt.

    Indeed,don’t be a dupe…educate YOURSELF.

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  8. Zorro says:

    Governor Scott Walker will lose his bid to crush the unions. He and several Republican senators may be recalled if they persist. The will of the voters rules.

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  9. Rooster says:

    In response to the comment made by Susan on March 5th. “Dont be dupes of the rich. Educate youselves.” I completely agree. Educate yourselves! You too may be able to prosper instead of complaining about those who do.

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  10. cherie maria says:


    “But while the excesses of a few are being used to justify drastic action against public workers everywhere, even some of the worst-off state systems, like New Jersey and California, do not face an immediate crisis.”

    Cause sometimes context is everything.

    But since were extracting quotes from the article Lisa posted here’s a good one…

    “The average annual pension for government workers is roughly $19,500 a year, according to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, one of the nation’s largest labor unions. That would mean $500,000 could provide about 25 years worth of payouts to a retired public servant. The $9 million bonus Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein received for 2009 could have provided two decades of pension pay for 23 such public workers.”

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  11. GAJ says:

    From Lisa Maldonado’s Huffington Post link:

    “Of course, some public employees really are enjoying extravagant retirements on the public dime. Unions representing California prison guards and other police forces have bargained for extremely generous payouts.”

    From today’s PD Editorial:

    “Government reports can make for dry reading, but not the Little Hoover Commission’s analysis of California’s troubled public pension systems.

    The 106-page report, released by the nonpartisan watchdog panel, includes a detailed history of public pensions, a clear explanation of why the costs are spinning out of control, graphs showing the alarming magnitude of funding shortfalls for the state’s largest pension funds and a reform plan that combines pensions, savings and Social Security to ensure a sustainable and affordable retirement system for state and local employees.

    Failing to fix the system will only mean more cuts in services and more layoffs at public agencies, which the commission sees as the primary incentive for employees to accept changes, “Doing nothing to current pension obligations will cost public employees everything,” the report points out. “A pension cannot grow without a job attached to it.”

    But if there’s no action soon on this multi-billion question, as the commission bluntly stated it, “pension costs will crush government.”


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  12. Shepherd says:

    @Keaton: Thank you for putting that article link here. It’s good to know that there are others out there that question and don’t take for granted what they read as the gospel. I’d love to see our local rag do the same.

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  13. Joe Public says:

    The governor in Wisconsin IS NOT stripping union employees of ALL bargaining rights, only those that are a part of the problem, read about it.

    The pensions themselves are not the problem; the major problem is the link from union bosses to politicians.

    Politicians give promises to the unions in return for votes and unions give the worker’s money to the politicians to get or keep them in office so the promises can get fulfilled, and so on and so on.

    This is what needs to stop. It is an unholy alliance with money being directed where it shouldn’t be, not just toward pensions, many, many entitlements that are great for a small group but hurt all in the long run.

    What needs to change is how politicians get their money for campaigns and such. Business and union money to politicians should be illegal.

    Oh, and I’m a public secter employee, I just choose not to be blinded by “what’s good for me and mine”. And disregard how it effects others.

    There are many union workers that feel the same, the workers are not the bad guys, focus on the union bosses and the politicians who are aligned with them. My guess is the public cares more about the union workers than either of these two do. They only care about themselves and just use the workers to get what they want.

    Here’s an idea, collective bargaining stays, only without unions. The employees vote for a group of employees to represent them instead. This happens in a lot of places and seems to work fine. And after the contract everyone goes back to work instead of some going to D.C. to lobby for more.

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  14. Susan says:

    The depth of the ignorance of most of these respondents is breathtaking. This country is awash in money and it’s all at the top. Adjusted for inflation, over the past 30 years, the average worker’s income increased $320. But those at the top? Tripled! And their nominal tax rates may be a little higher than yours, but after all their loopholes? Their effective tax rate is one half of yours. Tax these people – every penny they earn from every source. The rich ride the gravy train and it’s time to kick them off. Don’t be dupes of the rich. Educate yourselves.

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  15. Alex says:

    Again, just slam the working people…nothing said of the payments to needy county residents — including food stamps, general assistance, cash grants and in-home services — totaled $12.8 million in April 2009, up more than 30 percent from 2008. Sonoma County spends more than 100,000,000 dollars a year on welfare (100 million dollars!)…with that said, lets lay off more people and add more on the never-ending gravy train.

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  16. Zorro says:

    Before the elections in Wisconsin Governor Walker never said he wanted to strip public unions of collective bargaining rights. In fact he made some promises to preserve and even improve their benefits.

    This didn’t even come up once during the election… probably because the reaction would have been something like what we have seen in Wisconsin.

    He would never have been elected Governor if he had brought up the issue before elections.

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  17. County Worker says:

    I guess I have until the end of our contract in mid 2012 to retire and get gone. Oh that’s right. Some of you are delusional enough to think you can break that contract. Good luck with that.

    Even if you looked at the returns that prove the system is providing as designed, you would still shake your head, stomp your feet and yell no, no, no. There is no appeasing the ignorant. Oh, wait, that’s right, we are ignorant for looking at a 12 to 13% return. 30 year average of 9% and somehow reason that 8% is wholey unattainable and unsustainable. I own a calculator. Any excuse is good enough if you don’t want others to retire with more than you.

    There are plenty of mid-range risk investments that have rocketed past 50% earnings a year since the 2008 collapse. Guess what? A lot of retirement money was in those as well and they are recovering fine. If you aren’t in those funds, do some research and jump back on the boat.

    That’s right, you have a bunch of money managers who shout gloom and doom. Have fun with them. There are plenty out there who work for a living and get the money job done.

    Here come the links to the losers again showing it is impossible.

    Anyone who thinks the current financial crisis is because of pensions doesnt understand where property tax money is supposed to go or that we had a real estate melt down and that money was reduced. Viola, money shortage.

    No, I am not scared of not being able to get a private sector job. I would feel bad about taking yours away from you since I could do your job better. There, the barb is returned. Feel good?

    p.s. Yes, I realize I am the delusional one. Of, course, it makes so much sense.

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  18. will hoag says:

    I get what they are “trying”, to say but its all for naught. The free ride is over for all. All of our states are broke. The big union bosses are the ones vying for power they dont give a lick about the working man. They want to usher in a communist society where all people are taken care of. Get you your one room shack bag of food keep quiet. The bosses just want your dues so they can elect their guy to get our tax money to line their pockets New Utopia New World Order, they want, “useful idiots” SEIU?

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  19. Steveguy says:

    There is no money for your gravy train.

    What part of ‘unsustainable’ do they not understand.

    The milk has run dry, and most City/County workers couldn’t even get a private job.

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  20. Skippy says:

    Publc Employee Union members need to understand how they have been lied to for decades by their leaders re: reality and benefits.
    The Union negotiators were either willfully dishonest or on drugs when they engaged in the coersion required to create the unsustainable benefits they now defend.
    If the contract had stated that every Union member gets a Unicorn and a castle in the clouds, Friday’s demonstrators of solidarity would have insisted they get theirs before the Co. goes BK.
    Message to Unions: get a grip on reality. We will never ever have the $$ to make good on the lies you were told.
    Get over it quickly or live a life of bitter resentment until you do.
    Yeah, it sucks, but you believed them, not me.

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  21. Future Employees? says:

    If the fight was only to effect future employees there would be no fight. People want to take away from those who are about to retire. They said it here. Cut, Cut, Cut. Fine, but don’t lie about it. These people are fighting to keep as much of what they have as possible. Some planned on retirement and now others are telling them they will work hard to make sure they can’t. Would you fight against someone who was trying to reduce your paycheck and possibly cost you your house or your kids college? What would you fight for? Anything?

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  22. Shepherd says:

    Does anyone besides myself want an answer to this question? Why were only some of the collective bargaining rights taken away in Wisconsin? Why has the Press not taken this operative word “SOME” and run with it? Here is your answer people, people there IS NO investigative reporting these days, they use ONE source. Wake up people, you seem to think the Unions are bad because of what the news tells you what to think, but there is more to the story.

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  23. Pearl Alquileres says:

    They certainly aren’t going down without a fight. But they ARE going down!

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  24. Tom Lynch says:

    @ Won’t Matter

    Jesus, “sew an emblem on their clothes” ??? Please…

    Some will portray the struggle to reform these unfunded pension obligations as beating down public employees, or we’ve all been had by Wall Street Corporations (true!); but ultimately this isn’t a fight against our public servants but for them.

    What most of us involved with changing the system are trying to do is honor the obligation for previous years service while reforming the retirement benefits for future years service. Without protecting the benefits for the next generation of cops, teachers and mental health workers we will see them all lose their jobs.

    Hopefully through the journey ahead most will understand there are changes that need to be made in order to protect the jobs and essential services that taxpayers fund and our public servants provide.

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  25. Mike says:

    The so called rally tonight drew a few hundred diehards but not much enthusiasm either from the speakers or the crowd. Maybe the public sector unions know the writing is on the wall. Deep cuts are coming in their ranks, wages and pensions.

    Oh ya, Lisa Maldanado made her usual speech involing the revolutionary spirit but the crowd reaction was rather mute.

    Madistan seemed a long ways off and a lost cause.

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  26. Chris says:

    Sponsored by the SEIU, big shocker.

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  27. County worker says:

    Most unions are under contract until the end of 2012. Like it or not, there isnt much that can be changed until then. They can lay off all they want, but they can’t change the pension system yet. NO, they are not on the brink of BK. That is hype. Cuts will be made. Some will lose all and some will work like crazy taking up the slack, on overtime. Makes sense, no?

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  28. Josh Stevens says:

    Like it or not,California is in deeper trouble than Wisconsin.

    It’s only a matter of time before the same public union reforms will have to happen here,by necessity.

    It’ll get ugly and contentious,but we’ll have no choice.

    Burn all the candles you want.

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  29. Won't matter says:

    It won’t matter locally. Some people in Sonoma County have suffered financially. They will not be happy until they can bring down everyone around them. Public Employees have become Public Enemys. The hate must keep them warm on these cold nights.

    Here it comes, lots of logic about why these employees must be beaten down. Next they will have to sew an emblem on their clothes so they can be hated in public.

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