On Wisconsin

I sat up and started taking notice on a Friday more than a week ago. Feb. 18.

Sitting at the desk in my office, I started taking notice of all the tweets and status updates rolling in about protesters converging on the Madison Capitol building. Having just finished watching days of unrest in Egypt, it appeared as though another rebellion -- with major backing, like the situation in Cairo, from social media users -- was about to play out in our old backyard.

I texted Kates. "I'm thinking Wisconsin is going to go all Egypt on Gov. Walker."

Then again, Paul Krugman smartly wrote the situation has more similarities to Baghdad in 2003.

Even as we sit miles away, Kates and I have been paying close attention to the news coming out of Wisconsin since that first Friday about Walker's budget bill, which would severely limit the bargaining power of public employees. News feeds and Facebook connections keep us uprised of the latest developments. Several of our family members and close friends have participated in the marches protesting Walker's proposal. And if we still lived there, there's a good chance we would have been marching, too.

It saddens us to see unions and public workers so discounted. Ok, livid when we read and watch some of the news reports. Kates has been moved to tears ... The fact that it's causing such divide in family circles and busting friendships is heartbreaking.

I get that budgets need to be balanced, tough choices need to be made. Every state faces the same dillemma. But as so many journalists have noted, there are other ways to solve the budget crisis in Wisconsin. And union workers already have offered finacial concessions. ... Whether the 14 Democratic Senators who fled the state to defy a vote on the measure are acting nobly or cowardly is another debate.

Growing up and preparing for our careers, Kates and I never saw ourselves as union people. Never in a million years. ... But eventually, each of us slipped into a union as part of our respective jobs -- she as a teacher, me as a journalist -- and both of us saw the immense benefits of unions first hand.

It's not a matter of having extra powers over employers or non-union workers. Believe me, there were limits to participating in a union that flustered me, too ... Rather, it's a matter of having the basic right to negotiate for benefits and wages. Plain and simple. It's a benefit all employees would be lucky to have.

And the idea that teachers have it easy because the kids leave at 3 in the afternoon and they have summers off? Don't get me started about the early mornings and late nights Kates spends at her school in meetings, conducting parent-teacher conferences or preparing projects. Or the nightly paper-grading sessions on the couch. Or the Sunday afternoons she spends in her classroom preparing for the next week. I'm only scratching the surface.

Now, I've joined the public education sector. Not because I thought it would be easy -- I'm working harder now than I ever have in my career -- but because I find it exciting. It's an area I'm passionate about, proud to be part of, and I want to make a positive impact on young people.

We'll continue to watch the debate closely.

Good stuff ...
a Majority in Poll Back Employees in Public Sector Unions
a The Best Wisconsin Protest Signs
a The Open Capitol blog
a Union Bonds in Wisconsin Begin to Fray
a Thank You for Your Support. Now, Can We Sweep the Capitol?

The Daily Show's coverage of the debate has been marvelous. Our pal Jon Stewart is behind us.

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