In their first public group protest to Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-repair bill, Greenfield and Greendale teachers chose a very visible place to get their word out.
Teachers from all over the area protested the bill on nine major Interstate overpasses Friday afternoon. Greenfield and Greendale teachers chose the 60th Street overpass just down the road from Greenfield High School.
About 40 total protestors lined each side of 60th Street, waving signs and American flags at commuters passing them and driving underneath them.
“(The bill) is an attack on our rights,” said Doug Perry, a fifth-grade teacher at Maple Grove Elementary School. “We’re in rush hour here because we know a lot of people are coming home from work and we’re just trying to get the message out.”
That message is that teachers and other public employees are not happy with Walker’s plans to strip them of most of their collective bargaining rights.
“This bill is not just about money,” Perry said. “This bill is about workers’ rights and taking collective bargaining away from public workers.”
“I face 29 kids in my classroom right up the road every day,” Perry added. “They depend on me to do my best. One of the ways I do my best is, I’m represented by my union and I don’t have to worry about if one of my kids gets sick or if I get sick. I don’t have to worry about that and those different things and I can focus on being a teacher.”
Perry, like other teachers from either district, has been back and forth to Madison multiple times to join in protests that are garnering national attention. But this is the first time either district protested as a group right in their backyard.
“We, as a district, our job is to teach kids,” Perry said, when asked why his district did not organize a sick-out like other districts have.
Tim Burch, a chemistry teacher at Milwaukee Area Technical College, joined in Friday’s protest on 60th Street.
“The bill that’s proposed is going to make unions irrelevant essentially,” he said. “They’ll have no sense in being there. Might as well be a knitting club.
“Most of my colleagues and I, we’re are kind of beside ourselves. You’re walking around, waiting for something to happen. And you don’t know what to do. This is why this is good to come out here instead of sitting on the bench.”
Some teachers feel that collective bargaining rights give them a sense of security.
"It ensured that we weren't taken advantage of being that teaching is not the most high-paying job," Greendale English teacher Natalie Cook said. "It ensured we had good benefits, what we deserve, and ensuring we were secure at our jobs."
Greendale High School math teacher and union representative Deborah Weyer believes Wisconsin is a "better" state and does not deserve what is being done to it.
"I find it incredibly ironic that there are people across the world in the Middle East losing their lives to create a democracy and rights for their people," she said. "And we here in the state of Wisconsin, some of us are willing to toss them away overnight. I find that incredibly unfair and unreasonable. Wisconsin deserves better than this and we are a better state than that. We should not be passing this bill."