Protestors across the nation rallied on Saturday in a show of opposition to Republican-backed legislation in Wisconsin that would get rid of collective bargaining rights for workers.
Demonstrations ranging from a few hundred people to a thousand were organized in major cities coast to coast including Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, Columbus and New York, while in Wisconsin an estimated 100,000 people turned out in downtown Madison.
Protestors in Madison, who have been demonstrating for nearly two weeks straight now, changed slogans like "Hey hey, ho ho, Scott Walker has got to go," and carried signs saying, "We are all Wisconsin."
"Ultimately if collective bargaining disappears, my career will disappear," Karen Weatherwax, who is studying to be a teacher at the University of Wisconsin, told USA Today. "Teachers won't be able to have reasonable class sizes. … We will lose all control of our jobs, and no one will be able to learn in those environments."
Leaders from various faith groups and faith-based organizations were also present at the protests, while others showed their solidarity through endorsing and providing statements to shed light on the moral principles at stake.
"As religious leaders representing multiple faith traditions, we are distressed and grieved by current efforts to create a climate of hostility toward public sector workers and also workers in the private sector who belong to unions. Our religious traditions insist that workers, as human beings with inherent dignity, may freely associate to improve their conditions at work," reads an open letter from Interfaith Worker Justice, which has been signed by the Rev. Geoffrey Black, General Minister and President
United Church of Christ, and Rev. Peter Morales, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, among others.
"Regardless of our individual positions on the bill before the Legislature and what steps are necessary to build a stronger and better Wisconsin, I believe we can all agree that our baptismal vow to 'respect the dignity of every human being' is not served by a majority simply pushing through legislation because they have the votes necessary to do so," a statement from Bishop Steven Miller of the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee reads. "As Christians, it is our duty and call to make sure that everyone has a place at the table and every voice has the opportunity to be heard. Respecting the dignity of every human being requires taking the time to have honest and faithful conversation that respects the rights and freedoms of all."
Governor Walker, meanwhile, told Wisconsin residents on Sunday that the only alternative to his bill, which he says will close a $3.6 billion budget gap for the next two years, is to cut jobs instead.
"If we do not get these changes, and the Senate Democrats don't come back, we're going to be forced to make up the savings in layoffs and that to me is just unacceptable," Walker said on NBC's Meet the Press.
Walker's bill passed the Wisconsin state Assembly on Friday morning but is still being delayed in the Senate because of Democrats who have left the state in order to deny Republicans the quorum they need to pass the measure.