Mason addressing protestors at the State Capitol Wednesday
Photo by Capitol Photographer Ting-Li Wang
Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, referenced John F. Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt and Winston Churchill as he told protestors at the State Capitol Wednesday night, "We won't back down."
Speaking to thousands of teachers, students, public employees and other taxpayers at a rally in opposition to Gov. Scott Walker's "budget repair" bill that would all-but-eliminate collective bargaining for state workers -- taking everything off the table except wages -- Mason said the governor is going too far, especially since Wisconsin was the first state, in 1959, to give public employees the right to unionize.
Here's Mason's speech:
I want to begin tonight by thanking all the people that are here to fight non-violently for workers’ rights. I have never been more proud to be a citizen of this state and this country than I am right now standing here in solidarity with all of you.
Tonight, we stand on the shoulders of previous generations who fought and died for the rights that are threatened here today.
We stand on the shoulders of the workers who were killed by the National Guard in the Bayview massacre fighting for an eight-hour work day.
We stand on the shoulders of the men and women of the AFL-CIO who fought for collective bargaining in the private sector in passing the National Labor Relations Act.
We stand on the shoulders of Eleanor Roosevelt, who worked to pass the UN charter on human rights, a document that includes the rights of workers to organize.
We stand on the shoulders of countless leaders and rank and file members who have negotiated in good faith with their employers and brought democracy to the work place.
Most importantly, we stand on the shoulders of the men and women of Wisconsin who in 1959 made Wisconsin the first state to recognize the right of public employees to unionize.
Tonight, we gather, in the winter of our discontent, to stop the most anti-worker legislation in Wisconsin history. I say again: we are here to stop the most anti-worker legislation in Wisconsin history.
Every generation is called upon to fight for the rights it inherited and improve these rights for the future. Brothers and sisters, this is the fight of our generation.
We must stand in solidarity against Governor Walker’s attack on workers because he goes too far.
When Governor Walker tries to undo 50 years of labor peace, he goes too far.
When Walker eliminates health insurance for unrepresented workers, he goes too far.
When Walker destroys the bargaining rights for health care workers and UW faculty and academic taff, he goes too far.
When Walker threatens the health and safety of public employees who literally put their lives on the line to keep us safe, he goes too far.
When a Washington Post columnist compares Walker to the deposed Egyptian dictator, he goes too far.
When Walker would rather plan to call in the National Guard instead of manning up and negotiating with the workers who serve the citizens of the state, he goes too far.
This is history in the making. Yesterday a reporter asked me if I was excited about Walker’s political misstep and what that could mean for the 2012 election. I told him I would gladly trade any electoral advantage to maintain the rights of Wisconsin workers.
Rarely are we as Legislators called upon to make decisions with so much consequence for the rights of our citizens.
And in these cynical times in which many believe the outcome of this debate is a foregone conclusion, I am calling upon the independent-minded Legislators in the Republican Party to listen to the people who are here today and communicating with you back home.
This is a profile in courage moment. It is a moment to transcend the advantage of partisan politics and November elections, and do right by the people who sent us here: our constituents.
I am asking for courageous Republicans to come forward, join us, and save us from the brink.
Because I can tell from the spirit in the crowd today and now — we won’t back down.
To paraphrase someone else once under siege: We will fight them in these streets and in the hearing rooms. We will fight them in the Capitol and in our communities. We will fight them in the smallest town to the biggest city.
Until reason holds sway over this extreme anti-worker proposal will not surrender and we won’t back down.
Until the Governor listens to the thousands of voices here and around the state, standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity, we won’t back down.
Even under the Governor’s threat of calling out the National Guard, we won’t back down.
Until we draw our last breath, we won’t back down.
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