More than 100 people gathered in Pioneer Courthouse Square this afternoon to show solidarity with thousands of Wisconsin students who participated in a walk-out today to protest Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's "budget repair" bill.
The bill, which the Republican governor signed into law today, limits collective bargaining rights for most unionized public employee workers in Wisconsin. In Portland, students from Portland State University, Portland Community College, Lincoln, Grant and Marshall high schools marched into the downtown square chanting slogans like "this is what democracy looks like."
"This attack on workers and students is not exclusive to Wisconsin," says PSU student and rally organizer Wael Elasady. "All across the country. public sector workers are being attacked under the cover of a budget crisis. It's a priority crisis, not a budget crisis."
Several union labor workers, some proudly sporting worn hardhats, took turns speaking into a megaphone, expressing their frustration with efforts to stifle union rights.
Amy Sprengelmeyer, a steamfitter and member of Local 290, sees the new Wisconsin law as a troubling sign.
"If you break [the unions], we go back to being individuals," she says. "And then we're doomed."
Wisconsinite Lara Klain happened to be visiting friends in Portland when she saw this afternoon's rally while sightseeing. Klain, an education consultant for the state Department of Education in Madison, stepped into the center of the crowd and proclaimed "I lost my collaborative bargaining rights yesterday."
Klain participated in several demonstrations in Wisconsin earlier this week.
"Everyone's been active," she says, "And it's nice to see it's not just in Wisconsin."