VIDEO: Union protest at state house draws hundreds Saturday

“And I’ve got a message for the Speaker of the House, we will not be silenced,” roared Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley (D) Saturday at a union protest in Topeka.

Capitol police estimate that 300-400 people protested at the capital Saturday, opposing a bill passed by the House this week that would ban unions from taking a voluntary deduction from union members paychecks for political activity.

Leading Kansas Democrats said the move by conservative Republicans was a part of a national effort, funded by Wichita based Koch Industries, to break unions across the country.

From the State house steps, Representative Paul Davis (D) asked the crowd, “You know who the largest contributor was to Governor Scott Walker’s campaign in Wisconsin? …The Koch Brothers.”

“Do you know who the largest contributor to the Kansas Republican party is,” Davis asked. “Koch”, the crowd yelled in response.

When called for comment, Koch Industries directed us to their website, where they say, “Koch companies were not and are not involved in lobbying for Governor Walker’s budget repair bill – which includes weakening bargaining rights for public-sector unions – currently at issue in Wisconsin.”

A spokesperson for the Kansas Republican party said, “While Republicans have been fighting to win the Boeing contract, keeping jobs in the state, Kansas Democrats are working to make sure they can keep taking money out of employees’ paychecks.”

Elexia Kilgore, a teacher from the Topeka area, said that union members are teachers, police and firefighters that deserve fair pay for their work.

“You know the hard working people of Kansas and United States are not taking away from taxpayers, it’s not like we’re living rich of the backs of others,” said Kilgore.

The union bill has been assigned to two Senate committees but have not yet been scheduled for pubic hearings.