Wisconsin Uprising: Labor Fights Back
Michael D. Yates
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Michael D. Yates (ed.)
In early 2011, the nation was stunned to watch Wisconsin’s state capitol in Madison come under sudden and unexpected occupation by union members and their allies. The protests to defend collective bargaining rights were militant and practically unheard of in this era of declining union power. Nearly forty years of neoliberalism and the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression have battered the labor movement, and workers have been largely complacent in the face of stagnant wages, slashed benefits and services, widening unemployment, and growing inequality.
That is, until now. Under pressure from a union-busting governor and his supporters in the legislature, and inspired by the massive uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, workers in Wisconsin shook the nation with their colossal display of solidarity and outrage. Their struggle is still ongoing, but there are lessons to be learned from the Wisconsin revolt. This timely book brings together some of the best labor journalists and scholars in the United States, many of whom were on the ground at the time, to examine the causes and impact of events, and suggest how the labor movement might proceed in this new era of union militancy.
A crucial study of the exhilarating fight-back in the Badger State. With superb essays from labor scholars and activists, it brings into sharp focus the challenges that working people faced as they rose up to take on Scott Walker’s reactionary assault. A probing analysis of the role of organized labor and the Democratic Party rounds out this indispensable volume.
—Matthew Rothschild, editor, The Progressive
Years from now, activists and scholars alike will discuss the protests that began in Wisconsin in the winter of 2011 as a turning point for the U.S. labor movement. The insightful and provocative essays in this volume are the perfect starting point for that analysis, and the lessons are still unfolding … an indispensable resource.
—Eve Weinbaum, Director, University of Massachusetts Amherst Labor Center
A still-breathing draft of history. With contributions by participants and observers steeped in the labor movement’s long struggle for revival, this volume is in turns celebratory, tough-minded, and anguished … a vital examination of a pivotal moment when workers decided the billionaires shouldn’t be the only ones fighting a class war.
—Mischa Gaus, editor, Labor Note
Foreword, Robert W. McChesney
Editor’s Introduction: Something is in the Air, Michael D. Yates
PART ONE: ON THE GROUND IN MADISON
Disciplining Labor, Dismantling Democracy: Rebellion and Control in Wisconsin, Connor Donegan
Capitalist Crisis and the Wisconsin Uprising, Andrew Sernatinger
Who Were the Leaders of the Wisconsin Uprising? Lee Sustar
A New American Workers’ Movement Has Begun, Dan La Botz
The Wisconsin Uprising, Frank Emspak
PART TWO: MOVING FORWARD: THE LESSONS OF WISCONSIN
Back to the Future: Union Survival Strategies in Open Shop America, Rand Wilson and Steve Early
In the Wake of Wisconsin, What Next? Jane Slaughter and Mark Brenner
What Can We Learn from Wisconsin? Stephanie Luce
PART THREE: BROADENING AND DEEPENING THE STRUGGLE
Potholes and Roadblocks on “The Roads Not Taken,” Elly Leary
The Assault on Public Services: Will Unions Lament the Attacks or Fight Back, Michael Hurley and Sam Gindin
Marching Away from the Cold War, David Bacon
“No, No, No, the People Have the Power,” Dave Zirin
Fighting Wage Cuts in Upstate New York Teaches Chemical Workers the Value of Mobilization, Jon Flanders
Beyond Wisconsin: Seeking New Priorities as Labor Challenges War, Michael Zweig
Building Communities of Solidarity from Madison to Bend, Fernando Gapasin
Class Warfare in Longview, Washington: “No Wisconsin Here,” Michael D. Yates
energy now contained by electoral politics? And what has it achieved? On Tuesday, February 15, four days after Walker announced the Budget Repair Bill, over 700 students from East High School walked two and a half miles from their classes to join 10,000 protesters at the statehouse. In Milwaukee, teachers had already been organizing demonstrations at the governor’s house with the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) and the Educator’s Network for Social Justice (ENSJ); some were using
So both to reward his political supporters and to manufacture the crisis that he said had been there all along, Walker and the Republican government wasted no time, paying over $140 million to special interest groups in January through tax deductions, credits, and reclassifications.5 They could then say that there was actually a budget crisis (keeping quiet that they themselves created it) and move forward with measures to “correct” it. On Friday, February 11, 2011, Walker announced the
but here the movement from below started to come into conflict with the conservative institutions above. On Monday, despite Trumka acknowledging the false deficit, AFSCME Council 24 Executive Director Marty Beil and WEAC President Mary Bell had announced that they would offer even greater contract concessions if collective bargaining provisions were removed from the Budget Repair Bill. Bell also ordered her teachers back to work, leaving MTI teachers alone in their “sick strike” on Monday and
care in exchange for dues checkoff and continued collective bargaining. But there can be little doubt that the squeeze on paychecks was a powerful motivator for public sector workers already battered by three years of economic crisis. As the Club for Growth made clear, Walker’s economic aims were simply an adaptation of the Wisconsin private sector anti-union agenda in the public sector. Though much has been made of Walker’s ties to the notoriously anti-labor Koch brothers, who control a major
and SAM GINDIN We are living in one of those historic moments that cry out for rallying the working class to build new capacities, new solidarities, and concrete hope. The crucial question is not how far the attacks on the public sector will go. The question is how far we will let them go. How will working-class activists inside and outside the unions respond? Do we have a counterplan? Are we preparing one? Can we act as decisively as those attacking us? What’s at stake is not just a new round