Madison: Birthplace of A Labor Movement

It’s been called the Pearl Harbor of workers rights. And the sleeping giant that has been the American middle class is now awake.

Democracy is supposed to be slow. It’s supposed to be deliberate. It’s supposed to be a process of compromise where neither side gets everything they want nor gives too much.

But what happened on March 9th, 2011 in Madison, Wisconsin was anything but democratic. In a move that is very likely violative of Wisconsin’s open records law, Senate Republicans forced a vote to bust the public unions.

The people are not going to stand for it.

Thousands have already taken over the capitol, vowing to shut down the state in response to a last-minute vote that undid over fifty years of civil rights. Solidarity rallies have already been planned for tomorrow all over the state. Expect the same nationwide.

Governor Scott Walker, the college drop-out should have paid more attention in history class. If he did, he would have known that Wisconsin is not the place to pick this fight.

It should come as no surprise that a movement in resistance to corporate excess and outright theft from the American middle-class should bubble up in Madison, Wisconsin. The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) was founded in Wisconsin in the 1930′s and the state has a long history in battling for middle-class livelihoods.

The movement to bust the unions is not confined to Wisconsin. Ohio, Florida, and now most recently Tennessee all have lawmakers with one goal in mind: permanently dismantle the American middle-class.

Our country has been here before. Wisconsin has been here before.

As our country suffered through the Great Depression, Wisconsin state employees fought politicians who were attacking the very public services that citizens counted on to survive the depression. Thousands of workers faced losing their jobs. So in 1932 group of state workers gathered in Madison, Wisconsin, with the common goal of defending the civil service system. These workers formed what would later become the Wisconsin State Employees Union, and then AFSCME. The workers organized together through marches, demonstrations, and direct action to save the civil service system.

In 1958, a series of strikes and demonstrations by public workers, forced the mayor of New York City to grant collective bargaining rights to unions representing city employees.

In the 1960′s organized workers linked hand in hand with those of the civil rights movement. Workers took to the streets to protest economic and racial oppression. As any union member will tell you, worker’s rights are human rights. This new alliance with civil rights activists climaxed in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968 when sanitation workers went on strike to fight for union recognition after two African-American workers were crushed to death in a garbage truck. It was only after the assassination of Dr. King as he was supporting these workers, that the city agreed to recognize the workers’ union.

In 1981, in San Jose, California, it was public workers that staged the first strike in the nation’s history over the issue of pay equity. The action helped spark the pay equity movement.

It was because of organized workers that we gained substantial breakthroughs in living standards such as living wages, pay equity, and workplace safety. And as we see today in Madison, it is again public workers that are on the front lines fighting for fairness and economic justice.

Wendell Phillips said it best… “The labor movement means just this: It is the last noble protest of the American people against the power of incorporated wealth.”

Take Action: Sign the petition against Governer Walker’s attack on Wisconsin unions.


photo courtesy of marctasman via Flickr
Laura Akelin, President, SE MN Area Labor Council, Political Organizer, AFSCME Council 5


Camila K.
Kamila A6 years ago

Peg, I really admire your extremely limited ability to perceive and your huge talent to judge others so incredibly wrongly........NOT.
Its so pathetic to see ignorance running rampant. Same characters, different names. FOX makes you guys senile.

Walker has been the most unaware governor, and his days are over. He has been instrumental to show how truly lost his party is. All the Republican politicians have lost their minds, and its impossible to support any of them if you have any sense.

Let them go, vote for America! The Republicans act like only their party matters, and screw the country as long as they keep their power base. But they have no plans to offer the American people that would help and improve this country. Have any of you "patriotic" Republican supporters thought about that? This party stand for nothing but their own political interests for the sake of politics, for the sake of money for their own pockets......not America. Not any of you. None of us.

Dean P.
Dean P6 years ago

Never going to get the people to stand together in unison..Poor Govenor Walker has his head stuck up his

Peg R.
Randolph M6 years ago

Tierney G.
Get ready for the bread lines if single payer system gets it. Repeal Obamacare now!

Peg R.
Randolph M6 years ago

RM C. you my friend are a Fruitloop!

Peg R.
Randolph M6 years ago

Ann J,
You are so right! Way to go.

Carol G.
Carol G6 years ago

And Gee Whiz folks...all it took was a 9.0 earthquake to make some people STOP..THINK and LOOK FURTHER then the end of their own nose in dumb-founded silence and disbelief. Suddenly having the ability to work, think and discuss solutions TOGETHER with mutual respect and unison, feels better and very much a blessing .. doesn't it.

Fighting. argueing, mud slinging, back biting, disrespectfull single mindedness accomplishs nothing. Civility and standing together as One Union Under God is the ONLY way we will work our way out of this mess we're in.
The Lord's getting tired of this folks. A few years ago, many people began believing and openly saying to the world, our USA was no longer the greatest nation in the world. Those same people said it now was Japan. It only took 5 minutes to put us back in First place. Perhaps it's time to begin realizing again that no matter how bad something seems, very much to quickly it can become unimaginally worse.

Suzanne B.
Suzanne B6 years ago

Guess what? I have been called a Fruit Loop!! Not content to answer my post in a public forum, I received a "personal message" via email from Peg. I have been told I am wrong, Big surprise there. And I quote "I guess that's why the protestors in Wi acted like animals, screaming and yelling, trashing the building and refusing to get out. Maybe they were waiting for a fire to break out. Fruitloop! You have been duped by the union boss fat cats who live on $300,000. plus a year". I could try to respond but what is the point? What is the point of telling anyone that would take the time to trash my intelligence that the protestors would not leave the building becuase, under this Gov, it was the first tiem they did not have access to THEIR Capital. What is the point of explaining what so many have put so clearly. The email does not bother me, the source of the information does. How can people like Beck, et al, continue to fill people's heads with this stuff and get away with it. And while I am at it, Emily, maybe you should have had one of those "overpaid" teachers you complain about cause try though I might, I cant figure how someone who works for $51355@ yr is earning $1711.83 @ day. Benefit of the doubt, say they work 10 months, 5 days a week. That comes to $256.00 @ day or roughly $21.00 an hour. That does not count the endless hours at home, grading papers, doing lesson plans etc, that every teacher I have ever known does. Wake up please, I will debate anyone, but I need facts

Mark M.
Mark M6 years ago

And, Peg, if libertarian tea bagger Republican'ts are so incensed about the debt, you ought to stop and reflect where we'd all be if Obama's stimulus money had not been authorized. Here's the word: DEPRESSION. Bread and soup lines. 30% unemployment. Massive defunding of public services. That is, 1934 all over again. As for more debt, like BAILOUTS FOR BILLIONAIRES, the word is: they could starve for all I care, but the astronomical destruction of their capital would have caused -- here's the word again -- DEPRESSION. If you are all so pissed about $$ BILLIONS for bailouts -- then make sure the Republican'ts fund SEC and other finance monitors to watch the scumdog billionaires, because THEY WILL DO IT AGAIN!
Health care -- do you mean that because of sociopath billionaires, astronomically $$ fraudulent wars, massive tax cuts, etc. -- that millions of law-abiding citizens must continue to be RIPPED OFF by health insurance companies, and spiraling medical costs, and vast spikes in the cost of policies, or the cancellation of those policies, and the many medical bankruptcies that have resulted.
We are a wealthy nation -- but we are being ripped off and driven to the edge of a cliff by madly greedy lying scum who want to blame it on the unions and liberal Dems. BULL! Look in the mirror, Mr. WalkerBoehner.

Mark M.
Mark M6 years ago

Hey, Peg, step out of the Republican't time machine that spits out the illusion that history began at Obama's inauguration. You say:
"I guess you will be happy when the Dems and Unions Fat Cats destroy our country with debt. Fruitloop! Maybe then and only then will your eyes be open!"
My eyes are open and working just fine, thanks!
Fact # 1: Bush the 2nd inherited a budget surplus from Clinton. It was GONE in about 1 YEAR.
# 3: TWO WARS '01 to the present that Mr. Bush in his pathetic wisdom did not fund with new taxes or budget cuts. Instead he put it on the nation's credit card, and much worse, Iraq was a largely unauthorized, fraudulent purchase -- that so far has cost something like 20 TIMES the initial estimate! That's a 2,000 PERCENT MARK-UP! SAY WHAT, PEG!? And if you say, well, Bush had a Dem congress -- THEY WERE REPEATEDLY ASSURED SADDAM HAD WMDs! Well, we've paid $1 TRILLION for our invading troops to find them -- where are they?
# 4: The pharmaceutical corp. giveaway that put the U.S. on the hook for hundreds of $$ billions, allowed no price negotiations, and still had seniors paying for prescriptions part of the time, i.e., the infamous donut hole!
# 5: $285 BILLION in no-bid contracts the Republican'ts and White House handed out to well-connected pals for Iraq Afghanistan repairs? Some of them turned out to be far overpriced, and worse, the work was never completed!
I could go on and on. Get informed or be quie

Lika S.
Lika P6 years ago

I'm a voting cheese-head. Walker shoved this bill down so hard, it caused an earthquake in Japan. He's lucky my relatives are fine. I WILL be signing the Walker's Walking papers.