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We Are Wisconsin

We Are Wisconsin

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Published by: Alex Hanna on May 28, 2012
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Sections

  • John Nichols
  • Erica Sagrans
  • Mike Elk
  • David Dayen
  • David Weigel
  • Ben Brandzel
  • Emily Mills
  • Tony Schultz
  • Sigrid Peterson
  • Joanne Staudacher
  • Michael Moore
  • Natasha Chart
  • Elizabeth DiNovella
  • Ian Murphy
  • Wisconsin State Senator Kathleen Vinehout
  • Chris Bowers
  • Kamal Abbas
  • Andy Kroll
  • Alexander Hanna
  • Noam Chomsky
  • Peter Dreier
  • Dan S. Wang
  • Sarah van Gelder
  • Allison Kilkenny
  • Billy Wimsatt
  • Van Jones
  • Elizabeth Wrigley-Field
  • Dan S. Wang and Nicolas Lampert
  • Kim Moody
  • Monica Adams
  • Jenni Dye
  • Daniel Schultz
  • A Statement from Tomas M Bird

edited by erica sagrans

WELCOME
What happened in Wisconsin in the winter of 2011 is a remarkable and
important story that needs to be told. We Are Wisconsin is one of the frst
steps towards telling that story, and we’ve made it available as a free PDF in
order to reach the widest possible audience.
Please share this book with anyone who might be interested—and help
spread the word by writing your own review on Amazon.com.
Printed copies are available for purchase on Amazon.com and at
WeAreWisconsinBook.com, where you can also fnd the latest book-
related news and updates.
Many thanks and much #solidarity.
– Erica Sagrans, editor
we are wisconsin
edited by
erica sagrans
Tasora
We Are Wisconsin
Copyright © 2011
www.wearewisconsinbook.com
ISBN: 978-1-934690-48-2
Content licensed under Creative Commons, unless otherwise noted, and used
with permission of the authors. Individual tweets copyright the tweeters.
“Union Made” poster used with permission of the artist, Colin Matthes
www.justseeds.com
Wisconsin fst image used with permission of the artist, Brandon Bauer
www.justseeds.com
Capitol rotunda photo copyright Emily Mills
Editor: Erica Sagrans
Cover and Interior Design: Christopher Hass
Copy Editor: Joel Handley
Printed in the United States of America
Tasora Books
5120 Cedar Lake Road S
Minneapolis, MN 55416
(952) 345-4488
Distributed by Itasca Books
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@MelissaRyan
Scott Walker just declared war on Government workers.

Memorial Union. A few dozen members of the Teaching Assistants’ Asso-
ciation (TAA), the oldest graduate employee union in the world, rallied on
a frigid February morning to object to Republican Governor Scott Walker’s
plan to strip public-employee unions of collective bargaining rights. Te
message from TAA organizers to union members was blunt: “All public-
sector workers are under attack. Faculty and staf are under attack. Te UW
as a whole is under attack. ... You need to get active now!”
It worked.
Two weeks afer that frst protest, upwards of 125,000 Wisconsinites
rallied at the Capitol in Madison as tens of thousands more gathered in
communities across the state. And while the crowds outside the Capitol
were massive, inside were thousands more—students, teachers, and snow-
plow drivers who had occupied the building around-the-clock for more
than a week.
Yet the demonstration on that third Saturday was not the largest to
occur during the month of protests at the Capitol. Two weeks later, a signif-
cantly larger crowd would fll the downtown of the city and hail the return
of Democratic state senators who had decamped to Illinois for the better
part of a month in order to deny the governor and his Republican allies a
legislative quorum.
John Nichols
July, 2011
foreword | 13
But the Wisconsin uprising was not just about crowds, protests, or
occupations. Like all epic struggles, what happened in Wisconsin in the
frst months of 2011, and what continues to this day, cannot be reduced to
simple story lines. Te full picture is always a nuanced one—complete with
a history, economic demands, social complexities, and prospects that are
only beginning to be realized. All of the vibrant colors, the black-and-white
contrasts, and the shades of gray that make the picture of what has hap-
pened in Wisconsin, or what is still happening in Wisconsin, are refected
in this fne collection of writing.
If there was a day when it seemed absolutely clear to me that what was
happening in Wisconsin would shape the lives not just of Wisconsinites
but of Americans for years to come, it was that third Saturday, Feb. 26.
And it was not just because of what I saw in Madison—although what I
saw in Madison was awesome.
Snow fell throughout the day, and temperatures were brutal. Te day-
long demonstration surrounded the Capitol, spilled down the streets of the
city, and flled every foor of the statehouse for what local historian Stuart
Levitan described as “the largest political event ever in Madison.”
Te people-power surge came in response to what the senior member
of the Wisconsin Legislature, state Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison) described
as Walker’s “dictatorial” actions, and to what state Rep. Cory Mason
(D-Racine) leveled “tyranny.” Tose are charged words, but Wisconsinites
recognized them as appropriate to the moment.
In interviews with national networks, Walker had tried to spin the
fantasy that the crowds that had surrounded the Capitol for almost two
weeks weren’t made up of real Wisconsinites. Tat was a lie, coming from
a politician who was spinning a web of deception.
Te people were ofended by their governor’s false premises—not just
with regard to the makeup of the protests but with the trumped-up “budget
crisis” Walker was using to bust unions, attack local democracy, and slash
funding for schools and public services. Wisconsinites do not take ofense
in the ordinary way, however. Tey do not get all hufy. Tey get all creative.
And their handmade signs put the liar in his place:
“Walker: Governor of Wall Street, Not Wisconsin”
foreword | 14
“I’m From Wisconsin, What Planet Is Walker From?”
Hundreds of signs recalled the governor’s 20-minute conversation—
revealed days earlier—with a prank caller who had gotten past Walker’s
receptionists and stafers by identifying himself as conservative billionaire
David Koch:
“Walker Has One Constituent: David Koch”
“Governor Walker, Your Koch Dealer Is On Line Two”
Tat Saturday’s rally in Madison was the largest gathering of activists
to that point in what had already become an unprecedented state-based
movement for economic and social justice. But what made the day a turn-
ing point was the fact that the movement was no longer playing out in a
single state. Te Wisconsin protesters were joined that day by supporters in
every one of the nation’s state capitals, as well as Washington, D.C.
Energized by the images of Wisconsinites rallying night afer win-
ter night—and flling the state Capitol with chants of “What’s disgusting?
Union-busting!”—the nation’s savviest unions were coming to recognize
that they were in a fght for survival. And they had to take that fght to the
streets—not just on behalf of labor rights but for basic premises of a just
and equitable society.
Te National Nurses United union took the lead in organizing national
solidarity marches and rallies that Saturday, with executive director Rose
Ann DeMoro declaring that the frst lesson to be taken from Wisconsin is
“Working people—with our many allies, students, seniors, women’s organi-
zations, and more—are inspired and ready to fght.”
Tat became clear as the day unfolded.
MoveOn.org and other progressive groups, along with unions across
the country, celebrated the success of “Rallies to Save the American Dream,”
explaining that, “In Wisconsin and around our country, the American
Dream is under ferce attack. Instead of creating jobs, Republicans are giv-
ing tax breaks to corporations and the very rich—and then cutting funding
for education, police, emergency response, and vital human services.”
Standing in solidarity with the people of Wisconsin on Feb. 26, those
who rallied in all the nation’s capitals announced that: “We demand an end
foreword | 15
to the attacks on workers’ rights and public services across the country. We
demand investment to create decent jobs for the millions of people who
desperately want to work. And we demand that the rich and powerful pay
their fair share.”
“We are all Wisconsin. We are all Americans,” they declared.
Tey stood in Atlanta and Boston, in Columbus and Denver, in Juneau
and Jeferson City, Santa Fe and Sacramento, in Tucson and Tallahassee.
And they stood in Madison.
In solidarity.
Tis book tells the story of that solidarity, and of the radical possibility
it has given Wisconsin and America.
JOHN NICHOLLS
July, 2011
#sOlIdaRItyWI

I had immersed myself among British activists as they prepared for one
of the biggest demonstrations in London’s history—where half a million
people took to the streets to protest the deep and painful cuts to basic gov-
ernment services that were about to take place. Te protests had grown out
of Britain’s student uprising that began earlier that winter, when high school
and university students stormed the Conservative Party’s headquarters to
protest tuition hikes and were met with violent police confrontations.
Afer several years working in national Democratic politics, I had fed
Washington, D.C. earlier that winter. Like many progressives, I was dispir-
ited by large losses in the midterm elections, frustrated with some Demo-
crats’ inability to stand up for progressive values, and wondering when the
lef would fnd a way to match the Tea Party’s grassroots energy bubbling
up on the other side. I knew there was energy on our side too; it just wasn’t
being channeled or organized as efectively—and much of it took the form
of frustration directed at the Democratic Party. As a stafer at the Demo-
cratic National Committee, each week I read survey responses from some-
times-supporters who admonished Democrats to “toughen up” or “show
some spine”—and those were among the gentler words they had for us. Like
many of the young people who had started working in D.C. politics afer
Obama’s 2008 victory, I ofen agreed with them. So we shook our heads
Erica Sagrans
July, 2011
introduction | 19
and did what we could to steer the huge ship we were on a few feet to the
lef whenever possible.
But something changed while I was away. In Wisconsin, teachers and
students and police ofcers and farmers gathered at their Capitol and
refused to leave, for days and then weeks—and Democratic state senators
stood with them. Te people of Wisconsin were no longer waiting for poli-
ticians to lead—they were fnding their own voice, and their own power.
Teir actions helped inspire similar protests at capitols around the country,
breathing some new life into both the labor movement and the progressive
lef overall.
In London, as we prepared for the March 26 demonstration it was
impossible to stop thinking about the Wisconsin protests, as well as the
awe-inspiring Egyptian revolution that had just unfolded. At an East Lon-
don gathering a few weeks before the big march, a thousand people cheered
Egyptian activist Gigi Ibrahim, who had been part of the revolution that had
toppled her country’s dictator afer a brutal 30-year rule. During a teach-
in at a London university, hundreds of us spoke with activists in Madison
through Skype video, and watched a YouTube clip of farmer Tony Schultz
fring up crowds in front of the snowy Wisconsin Capitol. A British activ-
ist told me how he had been riveted by the live video stream my American
friend had broadcast from his iPhone during the Madison Capitol occupa-
tion—video that was seen over a hundred thousand times by people who
were fascinated by what was going on, but unable to watch it elsewhere.
It was a strange but beautiful confuence of earth-shaking change. From
Madison to Cairo to London, it felt like we were all connected, all part of
something incredibly unlikely and incredibly powerful.
Afer returning to the U.S., I went to Wisconsin to see what it was like
there during the weeks following the protests that shook the Capitol and
the state. Tere were no more 100,000-person rallies, but it was impossible
to miss that something incredible had just happened. In the neighborhood
where I stayed, handmade signs remained in nearly every window or yard:
“Governor Walker, the whole world is watching,” “Walker gives welfare to
the rich,” and “Care about educators like they care for your child” were just
a few. Stores along State Street were flled with posters and pins and bumper
stickers that combined Wisconsin pride with support for unions and state
workers (“We have ‘State workers are sexy’ pins,” one chalkboard sign on
the sidewalk proclaimed). Chalk messages were scrawled on the sidewalk
introduction | 20
outside the Capitol; inside, large letters spelling out the word “Solidarity”
hung facing outward in legislators’ ofce windows.
I was also struck by how good life seemed to be in Madison. People
biked along the tree-lined streets and on paths next to the shimmering
lakes; tasty, local food was plentiful; strangers were friendly (one greeted
me with an energetic “Hello citizen!” and a salute from across the street).
Madison seemed like a place where you could live well, regardless of wheth-
er you had a job with a fancy title or a big salary. I could see why, when these
folks’ way of life was attacked by Governor Scott Walker’s eforts, they stood
up to fercely defend it.
Tis collection is a frst draf of the story of the Wisconsin uprising. No
doubt it is a story that will be told and retold for years to come, in for-
mats more nuanced and more in-depth than this one. But this anthology
attempts to bridge the gap between the immediacy of Twitter and the per-
manence of academic study. Te story told here is by no means complete,
because the story is far from over. Battles continue in Wisconsin each day,
from the elections to recall Wisconsin’s state senators to the (likely) even-
tual push to recall Governor Scott Walker himself. For now, Walker’s attack
on collective bargaining has become law. It’s a huge loss, to be sure. Yet
regardless of the fate of this particular piece of legislation, the impact of
what happened during those unlikely months in Wisconsin will be felt for
a long time to come.
Tough the organizing in Wisconsin continues, there is also a palpable
sense of fatigue, along with a desire to recharge and fgure out what comes
next. In this, there is now an opportunity to begin to take stock of the events
that have taken place. Many of the Wisconsinites I spoke with had not yet
sat down and truly refected on what they had been part of—they were too
busy getting back to some semblance of normal life afer weeks spent com-
pletely consumed by the demonstrations.
Tat isn’t to say there is not a strong desire to tell the Wisconsin story
to a larger audience. Afer all, it was the protesters—almost every one of
them—who told the story of the uprising using their phones, laptops, and
cameras, through Twitter and Facebook and email and blogs. Telling indi-
vidual stories was a way of sharing and documenting the protests, but sto-
rytelling also played a central role in the Madison Capitol occupation itself.
Te statehouse takeover began when protesters packed a hearing room to
introduction | 21
give their personal testimonies in opposition to Walker’s “budget-repair”
bill, keeping the proceedings going all night long and into the next day.
From that impromptu occupation grew an incredible new community un-
like anything protesters had experienced before. As more and more people
focked to Madison to show their support, those inside the Capitol found
what had been lacking for too long—a sense of power and a true feeling
of solidarity.
While this is not my own story in any signifcant way, I wanted to help
tell the story of the Wisconsin protests as a way of documenting what hap-
pened and inspiring others to continue the fght that began in Madison—in
whatever form that may take. While the protests eventually captured the
attention of the mainstream media, this collection focuses on telling the
story of the people directly involved: the Wisconsinites who spoke out in
hours of testimony and speeches at the Capitol; those who blogged, tweeted,
and reported updates from the protests day and night. Tis collection pulls
together many of the blog posts and links you may have stumbled upon
while the action was at its height, but that have already begun to fade away
into the ether of the internet. It also includes a glimpse of the parallel story
that was told in real-time through Twitter updates from those at the scene
of the protests. Tese short messages came together to form a fascinating
narrative that was captured daily through the liveblogging done by web edi-
tors at the Madison Isthmus, which served as an invaluable resource when
putting together the posts included in this book.
We Are Wisconsin highlights a range of voices from the lef, broad-
ly-defned: Democratic elected ofcials, progressive journalists, radical
grassroots activists, union members, and those who did not previously
consider themselves at all political. While there are certainly real dis-
agreements that these writers don’t shy away from, the aim is to push
each of us to look beyond our narrower labels and consider where we—
as progressives, the lef, or people with certain shared values—can come
together around common goals.
Tis book is for people who were not there to hear the stories told in
the Capitol rotunda. It is for those who merely caught glimpses of the Wis-
consin protests through the mainstream media, as well as those who spent
days scrolling the #WIunion hashtag on Twitter for the latest update.
It is for progressives who don’t think that the idea of unions or collec-
tive organizing matters for them.
introduction | 22
It is for union members, organizers, and leaders, and anyone who
wants to build a stronger labor movement, but wonders how they can
appeal to a broader audience.
It is for anyone who believes in the tenets of basic fairness and eco-
nomic justice, but wants to know what regular people can really do to stand
up for these values.
Tis story is much bigger than just Wisconsin. It is about people
around the world who are standing up and saying “no” to the budget cuts
and austerity measures that use real or perceived crises to pull the rug out
from under working people. It is about the global connections that are
starting to be built between movements, from the places that have already
begun rising up to the places that are next.
In the streets of London, as I walked with demonstrators on March
26, I saw a sign that read: “London, Cairo, Wisconsin, we will fght, we will
win.” What’s become clear to me over these past few months is that when we
do choose to fght, we can win. But no matter whether we win each particu-
lar battle, by fghting we inspire others to do so—and onward it goes.
ERICA SAGRANS
July 2011
For a detailed overview of the events surrounding the Wisconsin protests, see
the timeline beginning on page 281.

the one thing I learned about myself at a young age was that whenever I
joined my father at picket lines and union meetings, my uncomfortable
sense of insecurity vanished in the face of all that brave determination.
Spending time with workers who stood up for themselves and organized
against powerful corporations, even at the risk of losing their jobs, inspired
me to fght back against the bullies who teased me heavily as a child. What
workers taught me was that while someone may be more powerful than you
and make your life miserable, they could never truly beat you down as long
as you stood up for yourself. Tese experiences had a profound efect on
me, and that is why I’ve dedicated my career as a labor journalist to giving
a voice to the workers who helped me grow so confdent and happy in my
own voice.
At times though, it’s been tougher than I expected for both the labor
movement and myself. Tis past winter I found myself sinking into a dark
Mike Elk
July, 2011
burning down the forest | 24
lull, as it appeared that the labor movement was going to be wiped out for
good, just as my girlfriend lef me shortly before the Christmas holidays.
To make matters worse, I was still reeling from a bout of chronic pneu-
monia, and most days I was so tired that I could barely crawl out of bed.
And as a freelance labor journalist, I was broke and with bleak prospects,
since few publications were interested or had the funding to print stories
about organized labor.
At the time, most of the media conversation about labor was focused
on the themes of the documentary flm Waiting for Superman—which
argued that overpaid public employees and teachers were to blame for the
decline of American society. It was hard to fnd anyone who disagreed, even
among middle-class liberals and Democrats in Washington, D.C., where I
live. Tey all seemed to agree that organized labor was a part of the prob-
lem, rather than the solution, to the current economic recession. And it
went right up to the top: Democrats like President Barack Obama even
seemed to endorse the attack on public-sector unions by calling for a wage
freeze on federal workers in January.
As that dark winter stumbled slowly into February, newly elected
Republican governors in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida were racing at
breakneck speed to see who could take away public employees’ collective
bargaining rights frst. It was so over-the-top and aggressive that it almost
didn’t seem real; and yet, nobody except a small handful of reporters seemed
to be writing about these new attacks on organized labor. It was unclear if
labor would even stand up for itself anymore—was this still the same gutsy
labor movement whose stories inspired me in my childhood?
In February I went to New York to take a break from the problems
haunting me in D.C., and in part to understand why New York City’s
Building and Constructions Trades Council President Gary LaBarbera
had turned on public-employee unions. LaBarbera had endorsed a con-
troversial group that called for policies curtailing New York’s public-
employee unions. Te leadership of the trades council, whose mem-
bers were facing 40 percent unemployment, were convinced that they
could fnd political support and additional revenue to fund construction
projects by advocating for the cutting of benefts and wages of public
employees. It seemed as if labor was doomed, and that some union lead-
ers might try to make separate deals to save their own individual unions
at the expense of others.
burning down the forest | 25
I was also going to New York City to see the legendary 96-year-old
labor journalist Harry Kelber.
Kelber had covered the labor movement’s birth in the 1930s, when
Kelber himself was still in his twenties, and he continues to write three
columns a week for his website, the Labor Educator.
Te year before, my activist grandparents had passed away within
months of each other; both were 92 when they died. Tey had always
helped me get through my occasional bouts of depression by sharing their
wisdom about the many twists and turns in life. I missed them dearly, and
as I headed to New York I hoped Harry Kelber could provide me with the
same kind of insights that my grandparents used to share.
Kelber lived in a beautiful apartment in Brooklyn Heights, with a jaw-
dropping view overlooking the harbor. His apartment was littered with
books and sheet music that he was using for his own original compositions;
the walls were adorned with gorgeous paintings and posters depicting
labor’s great struggles of the past; and there were so many plants it seemed
they were sprouting out of every corner. Te mood inside the apartment
was bright and cheerful, contrasting sharply with my own darkness.
Kelber seemed upbeat, inspired by the recent revolution in Egypt, whose
dictator looked like he would be stepping down any day now afer weeks
of popular protests.
“I can just feel it,” Kelber told me, “people will see what is happening in
Egypt and all of a sudden they will realize they have a voice. Once people
see they have a voice, it’s tough to put that away. It will spread like wildfre.
I saw it happen in the 1930s, and it will happen here again with the great
attack labor is under.” I lef Brooklyn Heights that day desperately cling-
ing to Kelber’s dream of a working-class uprising, but it was hard not to
be skeptical; it was hard to think that the American working class would
march together in strength ever again.
On Friday Feb. 11, three days afer I visited Kelber, Wisconsin Gover-
nor Scott Walker upped his war against public-employee unions by threat-
ening to call out the National Guard to prevent state workers from strik-
ing. I received a phone call from a friend, American Federation of Teachers
organizer Jan Van Tol, who told me that people were outraged by Walker’s
actions and that they expected protests the following week that could pos-
sibly number in the thousands.
By Monday they had already exceeded that expectation, when 10,000
burning down the forest | 26
people showed up at the Wisconsin state Capitol. Te following night, the
Teaching Assistants’ Association made a daring but key decision to step up
the protests and occupy the Capitol, and they began sleeping there over-
night. One of the union’s leaders was Alex Hanna, a graduate student who
had just returned from Cairo a few days before. Afer seeing the events
in Egypt frsthand, Hanna was confdent that students and workers would
have their voices heard by turning the Wisconsin Capitol into their own
Tahrir Square.
And it spread: On Tuesday, hundreds of students from high schools
around Madison, who, of course, had never been union members, started
walking out of class. Madison’s teachers union voted to go on a “sickout”
strike, and teachers around the state of Wisconsin began to join students
in walking out of school. Crowds swelled by the tens of thousands nearly
every day.
I couldn’t believe what was happening. I sat glued to my computer in
D.C. for upwards of 20 hours a day, trying to get a sense of what was unfold-
ing while frantically making phone calls to any labor organizer I could fnd
in Wisconsin.
Even though I wasn’t in Wisconsin during that frst week of protest,
thanks to Twitter I felt like I was there. Stories like the woman who, dur-
ing a rally, scattered the ashes of her union member father on the Capitol
grounds, and the images of the Capitol covered in a sea of red T-shirts,
painted a picture so rich in my mind that I ofen forgot I was in D.C., look-
ing at a Twitter stream.
Tursday Feb. 17, when the Wisconsin state Senate was scheduled to
vote on the “budget-repair” bill to restrict public employees’ collective bar-
gaining rights, I was getting antsy; I wanted to be inside the Capitol rotunda,
not in D.C. I watched as 75,000 people jammed the Capitol grounds, hoping
somehow to present a show of force that would cause the Republicans to
back down from passing the anti-labor bill.
I thought it was only a symbolic gesture when Wisconsin Democratic
state senators lef the chamber together, holding up solidarity fsts and dis-
appearing into the crowd outside. I realized I was witnessing a fickering of
the old Democratic Party, fghting for labor—nothing like the Democratic
Party hacks in Washington constantly attacking teachers’ unions. An hour
later news broke that Wisconsin’s 14 Democratic state senators had not only
lef the Capitol chambers, but had fed the state in order to deny Republican
burning down the forest | 27
members the quorum needed to vote on Walker’s bill. Senators that day
were inspired to literally shut down the Wisconsin Senate.
I started seeing reports on Twitter that groups of 30-40 union activ-
ists had barricaded each of the doors to the Senate to prevent Republican
senators from re-entering the chamber. Activists held tight that day, and
Republicans lef the building unable to pass the bill. Tweets of rejoice began
streaming out as it became clear that the people’s stand in the Capitol had
won that day’s battle.
And then, all of a sudden, a photo of the sea of Wisconsin’s Badger-red
T-shirts covering the marble foor of the Capitol emerged on my Twitter
feed and captured the collective nature of what we as the labor movement
are able to achieve.
I began to cry—we had saved the labor movement. We workers, through
our mere voices, had saved the labor movement, my God, we did it.
Over the following days, occasionally I found myself home alone singing
“Solidarity Forever” as I frantically typed updates from Twitter sources on
what was happening in Wisconsin, but I couldn’t shake the disappoint-
ment of being stuck in D.C. Wisconsin was where the big fght was, and I
knew I had to be there.
I made phone calls to diferent editors, asking them to send me to
Wisconsin. Finally, flmmaker Michael Moore agreed to sponsor me to go
to Madison under an arrangement where I would write for a variety of
publications.
burning down the forest | 28
Within hours, I had a ticket to Wisconsin. I couldn’t contain my joy
and my pacing: Tis was the most exciting thing that had ever happened
to me. When I arrived at the airport, all fights were delayed due to an ice
storm, but things in Wisconsin were moving so rapidly that I couldn’t wait
another a day to get there. With most of Madison’s teachers out on sickout
strike, it seemed like anything could happen, perhaps even a general strike.
I had to get to Wisconsin right away.
I quickly rebooked a fight to Chicago and found a bus from the Windy
City that took me straight to Madison. Te bus was so full that two-dozen
people were forced to stand in the aisles. I spent the trip anxiously fipping
my iPhone in and out of my hands, fdgeting impatiently.
I felt like a nervous combat correspondent touching down in a hot
LZ–in my case, ground zero of the class war.
Almost immediately upon arriving in Madison, I went straight to the
Capitol. Te frst sight that struck me was of people mopping up the foor
with gentle strokes, bent down on hands and knees. Tis was their house.
Te people had reclaimed it, and they were taking care of it as they would
their own house—they aimed to protect and preserve what had become a
symbol to the nation of the power of workers’ voices.
No sooner had I arrived than I ran into my friend Brett Banditelli,
a labor journalist who runs a small radio show in Central Pennsylvania.
“Look who fnally decided to show up to the class war, Mr. Elk,” was how
he greeted me.
Brett was representative of the small network of labor reporters and
citizen journalists who provided the bulk of the coverage of the Wisconsin
protests. Labor had largely been ignored by all but a few reporters from
mainly smaller publications and those who worked for labor-funded pro-
grams like Banditelli’s. Previously our audiences had been quite small, but
we now found ourselves trying to explain what was happening in Wiscon-
sin to the larger world, to whoever was following us through Twitter.
But frst, we had to make sense of the situation for ourselves. It wasn’t
easy, to be honest: Just a few weeks earlier, absolutely nobody in the labor
movement—outside of the old optimists like Harry Kelber—thought this
was even possible. For the moment, Banditelli and I were bewildered by
the campsite of protesters sleeping out on the foor of the Capitol, with old-
time potbelly union activists in sleeping bags camped next to college hip-
pies cuddling in a corner. Te Capitol had turned into some strange version
burning down the forest | 29
of Paris Commune meets old-school Midwestern union hall, complete with
bratwursts and drum circles.
I went a second night without sleep due to the excitement. I made my
way to the headquarters of the occupation, a command center set up by the
University of Wisconsin-Madison Teaching Assistants’ Association. It was
a crazy, chaotic, cafeine-soaked scene, now in its ninth day, fueled by cold
pizza and high fves. Students were running around like headless chickens,
setting up phone banks to get more graduate students to come out for pro-
tests, arranging for more food deliveries to the Capitol, and coordinating
volunteer protest marshals who had been self-policing the protesters.
As I looked around the room I noticed several laptops with “Obama/
Biden” stickers. Tese were kids who had worked for Obama in 2008 and
despite the disappointment that many had felt about the President’s admin-
istration, they had not given in to despair. Tey had learned valuable lessons
about how to organize, only this time they were organizing for themselves,
not for Obama. Holy crap, I thought, hope and change are still alive, but in
the occupation of a state Capitol.
While most reporters focused on covering the legislative and political
action playing out, I tried to cover something diferent. Something much
deeper was happening among the activists. Tere was a growing sense of
confdence that was emerging that turned ordinary students and workers
into gung-ho union organizers.
Most of the media narratives coming out of Wisconsin were about how
this had changed the politics of union-busting and shifed public opinion
in the unions’ favor. I would argue that it went even deeper than that: Wis-
consin changed the way people do politics, period.
Madison revived the concept of street protests, strikes, and solidarity
actions that had seemed to be all but extinct, replaced by the passive point
and click activism of the internet age and cautious top-down, D.C.-centric
labor leadership. As labor fought for its life in Madison, I worked feverishly
to document the revival of the in-your-face direct action, civil disobedi-
ence, and organizing that had built the labor movement in the 1930s.
I worked around the clock interviewing people, and fled three to
four stories a day from the front lines. I was so caught up in it that I even
managed to forget about the girlfriend who lef me. Hell, I forgot about
everything: I forgot about sleeping; I even forget to eat most of the time.
I don’t know exactly how, but suddenly all those months of lethargy afer
burning down the forest | 30
coming down with pneumonia just disappeared and I was full of energy
again. Te adrenaline of the protests kept me working 20 hours a day cover-
ing the new dynamic emerging on Wisconsin’s streets.
Ten one morning, my body crashed. I woke up and was nearly unable
to move my legs. My immune system, weakened from pneumonia and lack
of sleep and food, had caught up with me. My doctor ordered me to go back
home to D.C. to rest. I returned home physically exhausted, but mentally
energized and full of hope for the future—going over the possibilities of
rebuilding the labor movement that Wisconsin had unleashed.
A week later, in violation of the state open-meetings laws, the Wis-
consin Legislature was able to illegally, as pro-union activists argue, push
through the bill stripping public employees of their right to collectively
bargain. Protesters stormed the Capitol, busting down barricades and reoc-
cupying the building in disgust, but there was nothing they could do.
It was a body blow. It seemed like for the time being we had lost in
Wisconsin. Corporate America, like always, had fgured out a way to strong
arm the labor movement. It seemed like things were getting back to usual,
with the boss always winning out over workers.
But then I started noticing a new optimism about the labor movement
that hadn’t been there before. Everywhere I went, workers seemed inspired
by Wisconsin. General Electric workers in Erie, Pennsylvania adopted the
Wisconsin Badger as their mascot as they threatened strikes against GE,
which was pushing for workers to make concessions. Now, at every union
rally I go to across the nation, I see people wearing shirts of the state of
Wisconsin shaped like a solidarity fst. Wisconsin has become a rallying
cry that gave activists a sense that they could win. As United Steelworkers
Local USW 7-699 President Darrell Lillie told me when I visited him dur-
ing a bitter year-long lockout at a Honeywell uranium facility in Southern
Illinois: “You have to understand Wisconsin to understand that we can win
here and win as a labor movement.”
Wisconsin lit a spark in me; it lit a spark in all of us. A spark that union
organizer August Spies, one of the Haymarket martyrs, talked about shortly
before he was put to death in 1887 for a crime he did not commit: “If you
think that by hanging us you can stamp out the labor movement, then hang
us. Here you will tread upon a spark, but here, and there, and behind you,
and in front of you, the fames will blaze up. It is a subterranean fre. You
cannot put it out. Te ground is on fre upon which you stand.”
burning down the forest | 31
Wisconsin was a new spark of that subterranean fre of justice that
burns deep in all of us. A spark that the 96-year-old labor journalist Harry
Kelber had witnessed with his own eyes when labor frst came alive in the
1930s. As Kelber predicted, once people found their voices, as they did in
Wisconsin, it started to spread like “a wildfre.”
Let’s burn down the whole goddamn forest.
MIKE ELK
July 2011
@daveweigel
Not sure what democracy looks like. Could somebody point it out,
preferably by chanting? #wiunion
protesters occupied the Wiscon-
sin Capitol in an attempt to stop Governor Scott Walker’s attack on unions
and state workers. What began as a spontaneous sleep-in of people waiting
their turn to testify against Walker’s “budget-repair” bill soon evolved into
a highly-organized, diverse community determined to stand its ground for
as long as necessary.
Side-by-side they slept on the hard marble floors of Madison’s
Capitol—farmers next to student activists, teachers beside frefghters,
those who would be directly afected by the bill and those who saw it as an
assault on all workers’ rights. It was part protest, part sleepover, part new
city sprung up to meet the unique needs of its residents.
Volunteers set up an information station, frst-aid facilities, and a
“People’s Mic” for anyone who wanted to speak to the crowds gathered at all
hours. Tey coordinated food donations from local businesses and around
the world, created a charging station to plug in electronics, and designated
a children’s area where families could go to get away from the crowds.
Protesters cooperated with Capitol cleaning crews, and stood in solidarity
with the police ofcers that patrolled the grounds.
what democracy looks like | 34
As the physical center of the resistance, the Capitol became the place
where protesters negotiated tactics and discussed strategies. Even amid
intense disagreements, they showed what a real, developing democratic
process looked like. Tere were moments of anger and frustration, but
many more of joy and connection, from the daily drum circles to nightly
gatherings for old labor flms and protest music.
Te remarkable occupation lasted for more than two weeks, despite
attempts throughout by Walker and his allies to tighten building access and
push protesters out of the Capitol. People who took part in the occupation
describe it as an almost sacred community that kept them camped there for
days or continuing to return for more. In a rare instance, they had claimed
the Capitol back from the usual lobbyists and legislators and turned it into
a true people’s house.
@ttagaris Tim Tagaris
No idea if it will materialize, but it really feels like Scott Walker’s actions
could inspire something special in Wisconsin
5:19pm Feb 13
@millbot Emily Mills
Est. 3-400 ppl at rally, went right to gov’s offce with big pile of v-day cards
protesting budget bill. #wiunions
12:52pm Feb 14
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
Tomorrow is going to be huge, follow this account for any necessary
updates during the protest, today was for love! #handsoffourteachers
2:33pm Feb 14
@JamesEBriggs James Briggs
People waiting in line to get into the public hearing.
9:56am Feb 15
@weeks89 Lin Weeks
Weirdly high number of signs ref’ing egypt. And now chanting: “From
Egypt/ to wisconsin/ power to the people.”
11:20am Feb 15
@aClUMadison ACLU Madison
RT @WORTnews: East High School staff member calls in to say that 700
students walked out of school to join the labor rallies at the Capitol.
12:30pm Feb 15
@millbot Emily Mills
Contingent of frefghters showing support for unions tho Walker exempted
them from bill. #wiunion
12:37pm Feb 15
@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar
We belong. This is our Capitol today #solidarityWI #wiunions
12:57pm Feb 15
what democracy looks like | 36
Te Wisconsin labor fght has no shortage of compelling storylines. When
I got to Madison, I expected to talk to the lawmakers who were holding
back an assault on workers’ rights and the union leaders fghting for their
continued existence. I expected to break down vote counts to determine
whether the “budget-repair” bill had the numbers to pass, or look up arcane
Wisconsin law to see if Republicans could engineer a workaround to get
their anti-union measures passed into law. And I expected to check in with
Wisconsin’s 14 Democratic senators, safely ensconced out of state, to see if
they would hold out, or if they would crack and return to Madison.
But I was drawn to something quite diferent. And that’s the story of
the state Capitol, under a virtual occupation for the tenth straight day. What
started as a protest has taken on the quality of a virtual city on the square.
It’s very hard to explain unless you see it for yourself, but I’ll try. Te Capitol
has become a site for dissent, an information center, an organizing hub, a
pizzeria, a display of wit and the site of a new progressive movement. Tat’s
really not overstating the case.
As you walk into the Capitol, the walls are basically covered, and not
just with protest slogans and witticisms, though they are there as well (“Hey
Stewart/Colbert, we came to your rally, now come to ours”; “Te Curdish
rebels of Wisconsin”; “Tank God for CNN or I’d never know what’s on
David Dayen
Firedoglake, February 24, 2011
what democracy looks like | 37
Twitter”). Governor Scott Walker is getting a lot of mockery as well; my
favorite banner reads, “Hey Scott Walker, this is David Koch, will you talk
to me?” Madison is the birthplace of Te Onion, afer all. But the walls are
also festooned with a surprising amount of graphs and charts depicting
inequality in America, the percentage cuts to BadgerCare
1
in the budget-
repair bill, or how much of the federal budget is spent on war and the
military. Tere are even historical treatises about how Abraham Lincoln
once jumped out of a window to avoid a quorum call in the Illinois
Senate. Tis is a wonk rebellion too, furthered by the internet and the
easy accessibility of data.
And then there’s the organizing. While protesters rally and wave signs
and give public testimony on the legislation (a process that has been going
on for days), others are harnessing the frustration and passion. Phone banks
have been set up. Other fyers announce self-organized protests, including
one today in front of the new lobbying ofces for Koch Industries, which
popped up just a couple weeks afer Walker’s election. Tere’s a sign-up
sheet that reads, “I would strike to kill the bill,” with a pretty long list of
names. (Te idea of a general strike has been discussed and even endorsed
by a local labor council. Private unions wouldn’t be able to go out because
of the Taf-Hartley Act, but by mid-March most public unions would not
be operating under a contract with the state, so you could absolutely see
something like this happen, depending on what legislation goes forward.)
At another station on the ground foor is the pizza distribution; Ian’s Pizza
on State has basically become the ofcial supplier of the protests, paid for
by donations coming in from around the country and the world. There’s
coffee as well, and periodically calls for supplies go out and get fulfilled.
There are websites up devoted to the protest, like DefendWisconsin.org.
Other fliers announce Twitter feeds to follow for information or sites
collecting YouTube videos of the event.
Tere’s a lot of earnestness, knowledge and even humor throughout
the Capitol. You know what there’s not a lot of? Lobbyists. I’ve been to a
few state capitols in my day, and the suits are invariably fitting about, push-
ing their little riders to help out their clients. You’re seeing none of that in
Madison; it’s really a takeover. And the unity in the rotunda is remarkable.
1
State-run government program that provides health coverage to low-income
Wisconsinites
what democracy looks like | 38
Some of the most visible union members in there are police and frefghters,
who are exempted from the collective bargaining restrictions under the bill.
I saw a guy walking around with a sign reading, “Private Sector Nonunion
Employee – I Stand with Labor.” High school and college students are
extremely active as well.
One person said to me that the outpouring here is paradoxically
similar to the outpouring that ended up sweeping Walker into office.
People are tired of losing good jobs, of seeing wealth foat to the top, of being
part of a generation falling behind that of its parents. Tey want something
diferent, but they don’t know what that is. Now they see the true agenda
of these Republicans who got elected, and the same energy has gone into
fghting that. It’s an interesting theory, and I think there’s a bit more nuance
than that; Madison is a liberal town, and this isn’t Walker country no matter
what. But in the bars and on the streets, people who I would characterize as
townies, people who weren’t all that political to begin with, are incessantly
talking about this issue. It has consumed the town and, in many ways, has
consumed Wisconsin and the nation. We’re fnally talking about things that
matter to the mass of people.
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
Sen. Taylor just entered the overfow room to a standing ovation! She’s
telling people to stay, they’ll get a chance to speak #killthisbill
2:29pm Feb 15
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
Get your pillows and pull an all-nighter at the Capitol! Sign up to speak
and keep this hearing going till the morning! #killthisbill
5:16pm Feb 15
@millbot Emily Mills
Um, we elected you? Don’t get to ignore us. RT @jef4wi Gov Walker’s
budget head said that no amount of testimony will change this bill.
6:03pm Feb 15
@JacquelynGill Jacquelyn Gill
@GBsOwnMrsDiSH It was so clear today that folks aren’t just stereo-
typical Madison liberals. Lots of working class folks from all over WI.
7:24pm Feb 15
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
Come sign up to speak IMMEDIATELY. They may cut off the number of
speakers they are accepting. NOW NOW NOW. #killthisbill
8:45pm Feb 15
@eigenjo Jo Nelson
My thumbs hurt but i will persevere
9:52pm Feb 15
@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar
#Madison is no Cairo. But I for one felt inspired by Egypt’s strong desire 4
a say in governance. Rights. Democracy #solidarityWI #wiunion
11:57pm Feb 15
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
We’re hearing Republicans are going to leave and Democrats are going
to keep hearing testimony through the night.
12:07am Feb 16
what democracy looks like | 40
Tey call themselves the Cuddle Puddle. Tey did not come up with the
name. Tere are 10 of them, and they were among the frst people to start
camping out in the Capitol.
“We were all lying down in the sleeping bags,” says CJ Terrell, an unof-
cial spokesman for the cuddlers, “and somebody said, ‘Tey’ve got a cuddle
puddle going on.’ And we liked it.”
“We didn’t know each other before this happened,” says Tom Bird, a
University of Wisconsin-Madison grad student.
“Most of us met between 10 and two days ago,” says Terrell. He and
Bird became Facebook friends only this week.
You can walk the halls 100 times and not lose your sense of wonder and
amazement at the occupation. It’s hard to admit this without it sounding
like an endorsement of the pro-labor, anti-Republican stance of the protest-
ers. It’s not. It’s just that things like this don’t ever happen in state capitols.
Sure, there have been temporary sit-ins at statehouses. Tere were scat-
tered one-day sit-ins to protest the Iraq war. Te graybeard liberals of Mad-
ison—this city does not lack for them—remember sit-ins to build pressure
for a nuclear weapons ban and against the Vietnam War. But those aren’t
the same thing as a 10-day sit-in of a public building, fueled by donations
from thankful liberals in other states, peopled by union workers and college
How a bunch of pro-union, anti-Republican protesters turned the hallways of
the Wisconsin state house into a commune
David Weigel
Slate, February 25, 2011
what democracy looks like | 41
students who have built a little commune on marble. Tey flm themselves
and upload the videos to YouTube, and they are constantly in front of cam-
eras gathering footage for news or for exposés by the conservative MacIver
Institute.
How’d it happen? Because it’s legal to sleep in the Capitol if hearings are
going on, and because the minority Democrats started hearings last week.
Since Monday, police have tightened up access to the Capitol. Instead of
every door to the building being open, only two are. All four wings had
unrestricted access; two do now. Starting on Saturday, Senate ofces—some
of which had been used to house protesters for sleeping or strategizing—
will be closed to anyone who’s not a senator.
Tus the little village protesters have built will be disrupted, perhaps
even disbanded. It’s got to happen sometime. Before it does, I decided to
spend a night with the micro-commune. My night happened to coincide
with the night that Republicans pushed the budget-repair bill through
the Assembly, and the striking thing was how little changed afer that
happened.
6:28 p.m.: Governor Scott Walker’s press conference ends with no
real news. Te hallway outside his ofce is lined with letters collected by
MoveOn.org from Wisconsinites, pleading with Walker to cave. A sign
says the group has 10,000 or so letters.
Down the stairwell, on the second-foor atrium, a crowd has parted for
a nine-piece funk fusion group called VO5, which is performing an origi-
nal song tentatively called “Wisconsin (Cheddar Revolution).” Bandleader
Andrew Rohn is still thinking about where to put the parentheses. It’s an
old song he has repurposed with new protest-specifc lyrics:
You think you’ll beat us, we’re gonna lay down and die?
Screw us and we multiply!
6:55 p.m.: Parts of the second foor have been closed of, but protesters
have complete control of the area around Ofce 116N. On the lef: a table
for medical supplies, crowded with aspirin, Band-Aids, feminine hygiene
products, and so on. Tere are no photos allowed, and volunteers are told to
give a “press release,” handwritten on notebook paper, to anyone who asks
questions; it just confrms that the supplies are dropped of by Samaritans
who ask what’s needed.
what democracy looks like | 42
On the right: two tables of foodstufs, with supplies that dwindle and
change quickly. At the moment, they include a Tupperware container of
chocolate chip cookies, a tub of peanut butter that a volunteer describes
as “various peanut butters working together in solidarity for the cause of
deliciousness,” regular bread and gluten-free bread, tart candies, and piles
of bagels. Te food is paid for by donations; volunteers buy it and serve it, as
well as remind people to use the hand sanitizer nearby liberally.
In the center: a “family area.” It’s a safe space with no cameras allowed,
where children frolic, play with communal toys, or rest on yoga mats. I’m
bonked in the head painlessly by a ball tossed by a child being watched
by Trina Clemente. “I’m a student right now,” she says, “because there are
no jobs.”
7:23 p.m.: Ryan Henry, a construction worker from Baltimore, stands
in a frst-foor hallway singing original songs with a kind of Bob Dylan or
Fred Neil lilt:
Tea Party on the Capitol lawn
And Sarah Palin, singing along
Laughing all the way to the Pentagon.
Te song is drowned out at times by the sound of a whistle being blown
by Drake Singleton, who’s drawing attention to his silk-screened T-shirts
commemorating the sit-in.
7:44 p.m.: Dane Spudnik, who works at the Willy Street Co-op in
town, is manning the anarchist lending library set up next to a stairwell. He
doesn’t mind if people make of with the “Capitalism is Doomed” posters or
“Organizing in the Workplace” guides, but he wants to make sure “nobody
sees this copy of Te Shock Doctrine and says, oh, I can sell that for $5.”
8:27 p.m.: Te “War Room” of the Teaching Assistants’ Association
(TAA) is tucked away on the third foor. Te walls are lined with donated
cofee, takeout containers, cereal, and charts—lots and lots of charts—to
sign up for cleaning duties, or to pick up a bright-green vest and act as a
marshal. Te room itself is about to be closed down on Saturday, a casualty
of the Senate’s tightened security.
“Tat’s been our Situation Room,” says one graduate student, Ben Stein,
a little glumly. “We organized everything from there, and I don’t think we
could have put together any of this without that room. Now that we have, I
what democracy looks like | 43
think we can keep it going, but—that was a nice room!”
Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who represents Madison, is in the Situation
Room talking to some students. Other students are grading papers or call-
ing people in for shifs. “I asked them what they needed,” says Baldwin,
“and they said they needed air mattresses.” She points to the infatable mat-
tresses she just delivered, which will be deployed within hours.
8:43 p.m.: Te TAA ofers to let me do a round of trash cleanup. Afer
a moment’s hesitation, my journalistic instinct takes over: Collecting trash
would give me exclusive access to a whole new part of the commune. I grab
plastic gloves and a bag, and start downstairs. My ethical qualms vanish
when Diane Blum, a secretary at a nearby school, demands to carry the
trash bag.
So: Te trash pickup, which has kept the Capitol remarkably clean,
has two components. Te usual Capitol custodians do cleanup on regular
hours; the TAA does regular runs around the building, putting their trash
bags next to trash cans, per an agreement with the custodial staf. Tere has
been very little damage to the building. Once protesters were warned that
taping signs everywhere might damage the property, they switched to blue
electrical tape. Once protesters realized that some people were writing un-
kind things on the Scott-brand toilet paper containers in bathrooms, signs
went up warning against this. Te scribbling stopped.
9:14 p.m.: Protesters who’ll sleep in the Capitol are starting to settle in.
Te protesters who can’t are heading out. George Boulamatis, a corrections
ofcer in Racine, has to leave for a 10:30-6:30 shif, but he listens to an ad
hoc string band play folk songs before he goes.
9:50 p.m.: Te debate in the Assembly is dragging on. Republicans sit
as still and look as alert as they can. Rep. Dave Cullen is on the foor, and he
sounds like a tape slowed down on the reel as he hammers Walker over his
conversation with a phony “David Koch.”
“Tat’s one of our quietest members on the foor right now,” says Rep.
Chris Danou. “We can keep going for a long time. One of my fellow repre-
sentatives was telling me he has three hours of labor history to talk about.”
A lot of Democratic members are talking about the Kochs; when they
do, they ofen get boisterous cheers from the second foor of the Capitol,
where the proceedings are audible.
10:31 p.m.: League of Conservation Voters organizer Matt Dannen-
berg was listening to the speakers playing the Assembly debate. He’s one of
what democracy looks like | 44
the frst people to notice that Republicans have made an end-run around
the Democratic flibuster and are about to force a vote.
“Get people over here!” he says, swinging his arm toward the Assembly.
“Tis is not democracy! Tis is not democracy! Come on, we need more
people!”
Protesters jump of of their mats and bedrolls and run toward the
police tape blocking them from the Assembly. A heavyset trumpet player is
allowed to the very front of the crowd; screams and chants get intermingled
with smooth jazz. A Democratic stafer emerges from the chamber and
waves his arms in a “raise the roof ”-type gesture.
11:20 p.m.: Te protesters calm down a bit. One sign around the Capi-
tol says, explicitly, “Te Assembly Will Pass Te Bill, We Need to Focus on
the Senate.” So there’s a sense of resignation at a vote that was always going
to go against them. Kristina Nielsen, a UW student wearing her mother’s
American Federation of Teachers (AFT) shirt, knits a solidarity bracelet
and talks about staying even afer the bill passes.
“We’ve been here 10 days and I’m starting to get used to the marble
foor,” she says. “It actually helps that we’re more exhausted.” What about
the constant noise? “It’s fne. It’s like living in a dorm.”
1:01 a.m.: Te Assembly debate dragged on for hours afer Republi-
cans started to force the vote—by now, it’s been going on for more than 60
hours, and Republicans are fed up.
“Everything that’s being said has been said three or four times already,”
said Speaker Pro Tempore Bill Kramer. “Until seven minutes ago, no one
was listening. Except me.”
Minutes later, Kramer gavels in a quick vote. Democrats explode,
furious not just at the result but at the fact that the vote lasted fewer than
15 seconds.
Tey start to fle out of the chamber, and one by one they go to a railing
and wave to the hundreds of people crammed onto the foor below. Rep.
Leon Young tosses his orange T-shirt into the crowd; a protester grabs it as
if Eddie Van Halen has tossed a guitar pick.
“Tis is a travesty!” says Rep. Bill Hulsey, who’d yelled, “Shame” at
Republicans louder than almost anyone. “What do I want to do next? I don’t
even want to say.” He joins his colleagues in a caucus meeting.
1:20 a.m.: In the frst-foor atrium, Rep. Cory Mason joins the Cuddle
Puddle, who have a megaphone at the ready, and thanks the protesters. “I’ve
what democracy looks like | 45
never been so glad that we have two chambers,” he says. In the other cham-
ber, of course, striking Senate Democrats are not present for a vote, so the
bill is stuck.
Te megaphone is passed to Damon Terrell, CJ’s brother. He’s wearing
a cutof shirt that displays a fresh tattoo, a fst in the shape of Wisconsin
with “SOLIDARITY” written alongside. “For the frst time in my life,” he
says, “I know I am doing what I was born to do.”
Reporters try to talk to Terrell, but he gives them little information
before holding up. “I really want to be in the moment now,” he says. He
returns to the circle for hugs.
2:14 a.m.: Every night there’s a rumor that the Capitol will be cleared.
It’s not being cleared tonight. Some protesters are sitting up straight; some
seem to have slept through the apocalypse.
“How can you sleep?” says Mary McDonald, a representative of AFT
Healthcare in Washington. “It’s so dramatic! It’s so upsetting! How can
these people possibly work together now, you know? Tere have been so
many double-crosses.”
7:45 a.m.: Te doors to the Capitol are about to open again, and be-
fore they do I take a quick survey of the feeding/sleeping areas. Some of
the sleepers, roused, are doing TV interviews through heavy eyelids. Te
food has been replenished, with stacks of bagels and cream cheese in the
breakfast nook. (Tere’s no fresh cofee just yet.) Tere are rumors, as there
are every day, that the Capitol will be closed to protesters, but there’s a mas-
sive rally planned for Saturday. Tom Bird, the frst of the Cuddle Puddle to
wake up, stops me and speaks happily about the sleep he managed to get,
afer Democratic stafers lef and handed him and other protesters the cold
remainders of their Ian’s Pizza.
“I had to sleep,” he says, “because this is going to be a big weekend.”
@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar
Another person testifying at the J.F.C. hearing is talking/crying. A teacher.
A man. This is LIVE here http://www.wiseye.org/
#solidarityWI
1:24am Feb 16
@taa_Madison TAA Madison
Sen. Lena Taylor “I’m staying until everyone has testifed.” #killthisbill
2:31am Feb 16
@eigenjo Jo Nelson
do not be discouraged - we have demonstrated an unfathomable
opposition to the bill, and we must continue to do so. we are
making history!
2:56am Feb 16
@ryan_rainey Ryan Rainey
I estimate at least 300 here right now. Jauch: “at 3am, this state is alive,
this is the rebirth of the progressive movement here.”
3:20am Feb 16
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
Dems are addressing crowd now, getting resounding applause
#killthisbill
3:22am Feb 16
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
Sen. Taylor announcing that hearing will continue in 411S. And Ian’s Pizza
has donated pizza?! #killthisbill
3:25am Feb 16
@JamesEBriggs James Briggs
Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, is looking a bit disheveled, with a tieless,
untucked shirt. #capitolfashion #wiunion #latenight
10:34am Feb 16
@JacquelynGill Jacquelyn Gill
We’re calling it a work stoppage, includes fac/staff @DanMotor
RT @eigenjo: rumored uw ta teach out tomorrow. Spread the word
11:56am Feb 16
what democracy looks like | 47
As Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker bolts the windows and bars the doors
of the Capitol to scare, shrink and starve the ongoing protest within, it’s
important for everyone outside to understand just what he’s so afraid of,
and why.
I write this afer completing a once-in-a-lifetime week in Madison as
one of the many camped out in the occupied Capitol. And now I know why
Walker is so frightened.
Imagine a group of several hundred sleep-deprived, hungry people
crammed into a confned, noisy, bright, uncomfortable space for weeks on
end. Tere are no showers, no reliable food supply and no proper beds.
Tey’re surrounded by police day and night. And they’re mere inches away
from the chambers where the devastating legislation they’re gathered to
protest is being rammed through right in front of their faces. Surely, a
recipe for total meltdown.
And yet there hasn’t been a single episode of serious confict between
protesters or with the police. And there’s no sign of any such confrontation
to come. How is this possible? It’s not an accident, and it’s not a miracle.
It’s the product of a sophisticated, unbreakable culture that has evolved in
the hallways of the occupied Capitol. And that’s exactly why Walker is so
desperately tightening the screws.
Ben Brandzel
The Huffington Post, March 1, 2011
what democracy looks like | 48
If you were to walk through the halls of the Capitol, you would see the
bedrocks of this incredible culture all around you:
Responsibility. Volunteer marshals of every age and background,
wearing now-iconic refective vests, distribute information, convey instruc-
tions from the legal authorities and gently keep the peace. Te marshals
are all fellow protesters. Tere’s no hierarchy to it; you just sign up with
the Teaching Assistants’ Association and get a brief training on that night’s
priorities. Te system ensures the protest remains a largely self-regulating
phenomenon. Tis limits tension with the police and inculcates a spirit of
responsibility and good stewardship among every participant.
Respect. Handmade signs everywhere urge respect for the premises.
Te bathroom door sign reminds you “Tagging the wall is hurting the
movement.” On the second foor a large poster reads, “Remember, this is
OUR house—so let’s keep it clean!” When the cleaning crew takes its foor-
sweeping Zamboni out onto the rotunda foor, it is greeted with thunderous
applause and chants of “Tank you!” All the thousands of posters are hung
with special blue tape that will leave no trace. In my entire time there, I
didn’t see a single example of permanent damage or the slightest desecra-
tion of the building.
Health. A dedicated volunteer medical team operates a well-stocked
frst-aid clinic (with all-donated supplies). Medics patrol the building wear-
ing handmade badges or red-tape crosses, looking out for injury or signs of
illness. Hand sanitizer dispensers are taped to the walls. Piles of Emergen-C
line the hallways. Before you can touch the megaphone in the rotunda,
you’re asked to use Purell. I can speak to the efectiveness of this system
frsthand: While distributing fyers one evening, I tumbled down a fight of
stairs and badly sprained my ankle. Immediately, a man I’d never met half-
carried me to the medical station, where medics who would never think of
payment administered top quality care, cold packs, ace bandages and lots of
attentive follow up. Te occupied Capitol has become a far safer, healthier
place than, say, your average major city.
Generosity. Everything is donated. Te community survives because
people from Madison to Cairo have chipped in for Ian’s Pizza, endless ba-
gels, or breakfast burritos from an organic cafe. Fabulous homemade stews
and soups appeared daily for lunch until the police were ordered to ban
Crock-Pots. I saw masseuses drive for hours and haul their chairs up
three flights of stairs just to give free massages (before, of course, the
what democracy looks like | 49
massage chairs were banned). I saw people who had slept on cold marble
for weeks gladly share or give away camping mats and pillows. Tis week-
end, when food supplies were blocked and reserves ran dangerously low,
locals started smuggling pizzas in through the windows from the snowy
ground (prompting Walker’s unspeakably cruel order on Monday to bolt
the windows closed). And when the pizza supply was cut of, I saw people
who hadn’t eaten all day gladly share their only slice.
Nonviolence. Hand-drawn signs on every foor declare, “Remember,
this is a peaceful protest.” Every speech from the rotunda, no matter how
thunderous, declares a frm commitment to avoid violence at any cost.
When AFL-CIO union ofcials announced their commitment to provide
legal and logistical support, they made it extremely clear all ofers would
evaporate for anyone committing a violent act. Every night, several train-
ings are held throughout the building on how to remain “peaceful and pre-
pared.” Te volunteer facilitators help protesters understand their rights, but
are equally focused on teaching breathing techniques and planning skills to
avoid even an unintentional fash of violence during a tense moment. For
nonviolence to solidify as an unshakable collective commitment, it cannot
come from above. It requires a thousand individual eforts to build resolve
from the bottom up. In the occupied Capitol, that resolve is everywhere.
Solidarity. Last Wednesday evening the entire crowd erupted in up-
roarious cheers as a line of Wisconsin frefghters in full uniform streamed
into the building to spend the night on the foor with us. As one of the
few public-sector unions not to oppose Walker’s election, the frefghters
are exempted from the devastating restrictions in the “budget-repair” bill.
But what Walker didn’t realize is that these guys risk their lives every day
to save others from burning homes—and for people like that, solidarity is
a way of life. One of the frefghters held up a hand-drawn sign of “Di-
vide and conquer” written in a circle with line through it. Tat pretty much
says it all. Te spirit of solidarity drives everything in the occupied Capitol.
It’s why managers and students and private-sector workers are sleeping in
hallways to protest an attack on public school teachers and civil servants.
It’s the word two brothers from Madison camping with us had tattooed on
their arms. And it’s what defnes perhaps the most remarkable feature of life
there: the strongly positive relationship with the police.
Te culture of respect for the police in the Capitol runs very deep. We all
knew they might at any moment be ordered to remove us. But we also knew
what democracy looks like | 50
they were never our enemy. As a giant poster on the first floor declared,
“Ofcers stand with activists, activists stand for ofcers.” For their part,
the Capitol Police, Madison Police, as well as State Troopers and ofcers
brought in from other municipalities were consistently friendly, helpful and
polite—even when forced to take all-night shifs sandwiched between two
consecutive day shifs, as was frequently the case. Te ofcers knew their
duty and executed it well, but they knew we would be here camping out to
defend their rights if they were on the chopping block (police unions, many
of which also endorsed Walker, were also exempted from the bill). On Fri-
day afernoon I saw an elderly member of the pipeftters union going up to
each uniformed police ofcer, extending his hand, and saying, “Tank you
for being here.” One of them smiled back and said, “Tank you! We know
if this goes through, we’re next!” Many of the same ofcers who guarded us
during the day would take their uniforms of at night and join us in protest,
ofen bringing large “Cops for Labor” signs with them.
Te occupied Capitol has become so much more than a protest. Bound
by these principles, it has become a tightly woven community that now
stands together at a crossroads in history.
And these principles—responsibility, respect, health, generosity, non-
violence and solidarity—are more than just the defning qualities of the
protest camp in the Capitol. Tey are the values of the society we are pro-
testing for, that Walker is trying to tear down. Tey are who we want be and
how we want to live.
Tat’s why Walker is so scared of this community. Because he knows
he’s not up against a feeting burst of anger. He’s up against human nature at
its best—and its strongest.
No matter what happens next at the standof at the Wisconsin Capitol,
the occupation has given rise to a new and powerful culture. It’s a culture
that wins more allies and draws more strength every day.
And it is unbreakable.
@millbot Emily Mills
Firefghters have entered main throng of rally with bagpipes! Style.
11:58am Feb 16
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
This crowd is made up of families, students, teachers, people who love
their state. Will all stay as long as it takes. #notmyWI
12:05pm Feb 16
@eigenjo Jo Nelson
Unions do good for the people. Let this be heard in the corridors of the
capitol. And they can hear. I hope they pause and listen.
12:08pm Feb 16
@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar
If you didn’t know, you do now: Wisconsin is ground zero. Holding the line
against the onslaught against Progressive values
12:10pm Feb 16
@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar
Lemme lay it out: #Madison AND #WI has a literal shit-storm of
protest rt. now. We have Dems who R conducting a 24hr+ hearing
12:35pm Feb 16
@eigenjo Jo Nelson
It is amazing to be a part of history today
12:41pm Feb 16
what democracy looks like | 52
I’ve spent the last few days almost entirely immersed in the ever-growing
protest on behalf of workers’ rights and against Governor Scott Walker’s
attempt to take them away. Tuesday I found myself in the middle of a
10,000-plus crowd of students and workers, union and non-union alike, as
they stormed the Capitol and flled its halls with the almost overwhelming
echoes of their chants and cheers.
It’s been intense, but incredibly inspiring.
I don’t know what the outcome will be—whether Walker and his
cronies will simply ignore the deafening will of the people of their state and
push the “budget-repair” bill through as is—or if reason and compassion
will actually win the day, and force them to at least delay and reconsider.
What I do know is that there are tens, if not hundreds of thousands of
people in Wisconsin who are out there walking the line, showing support
for their friends and families, and doing so peacefully but passionately.
I walked with over 700 students from East High School as they marched
up East Washington Avenue to the Capitol to join the protesters there.
While I’m sure there were some in the crowd who simply found themselves
swept up in the moment and the opportunity to miss class, the vast majority
knew what the issue was and what was at stake. I spoke with several who ex-
pressed a desire to fght for the rights of their teachers and family members
Emily Mills
Isthmus, February 16, 2011
what democracy looks like | 53
who worked for the state. Tere will always be those cynics who dismiss the
activism of youth as naive and pointless, but this is our future, folks. As far
as I could see yesterday (and again today, as yet more students joined the
throngs), the future’s looking pretty damn good.
Today I stood on a stone pillar on the King Street side of the Capitol,
craned my neck in every direction and couldn’t see a single patch of ground
unoccupied by someone. I saw union workers, both public- and private-
sector, from every occupation—nurses, steelworkers, teachers, sanitation
workers, law enforcement, social workers, prison guards, civil servants. A
group of frefghters, though exempted from Walker’s scheme, came out
in force, bagpipers and all, to show support for fellow union members.
Children stood with their parents or schoolmates and waved handmade
signs in support. Music blasted, people danced, and all around there was an
all-encompassing sense of determination.
If Walker’s goal was to galvanize the organized labor movement in this
state, he’s succeeded admirably. But that’s about all I’d be willing to give him
credit for.
Talking with a couple of local teachers who turned out to the rally, it
became all the more clear the damage this bill will do on the ground—not
just for the teachers themselves, but for children across the state who rely
on them for education, for a second home, for security even.
Jesse Wiedmeyer, a substitute teacher at Madison East High School,
was handing out Madison Teachers, Inc. support stickers to fellow picketers
when I asked him what the bill’s passage would mean for him, personally.
“New job or a new state,” he answered with a rueful chuckle. “Tat’s
what we decided, y’know? If we want to keep teaching maybe Wisconsin’s
not the place.”
Two women who are teachers in Madison but preferred not to give
their names expressed serious concerns over what the bill would mean in
terms of how they actually did their jobs.
“Without collective bargaining rights we can’t negotiate curriculum,
other important safety and school issues that are important to students—
and that’s why we teach,” said one.
Mostly, they were concerned with just how much remained unknown
about the bill’s particulars, rushed through in just under a week as it’s
been. If collective bargaining rights for everything but salary are to be
taken away, will teachers have a say in what they teach their students? Or
what democracy looks like | 54
will the governor have the ability to legislate curriculum?
It’s just one of a slew of serious questions that are being asked regarding
the bill and, so far, going unanswered by Walker.
State workers have stated time and again that they’re more than willing
to share in the burden of balancing the budget through concessions. Tey
made a series of them at the end of contract negotiations that were ulti-
mately struck down by the lame-duck session of the Legislature that bowed
to the wishes of the incoming administration.
Tis isn’t about money, though. As Brad Lutes, a teacher from Sun
Prairie and one of the speakers at today’s rally said, “As much as this is
about salaries and benefts, it’s much more about the loss of workers’ fun-
damental rights.”
Stripping 50 years of established labor law in less than a week is a
dangerous and frankly disgusting act of stubborn, compassionless, short-
sighted governance. Walker says he doesn’t want to negotiate and seems
completely blind to the massive outpouring of opposition coming from his
constituents. Tat to me indicates a person not interested in being part of
a democracy, but rather someone more concerned with personal gain and
autocracy.
Tat’s not the Wisconsin I’ve come to love in the 10 years I’ve lived
here, and there are tens of thousands of people (at least!) who visibly agree
with me.
Keep it up, Wisconsin. Solidarity!
@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar
@athenae Some try 2 paint #Madison as only sandals,lattes. Well
yestrday I saw WAY MORE WORK COATS & coveralls in town
#wiunion #solidarityWI
12:44pm Feb 16
@aemilli Emily
I effng love my city and my state so much right now. #notmywi
#killthisbill #wiunion
1:32pm Feb 16
@cruiskeen cruiskeen
RT @aemilli: Apparently Ian’s Pizza brought free pizza to the
protesters at 2 a.m. last night. http://huff.to/iaF9wf Will now be eating ...
1:38pm Feb 16
@JacquelynGill Jacquelyn Gill
#TAA says we’re going to have another sleepover in the Capitol
tonight! Bring your sleeping bags! #wiunion
2:57pm Feb 16
@MissPronouncer Miss Pronouncer
Just watched a report on nt’l TV about WI possibly being a “template” for
other states as fght for workers’ rights builds at state capitol.
3:12pm Feb 16
@swell Swell
We have to recall Scott Walker in January 2012. Even if we beat him now,
imagine what he would do his last year in offce! #dumpwalker
4:11pm Feb 16
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
VOTE FOR THE BUDGET REPAIR BILL IS BEING PUSHED THROUGH
TONIGHT. COME TO THE CAPITOL ASAP AND GET READY TO STAY
OVER #killthisbill #wiunion
4:39pm Feb 16
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
Email from @DailyKos encouraging people to come to the rallies.
@ThisBowers: The battleground is in Madison.
6:16pm Feb 16
what democracy looks like | 56
“I am suffering from audio nausea from all these drums and shouting.
I am on overload. I’m exhausted,” sighed 42-year-old AFSCME staff
representative Edward Sadlowski. Te Wisconsin Local 40 member had
been sleeping on the cold marble foor of the Wisconsin state Capitol for
over a week when I caught up with him. “I can barely hear, talk, or see
straight,” he said. “However, I am loving every moment of it and wouldn’t
want to be anywhere else.”
Sadlowski’s comments sum up what it has been like to be in the
Capitol as pro-union protesters occupy it for the second week in a row.
Amid the noise and confusion, it’s also been an exhilarating experience
for many of its participants, who feel they have found their collective
voices in the banging of drums and the singing of “Solidarity Forever.”
Others—mainly younger—feel like they are discovering who they are
as they converse with the like-minded strangers who have thronged the
halls and rotunda of the Capitol.
“My father always said during a strike is when we would rebuild
the labor movement,” said Sadlowski, a veteran organizer whose father
famously vied to head the United Steelworkers of America in the late
‘70s. “We are proving it right here.”
Older union organizers have been sharing their experiences organizing
Mike Elk
The Atlantic, February 25, 2011
what democracy looks like | 57
in the workplace with students who have never before engaged with the
labor movement. Some youngsters have been so inspired that they are
talking about dedicating their lives to it.
“Every day I come down here I just feel like we are winning,” said
Andrew Cole, who is in his twenties. “We are just a bunch of people stand-
ing around a Capitol talking together and singing songs, but through this
collective voice we have been able to defne the national debate about
unions.”
Likewise, young and optimistic organizers have been giving older ones,
beaten down by years of anti-union actions, new ideas—and new hope that
it might be possible to rebuild the much-decimated labor movement.
Sadlowski has served as a bridge between the two groups, often
coordinating communication among protesters occupying the Capitol.
“I think what we created here is the first true labor temple,” he said.
“Coming down to the Capitol is a lot like coming to church. It’s rejuve-
nating; it’s a spiritual experience for a lot of people.”
But unlike a church, where people go home at night, hundreds of
protesters have turned the Capitol into their temporary home. People
have been sleeping there overnight since Tuesday, Feb. 15. Tey eat meals
there, and go to nearby houses and dormitories to take showers.
In the early days, the Capitol occupation was almost entirely coor-
dinated by the Teaching Assistants’ Association, the union of teaching
assistants at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. But other unions have
become more involved in occupying the Capitol since, organizing groups
to clean the building and provide food and supplies for people camping
out there. Local pizza businesses have been experiencing a mini-boom
as people from all over the country and even the world have called in
delivery orders for the protesters, while Midwestern grandmothers with
thick Wisconsin accents stop by to deliver trays of food cooked at home.
In one back hallway, you can fnd tables full of food as well as boxes of
donated supplies like toilet paper, water, toothbrushes, soap, spare hats,
scarves, and gloves that are free to take. Tis level of organization is what
has made it sustainable for hundreds of people to more or less live in a
Capitol of a major Midwestern state.
Activities have been organized to create a festive environment. Tere
are bands and drum circles that play throughout the day. People put on
street theater performances and organize arts and crafs projects. One night
what democracy looks like | 58
I spotted a group of women knitting. Another night, a group of people
meditating.
When everyone goes to bed, you can walk around the Capitol and fnd
young college couples cuddling and kissing in one corner, while families
with children bed down for the night in another.
Te presence of blue-collar workers in the Capitol has made it more
difcult for Governor Scott Walker or Capitol Police to kick protesters out.
“Each night one union will take a shif and send down a hundred of its
member to sleep in the Capitol. One day the frefghters will come, the next
the construction unions,” said Sadlowski. “Te labor movement under-
stands they have to stand in solidarity with the young people who started
this occupation.”
“In a struggle such as this, we have proven that numbers and masses
determine what happens,” said Dave Poklinkoski, president of International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2304. His union is planning to stay
in the building Saturday night, when some of the rooms being occupied will
become contested territory, and protesters will risk being kicked out.
As the political stalemate deepens in Wisconsin—and the size of pro-
tests dampens—the political importance of occupying the Capitol has risen.
Teachers who were out on strike for the frst few days of the protest have
returned to the classroom, creating a sense of normalcy for most people in
Wisconsin, even as the sit-in has continued.
“Right now the only thing we are disrupting is this Capitol,” said
Sadlowski. “As long as we hold onto this Capitol, we have a chance.”
#kIllthIsBIll
@legalEagle
They will keep the building open as long as testimony is being taken.
It’s not just about your voice, it’s about all of ours. #wiunion
people came to the Wisconsin Capitol to tell
their stories as a way of speaking out against Governor Scott Walker’s attack
on workers. It was these farmers, frefghters, teachers, and students who
helped catalyze the protests from just another show of activist anger to a
sustained demonstration that captured the country’s attention.
Over the course of the days-long hearing on the proposed bill, more
than 1,000 people testifed. Even afer the hearing ended, a microphone was
set up beneath the Capitol dome each day so that speakers could continue
to address the assembled crowds.
For some it was the frst time they felt their voice mattered. Videogra-
pher Matt Wisniewski, who spent weeks documenting and participating
in the protests, observed how powerful it was “to have people listen to
you and care about what you were saying, in a culture that doesn’t always
value that.”
Tese speeches and shared testimonies were a form of resistance, of
making the fght personal, and of energizing fellow demonstrators by re-
minding each other why they were there and what was at stake. One by one,
these stories were woven together to create a narrative that was stronger
than any one voice could ever be.
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
Capitol is PACKED. I cannot move. I smell like I imagine a sumo wrestler
might. I’m so sexy.
6:32pm Feb 16
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
RT @rjetty: Scott Walker is the best union organizer that I’ve seen
in ages.
7:17pm Feb 16
@ddayen David Dayen
Obama tells WTMJ in Milwaukee that Wisconsin bill stripping public
employee rights “seems like more of an assault on unions.”
7:36pm Feb 16
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
900 people spoke at the hearing last night and today.
7:51pm Feb 16
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
Dem senator says: I’m convinced that the nation if not the world is
watching. #wiunion #killthisbill
8:06pm Feb 16
@taa_Madison TAA Madison
Madison, Monona Grove, Verona, Oregon, Middleton Waunakee,
Deforest, and Oshkosh schools will be closed tomorrow. #wiunion
9:03pm Feb 16
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
Can no longer hear JFC over chants of “the people united will never be
defeated.” #wisolidarity #wiunion #notmywi
9:32pm Feb 16
@cabell Cabell Gathman
thx 4 encouragement, everyone. I broke mental promise not 2 cry, but
I got through it. Woman nxt 2 me was v. nice. #wiunion
#killthisbill
9:34pm Feb 16
dear scott walker | 63
Tony Schultz is a family farmer in Athens, Wisconsin, and board member of
Family Farm Defenders. Te following is text of a speech given by Schultz at
the farmer labor solidarity “tractorcade” on March 12, 2011.
My name is Tony Schultz. I’m a member of Family Farm Defenders farm-
ers union, and I’m a third generation family farmer, born and raised on a
50-cow dairy. Today my partner Kat and I run our farm as a 150-member
CSA
1
with some beefers, maple syrup, and chickens and pigs. I came back
to the family farm afer college because of my values; and it’s the values that
I’m reminded of every time I look at our state’s license plate and see that
little red barn. It’s values that I think overlap entirely with the values of the
labor movement.
Family farmers, like the labor movement, value the dignity of being
able to have some control over your work and your life, to be empowered by
your work—not alienated by it. Family farmers, like the labor movement,
value the means to have a beautiful and constructive setting to raise a fam-
ily. Family farmers, like the labor movement, value economic democracy.
Tony Schultz
March 12, 2011
1
Community Supported Agriculture
dear scott walker | 64
What is a union anyway, but working people coming together, acting to-
gether to improve their lives? And that is what we are here to do: to act
together, to speak together in solidarity, saying, “We reject this union-
busting bill, and we reject this budget!”
Solidarity between farmers and workers is an old and sacred alliance
of producers that dates back beyond the populist movement, when workers
and farmers came together to struggle for a progressive income tax, for a
fnancial system that served the people, for unions and the eight-hour day.
Listen to these quotes. It was over 120 years ago when Tom Watson, the
Georgia Populist, said—and this couldn’t be truer—“Te fruits of the toil of
millions are boldly stolen to build up the fortunes of a few unprecedented
in human history.” Ignatius Donnelly, the Minnesota Populist, said in 1890,
“Te interests of rural and urban labor are the same. Teir enemies are
identical.” For more than 100 years we have been fghting together, we have
been picketing together, we’ve been dumping milk, we’ve been sitting in,
we’ve been blocking trafc, and we are going to take this state back!
And yet there are those who tell us that this isn’t a farmers’ issue. Tose
people have petty resentment that is amplifed by right-wing radio un-
til they think that a freman’s pension is the problem. And then there are
groups that represent this evil: Te Dairy Business Association was here on
Wednesday at “Ag day at the Capitol” saying, “Hooray for Walker’s budget.”
Well, I want you to know that those aren’t farmers. Tey’re agribusiness
corporations with a few factory farmers in front, and I want Wisconsin and
the world to know that this is the real Ag Day at the Capitol, and this is a
farmers’ issue.
It’s a farmers’ issue because our rural schools are getting decimated
by this budget, and they are the centers of our small towns and rural com-
munities. In my hometown of Athens, 14 of 44 teachers got pink slips, and
will be laid of because of this budget. It’s bad for our children’s education,
it’s bad for the stability of our town, it’s bad for the very future of our school
district, and we say no!
It’s a farmers’ issue because Scott Walker wants to hack BadgerCare.
Eleven thousand Family Farm members depend on BadgerCare because of
the exclusivity of for-proft health insurance companies, and because of the
pathetic and volatile price we receive for milk and other commodities that
don’t meet the cost of our production. We depend on this, and we support
BadgerCare!
dear scott walker | 65
It’s a farmers’ issue because we have been battling corporate power for
more than a century—this budget could not be a clearer manifestation of
corporate power, and we say no.
It’s a farmers’ issue because public workers are our friends, and neigh-
bors, and our family members, and we stand in solidarity with them!
It a farmers’ issue because we know that we’re all in this together.
We go up together or we go down together. Te way I see it is we got
two choices: I can have my unions busted and stand alone and be pitted
against my neighbor in a desperate and unequal economy, or we can come
together to say ‘Tis is what our families need, this is what our communi-
ties need, this is what a just wage is, this is what a democracy looks like!’
It’s a farmers’ issue because we understand that an injury to one is an
injury to all! Solidarity!
@taa_Madison TAA Madison
All of Milwaukee public schools will be closed tomorrow. #wiunion
#killthisbill
9:45pm Feb 16
@millbot Emily Mills
Seeing lots of blankets, pillows & sleeping bags coming out. #wiunion
#notmywi
10:20pm Feb 16
@kristinelZ Kristine LZ
RT @uwlaxecho: Support a teacher. Wear red tomorrow. We @WEAC”
10:34pm Feb 16
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
Party line vote against Democratic amendment to restore collective
bargaining. Amendment fails. #wisolidarity #notmywi
11:11pm Feb 16
@emmahduhjemmah Emma Gibbens
HELL YEAH! You are on the wrong side of history and on the wrong side
of justice! You tell em Sen Jauch!
11:24pm Feb 16
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
Everyone remember to register to testify in the GAR room, 4th foor north,
to keep the hearing going all night #killthisbill #wiunion
11:38pm Feb 16
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
Sen Glenn Grothman just used phrase “so-called community leaders”.
I hope some of those leaders organize our communities against him.
11:38pm Feb 16
@emmahduhjemmah Emma Gibbens
More and more people are arriving. I love democracy.
11:44pm Feb 16
dear scott walker | 67
Dear Governor Walker,
I doubt you remember me. In fact, we’ve never formally met, but you
and I grew up not half a block away from each other in the small town
of Delavan, Wisconsin. You were in my sister Katie’s high school class,
though perhaps you didn’t know her then (indeed, she was a brainy punk
rocker, while you were a mullet-haired jock). Six years your junior, I have
only fuzzy memories of you—of riding my bike around the corner, seeing
one of the “older boys” in the neighborhood walk out of his house on West
Wisconsin Street, and hearing my sister say, “Hey, there’s Scott Walker.”
Our limited acquaintance notwithstanding, within the past four days I
fear I’ve gotten to know you fairly well, or well enough. So perhaps it’s time
I introduce myself. My name is Sigrid Peterson. I’m your former neighbor
from Delavan, and I’m a public-sector worker in Wisconsin.
If it isn’t obvious, I’m writing to ask you, your administration, and your
Republican friends in the legislature to put a swif stop to your proposed
“budget-repair” bill, along with its crude and unapologetic assault on 50
years of rights and benefts granted to Wisconsin’s public-sector employ-
ees. Your measure is nothing short of devastating—stripping most (in some
cases, all) of our collective bargaining rights, incapacitating any future
Sigrid Peterson
February 14, 2011
dear scott walker | 68
resources of our unions, and further straining the livability and reach of
our compensation with steep increases in employee contributions to health
care and pensions.
And you do this with nothing but unsubstantiated excuses that this is
the “only alternative.” And you do this with no efort (none) to meet with
workers since you took ofce. Forgive me, but this makes you no more
forthright or articulate than a tongue-tied and cowardly teenager breaking
up with his girlfriend/boyfriend via text message. Does this mean you’ll
bring back your mullet too?
If I’m irreverent, Governor Walker, I assure you it’s in service to things
greater than concern over my job, alone. I write this out of respect for my
late father too—your old neighbor, a lifelong Wisconsinite, and a public
municipal employee. I also write this out of pride in the progressive legacy
of my home state, a legacy you and your colleagues delight in dismantling.
My dad, Lyle (raised in Richland Center, Wisconsin), was living proof
that a public-sector job—with its modest salary but good benefts—garners
more than the sum of its parts. More importantly, he taught me that we
should celebrate (versus vilify) this form of work arrangement and ensure
that we fght for the same for workers in every sector of the economy.
Dad raised me and my seven brothers and sisters on a comparatively
small municipal accountant’s salary of $32,000 a year. Tat salary not only
fed (with lots of spaghetti) and housed us, but slimly subsidized all eight
of our undergraduate educations at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
His afordable health insurance treated eight cases of chicken pox, 33 epi-
sodes of tonsillitis, and paid for a total of 137 stitches. Most importantly,
his comprehensive health care saw my mom, Shirley (raised in Muscoda,
Wisconsin), through two years of chemotherapy treatments, and carried
Dad to the end of his 10-year battle with cardiomyopathy.
Dad’s pension with the Wisconsin Retirement System is a lifesaver to
my mother in her older years. Mom had to exit the formal labor force at a
young age in favor of unpaid work in the home to feed, clothe, love, and
educate eight good and generous people. She still lives in Delavan, Dad’s
pension serving as her fxed income against the backdrop of a labor market
that would have punished (if not outright dismissed) her afer 40 years of
bringing up kids.
Five of those kids (and their families) live in Wisconsin today. We are
teachers, public attorneys, university doctors, web engineers, and business
dear scott walker | 69
people. We give to our local communities. My mom, in particular, has spent
a lifetime in volunteer service to Delavan fghting for clean watersheds,
transparent city government, the preservation of public education, and ac-
countable economic development toward quality jobs.
I’m her sixth daughter and seventh child. Two and half years ago, I lef
a career in New York City to be close to her in Wisconsin and to pursue my
dream of getting a Ph.D. I’m currently a graduate student in our top-ranked
Department of Geography, as well as an employee of the University of
Wisconsin-Madison. Similarly to teaching assistants (TAs, or full-time
graduate students who dedicate more than twenty hours a week to instruct-
ing undergraduates), I devote over half of my workweek as a University
project assistant (PA). I am part of the staf in a policy research center in the
Department of Sociology devoted to growing Wisconsin’s economy through
statewide partnerships between businesses and workers. Tat job (which
grants me membership in AFT local 3220, the Teaching Assistants’ Associa-
tion, or TAA) provides a small take-home salary of just over $12,000 a year,
along with state health insurance to help me weather winter infections and
viruses. Importantly, my job also grants me a tuition waiver, without which
I could never aford to pursue training in the academy. I know just how
lucky I am, and my greatest goal is to repay this debt by becoming a profes-
sor in a land grant institution like the University of Wisconsin, giving back
to young people seeking an afordable public education, as well as helping
them get the most out of a few short years of engaging in the profound fun
that is thinking and learning. Your proposal, Governor Walker, seeks to
strip me of the contractual rights to the benefts allowing me to stay here,
and I am frightened over what my future holds if it passes.
As ambitious as it is damaging, your bill is also of grave ofense to the
progressive legacy of the state of Wisconsin, a legacy my father held dear,
and one I bragged wildly about in New York. While there, I worked on
the physical and economic redevelopment of Lower Manhattan’s central
business district (“Wall Street”), following its decimation from the ter-
rorist attacks of 9/11. As typical New Yorkers ofen do, my friends and
colleagues would tease me for hailing from “one of those funny-shaped
states in the middle.” I’d always take their jab with good humor, but try
to explain just how deeply proud I was of Wisconsin’s good people and
progressive history—the land of Bob La Follette, Gaylord Nelson, Frank
Zeidler, and Russ Feingold.
dear scott walker | 70
My job in the city demanded I work with various CEOs and execu-
tives of major Wall Street corporations, and on limited occasions, when
our job titles and ranks melted away (perhaps prior to a breakfast meeting
or during a casual work gathering), we spoke candidly about personal in-
terests. My nerdy obsession with cities and the history of workers came up
frequently. And what amazed me was the reverence these otherwise pow-
erful actors of private enterprise expressed for the city, county, and state
employees who kept the Big Apple running. Maybe it’s the sheer humil-
ity one feels when confronted with New York’s awesome, gritty mass of
physical infrastructure and embodied space, but I met power brokers who
deeply respected the men and women laboring for the metropolis, day in
and day out. None of the executives with whom I worked were anti-union,
nor would they have ever rubber-stamped such a bold-faced erosion to
public workers’ basic rights and livelihoods as you endorse today.
While your version of Wisconsin’s “door” may indeed be “open for
business,” I doubt the business people I know would care to walk through
it, especially now—try as you might to steeply discount the entry ticket.
I leave in a few weeks to visit New York, to see my very good friends,
and to catch them up on my goings-on in Wisconsin. I still have things to
brag about, of course. I still get to live among the kind, committed, and
understatedly clever folks of my upbringing everyday. And I get to work
for our tremendous state university, in a department I respect immensely,
and with people I love. But I regret to say, Governor Walker, I brag a bit less
enthusiastically, now. You disappoint me, old neighbor. What’s worse, you
don’t just disappoint me, you embarrass me, you embarrass my father, you
embarrass Delavan, and you embarrass the state of Wisconsin.
Please stop your bill, for all our sakes.
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
The vote is now.
11:52pm Feb 16
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
12-4 on party lines, the budget repair bill is sent to the Legislature.
And with that, it’s back to protesting.
11:53pm Feb 16
@millbot Emily Mills
Big day across Wisconsin tomorrow. Big thanks to everyone out there
fghting the good fght. See you in the morning! #wiunion #notmywi
12:04am Feb 17
dear scott walker | 72
Joanne Staudacher posted the following as a note on Facebook.
Tis is the text of the sign I wore on my back when I marched at the Capitol
last. It is my manifesto, my statement of purpose, and every word is truth.
My manifesto was limited to the size of what I could carry on my back,
could have used some better planning, had to have an amendment over
my two-poster limit and I had to tie it around my throat like a cape to
keep it all visible. I broke the lines in the same way that my medium and
handwriting dictated.
I fght for the people I love, the people I have loved, the people I will
love. I fght for the land beneath my feet. I fght for people who don’t agree
with me, because I still want them to have a beautiful future. Yes, some of
you tagged will not agree with me. I still ofer you my story, my motivation,
my intent, and the better future I hope we will share.
Tis is why I fght. Tis is why I will not give up. I have made this note
visible to “Everyone”—feel free to share it, to comment on it, to think about
it—whatever makes you happy. Tis is why I fght, for better I hope, not
worse. Te war isn’t over. In true badger fashion, we dig in and hold fast:
Joanne Staudacher
March 18, 2011
dear scott walker | 73
Dear Walker & Hopper:
I AM WISCONSIN.
Conceived, born, raised,
educated, employed + unemployed,
living still, and hope to die.
My father is a forester, methodist, veteran.
My mother is a seamstress, CCD teacher, devout Catholic.
Both sides farmed. I come from
hardworking, determined, long-lived stock.
I am unemployed. I am pro-union.
I have worked for pay in homes, yards,
restaurants, ofces, computer labs, warehouses,
thrif stores, and college classrooms.
I have a Ph.D.
I have been a literacy tutor, humane society
volunteer—I’ve donated money, food, blood,
and time.
I am a daughter, wife, sister, aunt, niece,
cousin, friend, mentor. I will be a mother.
dear scott walker | 74
I will not see my children’s future spoiled.
I sewed my own wedding dress + changed my alternator.
I am a deer hunter who bakes vegan cookies.
I’m equal parts June Cleaver + meat cleaver.
I am educated, creative, passionate. Complex.
I have been Chippewa Falls, Holcombe, Eau Claire,
Prairie du Chien, Milwaukee, Fond du Lac, Green Bay.
I am Oshkosh.
I stand before you in my science
camp T-shirt + thrif store skirt.
I am not a slob. If I were
lazy, I wouldn’t be here.
You may not remember folks
like me, but I WILL RECALL
YOU.
I am Wisconsin, and I am
NOT alone!
@eigenjo Jo Nelson
the world has its eye on is. let’s make sure it is focused on our massive
peaceful demonstrations today. #notmywi #killthisbill #wiunion
9:13am Feb 17
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
National media fnally taking notice of what’s happening here in Wisconsin.
#notmyWI
9:37am Feb 17
@scoutprime scoutprime
Sign--100% of teachers better educated than Gov Walker. (he’s hs grad
for u out of staters)
10:15am Feb 17
@aemilli Emily
whole building just sang national anthem #notmywi
10:42am Feb 17
@aemilli Emily
chanting at the senators going in to vote! kill the bill! #notmywi
10:56am Feb 17
@emmahduhjemmah Emma Gibbens
@sentaylor you go girl! Don’t tell me where you’re off to! :D
11:19am Feb 17
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
This is a great thing! The Senate will not be able to vote because they will
not have quorum. STAY IN THE CAPITOL! #killthisbill #wiunion
11:20am Feb 17
@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar
So what I gather: A vote can’t be taken if Dem Senators walk out - as they
have. Needed are 20 Senators. There are only 17 now. .... :-)
11:24am Feb 17
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
Democratic reps just walked out of the capitol. No vote on Walker’s bill.
#wiunion
11:32am Feb 17
dear scott walker | 76
Speech delivered at the Wisconsin Capitol
America is not broke.
Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you’ll
give up your pension, cut your wages, and settle for the life your great-
grandparents had, America is not broke. Not by a long shot. Te country
is awash in wealth and cash. It’s just that it’s not in your hands. It has been
transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consum-
ers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich.
Today just 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans
combined.
Let me say that again. Four hundred obscenely rich people, most of
whom benefted in some way from the multitrillion-dollar taxpayer “bail-
out” of 2008, now have more loot, stock, and property than the assets of
155 million Americans combined. If you can’t bring yourself to call that a
fnancial coup d’etat, then you are simply not being honest about what you
know in your heart to be true.
And I can see why. For us to admit that we have let a small group of
men abscond with and hoard the bulk of the wealth that runs our economy,
would mean that we’d have to accept the humiliating acknowledgment that
Michael Moore
March 5, 2011
dear scott walker | 77
we have indeed surrendered our precious democracy to the moneyed elite.
Wall Street, the banks, and the Fortune 500 now run this Republic—and,
until this past month, the rest of us have felt completely helpless, unable to
fnd a way to do anything about it.
I have nothing more than a high school degree. But back when I was
in school, every student had to take one semester of economics in order to
graduate. And here’s what I learned: Money doesn’t grow on trees. It grows
when we make things. It grows when we have good jobs with good wages
that we use to buy the things we need and thus create more jobs. It grows
when we provide an outstanding educational system that then grows a new
generation of inventors, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, and thinkers who
come up with the next great idea for the planet. And that new idea creates
new jobs and that creates revenue for the state. But if those who have the
most money don’t pay their fair share of taxes, the state can’t function. Te
schools can’t produce the best and the brightest who will go on to create
those jobs. If the wealthy get to keep most of their money, we have seen
what they will do with it: recklessly gamble it on crazy Wall Street schemes
and crash our economy. Te crash they created cost us millions of jobs. Tat
too caused a reduction in revenue. And the population ended up sufering
because they reduced their taxes, reduced our jobs, and took wealth out of
the system, removing it from circulation.
Te nation is not broke, my friends. Wisconsin is not broke. It’s part of
the Big Lie. It’s one of the three biggest lies of the decade: America/Wiscon-
sin is broke, Iraq has WMD, the Packers can’t win the Super Bowl without
Brett Favre.
Te truth is, there’s lots of money to go around. LOTS. It’s just that
those in charge have diverted that wealth into a deep well that sits on their
well-guarded estates. Tey know they have committed crimes to make this
happen, and they know that someday you may want to see some of that
money that used to be yours. So they have bought and paid for hundreds of
politicians across the country to do their bidding for them. But just in case
that doesn’t work, they’ve got their gated communities, and the luxury jet
is always fully fueled, the engines running, waiting for that day they hope
never comes. To help prevent that day when the people demand their coun-
try back, the wealthy have done two very smart things:
1. Tey control the message. By owning most of the media they have
expertly convinced many Americans of few means to buy their version of
dear scott walker | 78
the American Dream and to vote for their politicians. Teir version of the
Dream says that you, too, might be rich some day—this is America, where
anything can happen if you just apply yourself! Tey have conveniently
provided you with believable examples to show you how a poor boy can
become a rich man, how the child of a single mother in Hawaii can become
president, how a guy with a high school education can become a successful
flmmaker. Tey will play these stories for you over and over again all day
long so that the last thing you will want to do is upset the apple cart—be-
cause you—yes, you, too!—might be rich/president/an Oscar winner some
day! Te message is clear: Keep your head down, your nose to the grind-
stone, don’t rock the boat, and be sure to vote for the party that protects the
rich man that you might be some day.
2. Tey have created a poison pill that they know you will never want
to take. It is their version of mutually-assured destruction. And when they
threatened to release this weapon of mass economic annihilation in Sep-
tember of 2008, we blinked. As the economy and the stock market went
into a tailspin, and the banks were caught conducting a worldwide Ponzi
scheme, Wall Street issued this threat: Either hand over trillions of dollars
from the American taxpayers or we will crash this economy straight into
the ground. Fork it over or it’s goodbye savings accounts. Goodbye pen-
sions. Goodbye United States Treasury. Goodbye jobs and homes and
future. It was friggin’ awesome, and it scared the shit out of everyone.
“Here! Take our money! We don’t care. We’ll even print more for you!
Just take it! But, please, leave our lives alone, PLEASE!”
Te executives in the board rooms and hedge funds could not contain
their laughter, their glee, and within three months they were writing each
other huge bonus checks and marveling at how perfectly they had played a
nation full of suckers. Millions lost their jobs anyway, and millions lost their
homes. But there was no revolt (see No. 1).
Until now. On Wisconsin! Never has a Michigander been more happy
to share a big, great lake with you! You have aroused the sleeping giant
known as the working people of the United States of America. Right now
the earth is shaking, and the ground is shifing under the feet of those who
are in charge. Your message has inspired people in all 50 states and that
message is: WE HAVE HAD IT! We reject anyone who tells us America is
broke and broken. It’s just the opposite! We are rich with talent and ideas
and hard work and, yes, love. Love and compassion toward those who have,
dear scott walker | 79
through no fault of their own, ended up as the least among us. But they still
crave what we all crave: our country back! Our democracy back! Our good
name back! Te United States of America. NOT the Corporate States of
America. Te United States of America!
So how do we get this? Well, we do it with a little bit of Egypt here, a
little bit of Madison there. And let us pause for a moment and remember
that it was a poor man with a fruit stand in Tunisia who gave his life so that
the world might focus its attention on how a government run by billionaires
for billionaires is an afront to freedom and morality and humanity.
Tank you, Wisconsin. You have made people realize this was our last
best chance to grab the fnal thread of what was lef of who we are as Ameri-
cans. For three weeks you have stood in the cold, slept on the foor, skipped
out of town to Illinois—whatever it took, you have done it, and one thing
is for certain: Madison is only the beginning. Te smug rich have over-
played their hand. Tey couldn’t have just been content with the money
they raided from the Treasury. Tey couldn’t be satiated by simply remov-
ing millions of jobs and shipping them overseas to exploit the poor else-
where. No, they had to have more—something more than all the riches in
the world. Tey had to have our soul. Tey had to strip us of our dignity.
Tey had to shut us up and shut us down so that we could not even sit at
a table with them and bargain about simple things like classroom size, or
bulletproof vests for everyone on the police force, or letting a pilot just get a
few extra hours sleep so he or she can do their job—their $19,000 a year job.
Tat’s how much some rookie pilots on commuter airlines make, maybe
even the rookie pilots fying people here to Madison. But he’s stopped try-
ing to get better pay. All he asks is that he doesn’t have to sleep in his car
between shifs at O’Hare Airport. Tat’s how despicably low we have sunk.
Te wealthy couldn’t be content with just paying this man $19,000 a year.
Tey wanted to take away his sleep. Tey wanted to demean and dehuman-
ize him. Afer all, he’s just another slob.
And that, my friends, is corporate America’s fatal mistake. But in try-
ing to destroy us they have given birth to a movement—a movement that
is becoming a massive, nonviolent revolt across the country. We all knew
there had to be a breaking point some day, and that point is upon us. Many
people in the media don’t understand this. Tey say they were caught of
guard about Egypt, never saw it coming. Now they act surprised and fum-
moxed about why so many hundreds of thousands have come to Madison
dear scott walker | 80
over the last three weeks during brutal winter weather. “Why are they all
standing out there in the cold? I mean there was that election in November,
and that was supposed to be that!”
“Tere’s something happening here, and you don’t know what it is, do
you...?”
America ain’t broke! Te only thing that’s broke is the moral compass
of the rulers. And we aim to fx that compass and steer the ship ourselves
from now on. Never forget, as long as that Constitution of ours still stands,
it’s one person, one vote, and it’s the thing the rich hate most about Ameri-
ca—because even though they seem to hold all the money and all the cards,
they begrudgingly know this one unshakeable basic fact: Tere are more of
us than there are of them!
Madison, do not retreat. We are with you. We will win together.
#ONEdaylONGER
@MelissaRyan
Back inside. Taking a moment to absorb everything. So many people
documenting this on phones. Everyone is the media. #notmyWI

and screens of the mainstream media, it was Twitter and blogs, photos
and web videos that remained the best ways of following the latest in the
#WIunion story.
Twitter updates scrolled continuously; go-to tweeters posted photos of
the growing crowds, told followers when and where help was needed, and
solicited donations of food and supplies. Tey recruited speakers for televi-
sion shows looking to cover the story, and challenged traditional media for
failing to cover the protests and for portraying the peaceful demonstrators
as violent troublemakers.
An outspoken group of Wisconsin bloggers called out Republican
shenanigans and helped shape the broader media’s protest coverage.
Rabble-rousing and proudly progressive, the bloggers of the Wisconsin
“Cheddarsphere” turned the protests into a national story that soon drew
support from a vibrant community of netroots bloggers across the coun-
try. And it was a blogger who provided the strangest yet most revealing
moment of the whole saga, when Ian Murphy, pretending to be billion-
aire Republican donor David Koch, prank-called Walker. Te call, if a
somewhat questionable journalistic tactic, made headlines, revealing that
Walker had considered planting “troublemakers” among the protesters
do not retreat, retweet | 84
to provoke violence, and contemplated laying a trap for the Democratic
senators who were on the run.
Online organizing led to real results—the millions of dollars raised
nationally to help with recall elections, stories that bubbled up from Twit-
ter and blogs to the mainstream media—while also spreading the protests’
message in less tangible but equally powerful ways. Tens of thousands of
people watched the videos that Matt Wisniewski flmed from inside the
Capitol, and over a hundred thousand watched live video that online ac-
tivist Ben Brandzel broadcast from the Capitol on his iPhone on the night
of the frst real confict between police and protesters.
Just as those occupying the Capitol had found a way to take govern-
ment into their own hands, these bloggers, videographers, and activists had
found ways to take control of and tell their own story to the world.
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
Walking around Madison, the convos I’m overhearing are wild. Rank and
fle union workers are livid. Never seen anything like this in my life
11:50am Feb 17
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
More than a few people here are talking general strike. #solidarityWI
12:53pm Feb 17
@thisBowers Chris Bowers
RT @Atrios i’ve got some extra room. the WI dems can crash at my place
if they want / #wiconsin #solidarity
1:06pm Feb 17
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
News about the 14 Senators who have left the state has everyone here at
@barriques excited and re-energized. #NotmyWI #aslongasittakes
2:18pm Feb 17
@eigenjo Jo Nelson
huffpo wants to get in touch with a frefghter in wisconsin to interview.
anyone interested? mention me and i’ll DM you with info.
2:44pm Feb 17
@brianekdale Brian Ekdale
cop near us is swaying and texting #sheswithus #wiunion
3:23pm Feb 17
@scoutprime scoutprime
Balloons carrying poster of fst released to top pf Rotunda. Everyone went
crazy. #wiunion #killthebill
3:31pm Feb 17
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
RT @daveweigel: RT @mamaier262: RT @ufcw: Winning the internet -
Wisconsin Democratic State Senator tells @govwalker she’ll “brb”
4:06pm Feb 17
do not retreat, retweet | 86
Adapted from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Blog
So much has changed politically in Wisconsin in the last three months. It
shows up clearly in one timeline of the Wisconsin union struggle, which
begins with historic-low polling favorability for unions and fnishes with
jaw-droppingly bad polling for Wisconsin’s brand new governor.
Te public groundswell of opposition to Governor Scott Walker’s
attack on workers’ rights has changed. It’s gone from getting thousands of
people to the Capitol every day and tens of thousands every weekend, to
getting a few people there every day while mobilizing volunteers to mount
and contribute to recall campaigns against Wisconsin Republicans.
Te shape of national and social media interest has also changed. Last
Tursday, for the frst time since the February peak of the protests in Madi-
son, “Wisconsin” dropped from the list of top tags on Daily Kos, the largest
community blog in the progressive netroots.
Te popular #WIunion tag on Twitter no longer updates too fast to
read everything, though it still sees regular use, and has been superseded
by the #wirecall and #wivote tags that started being used as the energy of
protest politics was shifed towards electoral politics.
As we’re likely to be feeling the ripple of recent events in Wisconsin for
Natasha Chart
May 3, 2011
do not retreat, retweet | 87
a long time to come, it’s a good point at which to look back at some of the
early social media milestones before they’re lost in the food. Whatever else
it was and is, the #WIunion struggle was mostly a word-of-mouth popular
uprising, driven in large part by citizen media and email activism, inspiring
people all over the country. If we’re lucky, we’ll see its like again.
Te list of social media milestones you’ll fnd below could have been
three times as long, or more. Hopefully, it’s just long enough to capture the
sense of community purpose and public conversation that made #WIunion
a powerful experience.
1: Te Call
Te infamous call, where Bufalo Beast blogger Ian Murphy impersonated
David Koch and recorded the 20 minutes of conversation he then had with
Walker, was one of the most shocking, if not gonzo, media moments of
the “budget-repair” bill fght. Listeners marveled at the amount of time the
governor made available, on short notice and without an appointment, for
someone that he thought was a billionaire campaign contributor of his. At
the same time Walker bragged about his exploits to “Koch,” almost as if he
were giving a progress update to a boss, his staf was telling Democratic
state senators that he was too busy to talk to them.
2: Te Mistress
Te report, via a chain of blog posts and a little sleuthing by Blogging Blue’s
Zach Wisniewski, that not only was Republican state Sen. Randy Hopper
living with his 25-year-old mistress in Madison, but that she was also a lob-
byist, generated a media frestorm. Te story was prominently picked up by
Firedoglake, and spurred a fundraising action on Daily Kos to run ads on
the topic to support the Hopper recall campaign.
3: Tey Begged To Difer
Blogger Chris Liebenthal covered the budget fght and protests through the
largely editorial posts in the “solidarity” archive on Cognitive Dissidence.
Liebenthal’s chronicling of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s support of
Walker before its eventual criticism of him over the budget fght in late
February is exemplary of the way bloggers in the aggregate tend to con-
nect these sorts of dots into larger stories, in ways that mainstream media
outlets ofen won’t. Liebenthal has countered Walker’s claims about public
do not retreat, retweet | 88
employees and has continued to focus on issues such as alleged “cost-
cutting” measures that will actually cost the state millions.
4: Tey Mopped the Floors
Allison Hantschel of First Draf started covering the protests early, with
extensive photo archives on the blog and Flickr stream. Hantschel imme-
diately got the story out that these were peaceful, positive events, striking
back against the talking points of Walker’s allies with personal stories and
editorials, and larger photo diaries from all the big weekend rallies.
Key posts include a photo diary of protesters washing the Capitol foor
and playing chess, a review of the UW-Madison privatization plan, and an
eyewitness debunking of the claim that protesters took hinges of Capitol
building doors.
5: Tey Built a Town
David Dayen of Firedoglake provided one of the defnitive eyewitness re-
ports on “Te Incredible Ecosystem of the Wisconsin State Capitol,” when
the national blog decided that this was a big enough deal to send a cor-
respondent. Tis is fairly rare for even large blogs, who tend not to cover
events in person if they don’t have writers nearby. It’s likely that this wouldn’t
have happened if the local blogs hadn’t followed the story from the begin-
ning and helped keep it alive.
6: Tey Got Pizza
Word got out that Ian’s Pizza on State Street was taking its lefover pizzas to
the Capitol protests while the building was being occupied 24 hours a day
during the Assembly Democrats’ marathon budget-repair bill hearings. Some
bloggers noticed and asked people to call in orders to be delivered to the
protesters so that Ian’s would get reimbursed. People on Twitter were made
aware. Te local Journal Sentinel and Te New York Times heard about it.
Ian’s Pizza got call-in orders for the protesters from all 50 states, Wash-
ington, D.C., Egypt, Antarctica, and dozens of other countries. A few weeks
in, they got so many orders that they opened the doors and gave away their
food for free to anyone who walked in and placed an order, in addition to
continuing to deliver their widely-praised pizzas to the protests down the
block at the Capitol.
Ian’s also makes salads. Tey were delicious.
do not retreat, retweet | 89
7: Tey Got Trown Out
Madison blog Dane 101’s archive of state government stories featured exten-
sive photo diaries, covered day-by-day developments at the Capitol, and put
the spotlight on stories such as the illegal contributions made to Walker’s
campaign by wealthy railroad executives. Tey also posted video of some
key moments, such as footage of citizens being removed from the state As-
sembly antechamber in advance of a March 11 vote on a stand-alone bill to
strip state workers’ collective bargaining rights.
8: Te Whole Country Watched
Until Tursday, April 28, the “Wisconsin” tag steadily remained among the
20 most popular on Daily Kos. Tis national blog, while it didn’t send a cor-
respondent, has prominently featured diaries by community members (in-
cluding teachers and other union workers) from Wisconsin and interested
political enthusiasts from around the country. Front-page authors picked
up the story and covered the topic daily during the height of the protests
and budget standof, as well as educating people about the recall efort.
During the frst electoral contest following the peak of Capitol protests,
the Wisconsin Supreme Court race between David Prosser and JoAnne
Kloppenburg, a front page analysis of the procedures being followed in the
investigation of vote totals in Waukesha was signifcant in quelling conspir-
acy theories about the election’s outcome. And while Kloppenburg lost in
the fnal count, many onlookers were amazed that she’d made up a 30-point
defcit in the polls to come so close to unseating the incumbent, Prosser.
9: Tey Would Not Be Silent
#WIunion: Tis hashtag isn’t the one that was initially favored by the
unions. It was actually started by Kristian Knutsen of the Isthmus,
Madison’s alternative weekly paper, on Feb. 11 and used as a tag for their
daily blog coverage, well before events in Madison became a national story.
With a frst-mover advantage like that in the Wisconsin Twittersphere, it
was the one that stuck, even trending worldwide at one point. Although the
pace has slowed considerably, it was updating on April 2 at a rate of two to
three times per minute, minimum, and still gets updated with new content
at least every fve minutes or so during the day.
Other tags worth mentioning: #notmywi, #solidaritywi, #wirecall,
and #wivote. For the nationwide fghtback, #statesos and #1u have been
do not retreat, retweet | 90
picking up steam ever since.
Also noteworthy on Twitter, Melissa Ryan, Sen. Russ Feingold’s former
new media director, put together the lists of key local bloggers and #WIunion
allies for others who wanted to follow their perspective on events.
10: Tey Took Pictures of Each Other
Tis list would be woefully incomplete without a mention of several in-
dependent flms of the protests posted to Vimeo, by 23-year-old Matt
Wisniewski (no relation to Zach Wisniewski of Blogging Blue), set to
popular songs and cut together from his own footage of the Capitol pro-
tests. While not blog posts, as such, these video montages (though there
were many others, and multiple livestreams, and many Flickr archives
of still photos) will defne the event for tens of thousands of people who
weren’t able to be there in person, and even for many who were.
When people asked if you saw “the protest videos” in Madison at the
peak of the demonstrations, chances were, they meant these.
11: Tey Watched the World
A time-lapse video of global protests and uprisings from Dec. 18, 2010–
March 7, 2011 was put together by John Caelan of SwampPost, and added
to his site on March 9, 2011. Te video link spread like wildfre over Twit-
ter, tapping into popular sentiment among the activist community that
saw protests in Madison and other state capitals as part of a global wave of
populist uprisings, each unique to their situations but inspired by the same
longing for more just societies.
12: Tey Raised Some Dough
Te online fundraising driven by the #WIunion events and national public-
ity defnitely deserves its own spotlight. As they head into an unprecedented
season of recall elections, Wisconsin Democrats start with a cash advantage
in excess of $1 million, and to thank for it, they can mostly look to four
online activist organizations that are unafliated with either a Democratic
Party committee or any of the unions involved (these are MoveOn.org,
Democracy for America, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee,
and Daily Kos).
As of May 2, over $3 million was raised online from more than 173,000
people, putting the average donation at a little over $17.
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And then …
Wisconsinites were so fred up that they began collecting signatures
to recall six Republican state senators in special elections this summer.
Soon afer, Walker signed a bill that that made it more difcult for seniors,
students, and people of color to be heard at the polls. In Wisconsin and
around the country, conservatives are stepping up their attacks on workers
and democracy following the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that
unlimited corporate money could be poured into politics.
Increased protests over cuts to education, health care, mass transit,
public safety, and job security in the #WIunion era have been met with bi-
partisan proposals for even bigger cuts at every level of government. Ofen,
these cuts are ofered side by side with tax cuts for millionaires and big busi-
ness. Tese are not the results the protesters were looking for.
Still, there were results. Tere was intense, unfltered public conversa-
tion through social networking sites. Volunteers were recruited on websites.
Funds were raised over email. Could there be more someday?
“Whose house? Our house!” was a regular chant in Madison and, I’ve
heard, wherever governors are launching attacks on working people. Yet,
it’s going to take a lot of work before the people who work in “our” houses
start acting like it again.
Tough once upon a time, even having unions was a pipe dream. “One
person, one vote,” used to be a laughable proposition. For those ideals, peo-
ple past and present have faced despots and tear gas, nooses and clubs. So I
have great faith that the fnal outcome, eventually, will be justice for all.
Because I’ve seen what democracy looks like. It’s pretty great. I think
everybody will want some.
@analieseeicher Analiese Eicher
RT @chicagobars: Free drinks on me for any WI state senators hiding out
in Chicago from Gov Scott Walker’s power play.
4:22pm Feb 17
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
When all of this is over, I want to be in a dark room with a stiff drink. And
also a scalp massage.
4:44pm Feb 17
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
Anyone who has ever complained that the American populace is too lazy
to fght back should be in Madison right now. #unionWI #killthebill
4:45pm Feb 17
@cabell Cabell Gathman
RT @nateckennedy: 30,000 people protesting in Wisconsin and Fox News
is talking about the “silent majority” who disagrees. Sheesh.
4:51pm Feb 17
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
Please be peaceful and non-violent. This is OUR state capitol. There is
food and water available. We are winning this. #wiunion
4:54pm Feb 17
@JacquelynGill Jacquelyn Gill
I defy anyone with a soul to feel the energy of >30,000 workers and
students crying for justice & not feel moved. Walker isn’t. #wiunion
4:57pm Feb 17
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
Text from my Mom, watching cable news from KY: Watching the news.
Rallies getting more and more coverage. Tons. Keep fghting! #WIunion
5:18pm Feb 17
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
I am not a union member. My job doesn’t provide ANY health care. I don’t
have a pension. I’m still in solidarity with #notmywi #wiunion.
5:48pm Feb 17
@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar
No profle 2 pick out I see dudes in sweatshrts n on the mullet side along
w.hipsters aside oldr couples #wiunion
7:04am Feb 17
do not retreat, retweet | 93
Matt Wisniewski is videographer and public employee at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison. Wisniewski, who was 23 at the time of the protests,
created powerful videos from the Capitol occupation that quickly went viral
and helped spread the story of the protests around the world. His videos can
be seen at Vimeo.com/mgwisni.
Erica Sagrans: I was in London during the Wisconsin protests, and people
there were mentioning seeing photos and watching videos online as one of the
main ways that they stayed in touch with what was going on in Wisconsin.
Your videos really resonated with a lot of people who weren’t able to experi-
ence the protests up close. What do you think you were able to convey to
people, which perhaps wasn’t being shared elsewhere?
Matt Wisniewski: Te frst video I put out, I think was on February 18,
maybe February 17, which was about four or fve days from when the rally
started. And all the news coverage that came out right when it started was
very factual. Tere were a couple pictures attached to each story. Tere was
some video on local news, but it was mostly just people holding signs and
looking at the camera, and there was also some weird stuf that was coming
out from Fox News and Drudge Report that sort of made us look bad or
Erica Sagrans
May 2, 2011
do not retreat, retweet | 94
inferring that we were a riotous crowd.
But what I think made the frst video so successful and made it spread
so quickly was that I gave a face to the protest. I showed the diversity of
people that were there. And I gave it an emotional angle that the other
factual information didn’t really show. Tat frst video really conveys the
energy that we had the frst three weeks. It was such an infectious thing
because people that I knew who lived in Madison who hadn’t gone would
see the video and be like, “Wow, it’s really great,” and then they would be
inspired to go down to the Capitol and they’d be like, “Holy crap, I didn’t
realize it was so powerful. I was so wrong to doubt this.” But I think the fact
that I gave it a face and I really conveyed the emotion that was happening,
because the emotion was infectious, it was incredible down there, I think
that really helped the frst video take of.
ES: I was looking at your website and read some of what you’d written about
the power of story and narrative. I’m wondering what for you is the story
of these past few months, or the story that you were trying to tell with your
videos?
MW: Tat is a difcult thing to say. Tat’s like a book by itself. What I saw
and what I got out of this—I’ll tell you my story. I’m a public employee, so
the budget-repair bill is directly going to afect me. It’s going to take money
away from the paycheck I get every month. I initially went down to the
Capitol to protest the money, the monetary value of what I was losing—and
then when I got down there, I saw a lot of people from unions (I’m non-
union), and I started to meet people from unions, and I started to learn
about the labor movement, stuf that I hadn’t learned in school. I started
to realize how powerful this whole thing is, the labor movement, and it
started to get tied into civil rights, and labor rights are human rights. Te
thing that kept me coming back was this sense of community that we had.
Everyone that was down there was working together—the people who were
staying in the Capitol overnight, people who were delivering them food and
supplies. Tey started to organize ofces in the Capitol. Tere was a wing
that was just for children and their parents to hang out in. Tere was a wing
that just had a ton of food, and people were there watching it and making
sure no one was coming in there and stealing it. Tere were people handing
out food and making sandwiches. Tere was also an information station
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where people could go and ask where they could get blankets or pillows
or sleeping bags. It was really like a community and everyone really cared
about each other. I think that’s something unique not only to the Midwest
but to Madison as a city, is that people really do take stock in each other’s
well-being.
ES: I know that you posted your email address where people could send in
messages of support for protesters. Will you talk about what kinds of messages
you got and what you did with them?
MW: At frst I was getting a lot of emails through my website, and those are
more difcult for me to respond to because when I hit “reply” I can’t reply
without changing the “from.” So I actually posted my email on the web-
site, and my email blew up then, obviously. Probably for about two weeks
I was getting close to 200 emails a day, and then it died down afer that. I
would say over the course of the last two and a half months I probably got
several thousand emails. Eventually I started to post those on a website,
and I would try to document where the email came from, and I’d post the
comment they sent me. I got thousands of emails. I don’t think I got more
than fve that were negative, and even those were people who disagreed but
wanted to have a discussion, a civil discourse.
I was getting emails from people all over Wisconsin, people all over the
United States, and I got several from outside the country. All of ‘em were
just like, “Keep up the fght, because we know if you guys fail, then they’re
going to come afer us next.” It was really incredible.
Tere was this hearing that was going on for the budget-repair bill, and
the reason we could keep the Capitol open was because the hearing kept
going on, and it went on for eight or nine days in a row, 24 hours a day. I
signed up and gave my testimony really late on a Saturday night or Sunday
morning, it was like 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning. I went up and I was read-
ing of emails I had gotten. During it I broke down in tears, I’m not exactly
sure why, but I think it was that I’d been living the entire protest through
my camera lens, I hadn’t really absorbed the emotion and expressed it. I
felt like there was so much pressure on me to convey these messages from
the thousands of people who had been sending me emails. It was a position
I’d never been in before, where I was a spokesman for this huge group of
people. I was really stressed out for awhile.
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I read a bunch of [the messages in the hearing], but we also had this
thing called the People’s Mic, and people could speak on it, and I went on
there probably a dozen times and read a few emails.
ES: Te People’s Mic seemed like a really interesting part of the whole occupa-
tion, how much people were speaking out and sharing their stories with one
another at the microphone set up in the Capitol.
MW: I’m part of the organization that ran the People’s Mic now, and we were
talking about the People’s Mic recently. We live in a country where it sort of
feels like your voice doesn’t matter, because there’s so many of us. Someone
compared it to old-school Rome, where people would speak about politics
in the open and have discussions—it felt like that. People were up there and
they knew that people were listening, and they cared about what they were
saying, and they started to realize that their voice matters and their vote
matters. It was really powerful to have people listen to you and care about
what you were saying in a culture that doesn’t always value that.
ES: During the protests, did you see yourself mostly as someone documenting
what was going on, or as someone who was doing video and participating in
other ways? Or did you see making videos as a way of protesting?
MW: Te frst few days I went, I just happened to have my camera with me,
and I take pictures a lot. I was sort of documenting what was going on. Te
reason I actually made the frst video was basically just so that my friends
who couldn’t go down there could see what was going on. I do wedding
videography, and I just edited it together in the way I do wedding videos—I
pick a song and then edit it to the music. Once the frst video went viral
and the second video was really popular, I almost felt like I had to go, be-
cause people were counting on me to show them what was going on. I also
felt like if I wasn’t documenting this, then no one might see it. I ended up
with 200 or 400 gigabytes of video footage. I haven’t even gone through
any of it practically. I would sit in front of the People’s Mic sometimes and
just record what people were saying because I knew that if I didn’t, no one
would ever see it or hear what they were saying. I did feel like that was
how I was participating because I hoped that the people who were seeing
my videos were either protesters who were there already and using it to
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motivate themselves to go back every day, or people who weren’t there and
would use it to eventually go down to the Capitol on those big rally days. I
think it was both.
ES: Had you done video of a similar event or big events like this, or had you
been involved politically in something like this before?
MW: Not hardly at all. I considered myself to have pretty strong political
beliefs, but I hadn’t really participated in democracy in that way before.
And the only videos I’d really produced were for weddings.
ES: What’s next for you, either organizing-wise or video-wise?
MW: I’m part of Autonomous Solidarity Organization now, but I don’t have
a very senior role there. I’m trying to participate just enough so that I do
what I say I can do. I don’t want to be the person who says they can do
something and then fails to do it, because I do have a full-time job and
other stuf going on. I’m going to defnitely stick with them for awhile and
help ‘em out as much as I can. As far as a political career or what I want to
do in politics, I don’t know if I want to be involved more than I really have
been so far. I really like where I am an activist/documentarian. I actually
got ofered a job by AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and
Municipal Employees) to work in Washington, D.C. as their video guy—
but I just love Madison so much, and I have a full-time job that I really love
to do, and I don’t know if I want to have my entire life be politics. I really
love what we did, and I hope that we can keep helping this change move
forward, but I don’t see myself as a lifetime activist or anything like that.
Hopefully once we turn the tide and fx our rights I can go back to being a
kid for a little longer. I haven’t dressed in suits so much in my entire life as I
have for the past two months.
ES: Right—as someone who’s been involved with politics in D.C., I think it’s
great to do that, but we need people all over, doing video, doing diferent things
all over the country. Tere’s not just one way to efect change.
MW: Tat’s something that was so cool about this movement—the way
people were using media. There were a lot of events or periods during
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the rally that I only learned about through Twitter. I basically became
a Twitter celebrity on accident. I had a Twitter account and the last time I
used it before this started was probably a year ago, and I had 10 followers
who were my friends. And then one day I logged into Twitter afer this hap-
pened, and I had some 500 followers, and I was like, “What is going on?” So
then I had to start using Twitter because people were listening to me.
Te way people were using their camera phones, and taking video and
putting it online and capturing all these moments that were really impor-
tant and spreading them on Facebook—that was such a unique thing that
I don’t think people have really seen before. I think that it’ll defnitely be a
case study in social media use for a long time.
ES: What do you think the role of social media was—was it a way of people
capturing the protests and telling that story, or a way people organized, or
what else?
MW: It was just that we could see so many more facts and events that were
happening outside of only the media realm. Normally an event like this,
you learn about it through either being there or reading in the newspaper.
In this event, there were so many more sources of information than that,
anybody who went down there was a source of information who could
take pictures, or video, or tweet about it, or put it on their Facebook. It
was like an aggregator, but it was also getting other people involved. It was
incredibly valuable.
One of the more important nights of the rallies was the night that
they passed the budget-repair bill afer hours—it was on a Wednesday or
a Tuesday, and the doors usually close at 5 o’clock on those days, and there
was hardly anybody there, probably a few thousand people at the Capitol.
Somebody tweeted, “Tey’re trying to pass this budget bill tonight, get to
the Capitol”—and thousands of people showed up. And we occupied the
Capitol that night, and that was the frst night the doors were open. It was
crazy. I would never have known about it if it hadn’t been for Twitter. I think
it played an incredibly important role. And there’s actually now a circle of
infuential Wisconsin union tweeters who are spreading knowledge out to
people who are still listening and paying attention to what’s going on.
ES: Who are the main tweeters you’ve been following?
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MW: Te main ones I was following closely are @bluecheddar1, who does
a radio show, and an attorney named @LegalEagle, as well as her friend
@edcetera who tweeted a lot during the protests. Tere are three reporters
from Madison who were covering the protests every day and tweeting
all the time and providing a lot of really good information—two were
@News3David and @News3Jessica. It was really cool that there were
citizen journalists providing information, but also that there were actual
news journalists who were really into it and spreading knowledge more
than just putting out a story. Tey were putting up tweets and pictures and
videos on a timely basis.
ES: Tat’s it as far as my questions go, but is there anything else you think is
an important part of the story or that you’d want to share?
MW: I think something that was really important to my part of the story
here was if I hadn’t chosen to get involved and to do something, then none
of my side of the story would have ever happened. I could have spent the
whole time at home, do whatever I wanted, have all this free time—but the
fact that I got involved and that I was actually doing something to try to
help this movement spread, was such a fulflling thing for me. Te fact that
you called me about a story for a book—that’s crazy to me—no one’s ever
cared what I talked about before. But I think that sometimes you have to put
away your personal wants for a movement that is a lot bigger than just you. I
would hope that what I did did help the movement and got people to come
to the Capitol—I will never know for sure if that’s true, but I would hope
that that’s true, and all the time that I spent and all the nights that I didn’t
sleep, that those were all worth it because of what ended up happening and
this community that we built together that isn’t going to be shut down. It’s
just not something I’ve experienced before. I love what we did, and I love
all the emails that I got, and I love that I got to spread that around, the love
that we were all sharing. I will never forget that experience for the rest of
my life.
One email that I got really resonates with me—I took video during the
frst really big rally with 100,000 people, and I took video of this dad, and
he had his baby daughter on his back. She must have been less than two
years old. When I was taking the video I was really nervous. I was think-
ing, “Oh man, I’m nervous that this guy’s going to think something weird
do not retreat, retweet | 100
about me taking pictures of his daughter.” And I put it in the video because
I just thought it was such a cool moment, and he ended up emailing me and
was like, “Tank you for putting us in the video. It’s so awesome. When she
grows up I’m going to show her the video, and she’s going to know she was
there for this historic event.” Tat really hit me that what I did and what I
captured and created is going to be out there for the rest of my life. People
are going to be watching it 10 years from now and that’s so cool—they’ll
remember what happened in Madison and look back on it and say, “We
started something there that changed things.”
@WEaC WEAC
RT @wendykloiber: RT @thebookpolice: Am I to believe that not a single
friend of the worker in WI has a damn vuvuzela? #solidarity
7:11pm Feb 17
@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar
@sentaylor Thank you Senator Taylor for everything. You are our hero.
I hope things R well w. U & all the Senators #wiunion
8:11pm Feb 17
@eigenjo Jo Nelson
RT @WiStateJournal: BREAKING: Madison schools to close Friday amid
calls for more protests http://dlvr.it/GtH8w
8:37pm Feb 17
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
RT @pourmecoffee: Governor Walker will regret radicalizing teachers.
When they come for him, all he will see is rulers and then darkness.
9:41pm Feb 17
@JacquelynGill Jacquelyn Gill
@karamartens The Packers issued a statement of solidarity - they’re
publicly owned, and unionized, and they stand with us! #wiunion
9:50pm Feb 17
@JacquelynGill Jacquelyn Gill
Or, if food and beer don’t tempt you to protest, come for the hot union men
and women in uniform! #whatisitaboutfrefghters? #wiunion
10:01pm Feb 17
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
We have been testifying for over 60 hours and counting! If you haven’t had
your voice heard, head to room 328 NW #killthisbill #wiunion
10:03pm Feb 17
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
HUGE thanks to the Capitol cleaning crew - on day 4, bathrooms clean &
completely stocked with all your necessities. #wiunion #wisolidarity
10:12pm Feb 17
@cabell Cabell Gathman
Dudes, I <3 HAVING A BULLHORN. I used to think what was missing from
my life was a giant fag, but now I know it’s a fag AND a bullhorn.
10:33pm Feb 17
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Prank caller Ian Murphy, who pretended to be right-wing billionaire (and
Governor Scott Walker supporter) David Koch, visited Madison this week-
end and took in the protests. Murphy was invited to Wisconsin by a school-
teacher from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, who few him out to the Badger
state.
Murphy is a folk hero around here. His punking of the governor gave
huge momentum to the burgeoning pro-democracy movement. People
began protesting at the Koch brothers’ lobbying ofces here in Madison
and elsewhere. More importantly, by releasing the audio of Walker speak-
ing candidly about the crisis, Murphy changed the narrative. Walker’s na-
ked corporate agenda was revealed for what it was, bursting the “budget
crisis” storyline.
Te role of right-wing money in funding anti-union eforts ofen goes
unnoticed by the press. But even the corporate media had to take notice.
And it gave proof to what many of us had suspected—Walker is in for the
long haul and will start layofs in an attempt to crush bargaining rights.
Walker went so far as to admit he considered inserting provocateurs in the
peaceful protests.
Murphy’s an editor of the Bufalo Beast, and unlike many out-of-town-
ers who have descended upon Madison recently, he knows how to dress for
Elizabeth DiNovella
The Progressive, March 7, 2011
do not retreat, retweet | 103
the cold. He’s stocky, with a round face and shaggy brown hair underneath
a big fuzzy hat. He totally looked like a Wisconsinite.
Mike, the teacher from Fond du Lac, took him to the Capitol rotunda,
which had just reopened the day before. He introduced Murphy, and the
crowd cheered him and shouted chants of “Beast! Beast! Beast!”
Murphy is a fan of Te Progressive, and he and his entourage stopped
by the ofce to say hello. Afer our chat, they headed down to State Street
Brats, you know, to get some sausage.
Q: How did you decide to be David Koch, rather than someone else?
Ian Murphy: I came across a quote from Tim Carpenter, one of the 14
Democratic state senators who lef the state, about Walker not talking to
the Dems.
[”He’s just hard-lined—will not talk, will not communicate, will not
return phone calls,” said Carpenter.]
I read this in a piece by Amanda Terkel on Hufngton Post. Walker
wouldn’t talk to them. He wouldn’t pick up the phone. So I thought, whose
call would he take?
I had been following Koch brothers. I knew they had been involved
with union-busting. Te choice was obvious.
Q: Were you surprised that the prank worked?
Ian Murphy: Very. I was a little unprepared. I thought the jig would be up
each time I called.
Q: You made more than one call?
Ian Murphy: Yes. Te frst call answered by a male secretary. He knew the
name David Koch. He transferred me over to Walker’s executive assistant,
Dorothy Moore. She told me my name sounded familiar and asked me to
please call back.
I called back and spoke to Keith Gilkes, Walker’s chief of staf. He was
expecting me to call. He was thrilled to talk to me. I told him I had to talk
to Scott.
He said that could be arranged and that I should just leave my number.
do not retreat, retweet | 104
One problem was that I was using Skype. So I told them my maid Maria
washed my cell phone. I would’ve had her deported, I said, but she works
for close to nothing. Gilkes thought this was funny.
He checked the governor’s schedule and told me to call back at 2 p.m.
And I did and I got through to the governor.
With pranks, you have to tip your hand a little. I tipped my hand with
the maid, so they kind of deserved it.
Q: Were you surprised by what Walker said?
Ian Murphy: Yes. Te part about planting provocateurs was really amazing.
And disturbing.
Murphy put the prank call on the Bufalo Beast website. Te rest is history.
Now every day I see an anti-Koch protester sign. One of the funniest is,
“Scott, your Koch dealer is on line 2.”
do not retreat, retweet | 105
“David Koch”: We’ll back you any way we can. What we were thinking about
the crowd was, uh, was planting some troublemakers.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker: You know, well, the only problem with
that—because we thought about that…
WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO WITNESS IS REAL. NO NAMES HAVE
BEEN CHANGED TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT. THERE ARE NO
INNOCENT. –MURPHY
___________________________________________________________
“He’s just hard-lined—will not talk, will not communicate, will not return
phone calls.”
–Wisconsin state Sen. Tim Carpenter (D) on Walker
Carpenter’s quote made me wonder: who could get through to Walker?
Well, what do we know about Walker and his proposed union-busting, no-
bid “budget-repair” bill? Te obvious candidate was David Koch.
I frst called at 11:30 a.m. CST, and eventually got through to a young,
male receptionist who, upon hearing the magic name Koch, immediately
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker answers his master’s call
Ian Murphy
Buffalo Beast, February 23, 2011
do not retreat, retweet | 106
transferred me to executive assistant Dorothy Moore.
“We’ve met before, Dorothy,” I nudged. “I really need to talk to Scott—
Governor Walker.” She said that, yes, she thought she had met Koch, and
that the name was “familiar.” But she insisted that Walker was detained in
a meeting and couldn’t get away. She asked about the nature of my call. I
balked, “I just needed to speak with the governor. He knows what this is
about,” I said. She told me to call back at noon, and she’d have a better idea
of when he would be free.
I called at noon and was quickly transferred to Moore, who then trans-
ferred me to Walker’s chief of staf Keith Gilkes. He was “expecting my
call.”
“David!” he said with an audible smile.
I politely said hello, not knowing how friendly Gilkes and Koch may
be. He was eager to help. “I was really hoping to talk directly to Scott,” I said.
He said that could be arranged and that I should just leave my number.
I explained to Gilkes, “My goddamn maid, Maria, put my phone in the
washer. I’d have her deported, but she works for next to nothing.” Gilkes
found this amusing. “I’m calling from the VOID—with the VOID, or what-
ever it’s called. You know, the Snype!”
“Gotcha,” Gilkes said. “Let me check the schedule here… OK, there’s
an opening at 2 o’clock Central Standard Time. Just call this same number,
and we’ll put you through.”
Could it really be that easy? Yes. What follows is a rushed, abridged
transcript of my—I mean, David Koch’s conversation with Walker.
Walker: Hi; this is Scott Walker.
Koch: Scott! David Koch. How are you?
Walker: Hey, David! I’m good. And yourself?
Koch: I’m very well. I’m a little disheartened by the situation there, but, uh,
what’s the latest?
Walker: Well, we’re actually hanging pretty tough. I mean—you know,
amazingly there’s a much smaller group of protesters—almost all of
whom are in from other states today. Te state Assembly is taking the bill
do not retreat, retweet | 107
up—getting it all the way to the last point it can be at where it’s unamend-
able. But they’re waiting to pass it until the Senate’s—the Senate Democrats,
excuse me, the Assembly Democrats have about a hundred amendments
they’re going through. Te state Senate still has the 14 members missing but
what they’re doing today is bringing up all sorts of other non-fscal items,
many of which are things members on the Democratic side care about. And
each day we’re going to ratchet it up a little bit. ... Te Senate majority leader
had a great plan he told about this morning—he told the Senate Democrats
about and he’s going to announce it later today, and that is: Te Senate or-
ganization committee is going to meet and pass a rule that says if you don’t
show up for two consecutive days on a session day—in the state Senate, the
Senate chief clerk—it’s a little procedural thing here, but—can actually have
your payroll stopped from being automatically deducted—
Koch: Beautiful.
Walker: —into your checking account and instead—you still get a check,
but the check has to be personally picked up and he’s instructing them—
which we just loved—to lock them in their desk on the foor of the state
Senate.
Koch: Now you’re not talking to any of these Democrat bastards, are you?
Walker: Ah, I—there’s one guy that’s actually voted with me on a bunch of
things I called on Saturday for about 45 minutes, mainly to tell him that
while I appreciate his friendship and he’s worked with us on other things, to
tell him I wasn’t going to budge.
Koch: Goddamn right!
Walker: His name is Tim Cullen—
Koch: All right, I’ll have to give that man a call.
Walker: Well, actually, in his case I wouldn’t call him and I’ll tell you why:
he’s pretty reasonable but he’s not one of us…
do not retreat, retweet | 108
Koch: Now who can we get to budge on this collective bargaining?
Walker: I think the paycheck will have an impact. ... Secondly, one of the
things we’re looking at next … we’re still waiting on an opinion to see if the
unions have been paying to put these guys up out of state. We think there’s
at minimum an ethics violation if not an outright felony.
Koch: Well, they’re probably putting hobos in suits.
Walker: Yeah.
Koch: Tat’s what we do. Sometimes.
Walker: I mean paying for the senators to be put up. I know they’re pay-
ing for these guys—I mean, people can pay for protesters to come in and
that’s not an ethics code, but, I mean, literally if the unions are paying the
14 senators—their food, their lodging, anything like that … [*** Important
regarding his later acceptance of a Koch ofer to “show him a good time.”
***]
[I was stunned. I am stunned. In the interest of expediting the release of this
story, here are the juiciest bits:]
Walker: I’ve got layof notices ready. …
Koch: Beautiful; beautiful. Gotta crush that union.
Walker: [bragging about how he doesn’t budge]… I would be willing to sit
down and talk to him, the Assembly Democrat leader, plus the other two
Republican leaders—talk, not negotiate and listen to what they have to say
if they will in turn—but I’ll only do it if all 14 of them will come back and
sit down in the state Assembly. ... Legally, we believe, once they’ve gone into
session, they don’t physically have to be there. If they’re actually in session
for that day, and they take a recess, the 19 Senate Republicans could then
go into action and they’d have quorum. ... So we’re double-checking that. If
you heard I was going to talk to them that’s the only reason why. We’d only
do it if they came back to the Capitol with all 14 of them…
do not retreat, retweet | 109
Koch: Bring a baseball bat. Tat’s what I’d do.
Walker: I have one in my ofce; you’d be happy with that. I have a slugger
with my name on it.
Koch: Beautiful.
Walker: [union-bashing...]
Koch: Beautiful.
Walker: So this is ground zero, there’s no doubt about it. [Talks about a
“great” New York Times piece of “objective journalism.” Talks about how
most private blue-collar workers have turned against public, unionized
workers.] … So I went through and called a handful, a dozen or so lawmak-
ers I worry about each day and said, “Everyone, we should get that story
printed out and send it to anyone giving you grief.”
Koch: Goddamn right! We, uh, we sent, uh, Andrew Breitbart down there.
Walker: Yeah.
Koch: Yeah.
Walker: Good stuf.
Koch: He’s our man, you know.
Walker: [Blah about his press conferences, attacking Obama, and all the
great press he’s getting.] Brian [Sandoval], the new governor of Nevada,
called me last night. He said—he was out in the Lincoln Day Circuit in the
last two weekends and he was kidding me, he said, “Scott, don’t come to Ne-
vada because I’d be afraid you beat me running for governor.” Tat’s all they
want to talk about is what are you doing to help the governor of Wisconsin.
I talk to Kasich every day—John’s gotta stand frm in Ohio. I think we could
do the same thing with Rick Scott in Florida. I think, uh, Snyder—if he
got a little more support—probably could do that in Michigan. You start
do not retreat, retweet | 110
going down the list there’s a lot of us new governors that got elected to do
something big.
Koch: You’re the frst domino.
Walker: Yep. Tis is our moment.
Koch: Now what else could we do for you down there?
Walker: Well the biggest thing would be—and your guy on the ground
[Americans For Prosperity president Tim Phillips] is probably seeing this
[stuf about all the people protesting, and some of them fip him of].
[Abrupt end of frst recording, and start of second.]
Walker: [Bullshit about doing the right thing and getting fipped of by
“union bulls,” and the decreasing number of protesters. Or some such.]
Koch: We’ll back you any way we can. What we were thinking about the
crowd was, uh, was planting some troublemakers.
Walker: You know, well, the only problem with that—because we thought
about that. Te problem—the, my only gut reaction to that is right now the
lawmakers I’ve talked to have just completely had it with them, the public
is not really fond of this. ... [Explains that planting troublemakers may not
work.] My only fear would be if there’s a ruckus caused is that maybe the
governor has to settle to solve all these problems. ... [something about ‘60s
liberals.] … Let ‘em protest all they want. … Sooner or later the media stops
fnding it interesting.
Koch: Well, not the liberal bastards on MSNBC.
Walker: Oh yeah, but who watches that? I went on “Morning Joe” this
morning. I like it because I just like being combative with those guys, but,
uh. You know they’re of the deep end.
Koch: Joe—Joe’s a good guy. He’s one of us.
do not retreat, retweet | 111
Walker: Yeah, he’s all right. He was fair to me. … [bashes NY Sen. Chuck
Schumer, who was also on the program.]
Koch: Beautiful; beautiful. You gotta love that Mika Brzezinski; she’s a real
piece of ass.
Walker: Oh yeah. [Story about when he hung out with human pig Jim
Sensenbrenner at some D.C. function, and he was sitting next to Brzezinski
and her father, and their guest was David Axelrod. He introduced himself.]
Koch: Tat son of a bitch!
Walker: Yeah no kidding huh?…
Koch: Well, good; good. Good catching up with ya’.
Walker: Tis is an exciting time [blah, blah, blah, Super Bowl reference
followed by an odd story of pulling out a picture of Ronald Reagan and
explaining to his staf the plan to crush the union the same way Reagan
fred the air trafc controllers]. … Tat was the frst crack in the Berlin Wall
because the Communists then knew Reagan wasn’t a pushover. [Blah, blah,
blah. He’s exactly like Reagan. Won’t shut up about how awesome he is.]
Koch: [Laughs] Well, I tell you what, Scott: Once you crush these bastards
I’ll fy you out to Cali and really show you a good time.
Walker: All right, that would be outstanding. [*** Ethical violation much?
***] Tanks for all the support. … It’s all about getting our freedoms back.
Koch: Absolutely. And, you know, we have a little bit of a vested interest as
well. [Laughs]
Walker: [Blah] Tanks a million!
Koch: Bye-bye!
Walker: Bye.
do not retreat, retweet | 112
So there you have it, kids. Government isn’t for the people. It’s for the
people with money. You want to be heard? Too fucking bad. You want to
collectively bargain? You can’t aford a seat at the table. You may have built
that table. But it’s not yours. It belongs to the Kochs and the oligarch class.
It’s guarded by Republicans like Walker, and his Democratic counterparts
across that ever-narrowing aisle that is corporate rule, so that the ever-
widening gap between the haves and the have-nots can swallow all the
power in the world. Tese are known knowns, and now we just know them
a little more.
But money isn’t always power. Te protesters in Cairo and Madison
have taught us this—reminded us of this. Tey can’t buy a muzzle big
enough to silence us all. Share the news. Do not retreat; ReTweet.
Te revolution keeps spinning. Try not to get too dizzy.
#WIshyOUWEREhERE
@emmahduhjemmah
Sen Dems leaving the state? Hell yeah!
the fourth day of massive protests in the Madison
Capitol, all 14 of Wisconsin’s Democratic state senators disappeared. State
troopers were sent to track them down, but it soon became clear that they
had lef the state and regrouped at an undisclosed location across the bor-
der in Illinois, where Wisconsin police had no jurisdiction.
Te 14 Democratic senators had taken the extreme measure of
feeing Wisconsin in order to block Governor Walker’s bill from being
brought to a vote by the Legislature, where Republicans were trying to
pass it as quickly as possible despite the outpouring of opposition. By
bringing the legislative process to a halt, the senators opened up a space
for the protesters to keep the momentum of the occupation going strong
in their absence.
Republicans held a 19-14 majority in the state Senate, but a quo-
rum of 20 senators is required by law in order to hold a vote on fnan-
cial matters. Republicans needed only to persuade a single Democrat to
return—but all 14 remained together and on the run for more than three
weeks, longer than anyone expected. When they fnally did return, the
group was welcomed home by over 100,000 supporters who cheered and
held signs saying, “Tank You Fab 14,” “We Heart the Wisconsin 14,” and
“Fighting 14.”
the wisconsin 14 | 116
Tis dramatic action, where Democratic senators stood with the
protesters demanding the bill be stopped, didn’t just energize Wisconsin
progressives. It fred up people all over the country who had become
disillusioned by Democrats’ reluctance to stand up and fght for their prin-
ciples. Since the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, progressives
had become frustrated with an administration and Democrats who seemed
too willing to compromise in the face of Republican extremism. But for
several weeks this winter, the Wisconsin 14 set an example for the country,
showing how progressives and elected ofcials could work together, and
how Democrats could fght back.
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
Fox is really saying WI protests are violent? I’M IN MADISON, AND
THERE IS NOT A SHRED OF VIOLENCE. Absolutely, positively none.
#WIunion
10:54pm Feb 17
@eigenjo Jo Nelson
it is amazing to see the outpouring of national attention. i remember 9pm
on tuesday 2/15 we feared our voices would not be heard!
11:13pm Feb 17
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
CONFIRMED: Further violence in Capitol.A woman just entered,
unsolicited, and gave us all homemade cookies #WIunion
11:22pm Feb 17
@liz_gilbert Liz Gilbert
“Great sign: the national guard can’t teach organic chemistry”
-@M_Pomerantz #killthebill #wiunion #notmywi
11:29pm Feb 17
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
May or may not have announced to my friends my plan to run for offce
tonight. Wisconsin, you inspire me. #wisolidarity
12:44am Feb 18
@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar
I am toast. G’night.
12:58am Feb 18
the wisconsin 14 | 118
Wisconsin state Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) is one of 14 Democrats
hiding out in Illinois, participating in a “flibuster with our feet” to slow
down the “budget-repair” bill, which would strip collective bargaining
rights from public employees, among other things. By walking out of the
state, Senate Democrats have denied Republicans the 3/5 quorum needed
for passing legislation with a fscal intent. Larson and his 13 colleagues and
their whereabouts have become a major part of this unfolding story, but
he’d rather the focus go to the legislation on ofer, and the constituents out
in the streets in Madison and elsewhere.
“Ever since we stepped away, there’s been a lot of attention on us,” said
Larson in an interview last night from his undisclosed location in Illinois.
“We’re trying to focus it back on this ridiculous legislation.”
Despite the disadvantage of being outside the state, Larson believes that
he and his colleagues have been able to get their message out. “Tere have
been huge rallies in Wisconsin. Not just in the Capitol, but in our districts
in support of us and against this legislation,” Larson said. He believes that
the stalemate has forced a spotlight on what Governor Scott Walker and his
fellow Republicans have been doing since taking ofce. Trying to ram this
budget-repair bill through the Legislature in a matter of days, with radio
and TV ads on the air from the Club for Growth, before Democrats ever got
David Dayen
Firedoglake, February 22, 2011
the wisconsin 14 | 119
a chance to see it, is a symptom of how Walker and the Republicans, who
control both houses of the Legislature, have been operating.
“Tis has been happening since they got in there,” Larson said, referring
to several bills rubber-stamped by the Legislature in January, including a
series of corporate tax cuts totaling over $140 million at a time when Walker
and his party keep talking about a budget crisis. “Frankly, there hadn’t been
much public outcry because of the Packers. People weren’t paying attention.
It’s not a coincidence that it’s a week afer the Super Bowl when people wake
up and say, ‘What the hell is going on?’”
Contrary to the opinions of A.G. Sulzberger in an article in Te New
York Times today, Larson said that his constituents fully understand the
diference between labor concessions on pension and health-care contribu-
tions, given the tough economic and budget environment, and the strip-
ping of virtually all collective bargaining rights. Most labor groups have
agreed to the givebacks but not the loss of their bargaining rights. Larson
attributes this awareness from the public to the long tradition of organized
labor in the state. He cited one event in particular that sticks in the minds
of Wisconsinites:
My district is in Bay View, south of Milwaukee. A hundred and
twenty-five years ago, workers there decided to strike for eight-
hour workdays and weekends. They had enough of 16-hour
days and poor work conditions. The governor said at the time
that if they strike and march on the factory they’ll get shot.
Seven people died at Bay View. We started this back then. We
were the first state in the nation to provide public employee
bargaining rights. The first AFSCME local is here. People get
workers’ rights in Wisconsin.
Te Bay View Massacre of 1886, coming up on its 125th anniversary
on May 5, is an important corollary to what’s happening in Madison to-
day. Te striking workers spent two years building their movement for an
eight-hour workday, warning noncompliant businesses that they would call
a nationwide strike if they didn’t meet the demand by May 1886. When
that date rolled around, labor leaders spent several days marching through
Milwaukee, picking up new recruits at each factory and workplace along
the way. Te strikers shut down every factory in Milwaukee except for one,
the wisconsin 14 | 120
the North Chicago Railroad Rolling Mills Steel Foundry in Bay View.
Tey could not get entry into Rolling Mills, and afer a one-day standof,
Governor Jeremiah Rusk gave the order:
Rusk called the Mills and told Captain Treaumer of the Lincoln
Guard, “If the strikers try to enter the mill, shoot to kill.” Captain
Treaumer then ordered his men to pick out a man, concentrate,
and kill him when the order is given. Te strikers spent the night
in open felds nearby while the militia camps stayed at the Mills
with sentries posted. During the night the sentries were shooting
at anything that moved. A Navy tug brought provisions for the
guard.
May 5: Around nine in the morning the strikers gathered again
chanting, “Eight hours.” A reporter who slept with them reported
that it was odd that this was a group with no real leadership, but
everyone was united in one single purpose.
Te crowd approached the mill and faced the militia, who were
ready to fre. Before Treaumer knew the crowd’s real intentions he
ordered halt, but the strikers, who were about two hundred yards
away, did not hear him.
He ordered the militia to fre. Te crowd was in chaos as people
fed the scene. Te Milwaukee Journal reported that six were dead
and at least eight more were expected to die within 24 hours.
Meanwhile, some strikers called for revenge on the militia but
to no avail. For several days aferwards a few strikers were still
marching throughout the city but no one would join them. Te
dead included a 13-year-old boy who tagged along with the crowd
wondering what was going on and a retired worker who lived in
Bay View. He was struck down by a stray bullet, as he was getting
water and was not part of the strike. - Libcom.org
Public sympathy after the massacre (and others like it, such as the
Haymarket Riot in Chicago) eventually led to widespread change in
the wisconsin 14 | 121
Milwaukee county and city governments. Socialists were voted in during
the next election in 1888. Eventually, workers won the right to an eight-
hour day. Tey did it through collective action. Tese are the hard-fought
rights that Walker’s measure would basically take away from public em-
ployees—the ability to bargain in their interest for appropriate pay, benefts,
and working conditions. Tese rights were won with blood.
Tere’s a kind of eternal recurrence here. Mike Elk reports that the
Southern Central Federation of Labor (SCFL), a 45,000-member AFL-CIO
local in the Madison area, just endorsed a general strike if Walker signs the
budget-repair bill and strips workers’ rights. Only individual unions and
not the labor federation can call a strike, so the SCFL announcement takes
care to say it will “begin educating afliates and members on the organiza-
tion and function of a general strike.” Many public-sector unions and some
construction unions could go out on strike as part of this efort.
Larson did feel a certain burden as part of the group of senators lead-
ing what has become a nationwide efort to fght back against an assault
on workers’ rights. Te state Senate committee in Wisconsin has raised
$330,000 in a matter of days in online contributions from ActBlue, thanks
largely to eforts by the netroots and progressive groups. But Larson said he
was trying not to let that go to his head, believing instead that he was part
of a continuum with the Bay View marchers.
“People have always stood up for labor,” Larson said. “Tis has hap-
pened for 50 years. People have been spit on, beat up, punched, shot at for
protecting their rights. We’re just one piece of that.”
He said he understood the plight of those workers who had decent
wages, health insurance, and a good pension, and lost it during the Great
Recession. “Tose people look at the public sector and its union protec-
tions. Tey can either say, ‘I hope everyone rises up to that level,’ or ‘I hope
no one does.’ I don’t fault people who get frustrated, but I hope they say, ‘I
don’t have that but I’d like to.’ Te right wing’s counting on the middle class
fghting among themselves and the rich getting richer.”
Larson continued: “Scott Walker is trying to pit the middle class against
itself. If anything it’s brought the middle class together. I’m getting emails
and phone calls, people stopping by my ofce, people who never would stop
by my ofce, people who aren’t in unions are coming out. Walker doesn’t get
it. He’s not understanding why we’re upset.”
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
RT @analieseeicher: My republican gpa says he’ll walk the streets (w/bad
knees) to collect sigs for Walkers recall. <3 my family #wiu ...
11:22am Feb 18
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
Come outside of the Capitol after speeches at 1 PM to help us clean.
Show @GovWalker that we take care of WI. Look for yellow vests
#wiunion
11:33am Feb 18
@fnnryan Finn Ryan
Yes, I will lose $4000-$5000 from my annual salary if this bill passes, but I
WILL ALSO LOSE MY RIGHTS AS A PUBLIC WORKER #wiunion
12:01pm Feb 18
@WEaC WEAC
You can hear the crowd roar as Russ Feingold walks by.#wiunion
12:18pm Feb 18
@eigenjo Jo Nelson
Ian’s Pizza says people are calling from all over country to order pizza to
deliver to the protesters as thanks. :)
1:56pm Feb 18
@eigenjo Jo Nelson
change fb status to “Today I stand with the teachers, nurses, and all public
employees of Wisconsin who are fghting for their rights.” #fb
2:06pm Feb 18
@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar
@mommelissab Many teachers. Yes. But also PLENTY of men in Carhart
jackets - the universal workman coat. #wiunion
2:38pm Feb 18
@WEaC WEAC
RT @stanscates: Mother Jones reporter @AndrewKroll is on his way 2
Wisconsin. Follow him & @MotherJones #wiunion
2:52pm Feb 18
the wisconsin 14 | 123
“Get back to work,” the man told me. He listened to the radio all afernoon
and was convinced I needed to be in Madison to do my job. At the same
time, my constituents pleaded with me to fght for workers’ rights.
Leaving Madison was the only way my colleagues and I could stop a
bill that would fundamentally change Wisconsin. We needed time for the
people’s voice to be heard.
On Feb. 11 Governor Scott Walker introduced a bill to make sweeping
changes in the state’s Medicaid system, chip away at the civil service system,
and do away with public-workers’ rights.
Te bill is fast-tracked; the only committee hearing was the following
Tuesday. Public testimony was halted with still hundreds waiting to testify.
Te bill passed out of committee at 12 a.m. Tursday morning and was
scheduled for a fnal Senate vote the same day.
Invoking a Wisconsin Constitution provision, my Senate Democratic
colleagues and I decided to move our base of operations to Illinois. By cross-
ing state lines we were outside the reach of the majority party who would
have compelled us to vote. We did not take this decision lightly. We chose
our only option to slow the process and work toward honest negotiations.
Te governor says the proposed law is necessary to balance the bud-
get. Last Friday state and local public-employee union leaders agreed to
Wisconsin State Senator Kathleen Vinehout
February 23, 2011
the wisconsin 14 | 124
all fnancial aspects of the bill. Still the governor claims he must eliminate
public-employee unions to resolve the budget defcit.
Two years ago Wisconsin faced a $6.6 billion budget hole. We flled the
defcit with a balanced approach to spending and taxes that protected vital
services and infrastructure. We cut spending by more than $3 billion—the
deepest cut in Wisconsin history. We closed tax loopholes and made other
tax changes to bring an additional $1.6 billion to the state cofers. We cut
government programs by $2 billion, making nearly every aspect of gov-
ernment do more with less. Now the state faces a defcit of less than half
that amount.
According to the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau the state isn’t
even required to pass a “budget-repair” bill. But if the governor wants to get
the state’s fscal house in order by the end of this fscal year, he could call for
passing parts of the bill dealing only with fscal matters.
There is absolutely no need to destroy Wisconsin’s traditions of civil
service, clean government, quality public schools, and peaceful labor
relations.
The governor called on public employees to pay more for their
health care and pensions. In good faith, public-employee union lead-
ers agreed to those financial concessions. Now it is time for Walker to
negotiate in good faith.
My Democratic colleagues and I respectfully asked the governor to ne-
gotiate. We reminded him that a large coalition of religious leaders asked
that he sit down with leaders.
But the governor refuses to sit down with labor leaders, refuses to
acknowledge the concessions made by those leaders, and refuses to ne-
gotiate at all.
My ofce phone has rung continuously for over a week. Te calls run
10 to one opposed to the bill. I received more contact from constituents
on this bill than all other issues in the past four years combined. Cities,
counties, and school boards are passing resolutions asking that parts of the
bill eliminating public-workers’ rights be removed. Many local ofcials ex-
pressed dismay over the way the bill usurps local control. Some mayors
who complained unions gained too much power say the governor’s bill is
too extreme.
Even though I write this from an undisclosed location in Illinois, I con-
tinue to talk with constituents, local government ofcials, and local media.
the wisconsin 14 | 125
I work with my staf to respond to thousands of constituents who write
or called about this bill. And I continue to represent the people of our
Senate district.
People asked me when we will return to Madison. Right now the ball is
in the governor’s court. He has the power to end the strife by simply calling
all sides to the table.
Something so far he has refused to do.
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
Just saw myself in a mirror. I look like a person who hasn’t slept in days.
So worth it though. #wiunion #wisolidarity
3:04pm Feb 18
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
It’s cold and windy in Milwaukee. Kind of wish I was wearing socks.
3:40pm Feb 18
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
Angry man 2 inches from my face tells me to “get some skin in the game”
instead of being protected by union. I’m not a union member. #weac
4:14pm Feb 18
@eigenjo Jo Nelson
At capitol now. We are getting this party started.
4:43pm Feb 18
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
Stayed up all night in capitol,drove to Chicago at 5am, worked an 8 hour
day, and now leaving to return to Madison. and I’m pumped! @WIunion
5:08pm Feb 18
@eigenjo Jo Nelson
Dear dem senators, we love you but please dont come home. Love the
masses. thanks for being our fearless leaders and advocates! #wiunion
5:17pm Feb 18
@JacquelynGill Jacquelyn Gill
RT @millbot: Jesse Jackson just called the protests the “Super Bowl of
worker’s rights.” Awesome. #wiunion #notmywi
6:12pm Feb 18
@jjoyce Jason Joyce
Jackson: “This is a Ghandi moment. This is a King moment.” #wiunion
#notmywi
6:21pm Feb 18
the wisconsin 14 | 127
Over the past fve weeks, tens of thousands of grassroots progressives have
hit the streets, and made political contributions totaling in the millions, in
support of the fght for workers’ rights in Wisconsin. As a political orga-
nizer, I can’t help but wonder why a simultaneous spending fght in the U.S.
Congress—one which impacts far more people—hasn’t resulted anywhere
near the same amount of activist outpouring.
Certainly, the relative lack of an existential threat is one of the key
diferences, as unions are fghting for their lives in Wisconsin and Ohio.
While some organizations are faced with the void in the D.C. spending
fght, most notably Planned Parenthood and NPR, there isn’t a strong
belief they will disappear entirely while Democrats control the Senate and
the White House.
A second important diference between the Wisconsin and D.C. fghts
is the relative lack of pageantry inside the beltway. Among all center-lef
constituencies, labor remains the undisputed champion in its ability to turn
people out to events not hosted by a candidate for president. Te sheer
energy of the protests in Wisconsin, spurred on by the existential threat to
labor lacking in the D.C. fght, inspired many people around the country to
take action themselves.
However, a third, more fundamental reason for the relative lack of
Chris Bowers
Daily Kos, March 20, 2011
the wisconsin 14 | 128
grassroots activism is that Democratic leaders in Congress and the White
House haven’t picked a fght with Republicans. Starting in late November,
when President Barack Obama backed a pay freeze for federal workers,
Democratic leaders in the White House and Senate made it plain that
they agreed with the basic Republican campaign premise of slashing non-
defense discretionary spending. While Democrats have some diferences
with Republicans over the quality and quantity of the cuts they desire, the
line between the two parties is pretty blurry right now. Vagaries such as
“winning the future” aren’t clearing up the picture.
In the same vein as inching toward Republicans on policy, almost
everyone believes the White House would rather give Republicans most
of what they want than go through a government shutdown. If Obama
presents himself as anything, he presents himself as a bipartisan deal-
maker. Tis has been central to his image since he launched his campaign
for president more than four years ago. He burnished this image back in
December, cutting a number of deals with Republicans during the lame-
duck session, most notably an extension to all of former President George
W. Bush’s tax cuts.
Te idea that Obama will suddenly make a break from his longstanding
motif to engage in a high-stakes fght over a government shutdown comes
of as ludicrous. Who would believe he would do that? As such, on at least
an unconscious level we all know there is not going to be a big public fght,
a.k.a. a government shutdown, over spending cuts in D.C. Te most likely
outcome is what happened in December: Te White House is going to work
out some deal with Republicans behind closed doors, giving them most of
what they want. Aside from the debatable question about whether or not
that’s good politics, forging bipartisan deals behind closed doors unques-
tionably functions as a severe dampener on grassroots activism.
Te exact opposite happened in Wisconsin. Instead of pleading for
bipartisanship, the Senate Democrats there lef the state in order to deny
Senate Republicans the quorum needed to pass the “budget-repair” bill. By
doing so, the Wisconsin 14 launched national activist eforts into high gear,
quickly raising more than three-quarters of a million dollars from 30,000
donors. A couple of weeks later, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin fol-
lowed suit by ofcially backing recall eforts against all eight Republican
state senators who were eligible. It wasn’t long before a couple million bucks
poured in. Te whole time, the crowds on the ground in Madison—and
the wisconsin 14 | 129
around the country—kept getting bigger and bigger. Te Wisconsin Demo-
crats picked real fghts, and the activism fowed freely as a direct result.
Democrats in D.C. could experience a similar windfall in activist sup-
port during the spending fght. To do so, they would likely have to say “no”
to some specifc Republican demands and sufer through a government
shutdown. This line of action would definitely be risky. If Democrats
appeared to be the unreasonable party, as Governor Scott Walker and Sen-
ate Republicans did in Wisconsin, they would take a signifcant hit in the
polls and Obama’s re-election would be imperiled. However, if it succeeded,
and Republicans were viewed as the unreasonable party, then Democrats
would simultaneously fre up their base and receive a nice bump in the
polls. High risk, high reward.
Back when I was a consultant, clients repeatedly asked me how they
could get some of that “internet magic,” by which they meant lots of buzz,
supporters, and money. When I told them it usually required becoming
a leader in a big national fght, more ofen than not they demurred. In
most cases, this wasn’t due to shyness, but instead because it simply wasn’t
an option open to them (going viral isn’t easy). It is, however, an option
open to Democratic leaders in D.C., especially Obama. Tey can choose
to walk through it if they wish, but right now there is no good reason to
believe they will.
@gregtarnoff
Wow. #wiunion is trending on twitter. Kinda makes me feel like a
rebel in Egypt.

this winter were clear inspiration for the tens of thousands of people
who occupied the Wisconsin Capitol just weeks afterward. “Hosni
Walker,” “Walker is the Mubarak of the Midwest,” and “March Like an
Egyptian,” read the signs that demonstrators waved in the air at rallies
and posted throughout the statehouse.
There were distinct similarities. In both the Egyptian and Wiscon-
sin uprisings, occupying a physical location—Tahrir Square in Cairo
and the Capitol in Madison—was key. In both, the use of Twitter and
social media played a central role in organizing the action and keep-
ing participants informed about the latest developments. While some
called it the “Twitter Revolution” in Egypt, the Wisconsin protests may
have been the United States’ first popular movement captured with and
largely driven by social media tools. The Republican leadership in Wis-
consin even appeared to take a page directly from Egypt’s playbook,
when access to DefendWisconsin.org, one of the major organizing and
information sites that protesters had created, was blocked from within
the Capitol. In both the Middle East and the Midwest, citizens began to
feel as though their bold actions were bringing about unlikely yet pro-
found changes in the world.
from the middle east to the midwest | 132
Despite the connections, however, some felt that comparing the
Wisconsin uprising to the Egyptian revolution did not fairly refect the
staggering nature of what had just taken place in the Middle East. In Tu-
nisia, the revolt began when a fruit vendor set himself on fre; there and
in Egypt, people overthrew brutal U.S.-backed dictators afer decades of
repression, and hundreds were killed over the course of the protests. Co-
median Jon Stewart put things in perspective by joking that while protest-
ers in Egypt risked being shot, protesters in Madison risked being caught
up in a drum circle.
And yet, there was no denying that Egypt was very much alive and
in the air as an inspiration for the protesters in Wisconsin. From pizza
orders called in from Cairo to mutual demonstrations of solidarity, there
was a distinct—if complex—connection between the Wisconsin uprising
that unfolded just weeks afer the Egyptian revolution.
@taa_Madison TAA Madison
At the U. of Kentucky, Geography graduate students are taking up a
collection to support us. Thank you U. of Kentucky Geographers!
#wiunion
6:25pm Feb 18
@abeckettwrn Andrew Beckett
Funniest part of the day? Watching people in the Assembly gallery get
admonished for doing “jazz hands” instead of applauding. #wibudget
6:35pm Feb 18
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
@jenniebrand I haven’t heard anything offcial, but EVERYONE I’ve
talked to says they’re willing to contribute/make sacrifces
8:00pm Feb 18
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
Finally time to sleep. Tomorrow, Breitbart and Tea Partiers descend
on Madison. #wiunion
1:09am Feb 19
from the middle east to the midwest | 134
Te following is a statement to workers of Wisconsin from Kamal Abbas, the
general coordinator of Egypt’s Centre for Trade Unions and Workers Services.
KAMAL ABBAS: “I am speaking to you from a place very close to Tahrir
Square in Cairo, ‘Liberation Square,’ which was the heart of the revolution
in Egypt. Tis is the place were many of our youth paid with their lives and
blood in the struggle for our just rights.
From this place, I want you to know that we stand with you as you
stood with us.
I want you to know that no power can challenge the will of the people
when they believe in their rights, when they raise their voices loud and
clear, and struggle against exploitation.
No one believed that our revolution could succeed against the stron-
gest dictatorship in the region. But in 18 days the revolution achieved the
victory of the people. When the working class of Egypt joined the revolu-
tion on Feb. 9 and 10, the dictatorship was doomed, and the victory of the
people became inevitable.
We want you to know that we stand on your side. Stand frm and don’t
waiver. Don’t give up on your rights. Victory always belongs to the people
who stand frm and demand their just rights.
Kamal Abbas
February 21, 2011
from the middle east to the midwest | 135
We and all the people of the world stand on your side and give you our
full support.
As our just struggle for freedom, democracy, and justice succeeded,
your struggle will succeed. Victory belongs to you when you stand frm and
remain steadfast in demanding your just rights.
We support you. We support the struggle of the peoples of Libya, Bah-
rain and Algeria, who are fghting for their just rights and falling martyrs in
the face of the autocratic regimes. Te peoples are determined to succeed
no matter the sacrifces, and they will be victorious.
Today is the day of the American workers. We salute you American
workers! You will be victorious. Victory belongs to all the people of the
world, who are fghting against exploitation, and for their just rights.”
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
#WIunion RT @knitmeapony: Holy crap. I love the universe today. Egypt
supports Wisconsin Workers: http://t.co/JNhAO1E @muskrat_john.
9:11am Feb 19
@cjliebmann cjliebmann
RT @Cog_Dis: Remind the teabaggers that they are enjoying their
Saturday off thanks to the blood, sweat and tears of union workers.
#wiunion
9:46am Feb 19
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
Welcome “counter” protesters. Nice of you to join us on day 6. #notmywi
#wiunion
10:52am Feb 19
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
All 300 of you. #wiunion #notmyWI
10:53am Feb 19
@cjliebmann cjliebmann
RT @Cog_Dis: @ChrisJLarson and @sentaylor Just stay low. We got this
one for you. #solidarityWI #wiunion
11:38am Feb 19
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
Madison summarized in one sentence: Wisconsin is in the middle of a
class war--and we will hold the line. --Capitol rally speaker #wiunion
11:40am Feb 19
from the middle east to the midwest | 137
Te call reportedly arrived from Cairo. Pizza for the protesters, the voice
said. It was Saturday, Feb. 20, and by then Ian’s Pizza on State Street in
Madison, Wisconsin, was overwhelmed. One employee had been assigned
the sole task of answering the phone and taking down orders. And in they
came, from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, from Morocco, Haiti,
Turkey, Belgium, Uganda, China, New Zealand, and even a research station
in Antarctica. More than 50 countries around the globe. Ian’s couldn’t make
pizza fast enough, and the generosity of distant strangers with credit cards
was paying for it all.
Tose pizzas, of course, were heading for the Wisconsin state Capitol,
an elegant domed structure at the heart of this Midwestern college town.
For nearly two weeks, tens of thousands of raucous, sleepless, grizzled,
energized protesters have called the stately building their home. As the
police moved in to clear it out on Sunday afernoon, it was still the pulsing
heart of the largest labor protest in my lifetime, the focal point of rallies
and concerts against a politically-charged piece of legislation proposed by
Governor Scott Walker, a hard-right Republican. Tat bill, ofcially known
as the Special Session Senate Bill 11, would, among other things, eliminate
collective bargaining rights for most of the state’s public-sector unions, in
efect eviscerating the unions themselves.
Eating Egyptian Pizza in Downtown Madison
Andy Kroll
TomDispatch, February 27, 2011
from the middle east to the midwest | 138
“Kill the bill!” the protesters chant en masse, day afer day, while the
drums pound and cowbells clang. “What’s disgusting? Union-busting!”
One World, One Pain
Te spark for Wisconsin’s protests came on Feb. 11. Tat was the day the
Associated Press published a brief story quoting Walker as saying he would
call in the National Guard to crack down on unruly workers upset that their
bargaining rights were being stripped away. Labor and other lef-leaning
groups seized on Walker’s incendiary threat, and within a week there were
close to 70,000 protesters flling the streets of Madison.
Six thousand miles away, Feb. 11 was an even more momentous day.
Weary but jubilant protesters on the streets of Cairo, Alexandria, and other
Egyptian cities celebrated the toppling of Egyptian President Hosni Muba-
rak, the autocrat who had ruled over them for more than 30 years and
amassed billions in wealth at their expense. “We have brought down the
regime,” cheered the protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the center of the
Egyptian uprising. In calendar terms, the demonstrations in Wisconsin,
you could say, picked up right where the Egyptians lef of.
I arrived in Madison several days into the protests. I’ve watched the
crowds swell, nearly all of those arriving—and some just not leaving—unit-
ed against Walker’s “budget-repair” bill. I’ve interviewed protesters young
and old, union members and grassroots organizers, students and teachers,
children and retirees. I’ve huddled with labor leaders in their Madison “war
rooms” and sat through the governor’s press conferences. I’ve slept on the
cold, stone foor of the Capitol (twice). Believe me, the spirit of Cairo is
here. Te air is charged with it.
It was strongest inside the Capitol. A previously seldom-visited build-
ing had been miraculously transformed into a genuine living, breathing
community. Tere was a medic station, child day care, a food court, sleep-
ing quarters, hundreds of signs and banners, live music, and a sense of
camaraderie and purpose you’d struggle to fnd in most American cities,
possibly anywhere else in this country. Like Cairo’s Tahrir Square in the
weeks of the Egyptian uprising, most of what happens inside the Capitol’s
walls is protest.
Egypt is a presence here in all sorts of obvious ways, as well as ways
harder to put your fnger on. Te walls of the Capitol, to take one exam-
ple, ofer regular reminders of Egypt’s feat. I saw, for instance, multiple
from the middle east to the midwest | 139
copies of that famous photo on Facebook of an Egyptian man, his face half-
obscured, holding a sign that reads, “EGYPT Supports Wisconsin Workers:
One World, One Pain.” Te picture is all the more striking for what’s going
on around the man with the sign: A sea of cheering demonstrators are wav-
ing Egyptian fags, hands held alof. Te man, however, faces in the opposite
direction, as if showing support for brethren halfway around the world was
important enough to break away from the historic celebrations erupting
around him.
Similarly, I’ve seen multiple copies of a statement by Kamal Abbas,
the general coordinator for Egypt’s Center for Trade Unions and Workers
Services, taped to the walls of the Capitol. Not long afer Egypt’s January
revolution triumphed and Wisconsin’s protests began, Abbas announced
his group’s support for the Wisconsin labor protesters in a page-long dec-
laration.
Ten there’s the role of organized labor more generally. Afer all, wide-
spread strikes coordinated by labor unions shut down Egyptian govern-
ment agencies and increased the pressure on Mubarak to relinquish power.
While we haven’t seen similar strikes yet here in Madison—though there’s
talk of a general strike if Walker’s bill somehow passes—there’s no underes-
timating the role of labor unions like the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees
International Union (SEIU), the American Federation of State, County, and
Municipal Employees, and the American Federation of Teachers in orga-
nizing the events of the past two weeks.
Faced with a bill that could all but wipe out unions in historically labor-
friendly states across the Midwest, labor leaders knew they had to act—and
quickly. “Our very labor movement is at stake,” Stephanie Bloomingdale,
secretary-treasurer of Wisconsin’s AFL-CIO branch, told me. “And when
that’s at stake, the economic security of Americans is at stake.”
“Te Mubarak of the Midwest”
On the Sunday afer I arrived, I was wandering the halls of the Capitol when
I met Scott Graham, a third grade teacher who lives in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.
Over the cheers of the crowd, I asked Graham whether he saw a connection
between the events in Egypt and those here in Wisconsin. His response
caught the mood of the moment. “Watching Egypt’s story for a week or
two very intently, I was inspired by the Egyptian people, you know, striving
for their own self-determination and democracy in their country,” Graham
from the middle east to the midwest | 140
told me. “I was very inspired by that. And when I got here I sensed that
everyone’s in it together. Te sense of solidarity is just amazing.”
A few days later, I stood outside the Capitol in the frigid cold and
talked about Egypt with two local teachers. Te most obvious connection
between Egypt and Wisconsin was the role and power of young people, said
Ann Wachter, a federal employee who joined our conversation when she
overheard me mention Egypt. Tere, it was tech-savvy young people who
helped keep the protests alive and the same, she said, applied in Madison.
“You go in there everyday and it’s the youth that carries it throughout hours
that we’re working, or we’re running our errands, whatever we do. Tey do
whatever they do as young people to keep it alive. Afer all, I’m at the end of
my working career; it’s their future.”
And of course, let’s not forget those almost omnipresent signs that link
the young governor of Wisconsin to the aging Mubarak. Tey typically la-
bel Walker the “Mubarak of the Midwest” or “Mini-Mubarak,” or demand
the recall of “Scott ‘Mubarak.’” In a public talk on Tursday night, journal-
ist Amy Goodman quipped, “Walker would be wise to negotiate. It’s not a
good season for tyrants.”
One protester I saw on Tursday hoisted alof a “No Union Busting!”
sign with a black shoe perched atop it, the heel facing forward—a severe
sign of disrespect that Egyptian protesters directed at Mubarak and a sym-
bol that, before the recent American TV blitz of “rage and revolution” in the
Middle East, would have had little meaning here.
Which isn’t to say that the Egypt-Wisconsin comparison is a perfect
one. Hardly. Afer all, the Egyptian demonstrators massed in hopes of a new
and quite diferent world; the American ones, no matter the celebratory and
energized air in Madison, are essentially negotiating loss (of pensions and
health-care benefts, if not collective bargaining rights). Te historic dem-
onstrations in Madison have been nothing if not peaceful. On Saturday,
when as many as 100,000 people descended on Madison to protest Walker’s
bill, the largest turnout so far, not a single arrest was made. In Egypt, by
contrast, the protests were plenty bloody, with more than 300 deaths during
the 29-day uprising.
Not that some observers didn’t see the need for violence in Madison.
Last Saturday, Jef Cox, a deputy attorney general in Indiana, suggested on
his Twitter account that police “use live ammunition” on the protesters oc-
cupying the state Capitol. Tat sentiment, discovered by a colleague of mine,
from the middle east to the midwest | 141
led to an outcry. Te story broke on Wednesday morning; by Wednesday
afernoon Cox had been fred.
New York Times columnist David Brooks was typical of mainstream
coverage and punditry in quickly dismissing any connection between
Egypt (or Tunisia) and Wisconsin. On Te Daily Show, Jon Stewart spoofed
and rejected the notion that the Wisconsin protests had any meaningful
connection to Egypt. He called the people gathered here “the bizarro Tea
Party.” Stewart’s crew even brought in a camel as a prop. Tose of us in
Madison watched as Stewart’s skit went horribly wrong when the camel got
entangled in a barricade and fell to the ground.
As far as I know, neither Brooks nor Stewart spent time here. Still, you
can count on one thing: If the demonstrators in Tahrir Square had been
enthusiastically citing Americans as models for their protest, nobody here
would have been in such a dismissive or mocking mood. In other parts of
this country, perhaps it still feels less than comfortable to credit Egyptians
or Arabs with inspiring an American movement for justice. If you had been
here in Madison, this last week, you might have felt diferently.
Pizza Town Protest
Obviously, the outcomes in Egypt and Wisconsin won’t be comparable.
Egypt toppled a dictator; Wisconsin has a democratically-elected governor
who, at the very earliest, can’t be recalled until 2012. And so the protests in
Wisconsin are unlikely to transform the world around us. Still, there can be
no question, as they spread elsewhere in the Midwest, that they have re-en-
ergized the country’s stagnant labor movement, a once-powerful player in
American politics and business that’s now a shell of its former self. “Tere’s
such energy right now,” one SEIU stafer told me a few nights ago. “Tis is
a magic moment.”
Not long afer talking with her, I trudged back to Ian’s Pizza, the icy
snow crunching under my feet. At the door stood an employee with tired
eyes, a distinct fve o’clock shadow, and a beanie on his head.
I wanted to ask him, I said, about that reported call from Cairo. “You
know,” he responded, “I really don’t remember it.” I waited while he politely
rebufed several approaching customers, telling them how Ian’s had run out
of dough and how, in any case, all the store’s existing orders were bound for
the Capitol. When he fnally had a free moment, he returned to the Cairo
order. Tere had, he said, been questions about whether it was authentic
from the middle east to the midwest | 142
or not, and then he added, “I’m pretty sure it was from Cairo, but it’s not
like I can guarantee it.” By then, another wave of soon-to-be disappointed
customers was upon us, and so I headed back to the Capitol and another
semi-sleepless night.
Te building, as I approached in the darkness, was brightly lit, reach-
ing high over the city. Protesters were still fling inside with all the usual
signs. In the rotunda, drums pounded and people chanted and the sound
swirled into a massive roar. For this brief moment at least, people here in
Madison are bound together by a single cause, as other protesters were not
so long ago, and may be again, in the ancient cities of Egypt.
Right then, the distance separating Cairo and Wisconsin couldn’t
have felt smaller. But maybe you had to be there.
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
One contingent not seen here: anarchists in black. One contingent
representing heavily: middle-aged teachers w/families. #wiunion
12:00pm Feb 19
@ryan_rainey Ryan Rainey
#tea party here not as numerous but just as passionate as #wiunion
protesters
12:14pm Feb 19
@cjliebmann cjliebmann
#wiunion is trending third in U.S. but i’m wondering why “national
christmas tree” is trending at all?
12:15pm Feb 19
@kyleMianulli Kyle Mianulli
Opposing side of capitol has light and celebratory sense. Teabaggers
seem tense and angry.
12:19pm Feb 19
@ryan_rainey Ryan Rainey
After speaking with police and #wiunion supporters it appears a visit from
pres Clinton is still a rumor. Can anyone confrm?
1:06pm Feb 19
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
@leftofthehill You’re welcome! WI bloggers have been working nonstop
to cover this and deserve all the love, support, and props we can give.
1:07pm Feb19
@JacquelynGill Jacquelyn Gill
Remember: If things start getting heated near you, start the crowd
chanting “peaceful!” Don’t let the bullies incite the crowd. #wiunion
1:07pm Feb19
@WEaC WEAC
Counter-protesters wearing red @SEIU shirts in hopes to incite.
Actual @SEIU members are wearing PURPLE shirts, not red. #wiunion
1:15pm Feb19
@WEaC WEAC
Good Facebook status:”Tweeting the #wiunion revolution. *brb*”
1:28pm Feb19
from the middle east to the midwest | 144
Te Cairo evening seeped with optimism and joy, with dancing punctuated
by shouts of Egyptian pride, and people waving the red, white, and black
fag with the eagle emblazoned in the center. I was nearly breathless when I
reached the Qasr al-Nil bridge that led to Tahrir Square afer running from
my hotel wearing oversized khakis and uncomfortable shoes with no socks,
equipped with only my two cell phones (American and Egyptian), which I
had assembled hastily minutes afer Egypt’s vice president had announced
that President Hosni Mubarak had stepped down and subsequently bolted
out the door.
I had fown to Cairo fve days earlier, afer nearly two weeks of staying
up late at night, eyes glued to my computer, focusing on Twitter and Al
Jazeera. As a sociology Ph.D. student at the University of Wisconsin, my
research is on activists who use social media in Egypt; now bloggers and
citizen journalists I had tracked for months had abandoned their comput-
ers and were fghting against Mubarak’s regime in the streets, although still
tweeting and blogging from smartphones.
Two days later, on my way back to Wisconsin, I rested on an airport
foor in Istanbul, using my backpack as a pillow afer sleeping little on the
plane. I posted on Facebook, “Egyptians faced and won against the no-
torious Central Security Forces. State employees can do the same against
Alexander Hanna
June 12, 2011
from the middle east to the midwest | 145
measly Wisconsin National Guard troops,” in response to Governor Scott
Walker’s threat of calling in the National Guard if corrections employees
went on strike.
And on Sunday, Feb. 13, I was back in Madison, in the ofce of my
union, the Teaching Assistants’ Association. I chuckled at a website that
photoshopped Mubarak’s face onto that of Dr. Evil from Austin Powers, and
Scott Walker’s face onto that of Mini-Me’s. I joked that someone should cre-
ate an image of the two shaking hands. But stationed in the overfow room
of the Wisconsin Capitol during the frst day of mass protests in Madison,
I puzzled over the waving of Egyptian fags and signs that read, “Walk Like
an Egyptian,” hoisted by a few in the thousands of pro-labor protesters sta-
tioned in front of the statehouse.
I’m somewhat less Pollyannaish than many others when it comes to
making the connection between Cairo and Madison, a comparison that
was in vogue during the early days of the Wisconsin protests. Te “From
Cairo to Madison” meme became a common part of the protest discourse,
used by many, including Wisconsin state Sen. Lena Taylor and activist
Medea Benjamin, the only other person I know of that was at the heart of
both events.
I initially smirked at the comparisons of Cairo to Madison, of Mubarak
to Walker. It may have merited a tweet or a Facebook status update. I did, af-
ter all, just come from Egypt, so the connection seemed to be a funny coin-
cidence, like a red string I had threaded from Cairo to Madison. It certainly
was coincidental that large protests in Madison had come shortly afer those
in Cairo brought to an end Mubarak’s regime, but did the two really have
anything to do with each other? Yes, there were occupations in both. Yes,
many people participated. Yes, youth and social media did help catalyze ac-
tion. But my latter and much more long-held sentiment was that of distaste
and annoyance with the continued comparison. How can you compare the
struggle in Egypt, wherein a popular movement forced the hand of a dicta-
tor who had held onto the reins for 30 years—to a struggle against a fairly-
elected governor who had only been in ofce for three months? Could you
actually compare the deaths of over 800 Egyptian martyrs to a situation in
which your greatest threat was perhaps, as labor journalist Micah Uetricht
noted, being assaulted with homemade cookies?
I don’t want to belabor the obvious diferences or similarities here.
But making the comparison has some serious implications for how we do
from the middle east to the midwest | 146
politics in the United States.
First of, it belittles and trivializes the eforts and struggles of Egyp-
tians. Against enormous odds, Egyptians emerged en masse on Jan. 25 and
eventually held Tahrir Square, braving attacks by Central Security Forces,
State Security Investigations (the infamous mukhabarrat, an organization
that brutally abducted political dissenters in the middle of the night), plain-
clothes thugs, and Mubarak supporters riding on horses and camels. Com-
pare this to Wisconsin-based police forces that were broadly in favor of
protest action. Of-duty police ofcers frequently participated in the pro-
tests, holding “Cops for Labor” signs, even though they had been exempted
from the efects of Walker’s collective bargaining law. Capitol Police had
daily meetings with protest organizers and the Capitol occupants to ensure
clear lines of communication and so that cleaning operations could take
place each evening. Madison protesters, in participating, at most risked
their jobs—especially in the case of Madison teachers “sicking out”—but
did not risk life nor limb in their involvement. Te fip side of this is self-
aggrandizement by the Wisconsin protesters. Between the two, which will
be remembered as a world-changing event decades from now?
Furthermore, although on the surface we may be seeing a new opening
for political possibility, we see each movement heading in radically diferent
directions. While the Egyptian movement seems new, it is emerging from a
vibrant history of human rights work and labor struggles. Tis movement
is fnally bearing political fruit, breaking down a stagnant political regime
and culture of fear. In Wisconsin, the labor movement is decades-old but
is almost at its nadir. Public-sector unionism has been on the decline for
the past 30 years, marred now by aged, creaky institutions, an ugly public
image of union thugs, Cadillac health care and pension plans, and, possibly
most damning, a service model of unionism in which members see their
own union as merely “insurance” against abuse by Te Boss. Gone seem to
be the days of social movement unionism in which the “haves” feared the
collective power and solidarity of the “have-nots.” Now we’re fghting with
our backs against the wall.
Finally, the comparison itself signals a lack of political imagination,
one that must resort to farfetched comparisons to justify its relevancy. I
don’t agree with the now-infamous sign, held by Egyptian Muhammad
Saladin Nusair to show support for Wisconsin workers, that it is “One
World, One Pain.” While it’s good to see solidarity alive and well, and that it
from the middle east to the midwest | 147
is true that “the whole world is watching,” hope is a thin thread on which to
connect movements. It seems more apt for Wisconsinites to look towards
inspiration from American labor’s heyday, when there were few guarantees
of rights and the ability to organize, when unions weren’t insurance and, to
quote the singer Travis Morrison, “Being union got you dead.” Tat’s more
like what the situation looks like now for an increasing number of states,
of which Wisconsin is the opening salvo in a full-on attack by the right. As
unionists, our own vision of American labor should place it in proper his-
torical context, and rebuild and reorganize our unions from there.
And so Egypt has seen a spring, while in Wisconsin it’s become win-
ter. Te buds of the Egyptian spring are trying to survive against whipping
winds and torrential downpours. But the reprieve between the storms
may allow time for development, for the creation of a more democratic
political regime. On the other side of the world, in Middle America, we
huddle together against ice and snow, against the northern wind that cuts
to the bone, that chatters the teeth and freezes the hair in our nostrils. It
will take organizing and self-criticism of what in our unions and political
organizations is awry. It’s going to take a lot of time and energy to actively
stoke the stove fre and remodel the log cabin, maybe more than we are
willing to admit.
But if there’s one thing that Wisconsinites have done well for years,
it’s weathering winters.
Alexander Hanna is a Ph.D. student in sociology at the University of Wiscon-
sin-Madison and co-president of the graduate student union, the Teaching
Assistants’ Association (TAA).
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
RT @MikeElk: @mmfint (Michael Moore) paying for me to come up to
Wisconsin and cover #notmywi #wiunion
2:53pm Feb 19
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
May be 1000s of Tea Partiers here,but I honestly haven’t seen em. A few
marching around, a couple hundred at both capitol entrances #wiunion
2:57pm Feb 19
@kyleMianulli Kyle Mianulli
So proud of the state of Wisconsin. Peaceful protests with health dose of
passionate democratic discourse.
3:03pm Feb 19
@JacquelynGill Jacquelyn Gill
Don’t tell my fellow thugs, but after six days of #wiunion, I just broke down
in tears with the positive emotion at this Capitol.
3:17pm Feb 19
@WEaC WEAC
RT @charlesmonaco: I’m a Maine legislator - coming cross country by
Uhaul to Madison with food and solidarity. #WIunion
4:15pm Feb 19
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
RT @actblue: 1,000 donors, $16k for the Wisconsin Senate Democrats in
just one hour: http://actb.lu/ai2JrI #WIunion #solidarityWI
4:29pm Feb 19
@JacquelynGill Jacquelyn Gill
Want to help #wiunion from afar? Call major media outlets and ask them
why Twitter is doing a better job of the news than they ate.
4:47pm Feb 19
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
TAs wandering arnd Capitol,rounding up Hitler signs, patiently explaining
that comparisons to genocide are inappropes #boutdamntime #wiunion
5:05pm Feb 19
from the middle east to the midwest | 149
Copyright 2011 by Noam Chomsky. Reprinted with permission of City
Lights Books.
On Feb. 20, Kamal Abbas, Egyptian union leader and prominent fgure in
the Jan. 25 movement, sent a message to the “workers of Wisconsin”: “We
stand with you as you stood with us.”
Egyptian workers have long fought for fundamental rights denied by
the U.S.-backed Hosni Mubarak regime. Kamal is right to invoke the soli-
darity that has long been the driving force of the labor movement world-
wide, and to compare their struggles for labor rights and democracy.
Te two are closely intertwined. Labor movements have been in the
forefront of protecting democracy and human rights and expanding their
domains, a primary reason why they are the bane of systems of power, both
state and private.
Te trajectories of labor struggles in Egypt and in the U.S. are heading
in opposite directions: toward gaining rights in Egypt, and defending rights
under harsh attack in the U.S.
Te two cases merit a closer look.
The Jan. 25 uprising was sparked by the Facebook-savvy young
people of the April 6 movement, which arose in Egypt in spring 2008 in
Noam Chomsky
March 11, 2011
from the middle east to the midwest | 150
“solidarity with striking textile workers in Mahalla,” labor analyst Nada
Matta observes.
State violence crushed the strike and solidarity actions, but Mahalla
was “a symbol of revolt and challenge to the regime,” Matta adds. Te
strike became particularly threatening to the dictatorship when workers’
demands extended beyond their local concerns to a minimum wage for
all Egyptians.
Matta’s observations are confrmed by Joel Beinin, a U.S. authority on
Egyptian labor. Over many years of struggle, Beinin reports, workers have
established bonds and can mobilize readily.
When the workers joined the Jan. 25 movement, the impact was de-
cisive, and the military command sent Mubarak on his way. Tat was a
great victory for the Egyptian democracy movement, though many barriers
remain, internal and external.
Te external barriers are clear. Te U.S. and its allies cannot easily tol-
erate functioning democracy in the Arab world.
For evidence, look to public opinion polls in Egypt and throughout
the Middle East. By overwhelming majorities, the public regards the U.S.
and Israel as the major threats, not Iran. Indeed, most think that the region
would be better of if Iran had nuclear weapons.
We can anticipate that Washington will keep to its traditional policy,
well-confrmed by scholarship: Democracy is tolerable only insofar as
it conforms to strategic-economic objectives. Te United States’ fabled
“yearning for democracy” is reserved for ideologues and propaganda.
Democracy in the U.S. has taken a diferent turn. Afer World War
II the country enjoyed unprecedented growth, largely egalitarian and ac-
companied by legislation that benefted most people. Te trend continued
through the Richard Nixon years, which ended the liberal era.
Te backlash against the democratizing impact of ’60s activism and
Nixon’s class treachery was not long in coming: a vast increase in lobbying
to shape legislation, in establishing right-wing think tanks to capture the
ideological spectrum, and in many other measures.
Te economy also shifed course sharply toward fnancialization and
export of production. Inequality soared, primarily due to the skyrocketing
wealth of the top 1 percent of the population—or even a smaller fraction,
limited to mostly CEOs, hedge fund managers and the like.
For the majority, real incomes stagnated. Most resorted to increased
from the middle east to the midwest | 151
working hours, debt, and asset infation. Ten came the $8 trillion housing
bubble, unnoticed by the Federal Reserve and almost all economists, who
were enthralled by efcient market dogmas. When the bubble burst, the
economy collapsed to near-Depression levels for manufacturing workers
and many others.
Concentration of income confers political power, which in turn leads
to legislation that further enhances the privilege of the super-rich: tax poli-
cies, deregulation, rules of corporate governance, and much else.
Alongside this vicious cycle, costs of campaigning sharply increased,
driving both political parties to cater to the corporate sector—the Repub-
licans refexively, and the Democrats (now pretty much equivalent to the
moderate Republicans of earlier years) following not far behind.
In 1978, as the process was taking of, United Auto Workers President
Doug Fraser condemned business leaders for having “chosen to wage a
one-sided class war in this country—a war against working people, the un-
employed, the poor, the minorities, the very young, and the very old, and
even many in the middle class of our society,” and having “broken and dis-
carded the fragile, unwritten compact previously existing during a period
of growth and progress.”
As working people won basic rights in the 1930s, business leaders
warned of “the hazard facing industrialists in the rising political power of
the masses,” and called for urgent measures to beat back the threat, accord-
ing to scholar Alex Carey in Taking the Risk Out of Democracy. Tey under-
stood as well as Mubarak did that unions are a leading force in advancing
rights and democracy. In the U.S., unions are the primary counterforce to
corporate tyranny.
By now, U.S. private-sector unions have been severely weakened. Pub-
lic-sector unions have recently come under sharp attack from right-wing
opponents who cynically exploit the economic crisis caused primarily by
the fnance industry and its associates in government.
Popular anger must be diverted from the agents of the fnancial crisis,
who are profting from it; for example, Goldman Sachs, “on track to pay out
$17.5 billion in compensation for last year,” the business press reports, with
CEO Lloyd Blankfein receiving a $12.6 million bonus while his base salary
more than triples to $2 million.
Instead, propaganda must blame teachers and other public-sector
workers with their fat salaries and exorbitant pensions—all a fabrication, on
from the middle east to the midwest | 152
a model that is all too familiar. To Governor Scott Walker, to other Repub-
licans, and many Democrats, the slogan is that austerity must be shared—
with some notable exceptions.
Te propaganda has been fairly efective. Walker can count on at least a
large minority to support his brazen efort to destroy the unions. Invoking
the defcit as an excuse is pure farce.
In diferent ways, the fate of democracy is at stake in Madison, Wiscon-
sin, no less than it is in Tahrir Square.
@WEaC WEAC
We say again, with hearts full, how proud we are that you are in this fght
with us. Solidarity! #wiunion
5:08pm Feb 19
@ryan_rainey Ryan Rainey
Large #wiunion crowd chanting “@foxnews lies” near their camera
5:12pm Feb 19
@WEaC WEAC
RT @YoProWI: A man in Cairo Egypt just called Ian’s pizza ordering food
for the rallyers here in Madison. hmm...
5:34pm Feb 19
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
Just ate two pieces of pizza paid for by anonymous generous union
supporters somewhere in America.It was really good. #solidarityWI
10:34pm Feb 19
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
Sign in rotunda: Obama come to Madison
1:34pm Feb 20
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
Just occurred to me: the most striking part of these protests is massive
amounts of young ppl fred up abt labor mvt, w no prior labor ties
2:40pm Feb 20
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
For the 2nd time since I’ve come, I spent 20mins hearing testimony from
everyday WI citizens abt effects of bill. So, so powerful. #wiunion
5:19pm Feb 20
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
Leaving the state capitol, i can’t shake the sense that i’m walking away
from one of the more impt events in recent american history
7:59pm Feb 20
from the middle east to the midwest | 154
Here in Madison, Wisconsin, where protesters have occupied the state
Capitol to stop the pending bill that would eliminate workers’ right to col-
lective bargaining, echoes of Cairo are everywhere. Protesters here were
elated by the photo of an Egyptian engineer named Muhammad Saladin
Nusair holding a sign in Tahrir Square saying, “Egypt Supports Wiscon-
sin Workers: One World, One Pain.” Te signs by protesters in Madison
include “Welcome to Wiscairo,” “From Egypt to Wisconsin: We Rise Up,”
and “Government Walker: Our Mubarak.” Te banner I brought directly
from Tahrir Square saying, “Solidarity with Egyptian Workers,” has been
hanging from the balcony of the Capitol alongside solidarity messages
from around the country.
My travels from Cairo to Madison seem like one seamless web. Afer
camping out with the students and workers in the Capitol, I gave an early-
morning seminar on what it was like to be an eyewitness to the Egyptian
revolution and the struggles that are taking place right now in places like
Libya, Bahrain, and Yemen. Folks told me all day how inspiring it was to
hear about the uprisings in the Arab world.
Some took the lessons from Cairo literally. Looking around at the Cap-
itol that was starting to show the wear and tear from housing thousands
of protesters, I had mentioned that in Cairo the activists were constantly
Medea Benjamin
The Huffington Post, February 21, 2011
from the middle east to the midwest | 155
scrubbing the square, determined to show how much they loved the space
they had liberated. A few hours later, in Madison’s rotunda, people were
on their hands and knees scrubbing the marble foor. “We’re quick learn-
ers,” one of the high school students told me, smiling as she picked at the
remains of Oreo cookies sticking to the foor.
I heard echoes of Cairo in the Capitol hearing room where a nonstop
line of people had gathered all week to give testimonies. Te Democratic
Assembly members have been giving folks a chance to voice their concerns
about the governor’s pending bill. In this endless stream of heartfelt testi-
monies, people talk about the impact this bill will have on their own fami-
lies—their take-home pay, their health care, their pensions. Tey talk about
the governor manufacturing the budget crisis to break the unions. Tey talk
about the history of workers’ struggles to earn living wages and have decent
benefts. And time and again, I heard people say, “I saw how the Egyptian
people were able to rise up and overthrow a 30-year dictatorship, and that
inspired me to rise up and fght this bill.”
Solidarity is, indeed, a beautiful thing. It is a way we show our oneness
with all of humanity; it is a way to reafrm our own humanity. CODEPINK
sent fowers to the people in Tahrir Square—a gesture that was received
with kisses, hugs, and tears from the Egyptians. Te campers in Madison
erupted in cheer when they heard that an Egyptian had called the local piz-
za place, Ian’s, and placed a huge order to feed the protesters. “Pizza never
tasted so good,” a Wisconsin freman commented when he was told that the
garlic pizza he was eating had come from supporters in Cairo.
Egyptian engineer Muhammad Saladin Nusair, the one whose pho-
to supporting Wisconsin workers went viral, now has thousands of new
American Facebook friends. He wrote in his blog that many of his new
friends were surprised by his gesture of solidarity, but he was taught that
“we live in ONE world and under the same sky.”
“If a human being doesn’t feel the pain of his fellow human beings, then
everything we’ve created and established since the very beginning of exis-
tence is in great danger,” Muhammad wrote. “We shouldn’t let borders and
diferences separate us. We were made diferent to complete each other, to
integrate and live together. One world, one pain, one humanity, one hope.”
From the trenches of Wisconsin’s Capitol, hope—and solidarity—are
alive and well.
@MelissaRyan
“Our State motto is Forward. This is backward.” #notmyWI

John Nichols, political writer and seventh-generation Wisconsinite,
says that people from his state deeply believe that it is the greatest in
the nation, and with good reason. Wisconsin has been a pioneer in pro-
moting justice and equality—often serving as a model for other states
around the country.
In the 1860s, Wisconsinites helped runaway slaves travel north to
freedom in Canada and proudly fought in the Civil War in order to help
bring about the end of slavery. Wisconsin was the birthplace of the pro-
gressive movement under Governor “Fighting Bob” La Follette, who be-
came a national icon for progressive reform, introducing the “Wisconsin
Idea” that institutions should be controlled by voters, not special interests.
Te progressive movement helped Wisconsin become the frst state to pass
child-labor laws and one of the frst states that ratifed the amendment that
gave women the right to vote.
In 1911, Wisconsin was the frst state to enact workers’ compensation,
and in 1932, it was the frst to pass unemployment insurance. Much of
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation was inspired
by the work of Wisconsin progressives. In 1959, Wisconsin became the
frst state in the nation to allow public workers to join unions and bargain
what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 158
collectively, and it was the home of the country’s frst public-employees
union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employ-
ees (AFSCME).
More recently, Wisconsinites protesting apartheid in South Africa oc-
cupied the Capitol in the 1980s, and in the 2000s the antiwar movement
gained momentum when cities and even small towns around Wisconsin
passed antiwar resolutions. As John Nichols explains, “If you could come
out as against the war back then, it’s not that hard to come out in support
of state workers now.”
Yet the strong labor movement that grew throughout the years in
Wisconsin didn’t come without a price. When Governor Scott Walker
threatened to deploy the National Guard to prevent a potential strike, he
recalled one of the state’s most violent episodes in labor history. In 1886,
workers across the country marched and went on strike for the eight-
hour workday. When 15,000 workers gathered outside the Bay View steel
foundry to urge the workers inside to join them, Governor Jeremiah Rusk
called in 250 members of the National Guard to quell the uprising. In the
end, seven protesters were shot and killed in what is now known as the
Bay View Massacre.
It was this progressive history that helped foster the conditions that
led to the 2011 Capitol occupation. And it was Madison’s vibrant lef-
leaning infrastructure and institutions, as well as its global outlook and
high concentration of students and teachers that all combined to create an
environment where a diverse coalition could come together, and subsist,
in defense of long-held values and shared identity.
@MikeElk Mike Elk
Wow no metal detrectors at Wisconsin state Capitol just a sign that says
please no frearms total Midwest nice #wiunion #notmywi
10:38pm Feb 20
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
RT @DefendWisconsin: defendwisconsin.org is being BLOCKED on the
Capitol’s wireless network. DM @TAA_Madison TAA Madison if you help
set up mirrors
11:34am Feb 21
@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar
Somewhere in my many tweets, I learned that 300 California nurses are
fying to Wisconsin to rally with us. Amazing #wiunion
1:57pm Feb 21
@WEaC WEAC
RT @eigenjo: The vuvuzela might be counterproductive. Just saying.
2:32pm Feb 21
@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar
I see many signs w this sentiment”My teachers taught me 2 stand up 4
myself now I stand up 4 them” #wiunion
4:02pm Feb 21
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
Crowd is cheering. Constantly. Walker press conference set to start. It’s
a battle of wills & a battle of decibels. #wiunion #wisolidarity
4:50pm Feb 21
@thesconz The Sconz
jesus! the daily show brought in a camel that got its leg stuck and
fell down!
4:57pm Feb 21
@WEaC WEAC
RT @wiartteacher: I can feel the heartbeat of Wisconsin in the Capitol.
#wiunion
5:02pm Feb 21
what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 160
As I sit here at my computer, the button I wore today is still on my shirt.
It was given to me by the American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin
organizer on my campus so I could show my solidarity with others who are
protesting our newly-elected governor’s agenda this afernoon in Green
Bay, in Madison, and across the state. It has a picture of Wisconsin’s Capi-
tol with a question in bold above it: “W.T.F?” Tose who know me know I
rarely swear. But really, W.T.F.? Tere is no other way to put what is going
on in this state. W.T.F., like those other great cursing acronyms—S.N.A.F.U.
and F.U.B.A.R.—says it all.
In all seriousness, and with tears in my eyes, I am trying to make sense
of this, and it’s hard to do.
As a historian of the United States who has written about unions and
working people, I know the history. Since last November, I’ve been reading
about how a blue state has gone red. Tat’s too simplistic and an inaccurate
characterization of the past and present. Rather, we need to see Wisconsin
as a front in the political and economic war that has swept through our na-
tion. It has a very long history—if only it were new!—in this country and
in Wisconsin.
Te struggle between the rich and their politicians and the work-
ing class was there at the beginning of the state. Te frst labor union in
Andrew E. Kersten
Dissent, February 21, 2011
what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 161
Wisconsin predated the state’s admission into the Union by a year. Wis-
consinites were always active partisans in the struggle to shape the political
economy. At times, this struggle was peaceful; at other times, it was not.
In 1886, while workers in Chicago were fghting for an eight-hour day and
in the midst of the Haymarket Massacre, workers outside Milwaukee were
staging their own protests for industrial democracy at the Bay View rolling
mill. On May 4, 1886, National Guardsmen fred into the crowd of strikers,
killing seven.
Te Bay View Massacre—which is memorialized every year—was just
one episode in the labor battles in Wisconsin. Twelve years later in Os-
hkosh, there was a general strike by woodworkers laboring in the town’s
factories. “Saw Dust City” was a world leader in the production of doors,
windows, and sashes. Te mill owners were among the nation’s most cal-
lous and cruel. Tey crushed the strike and brought the strike leaders up
on charges of conspiracy. Clarence Darrow, the great labor lawyer, came to
their defense and quite rightly pronounced to the jury and by extension the
entire American public that the case was not merely about the grievances
of abused workers. (Tey had indeed been abused.) By winning in court,
the mill owners hoped to smash all unions in Wisconsin and in the United
States. As Darrow said, the case was “but an episode in the great battle for
human liberty, a battle which was commenced when the tyranny and op-
pression of man frst caused him to impose upon his fellows and which will
not end so long as the children of one father shall be compelled to toil to
support the children of another in luxury and ease.” If his defendants went
to jail for conspiracy, Darrow declared, “then there never can be a strike
again in this country where men cannot be sent to jail as well.” Darrow won
freedom for his clients, but the bigger fght went on.
With or without Darrow, the war raged in Wisconsin. Tere were vic-
tories such as the nation’s frst workers’ compensation law in 1902 and stun-
ning defeats like the successful open-shop movement in the 1920s, which
stunted the Wisconsin Federation of Labor and its member unions. Te war
continued unabated during the Great Depression. Wisconsin’s Baby Wag-
ner Act of 1937, a milestone law providing state workers the same rights and
guarantees as the national New Deal labor law, did not go unchallenged.
And in 1939, conservatives won a major victory with the passage of the
Employment Peace Act, which curtailed the right to strike and picket and
opened new avenues to shut down militancy. Weakened but not destroyed,
what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 162
workers kept fghting through the Cold War years. In 1959, Wisconsin was
the frst state to allow its public-sector employees to form unions and bar-
gain collectively. In the last 30 years, even while labor has been fat on its
back, there were major workers’ struggles and strikes in the core industries
in Wisconsin. In my hometown of Green Bay in the late 1970s and through
the 1980s, there were four signifcant strikes: at Nicolet Paper, at KI Indus-
tries, at Schneider Trucking, and, of course, at Lambeau Field.
And now, in this new Gilded Age of corporate greed, bailouts, upper-
bracket tax cuts, corporate subsidies, deregulation, and disinvestment, we
are witnessing yet another historic frontal assault on workers’ rights in Wis-
consin. It’s all predicated upon the elections last November, which swept the
radical right wing into ofce. Why did this happen? Te Democrats’ plan
for prosperity did not work fast enough. Certainly we can say that recalci-
trant Republicans and their Blue Dog Democrat friends are partly to blame.
Tey greatly limited President Barack Obama’s “Summer of Recovery.” But
I say too that the Democrats missed an opportunity. Te stimulus package
along with the bailouts helped to create wealth and restart the economy,
but these measures did not go far enough in creating prosperity. Obama
should have taken a page out of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s play-
book and had Congress pass the Employee Free Choice Act, along with
the stimulus. Sure, the federal government can help create wealth, but they
should also help empower workers to go and get it! It worked for the Great-
est Generation; it would have worked for us. Instead, we got half a stimulus
and a corporate bailout without workers’ rights.
Te Summer of Recovery wasn’t what its name promised, and voters
across the nation were mad and again sought change. In Wisconsin, a ma-
jority of voters threw out the incumbents and endorsed those with a new
plan for wealth. Last week, the plan was revealed: Destroy unions, prevent
new ones from forming (like faculty unions in the University of Wisconsin
system), and slash wages and benefts.
And that is just for starters. Read the 140-page “budget-repair” bill and
you’ll see that the fx is in. Te Republicans plan to gut both K–12 and higher
education, and erode business and environmental regulation. Personally, I
expect that once the Republicans are done it will cost me a lot more to be an
employee of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. I also expect that my
wife will lose her part-time job at our local elementary school (hence, my
tears). And yet, we will probably be OK. I worry more about those around
what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 163
me. Te husband of a close friend of mine who also works in the Green Bay
public schools stands a good chance of losing his full-time job. If he keeps
it, he can expect a dramatically enlarged classroom. A new friend of mine at
UW-Green Bay said the cuts in his pay likely mean he will lose his home.
What’s happening is not isolated, not new, and as vicious as before:
Smash unions, drive workers into the ground, and reap profts from the
lowly. But Wisconsin blue has not become Badger red. Far from it. Te war
rages on. If anything, the events of these last weeks have shown that al-
though the Republicans have captured the statehouse and the governor’s
mansion, they have not captured the hearts and minds of average citizens,
who have for almost two weeks been keeping a peaceful and joyful vigil.
Workers and citizens across the state have joined them in solidarity. Al-
though we here in Green Bay are quite reticent, today there was a student
rally and teach-in on my campus. Te last time there was any mass, on-
campus student demonstration here was in 1970 when faculty, staf, and
students protested President Richard Nixon’s bombing of Cambodia and
Laos. Tus, the protesters seem to come out when the time is just right and
the stakes are high.
Will we win? It’s going to be tough. Just like in 1898, the conservatives
are on the verge of destroying unionism, and this time we don’t have Dar-
row on our side. But like Darrow, I’m a hopeful pessimist. Te other side
has the money; they’ve got the points of power. We have the nerve to say no
and the courage to stick together.
Te Republicans have gone over the top here in Wisconsin and are
running through our lines in hopes of a fnal victory. All’s not quiet on the
Midwestern Front; it’s noisy. What happens over the next few weeks will
make or break the lives of workers all over the state. But this class war from
above won’t end in Wisconsin or elsewhere in the United States, where Re-
publicans are poised to launch similar attacks using these Cheesehead battle
plans. A friend of mine who has had a bird’s-eye view of the demonstrations
in Madison emailed me today with photos. He wished that I were there see-
ing labor history unfold and asked if I thought this was the beginning of the
end for unions. I replied it was not; it’s the end of the beginning, as it always
is. As such, we look to the future. FORWARD!, we say in Wisconsin.
Friends who know my passion for Darrow’s life and legacy ask me:
What would he counsel? As he once famously said, “Te best proof of the
usefulness of the union is that the employers don’t want it.” If Darrow were
what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 164
still among the living, his advice would be: FORM A UNION! He would
also give some advice that many might not want to hear: STOP VOTING
FOR YOUR ENEMIES! In 1897, the year afer the Populists went down in
faming defeat, Darrow lambasted the working-class voters who elected and
endorsed politicians “who entirely subverted the liberties of the people.”
Darrow would be clear: Fight like your very life depended on the outcome.
Andrew E. Kersten is a professor of U.S. history in the Department of Social
Change and Development at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. His book
Clarence Darrow: American Iconoclast was published earlier this year.
@millbot Emily Mills
Walker poo pooing out of state support, still thinks majority of WI supports
him. Polling & protests suggest otherwise. #wiunion
5:10pm Feb 21
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
The fghting 14 are closing in on $300,000 raised online! Put them over
the top already. http://bit.ly/ff8aqz
5:34pm Feb 21
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
Have any recall petitions been started? I know they can’t be FILED yet,
but seems like the time to get signatures if that’s allowed.
5:36pm Feb 21
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
RT @IsthmusTDP: As the #sleepinginthecapitol and #foorcheckin
crowd starts up, we’re wondering if any romances are blossoming via
#wiunion
7:58pm Feb 21
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
We have wristbands. Our fsts are up in solidarity. This protest just keeps
getting more and more legit. #wiunion #wisolidarity
8:09pm Feb 21
@MspicuzzaWsJ Mary Spicuzza
RT @MissPronouncer: Chalkboard showing people from all over the world
donate Ians Pizza to protesters in Madison
8:13pm Feb 21
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
@sentaylor Thank you. I can’t say it enough. Thanks to every last one of
you. We’ll be here until you can come back. #wiunion #wisolidarity
8:34pm Feb 21
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
Kid you not, @tmorello is reading a letter to WI from one of the organizers
of the Egypt protests. #wiunion
8:56pm Feb 21
what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 166
In February 2011, more than 15,000 Wisconsinites marched on the state
Capitol in Madison. By the middle of March, more than 100,000 protesters
had joined this challenge to Governor Scott Walker’s steep budget cuts, his
proposal to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights, and his
threat to use the National Guard if government workers go on strike. Many
at these rallies called upon the memory of a Republican progressive whose
bust stands inside the Capitol: Robert M. La Follette, Sr., who spent his
long political career—as a U.S. congressman (1885–1890), governor of Wis-
consin (1901–1906), U.S. senator (1907–1925), and candidate for president
(1924)—consistently and efectively challenging militarism and corporate
power. Signs asked, “What Would Bob Do?” and proclaimed, “La Follette
forever.” A professor at the University of Wisconsin told Te Wall Street
Journal that La Follette would “be standing with the protesters, screaming
‘Right on!’” Who was this man called “Fighting Bob,” who infuenced so
many reformers and radicals during his life and afer his death?
Born in Dane County’s Primrose township, La Follette worked as
a farm laborer before enrolling at the University of Wisconsin. Afer his
graduation, he ran successfully for district attorney. In 1884, he was elected
to Congress as a Republican. Afer an electoral defeat in 1890 he returned to
Wisconsin. Philetus Sawyer, a leading state Republican, ofered La Follette
Peter Dreier
Dissent, April 11, 2011
what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 167
a bribe to fx a court case against several former state ofcials. La Follette
not only refused the bribe, but took the opportunity to publicly decry the
corrosive efect of money in democratic politics. Te incident lit a spark,
and La Follette spent the next ten years touring Wisconsin denouncing the
political infuence of the railroad and lumber barons who dominated his
own party. In 1900, he ran for governor on a pledge to clean up the corrup-
tion. He gave 208 speeches in 61 counties—sometimes 10 or 15 speeches a
day—and won handily.
Upon taking ofce, he denounced the “corporation agents and repre-
sentatives of the machine,” who had “moved upon the Capitol.” As a correc-
tive, he promoted the “Wisconsin Idea,” making the state a laboratory for
reforms that would prove highly infuential. He created state commissions
on the environment, taxation, railroad regulation, transportation, and civil
service, recruiting experts (especially from the University of Wisconsin)
to provide ideas and information. To weaken the political infuence of big
business and party machines, he successfully pushed for campaign spending
limits and direct primary elections, which gave voters the right to choose
their own candidates for ofce. He supported measures that doubled the
taxes on the railroads, broke up monopolies, preserved the state’s forests,
protected workers’ rights, defended small farmers, and regulated lobbying
to curtail patronage politics.
Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1906, La Follette became a leader of the
Senate’s progressive wing. In 1909, as the progressive spirit spread to cities
and states around the country, La Follette launched a publication that soon
became a major outlet for the movement’s ideas. La Follette’s Weekly Maga-
zine was edited by his wife, Belle, and featured articles by leading journalists
such as Lincoln Stefens, Ray Stannard Baker, and William Allen White,
as well as by La Follette himself. Its goal, La Follette wrote, was “winning
back for the people the complete power over government—national, state,
and municipal—which has been lost to them.” To this end, the magazine
championed women’s sufrage, led the fght to stay out of World War I,
criticized the postwar Palmer Raids as a violation of civil liberties, and sup-
ported workers’ rights and control of corporate power. Never a commercial
success, the magazine gained popularity among progressive farmers and
working people and raised La Follette’s national profle. (Afer his death,
the publication was renamed Te Progressive. Still published in Madison,
Wisconsin, it remains a major voice of dissent.)
what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 168
Breaking again with the Republican Party, La Follette supported Dem-
ocrat Woodrow Wilson in the 1912 presidential election over Teodore
Roosevelt (an erstwhile Republican running on the Progressive, or Bull
Moose, Party ticket), the Republican William Howard Taf, and the Social-
ist Eugene Debs. But La Follette later risked his political career opposing
Wilson, becoming one of only six senators to vote against Wilson’s war dec-
laration. On April 4, 1917, two days afer Wilson called for the United States
to enter the war, La Follette delivered a forceful speech in the Senate. “Te
poor … who are always the ones called upon to rot in the trenches, have no
organized power,” he told the chamber. “But oh, Mr. President, at some time
they will be heard. ... Tere will come an awakening. Tey will have their
day, and they will be heard.”
Afer the war, La Follette stuck to his principles. He found new outlets
for his lifelong struggle against corporate power as a close ally of the labor
movement and a supporter of farm loan programs. He called for investi-
gations of corporate “war profteers” and defended the victims, including
Debs, of Wilson’s wartime crackdown on dissent. As the Red Scare con-
tinued with the notorious Palmer Raids, La Follette became the dissidents’
biggest advocate. “Never in all my many years’ experience in the House and
in the Senate,” he told his colleagues, “have I heard so much democracy
preached and so little practiced as during the last few months.”
Some Wisconsinites, and many Washington insiders and newspapers,
condemned him as a traitor. In 1921, the 65-year-old La Follette had to de-
cide whether to seek re-election. He was scheduled to give a major speech
before the Wisconsin Legislature, and his aides urged him to tone down the
fery antiwar rhetoric.
La Follette opened his speech by acknowledging old supporters in
the room and recognizing that this was an important turning point in his
political career. Ten, suddenly, he pounded the lectern and stretched his
clenched fst into the air. “I am going to be a candidate for re-election to the
United States Senate,” he boomed. “I do not want the vote of a single citizen
under any misapprehension of where I stand: I would not change my record
on the war for that of any man, living or dead.”
Afer a moment of stunned silence, the crowd erupted into thunder-
ous applause. Even one of his staunchest critics, standing at the back of the
chamber with tears running down his cheeks, told a reporter, “I hate the son
of a bitch. But, my God, what guts he’s got.”
what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 169
Or perhaps La Follette simply had a better understanding of Wisconsin
voters. Tey re-elected him that year with 80 percent of their votes.
Many La Follette-watchers viewed his momentous 1922 re-election
victory as a vindication of his antiwar and anti-corporate stances. Te Con-
ference for Progressive Political Action, a coalition of unions, socialists, and
farmers, convinced him to run for president in 1924 as an independent
progressive. La Follette, historically a Republican, selected Montana Sen.
Burton Wheeler, a Democrat, as his running mate.
La Follette’s platform called for government takeover of the railroads,
elimination of private utilities, the right of workers to organize unions,
easier credit for farmers, a ban on child labor, stronger protection for civil
liberties, and an end to U.S. imperialism in Latin America. He pledged an
expansion of democracy, condemning reactionary Supreme Court rulings
and advocating a plebiscite before any declaration of war. He promised to
“break the combined power of the private monopoly system over the politi-
cal and economic life of the American people” and denounced, far ahead
of most political fgures, “any discrimination between races, classes, and
creeds.”
La Follette won almost 5 million votes (about one-sixth of the popular
vote), running frst in Wisconsin, second in eleven Western states, and
winning working-class districts of major cities. Journalist John Nichols
called this “the most successful lef-wing presidential campaign in Ameri-
can history.”
Tough he died of a heart attack less than a year afer the election, La
Follette’s success inspired other progressive movements and campaigns
around the country, including farmer-labor parties in Minnesota and North
Dakota, the Progressive Party in Wisconsin, and the American Labor Party
in New York City. La Follette’s ideas as governor, senator, and presidential
candidate helped lay the groundwork for Franklin Roosevelt’s reforms in the
1930s. Harold Ickes, Sr., an infuential adviser on the 1924 campaign, be-
came part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s inner circle and a major
architect of the New Deal. La Follette’s progressive political ofspring also
include Floyd Olson of Minnesota, perhaps the most radical governor of
any state; Upton Sinclair, whose 1934 campaign for California governor bor-
rowed many of La Follette’s ideas; and New York Congressman (later Mayor)
Fiorello La Guardia, who nominated the senator for president in 1924, de-
claring, “I speak for Avenue A and 116th Street, instead of Broad and Wall.”
what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 170
Decades afer La Follette’s courageous opposition to World War I, a
U.S. president once again asked Congress for an authorization to go to
war—this time in Vietnam. Ernest Gruening (D-Alaska) and Wayne Morse
(R-Ore.), the only senators to vote against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution,
shared something else in common. Gruening had served as spokesman for
La Follette’s 1924 campaign. Morse, a Wisconsin native, told Time magazine
in 1956 that his fondest memory as a young man was lapping up liberal
philosophy “at the feet of the great Robert La Follette, Sr.”
And, even before the current protests broke out, La Follette’s specter
haunted Wisconsin’s Walker. Breaking with convention, Walker held his
inauguration in a part of the Capitol rotunda far from La Follette’s bust,
avoiding the possibility that he might be photographed sharing a frame
with the progressive stalwart.
Among La Follette’s political heirs are also several literal descendants,
who have served Wisconsin as senator, governor, secretary of state, and
activists. His son Phil, elected Wisconsin governor in 1930, ushered in
what some have called a “little New Deal” during the Depression. In 1931,
the state enacted its frst labor code, declaring that all workers had the
right to form unions and to picket, four years before the federal Wagner
Act. Tat year, too, Phil La Follette pushed through Wisconsin’s unem-
ployment compensation system, the frst in the nation. Doug La Follette,
a veteran environmental activist, is Wisconsin’s current Secretary of State.
His great-grandfather and La Follette were brothers.
Te revival of Wisconsin’s radical spirit, so evident in the massive
and sustained mobilizations in Madison, suggests that it will take more
than these ceremonial logistics for conservatives to erase the legacy of
La Follette.
Peter Dreier is E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics at Occidental
College. Tis essay is adapted from Te 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th
Century, due to be published in November by Nation Books.
@cjliebmann cjliebmann
RT @markos: Daily Kos community breaks $100K raised for Wisconsin
Senate Dems. They’ve raised $317K from overall netroots.
8:59pm Feb 21
@millbot Emily Mills
RT @IsthmusTDP: Wisconsin Dems say protest website
@DefendWisconsin blocked in Capitol http://isthmus.com/r/?r=1365
#wiunion #notmywi
11:47am Feb 22
@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar
If a vote strips collec. bargaining-next-general strikes. Repub. Senator
recall is/are inevitable.Votes do have consequences.
12:22pm Feb 22
@millbot Emily Mills
Rotunda now chanting “Recall!” at rep now speaking in session.
12:37pm Feb 22
@MikeElk Mike Elk
Walker Pulls a “Mubarak” and Cut off Internet to Capitol Protestors as
Poll Shows Drop of Support http://bit.ly/hsN2aB #wiunion
12:52pm Feb 22
what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 172
Picture this.
I’m pedaling downtown from my home on Madison’s West Side for a
show on a summer evening, past modestly sized mid-century homes tucked
into the slopes. Getting there early, I walk up State Street and around the
square. Students in town for the summer are out entertaining themselves
with burgers and ice cream while their professors dine on Nepali food. A
man with a guitar, who resembles the other man with a guitar a little fur-
ther down the street, tunes his beat-up instrument. Near the steps of the
Capitol, homeless gentlemen make their beds in spacious intervals along
the square, in peaceful coexistence with the cop zipping by the lit-up Capi-
tol on a bicycle and the patrons of upscale locavore restaurants strolling to
and from their car parks. Hardly noticed are a couple of teens on the lawn
and, playing roles we can only imagine, a lone suit working late—an aide,
lawyer, or lobbyist—who crosses the square from ofce to condo. Afer the
band is done at the Orpheum or the Majestic, I munch a fresh donut at the
Greenbush Bakery to fuel my return passage through the quiet dark streets
and leafy bike paths, seemingly far from the turmoil of the world.
Tis funky idyll is—or was—the norm in Madison. It is that kind
of placid Midwestern town: well-educated, competently governed, eco-
nomically stable, and full of intelligent diversions—which is to say, it is
Dan S. Wang
March 20, 2011
what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 173
not a normal place at all. It is a Rust Belt city enjoying the trappings of
a modest 20th-century afuence while hundreds of cities, towns, and vil-
lages throughout the region deal with economies that have gone down the
greased chute of globalization, leaving behind wrecked communities. It
is this comparatively intact economy and community—and the peculiar
abnormalities of Madison that have fourished as a result—that are worth
considering following the events of February and March.
In the age of clicktivism and depoliticized sites like malls, airports, and
urban entertainment districts, place and space in political movements mat-
ter more than ever. Madison was the natural focus of early and continued
action for the obvious reason that it is the capital, where the governor and
the state assembly do their work. Te Capitol is where people came to per-
sonally confront the extremists in power. But the size and the sustained na-
ture of the outpouring of discontent begs the question: What is it about this
particular city that surrounds the square that allowed for this possibility?
For one thing, Madison has long been one of those places where you
don’t have to look very hard to see the globe, in a sort of distorted refection;
the city sufers from a conceit of cosmopolitanism, a scene where sporting
Guatemalan pants or quafng Belgian lambic can be passed of for con-
sciousness and connection. Needless to say, in normal times this tendency
is irritating to the critical eye. But in extraordinary times the substance
behind the superfciality does make a diference. For example, Madison is a
favorite stop on the lef-wing circuit, always supplying national movement
fgures a reliable audience. When Noam Chomsky wrote an analysis for
Truthout in which he linked the Cairo and Madison movements, he was
thinking about the friendly town he has visited regularly over the years—in
2009 and 2010 he lectured to packed houses at the Orpheum Teatre. Even
better, a Wisconsin State Journal profle of Madison native Evan Hill, who
had gone to report from Tahrir Square for Al Jazeera, was published on Feb.
8, just days before the Wisconsin uprising broke out. Te internationalist
awareness of the local populace worked to the movement’s advantage over
the frst week in the many echoes of Cairo, and then through to the Ian’s
Pizza phenomenon (where supporters from every state and over twenty
countries ordered hot pies for the frozen demonstrators), before fading as
the political narrative split into diferent storylines. Whether and how that
internationalism will be re-injected into the language of the movement is
unknown, but internationalist terms remain as a potential advantage and
what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 174
cannot be erased for as long as the movement’s demonstration element is
located primarily in Madison.
A key factor in how the movement materialized over the frst weeks of
the uprising is that Madison is a people’s city, not a police state. Madisonites
take it for granted, but nearly all the out-of-state visitors I met mentioned
the unbelievably low and friendly police presence, especially over the frst
two weeks. Speaking from a Chicago perspective, where the cops routinely
don $700 worth of hard-shell riot gear to contain depressingly small anti-
war demonstrations, I can say that by comparison Madison has thus far
successfully fended of the pressure to militarize America’s police forces.
Tere are reasons for this. One, the Madison Police Department is
strongly committed to a trust-based and non-confrontational philoso-
phy. Two, it is a comparatively well-educated force, without the egregious
corruption that plagues the departments of so many cities. And three,
Madison’s main public security threat is the crowds of out-of-control
drunk college football fans and the regular party atmosphere in the city’s
drinking district. Even in terms of outside agitators, it is the bars that
attract the out-of-town rabble, not the demonstrations. Te city police
know this, and so does county law enforcement.
Te consciousness of the police and county sherif bled over into open
sympathy for the forces opposed to Walker early on, thus depriving the
governor of a ready onsite tool of enforcement. In time both Chief Noble
Wray and Sherif Jim Mahoney publicly questioned and/or criticized the
governor in their capacity as public security professionals. Teir statements
damaged Walker, further (and correctly) painting him as a hyper-partisan
extremist, and reinforced the broad unity of public opposition. So when
right-wing outsiders were bafed by Walker’s tolerance of the occupation,
they did not understand that in Madison the police have diferent and more
intelligent priorities, unlike the authoritarian law enforcement most Amer-
icans now accept. Te lesson here is that building the conditions for large
social movements that can assemble in spectacular and peaceful masses
includes working to civilize your local police.
Another thing about Madison is its progressive and countercultural
infrastructure. Over a couple of generations at least, people in Madison
have built up a functioning network of co-ops and enlightened businesses,
a healthy local alternative media in print, radio, and online, several locally-
based but internationally-networked progressive organizations, and thriving
what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 175
local food and bike cultures. Tis infrastructure is maintained and used
by a population of graduate students, educators, sort-of-creative types, and
lots of people who work secure, moderately compensated state jobs. On the
whole, this is a population that has, compared to the big-city rat racers, a
good deal of free time. To put it negatively, Madison is one of those enclaves
where “artist” is not a meaningful professional category, the local currency
project trades heavily in “bodywork,” and an awful lot of residents seem to
have the time and narcissism to “work” on themselves.
But a friend once said to me, as awful as the prospect may be, the hip-
pie freaks just might be humanity’s last and best hope. By essentially hosting
the Wisconsin uprising, the hippie element of Madison did in fact prove its
worth. Without the laid-back vibe and good humor, the anger might have
gotten out of control. Without the easy generosity expressed in a thousand
little ways (I did my part early on with a midnight delivery of fve dozen
donuts to the occupied rotunda—the pleasure is truly in the giving), the
welcome would have stayed theoretical. And most importantly, it was the
people of Madison, dedicated and available, who kept the attendance of the
weekday rallies at respectable and sometimes very impressive numbers for
four weeks. Unions and student organizations bused in people from Mil-
waukee and other parts of the state for a day at a time, but without the
thousands of Madison residents holding down the square during the week
in frigid temperatures, the movement would not have gained the respect
that durability commands.
Afer the rallies on the square took a backseat to the statewide April
5 election for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the dispersed recall cam-
paigns, and the localized struggles around the wider region (working
to defeat new mining initiatives in northern Wisconsin, resisting emer-
gency privatization powers in Benton Harbor, Michigan, and so forth),
for people who live in Madison additional questions concern the lasting
efects on our city of this historic uprising. Will the nascent police state
patched together by Scott Walker to maintain control of the Capitol be-
come a permanent feature of our town? What sorts of punitive measures
will the conservatives aim at the workers and students of Madison? Will
the events of the past few weeks open opportunities to bring the segre-
gated communities of Madison—all of which will sufer under the Walker
agenda—into substantive contact? How will the Generation Y students,
who played powerful roles and gained real political experience, move
what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 176
forward as radicalized adults facing much greater personal uncertainties
than those before them?
Although much in this struggle has yet to be settled, we can be sure
that the old “normal” of Madison is gone. Walker’s attacks have revealed
what used to be normal as a temporary arrangement. It lasted for de-
cades and the people and institutions of Madison on balance benefted
from it, but if Madison was a pocket of comfort, health, and freedom in
the Midwestern geography of deindustrialization and global reordering,
then the conservative ofensive has turned that pocket inside out. Over
the frst four months of 2011, the people of Madison rejoined the people
of Detroit, Youngstown, Rockford, Flint, Janesville, and the rest of the
Midwest as a front in the global class war. Now it is up to those of us who
call Madison home to take those progressive achievements and privileges
aforded by the decades of stability—and to put them to use in the shared
struggle that has landed on our doorstep and is not going away.
Dan S. Wang is a writer, artist, and activist who lives in Madison and teaches
in Chicago.
#statEsOs
@MikeElk
In the wake of Wisconsin, three states have backed off anti-union
bills Florida, Indiana, Michigan, will Ohio be next? #wiunion
—and provoked by
similar attacks on workers’ rights in their states—people across the Unit-
ed States are standing up and fghting back. Te resistance that began in
Wisconsin emboldened citizens to occupy state capitols in Washington
state and California, energized student sit-ins from Texas to New Jersey,
and prompted New Yorkers to “take the spirit of Wisconsin to Wall Street”
to protest their city’s budget cuts. In Ohio, more than 1.3 million people
signed in opposition to a bill that closely resembles the one Governor
Scott Walker put forward—enough to place repeal on the ballot for this
November’s elections.
On Feb. 26, the newly-formed group US Uncut held its frst national
day of protests, where activists targeted Bank of America for having paid
no federal taxes in 2009. Inspired by UK Uncut, Britain’s successful anti-
government cuts group, the U.S. version similarly argued that government
shouldn’t be cutting basic services for people in need while simultaneously
cutting taxes for corporations and the rich. Fueled in part by the momen-
tum of Wisconsin, US Uncut has organized hundreds of sit-ins and fostered
civil disobedience of a kind not ofen seen in the United States.
Also on Feb. 26, while tens of thousand gathered in Madison, 55,000
people joined solidarity rallies organized by MoveOn.org in front of every
resistance is spreading | 180
state capitol in the country. Demonstrators wore red and white—University
of Wisconsin colors—to show their support for the Badgers’ fght. Out of
these protests has emerged a new push to “Rebuild the American Dream,”
an efort led by MoveOn and green jobs leader Van Jones that aims to build
a “Tea Party for the lef” by connecting various progressive fghts under
one recognizable banner, building a stronger and more cohesive move-
ment as a result.
While it may be impossible to “plan” protests similar to the spontane-
ous Wisconsin uprising, the demonstrations there have inspired experi-
enced activists and everyday citizens alike with a fresh vision of what is
possible. In a speech laying out his vision for the American Dream Move-
ment, Van Jones said, “Te fght back has begun. It’s not just Madison—as
extraordinary as Madison was. Tat’s not the great exception, that’s the
great example.”
@MoveOn MoveOn.org
Emergency Call to Action: 50-State Wisconsin solidarity rally this Saturday
at noon: http://bit.ly/gPac2J #wiunion
1:18pm Feb 22
@millbot Emily Mills
Koch Industries registered SEVEN lobbyists in Wisconsin in January
alone. Assuming this is only the beginning. #wiunion
2:06pm Feb 22
@WEaC WEAC
I see a new sign: “I’m really from WI, and am really against this bill.”
Or something like that. #wiunion
4:24pm Feb 22
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
Wisconsin bloggers have created a site to aggregate their content.
http://solidaritywisconsin.com/ #Wiunion
4:53pm Feb 22
@millbot Emily Mills
Appreciate greatly what the Fab 14 are doing for WI right now, but still
hope this brings out good, new leadership for future. #wiunion
8:08pm Feb 22
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
You know what @govwalker? It’s not about the cheddar. This is about
fghting for working families. #WIunion
8:44pm Feb 22
resistance is spreading | 182
Today, April 15, 2011, we will be continuing our opposition to the budget
cuts which will, if passed, leave many people in Washington more desperate
and hurting than at any other time in the past 30 years.
Too ofen in our society we are told that we ought to look out for only
ourselves. Our sense of real community has been broken down with that
constant mantra and the false representations of community which corpo-
rations continually throw at us. Enough is enough! It is time that we stand
together in unity and solidarity. “An injury to one is an injury to all.” Our
personal well-being is tied to the collective well-being of our communities.
In order to win this fght we must stand together, link our arms and our
wills to create a chain so strong that no one will be able to break it.
Too long we have allowed this class war to continue with the rich in
constant ofensive position, taking and taking what they want, while there
has been very little defense from the working classes. G. K. Chesterton said,
“Among the rich you will be hard pressed to fnd a really generous man
even by accident. Tey may give their money away, but they will never give
themselves away; they are egotistic, secretive, dry as old bones. To be smart
enough to get all that money, you must be dull enough to want it.” We must
remember that there will be few if any from the upper classes who do not
have a stake in the budget cuts. Tis is why we are seeing the cuts come to
Statement from protesters occupying the Washington state Capitol
April 15, 2011
resistance is spreading | 183
those of us in the more vulnerable sects of society, while the things that
meet the ruling class’ wants and needs go untouched.
In the Seattle workers’ struggles for dignity, justice, and freedom
around the turn of the century, Mr. Doodley, a Washington union activist
said, ”Do not ask for your rights; take them. Tere is something the mat-
ter with the right that is handed to you.” Te time we’ve been waiting for
is here! People young and old have had enough. In the past six years more
and more occupations have sprung up. First it began with occupations of
Rochester University, then NYU, Te New School, UC Berkeley, UCLA,
UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis, UC Irvine, Evergreen State College, and LSU.
Now we are seeing it with the occupations of state capitols, Wisconsin state
Capitol, Washington state Capitol, and today the capitols of California and
Hawaii will be occupied. We are not alone!
Mario Savio once famously said while standing on the steps of Berke-
ley, “Tere is a time when the machine becomes so odious, makes you so
sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part!
And you’ve got to throw yourself upon the gears, upon the wheels, upon the
leavers, upon all the apparatuses! And you’ve go to indicate to the people
who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine
will be prevented from working at all!” And that’s what this is all about. If
we believe that we live in a democracy, then we’ve got to realize that living
in a healthy democratic state means people from all classes, all races, all
groups of society having a constant say and stake in what happens. Tis
means we need to be in the streets. As it stands, simply voting every once in
a while is no longer cutting it. We need to vote with our bodies in the streets
of Washington and the halls of the Capitol. Let us lif our voices so that we
might be heard. Let us no longer ask for our rights, but demand them!
Te time has come! Te time is now!
Come down to the state Capitol today at 2 p.m.!
THE PEOPLE UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED!
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
Boom! @news3jessica Gov’s offce confrms it is Walker in recorded
interview circulating online.
10:19am Feb 23
@millbot Emily Mills
Of course Walker fell for Koch prank call. Guy is megalomaniac
enough to expect random chatty calls from Koch brother re: #wiunion
10:56am Feb 23
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
RT @ttagaris: So, Wisconsin legislature shuts down its comment line,
but Governor immediately takes a call from a Kansas oil billionaire
12:40pm Feb 23
@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar
I just chewed out a CNN reporter. He’s was setting up a story I thought
was bullshit, and I said as much. He got pissed when I told him..
1:57pm Feb 23
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
Almost 11pm. Lazy,overpaid teacher in front of me correcting huge stack
of papers while observing legislators.She is clearly destroying WI
10:57pm Feb 23
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
Just walked by WI protester soundly slumbering on foor of capitol w/copy
of The Shock Doctrine next to them. Fitting. #wiunion @NaomiAKlein
2:04am Feb 24
resistance is spreading | 185
It took a while, but Wisconsin shows that the poor and middle class of the U.S.
may be ready to push back. Madison may be only the beginning.
Te uprising that swept Tunisia, Egypt, and parts of Europe is showing
signs of blossoming across the United States.
In Wisconsin, public employees and their supporters are drawing the
line at Governor Scott Walker’s plan to eliminate collective bargaining and
unilaterally cut benefts. School teachers, university students, frefghters,
and others descended on the Capitol in the tens of thousands, and even the
Superbowl champion Green Bay Packers have weighed in against the bill.
Protests against similar anti-union measures are ramping up in Ohio.
Meanwhile, another protest movement aimed at protecting the poor
and middle class is in the works. Cities around the country are preparing
for a Feb. 26 Day of Action, “targeting corporate tax dodgers.”
Learning from the UK
Te strategy picks up on the UK Uncut campaign, begun when a group
meeting at a London pub—a frefghter, a nurse, a student, and others—
came up with an idea that is part fash mob, part sit-in. In an article pub-
lished in Te Nation, reporter Johann Hari tells the story of the group’s frus-
Sarah van Gelder
Yes! magazine, February 18, 2011
resistance is spreading | 186
tration about government cutbacks. If Vodafone, one corporation with a
huge back-tax bill, paid up, the cutbacks wouldn’t be needed. Te group
spread the word over social media, and held loud, impolite demonstrations.
Te idea quickly went viral, and fash mobs/sit-ins materialized at retail
outlets across Britain, shutting many of them down.
Now, a US Uncut group has formed and announced a Feb. 26 Day of
Action here to coincide with UK Uncut’s planned protests on the same day.
Already, a dozen local events are planned [UPDATE: As of Feb. 21, there
are 30 local events listed on the US Uncut website]. Some groups are keep-
ing quiet about their targets, but several are targeting Bank of America. Te
goal, according to a statement on the US Uncut website, is “to draw atten-
tion to the fact that Bank of America received $45 billion in government
bailout funds while funneling its tax dollars into 115 ofshore tax havens. ...
And to highlight the fact that the poor and middle class are now paying for
this largess through drastic government cuts.”
Te Politics of Class Warfare
Across the country, the poor and middle class have sufered from the eco-
nomic collapse: Jobs disappeared, mortgages sank underneath debt, and
opportunities for a college education evaporated. Much of the bailout that
was supposed to fx the economy went to the very institutions that caused
the collapse. Many of these institutions are now using tax loopholes and
ofshore tax shelters to avoid paying taxes.
Te poor and middle class, those who didn’t cause the collapse but
have felt the most pain from the poor economy, are now being asked to
sacrifce again.
It took some time for a political response to coalesce. Te Tea Party
movement was able to direct discontent away from the Wall Street titans
who brought the economy to its knees. Funding from the Koch brothers’
petro-fortune along with fawning attention from Fox News helped get the
libertarian movement of the ground. But progressives remained fragment-
ed and few built active, organized bases. Many waited for President Barack
Obama to act.
The tide may now be turning. Inspired by people-power move-
ments around the world, people in the United States are beginning to
push back. The poor and middle class, those who didn’t cause the col-
lapse but have felt the most pain from the poor economy, are now being
resistance is spreading | 187
asked to sacrifice again.
Politicians are scurrying to cut spending, but fewer than one in fve
Americans say the federal budget defcit is their chief worry about the
economy, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center; 44 percent
say they’re most worried about jobs. Polls show that Americans also want
spending for education, investment in infrastructure, and environmental
protection. Yet spending in all these areas is up for drastic cuts in state and
federal budgets.
Likewise, on the tax side, 59 percent of Americans opposed extending
the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest, according to a Bloomberg poll. Con-
gress cut the taxes anyway, and the package will cost $800 billion over just
two years.
Until now, polls have been one of the few places where anger at govern-
ment policies that favor the rich while cutting service to the middle-class
has been visible. But the crowds in Madison and the momentum of US
Uncut tell us that may be about to change.
As a statement on the US Uncut website puts it: “We demand that be-
fore the hard-working, tax-paying families of this country are once again
forced to sacrifce, the corporations who have so richly profted from our
labor, our patronage, and our bailouts be compelled to pay their taxes and
contribute their fair share to the continued prosperity of our nation. We will
organize, we will mobilize, and we will NOT be quiet!”
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
If you’re on the frst foor of the Capitol, please don’t stand on the Bob
La Follette statue! Thanks! #wiunion
2:05pm Feb 24
@cabell Cabell Gathman
Metro driver of this bus just honked #solidarity at frefghters for labor.
#wiunion #killthisbill
2:08pm Feb 24
@scoutprime scoutprime
This crowd is middle class America. Looks like same crowd as a Packer
game. #wiunion #solidaritywi
6:20pm Feb 24
@WEaC WEAC
RT @mikeelk: John Nichols takes the stage greeted to the sound of
vuvuzuelas - quite a greeting for a labor journalist #wiunion
7:38pm Feb 24
@MikeElk Mike Elk
Weather observers at antarctica sent a pizza to the protestors in the
Capitol yesterday. #wiunion
7:55pm Feb 24
@jjoyce Jason Joyce
Motion to remove speaker pro tem fails. Discussion is now on passage
of the bill.
11:37pm Feb 24
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
@JErickson85 The bill passes the Assembly. Senate must now approve.
1:31am Feb 25
@thomasmbird Thomas Bird
Don’t even know the full details of what they pulled procedurally. But they
will regret it. We responded with peace and love. #wiunion
2:30am Feb 25
resistance is spreading | 189
For the past week, I’ve been documenting the plethora of nonviolent pro-
tests breaking out across the country in opposition to the government’s
proposed radical budget cuts. In another typically excellent article, Chris
Hedges recently declared that the resistance he’s been calling for has fnally
begun. Te powerful elite got too greedy and took too much from average
Americans, who are now fghting back.
Hedges announced he will be joining protesters in Union Square for a
planned tax-weekend protest in front of Bank of America.
“Te political process no longer works,” Kevin Zeese, the director of
Prosperity Agenda and one of the organizers of the April 15 event, told me.
“Te economy is controlled by a handful of economic elites. Te necessities
of most Americans are no longer being met. Te only way to change this is
to shif the power to a culture of resistance. Tis will be the frst in a series
of events we will organize to help give people control of their economic and
political life.”
Hedges implores the one in six workers in this country who does not
have a job and the “6 million people who have lost their homes to repos-
sessions” to join the protest. And this isn’t the only event of its kind in the
works. Resistance cells have been springing up across the country—some
planned, some seemingly spontaneous acts of desperation from citizens
Allison Kilkenny
The Nation, April 4, 2011
resistance is spreading | 190
at their breaking points.
Albany is braced for a “Wisconsin-style” takeover of its Capitol. Te
“People Power Rally” includes union members representing state univer-
sity professors, public school teachers, and human services group, who say
the state budget will cripple classroom programs, health services, and low-
income New Yorkers.
In New Hampshire, the Capitol witnessed budget-cut protests that or-
ganizers claim was the largest gathering of people on statehouse grounds
in 25 years.
A similar gathering, though this time protesters actually occupied the
Capitol, occurred in Mississippi.
Meanwhile, students in Illinois are organizing to oppose the House of
Representatives’ recent actions cutting federally-funded Pell Grants by 15
percent in 2011. Te “Pell Yes!” campaign is designed to heighten awareness
of the issue and “help students take a stand.”
In all of these cases of resistance, the participants heed the advice from
Hedges, who writes that citizens don’t need leaders, directives from above,
or formal organizations.
“We don’t need to waste our time appealing to the Democratic Party
or writing letters to the editor. We don’t need more diatribes on the internet.
We need to physically get into the public square and create a mass move-
ment.”
Tat physical action of leaving the computer at home and occupying
the bank, street, or Capitol is beginning to happen.
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
Heartened to see all the emails today promoting Solidarity rallies across
the country. Thank you @MoveOn @dailykos @ProgressivesUtd etc.!
11:54am Feb 25
@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar
RT @gottalaff: RT @ddayen: John Nichols predicts 1 million ppl across
the country tomorrow in solidarity with #wiunion
1:04pm Feb 25
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
Vols needed to live-stream Saturday 3:00 PM rally. Must have iphone (or
similar) or laptop w/aircard. Contact: brandzel@gmail.com #wiunion
1:17pm Feb 25
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
ANNOUNCEMENT: Senator Taylor will be phoning at 3:00pm. Silence is
requested in the rotunda at that time. #wiunion
2:45pm Feb 25
@Erickleefeld Eric Kleefeld
NEWS: Capitol Police announce building will CLOSE 4 p.m. Sunday -
they’re easing this process down.
4:40pm Feb 25
@WEaC WEAC
Great sign: Walker, let’s be friends with benefts. #wiunion
9:51pm Feb 25
resistance is spreading | 192
My wife Lenore Palladino—who is MoveOn.org’s feld director—and I were
on the train, coming home from a visit with family. It was late February, and
protesters in Wisconsin had been occupying their state Capitol for a week.
I overheard Lenore talking on the phone with MoveOn’s campaign director,
Daniel Mintz. Tey were trying to fgure out what they could do to help.
Tey landed on the idea of organizing rallies that weekend, at all 50
state capitols, so people across the country could have a way to show their
solidarity with the Wisconsin protesters. Tis was Monday, Feb. 21. Te
rallies would take place on Saturday, Feb. 26, just fve days away—a huge
undertaking in such a short amount of time. Tey decided to go for it.
Te next day, Van Jones wrote an article for Te Hufngton Post called
“Introducing the American Dream Movement,” framing these rallies as the
beginning of a larger fght. Te idea was to say, “Tere’s a movement here,
but it doesn’t see itself most of the time.” Te response was overwhelming.
By Tursday, over 40 groups had signed on, from ColorOfChange.org
to the AFL-CIO. MoveOn’s feld team and our partners had organized ral-
lies at every state capitol, complete with permits and sound systems. Glenn
Beck did a special broadcast about it. He had all the logos of the partner
organizations in the background, and went into a bizarre rant attacking the
American Dream: “How did Van Jones and MoveOn organize this in three
days? Te answer is they didn’t. Tey’ve been planning this since 2008!”
Billy Wimsatt
july 17, 2011
resistance is spreading | 193
But it really was organized in three days: I saw it with my own eyes. By
that Saturday, Lenore and her staf, their networks of local volunteers, and
partner organizations had 50,000 people show up in 50 states, not including
the 70,000-100,000 in Madison. MoveOn sent signs: “Save Te American
Dream.” Te American Dream movement was born.
Wisconsin was a turning point. Te attacks were so extreme, people de-
cided they had to go to extreme lengths to stand up for themselves. I think
their original idea was to do a two-day rally. Ten they thought maybe it
could extend to three days. Ten someone tweeted “as long as it takes,” and
people began to put their entire lives on hold to spend a month living in the
state Capitol. No one could have predicted it. It was unbelievable. It gave the
progressive movement hope again. It was... awesome.
Te question everyone is asking ourselves now is “How do we build on
this momentum? How can we keep the movement expanding?” I think part
of the answer lies in asking the question—and asking that question over and
over again with millions of people. “How do we build on this movement?”
Te simple act of asking that question empowers each of us to take
ownership. Te answer is that we need to do this locally where we live. We
need to connect it all in a way that lets people see that it’s all one struggle.
It’s bigger than any one of us.
And we have to do this everywhere. We’re facing similar attacks
everywhere, but we haven’t had a similar breakthrough like Wisconsin.
Tat’s what we need to do now.
What the American Dream movement is doing is challenging us all to
think about how to tell the story and brand all of this as one big efort, in
the same way the Tea Party has done. Te American Dream movement is
working with MoveOn, the Campaign for America’s Future, the Center for
Community Change, with labor, with so many groups. And there’s a paral-
lel sister efort, “We Are One,” that’s come out of the Leadership Conference
on Civil Rights. We’re all working together, saying that we have to protect
the progress of the 20th century and put forward a vision for a great 21st
century where everyone gets to win together. Wisconsin has been the
inspiration for these eforts, and has helped bring all of these various groups
together as one.
Just this weekend, July 16-17, the American Dream movement orga-
nized more than 1,500 house meetings in more than 400 congressional
resistance is spreading | 194
districts nationwide to create a “Contract for the American Dream,” a pro-
gressive economic agenda written and voted on collectively by more than
100,000 people.
Van’s suggestion that we begin to see ourselves as part of a larger move-
ment has been met with an incredible—really an unbelievable—chorus of
“Yes, let’s do that,” which is pretty uncharacteristic of how the progressive
movement has been operating up until this point. Most people think, “We
already have our brand, our name, or our message, or we’re going to come
up with our own.” But instead of the usual mode that we operate in, I think
that people are so terrifed of what’s happening and there’s such a recogni-
tion that the good work we’ve been doing isn’t enough, there’s now a pro-
found openness to sticking together and trying this radical experiment of
acting like we’re all on the same team.
What happened in Wisconsin has been compared to the Seattle WTO
protests, which also took place during a very dark time (during another
Democratic administration) when we felt like the powers that be and the
multinational corporations were destroying everything we loved. Tat’s
when you frst saw these really bold, unlikely coalitions—of turtles and
Teamsters, blues and greens—that was really game-changing when it hap-
pened. People forget, but a whole series of these huge mobilizations hap-
pened with tens and even hundreds of thousands of people, all over the
world, that came together as part of a new global justice movement a de-
cade ago. When 9/11 happened, that energy was redirected into the peace
movement—and then eventually into voter mobilization in 2004, 2006, and
2008 in Obama’s election—then it was fnally demobilized in 2010 because
we got confused by having Obama in ofce and started thinking that we
didn’t still need to fght for our lives.
What the brave folks in Wisconsin did was say: “We’re back, we’re here,
we’re not dead, we haven’t gone anywhere.” It’s the same movement, and it’s
been reawakened, like someone kicked the sleeping giant. And we woke up.
It’s very exciting.
Billy Wimsatt is Strategic Partnerships Director at Rebuild the Dream
(RebuildtheDream.com), and the author, most recently, of Please Don’t Bomb
the Suburbs: A Midterm Report on My Generation and the Future of Our
Super Movement.
@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar
@weep4humanity The 4pm closing on Sunday is solid. That’s not
conjecture.#wiunion
11:18am Feb 26
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
Starting to see #WIunion related merch show up on the street and in
stores. Sadly most of it isn’t union made. #SolidarityFAIL
11:42am Feb 26
@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar
Sky thick w snowfakes rt now #wiunion
1:23pm Feb 26
@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar
High of 15 degrees down here Wearing 2 pair of pants & earfap hat
#wiunion
1:25pm Feb 26
@aFlCIO AFL-CIO
RT @VanJones68: this isn’t about a shift to the political left or the political
right, it is about a return to America’s moral center.
2:22pm Feb 26
@millbot Emily Mills
Hearing reports from Madison police of something like 100k people for
rally. Hasn’t even started yet! #wiunion
2:29pm Feb 26
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
Kids in snowpants are adorable. And here in large numbers. #wiunion
@WEAC
2:43pm Feb 26
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
Have no idea how big this crowd is. It’s incredible. So damn cold, so
snowy, yet the streets are packed. #wiunion
3:37pm Feb 26
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
Also interviewed guy with sign: “Republican against the bill.” Everyone
wanted to shake his hand, thank him. #wiunion #wearewi
3:53pm Feb 26
resistance is spreading | 196
In the past 24 months, those of us who longed for positive change have gone
from hope to heartbreak. But hope is returning to America—at last—thanks
largely to the courageous stand of the heroes and heroines of Wisconsin.
Reinvigorated by the idealism and fghting spirit on display right now
in America’s heartland, the movement for “hope and change” has a rare,
second chance. It can renew itself and become again a national force with
which to be reckoned.
Over the next hours and days, all who love this country need to do ev-
erything possible to spread the “spirit of Madison” to all 50 states. Tis does
not mean we need to occupy 50 state capitols; things elsewhere are not yet
that dire. But this weekend, the best of America should rally on the steps of
every statehouse in the union.
MoveOn.org and others have issued just this kind of call to action;
everyone should prioritize responding and turning out in large numbers.
On Saturday, the powers-that-be (in both parties) should see a rain-
bow force coming together: organized workers, business leaders, veterans,
students and youth, faith leaders, civil rights fghters, women’s rights cham-
pions, immigrant rights defenders, LGBTQ stalwarts, environmentalists,
academics, artists, celebrities, community activists, elected ofcials, and
more—all standing up for what’s right.
Van Jones
Yes! Magazine, February 22, 2011
resistance is spreading | 197
Defending—and Defning—the American Dream
And we should announce that our renewed movement is more than just
a mobilization to back unions or oppose illegitimate power grabs (as im-
portant as those agenda items are). Something more vital is at stake: Our
country needs a national movement to defend the American Dream itself.
And the fght in Wisconsin creates the opportunity to build one.
Afer all, it is the American Dream that the GOP’s “slash and burn”
agenda is killing of. We need a movement dedicated to renewing the idea
that hard work pays in our country; that you can make it if you try; that
America remains a land committed to dignity, justice, and opportunity for
all. Right now, this very idea is on the GOP chopping block. And we must
rescue it now—or risk losing it forever.
America will not make it through this crisis healthy and whole if—at
the frst sign of trouble—we are willing to throw away millions of our ev-
eryday heroes. Our teachers, police ofcers, frefghters, nurses, and others
make our communities and country strong. Teir daily work is essential to
the smooth functioning and long-term success of our nation. An attack on
them is an attack on the backbone of America.
Nobody objects to politicians cutting budgetary fat. But the GOP pro-
gram everywhere is so reckless that it would actually cut muscle, bone, and
marrow, too. Tis approach is both shortsighted and immoral. We should
rise up against it—in our millions.
Both parties should be taking steps to solve the country’s problems in
a balanced, fair, and rational way. If defcits are truly the issue, then raising
taxes and cutting spending both should be on the table, as tools. But Wis-
consin’s governor recently handed out massive corporate tax breaks, reduc-
ing the state’s revenues. Tat move greatly added to the problem he now
wants to fx by attacking essential services with a meat axe. A slew of GOP
governors in places like Ohio are gearing up to take similar approaches.
If a foreign power conspired to infict this much damage on America’s
frst responders and essential infrastructure, we would see it as an act of
war.
And if a foreign dictator unilaterally announced that his nation’s work-
ers no longer had a seat at the bargaining table in their own country, the
U.S. establishment would rightfully go bananas.
If Republicans would oppose that kind of thuggery abroad, how can
they champion it here at home?
resistance is spreading | 198
How can they accept for the American people what they would de-
nounce for the people of any other nation on Earth?
GOP governors in multiple states are advancing schemes to erase the
long-standing rights of American employees to choose a union and bar-
gain collectively. We need to call these outrageous plots what they are: un-
American and unacceptable. Tey are not just assaults on workers; they are
assaults on the American Way itself.
Tis Is Our “Tea Party” Moment
It is time to draw a line in the sand—nationally. Someone has to stand up
for common sense and fairness. It is time to use all nonviolent means to de-
fend the American people and our American principles from these abuses.
If we take a bold and courageous stand, over time, we can win. Make
no mistake about it: this is our “Tea Party” moment—in a positive sense.
In fact, we can learn many important lessons from the recent achieve-
ments of the libertarian, populist right. Don’t forget: even afer the Repub-
lican’s epic electoral defeat in 2008, a right-wing uprising was still able to
smash public support for “new New Deal” economics. Along the way, it
revived the political fortunes of the GOP.
A popular outcry from the lef could just as easily shatter the prevailing
bipartisan consensus that America is suddenly a poor country that cannot
possibly help its people meet our basic needs.
Te truth is that we don’t live in Bangladesh or Malawi. America is
not a poor country. Te public has just been hypnotized into believing that
the richest and most creative nation on Earth has only two choices in this
crisis: massive austerity (as championed by the Tea Party/Republicans) or
semi-massive austerity (as meekly ofered by too many D.C. Democrats). It
is ridiculous.
Fortunately, the people in Wisconsin know that. So they are fghting
courageously. Teir eforts could blossom into a compelling, national force
for the good—ofering a powerful alternative to those false choices.
And while our re-born movement needs to be as clear and bold as the
Tea Parties, we must base our eforts on a deeper set of American values.
Te Tea Party attached itself to only a single American principle. And
it identifes itself with only one moment in our distant past: the Boston Tea
Party, symbolizing “no taxation without representation.”
resistance is spreading | 199
“American Dream” Movement Rooted in a Deeper Patriotism
Tat is an important moment and concept. But the notion of negative lib-
erty (“Don’t tread on me!”) is only one principle among many that makes
our country great. Other equally vital American values and ideals (like jus-
tice, opportunity, fairness, and democracy) have gone largely undefended
and unheralded in this recent crisis. Tat ends—now. Our rising movement
should stand for the full suite of American values and principles.
And the American ideal most in need of defense is our most essential
one: the American Dream.
Te steps needed to renew and redeem the American Dream are
straightforward and simple:
Increase revenue for America’s government sensibly by making •
Wall Street and the super-rich pay their fair share.
Reduce spending responsibly by cutting the real fat—like corpo- •
rate welfare for military contractors, big agriculture, and big oil.
Simultaneously protect the heart and soul of America—our •
teachers, nurses, and frst responders.
Guarantee the health, safety, and success of our children and •
communities by leaving the muscle and bone of America’s
communities intact.
Maintain the American Way by treating employees with dignity •
and respecting their right to a seat at the bargaining table.
Rebuild the middle class—and pathways into it—by fghting for •
a “made in America” innovation and manufacturing agenda,
including trade and currency policies that honor American
workers and entrepreneurs.
Stand for the idea that, in a crisis, Americans turn TO each •
other—and not ON each other.
A Return to the Moral Center
By standing up for dignity, equal opportunity, and fair play, the Wisconsin
workers have found their way to America’s great moral center. By standing
with them, we reclaim what is best in our country.
Tese are not radical notions. Tey are the common sense ideas that
form the core of who we are as a nation. We can rally Americans, once
again, to stand up for these values. We can make America, once again, a
resistance is spreading | 200
land where it is safe for everyday people to dream.
We will prevail because—in truth—we are not in a right-wing period
of American history, nor are we in a lef-wing period. We are simply in a
volatile period.
And during times like these, we can take comfort in knowing that a
great nation will ultimately pull its answers—not from its ideological ex-
tremes—but from its deep, moral center.
By standing up for dignity, equal opportunity, and fair play, the Wis-
consin workers have found their way to America’s great moral center. Tey
have shown us all, at last, the way back home. By standing with them, we
reclaim what is best in our country.
April 15, 2009, marked the beginning of the national movement to re-
member the Tea Party and pull America to the ideological right.
Let Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011, mark the beginning of the national move-
ment to renew the American Dream and return us to the moral center—
where everybody counts, and everybody matters.
#aslONGasIttakEs
@MikeElk
Madison Teachers just voted to go on general strike tomorrow
#notmywi
mounting an historic
efort to recall six Wisconsin Republican state senators from ofce is a
radical act. In all of Wisconsin history, only four previous recalls have
ever been attempted. Yet there is a contingent of activists who have taken
issue with the way Democrats and union leaders have channeled the re-
markable momentum of the uprising into the narrow and limited sphere
of electoral politics.
Tey object to politicians and union leaders’ eforts to harness and
sanitize the energy of a spontaneous movement toward their own long-
standing objectives. Rather than simply trying to shif the balance of power
from one party to another, radical grassroots activists saw in the uprising
the potential to bring about fundamental change to larger political and eco-
nomic systems. And in the face of Governor Scott Walker’s extreme actions,
they felt that union leaders blinked by failing to call a general strike or use
civil disobedience to continue or even escalate the struggle.
In an uprising marked by diversity and solidarity, these competing vi-
sions created an undercurrent of tension throughout. From the attempts to
negotiate a wind-down of the Capitol occupation to the discussions of what
comes next, there remain larger questions of power, control, and the mean-
ing of the movement that has grown out of the Wisconsin struggle.
@millbot Emily Mills
Coldest, snowiest day of the last two weeks. Biggest rally turnout in
support of workers to date. God love you, Wisconsin. #wiunion #wearewi
4:05pm Feb 26
@millbot Emily Mills
Inspired by huge turnout today in Madison & solidarity rallies all over
country. Thanks for keeping it up, all! #wiunion #wearewi
5:19pm Feb 26
@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar
Guy’s sign has shoes hanging from it, says: Obama-Here’s yer
comfortable shoes Where are you?
6:10pm Feb 26
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
Day 13. We’re still here. We’ve multiplied. And you can close the Capitol
tomorrow, but our voices won’t stop.
6:15pm Feb 26
@cabell Cabell Gathman
I’ve heard estimates up to 150K & I’d believe it. RT @AFLCIO: RT
@wisafcio: More than 100,000! http://bit.ly/h57ikr #WIunion #WeAreWI
6:39pm Feb 26
@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar
@purrplecatmama Now home. Damn cold there. Amazing turn-out,
people just getting covered in a heavy snow. Completely unfazed.
#wiunion
7:07pm Feb 26
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
Town hall mtg going on in capitol rotunda. Trying to get a sense of what
will happen tomorrow at 4pm, when police kick folks out #wiunion
8:10pm Feb 26
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 205
Adapted from an article frst published at SocialistWorker.org
Te round-the-clock occupation of the Wisconsin state Capitol ended
March 3 amid stark strategic debates on how to take the struggle forward.
Te fault lines of that debate continue to separate two poles of the move-
ment in Wisconsin today.
On one side is the strategy backed by the largest unions and organiza-
tions: exclusive focus on elections to recall Republican state senators. On
the other are those of us who see the central strategic issue as creating new
networks focused on escalating direct, mass pressure on the state govern-
ment and its corporate backers. As a proponent of the later approach, I want
to share how these debates played out at the crucial moments that deter-
mined when and how the Capitol occupation would continue.
For 16 days, the Capitol occupation had been the most visible symbol
of the remarkable series of protests for workers’ rights in Wisconsin and a
focal point for solidarity from around the world. At a more practical level,
it was also the space where activists met one another, debated strategies and
ideas, and organized. Tat occupation played a crucial role in maintaining
the momentum of the protests afer Madison teachers ended their sickout
and returned to work during the second week of protests.
Elizabeth Wrigley-Field
March 9, 2011
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 206
With the occupation now over, in part due to Governor Scott Walk-
er’s illegal restrictions on access to the building, activists are regrouping
and developing new strategies. But the last fve days of the occupation—
in particular, the debates over when and how to stay or leave—revealed
diferences that will inform the strategies to come.
Te division appeared most sharply on the frst day that the police ordered
the Capitol cleared—Sunday, Feb. 27—and the last day of the 16-day con-
tinuous occupation, on Tursday, March 3.
On Feb. 27, this divergence took the form of struggle for democracy
within the movement as much as for the Capitol itself. Democrats, most
labor union leaders and stafers, and the activists who saw themselves as
running the Capitol occupation directed everyone to leave as ordered by the
police at 4 p.m., while a pre-selected group was to stay behind to be arrested
with a carefully constructed media message. According to Capitol Police
Chief Charles Tubbs, labor leaders and the police had negotiated this exit
plan—though this was news to many union members and activists involved
in the occupation. Union stafers and other activists widely presented the
situation as though all decisions were made: Te building would inevitably
be shut down and all those lef in it arrested, and the only decision lef was
whether to join the planned protests—on its terms—or to leave quietly.
As the 4 p.m. deadline approached, Democratic state Rep. Brett Hulsey
sauntered past a long line of people waiting to speak and occupied the mi-
crophone for 12 minutes, telling the crowd, “And now I want you to do the
most important thing in this campaign, which is to follow me out of that
door at 4 o’ clock.” Hulsey’s lengthy speech was facilitated by self-appoint-
ed MCs who had taken control of the building’s main microphones as the
deadline neared; one told me he was “just doing what he was told” though
he couldn’t say who had told him to do what.
But rather than follow Hulsey out of the Capitol, a small group of
activists had organized a diferent strategy: Pack the building with people
refusing to leave at the deadline in the hopes that if the numbers were large
enough, no one would be arrested, and the building would remain ours. In
this context, those of us who fought to continue the occupation felt that we
were fghting just as much for democracy within the movement as we were
to continue the occupation.
In the course of this efort, we met and joined with other small groups
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 207
with the same goal. One network organized in the Capitol, which later
began calling itself A People’s Movement, had met over several days and
headed into Sunday with a plan to try to keep the building open. Correctly
guessing that the police would prevent people from entering the building as
the afernoon wore on, this group organized to bring crowds of people
inside the Capitol to the building’s entrances to protest the doors being
closed to the outside. Te contingents chanting, “Let them in!” helped to
focus anger at the Capitol being closed, rather than acceptance of the
restrictions coming from the police.
As the 4 p.m. deadline hit, instead of leaving, hundreds of activists,
including many union members, decided to stay inside the Capitol. Afer
having claimed that arrest was imminent, Capitol Police decided to avoid
arrests by leaving the building open: a huge victory for protesters.
On the last day of the occupation, the same constellations of forces emerged.
By this time, Walker had kept the building under illegal lockdown for four
days, beginning the morning afer the Feb. 27 victory. Tis was in violation
of an explicit promise made to protesters by Chief Tubbs that the building
would reopen as usual the following morning.
By Tursday, March 3, the core of activists inside the building had
dwindled to fewer than 50 people, as thousands of others—in violation of
the state Constitution—were kept from joining them by restrictions put on
entering the Capitol. Activists knew they could not hold on indefnitely in
these circumstances, so discussions inside the building turned to how to
resist the police clampdown.
Over several days, activists tested the limits of the police and devel-
oped their own confidence and initiative. On Tuesday, March 1, after
police set up “checkpoints” in the building, a small group of protesters
moved to sit just outside the allowed area. Tis provoked debate inside the
building about whether resisting police directives threatened the occupa-
tion—a debate that ended afer half an hour, when the police decided to
respond by moving the rope barrier so that those sitting were once again
inside it. Ten the activists moved to the other side again, establishing that
even though they were fagrantly violating the rules, the police did not
intend to arrest them.
As Student Labor Action Coalition member Scot McCullough ex-
plained, “It was big because they said, ‘You can’t cross this line,’ and then we
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 208
did, and they didn’t do anything. ... We showed that the police don’t have
supreme rule here.”
On Tursday, March 3, activists hatched a more daring plan. To get
protesters inside the building despite police eforts to limit access, a small
group inside rushed an under-guarded Capitol door and held it open at
the precise moment that thousands of people had gathered for a “No Con-
cessions” rally on the other side. Hundreds of union members streamed
into the statehouse in the minutes before police managed to shut the
doors again.
Te mood was jubilant—for about 15 minutes, before Rep. Hulsey re-
turned to lead people out once again. Tis time, the group inside advocat-
ing to stay was too small to efectively infuence what happened, and by
this point it was clear that to fully cooperate with the police was incom-
patible with maintaining the occupation. As most people fled out, what
remained was a core of only about 20 activists, faced with a court order
ordering them to leave.
Late that night, afer hours of discussion, the small group remaining in
the Capitol marched out singing, greeted by hundreds of supporters. Te
16-day occupation of the Capitol had ended.
No one can fault activists—some of whom had been in the Capitol continu-
ously for four days or longer—for choosing to leave on March 3. As the
Capitol became more restricted, holding the space increasingly became a
source of exhaustion rather than of creativity and networking, making it
hard for activists to formulate longer-term strategies.
In that sense, the key moment was not the decision to leave the Capitol
late on Tursday night. Rather, it was a long series of decisions up to that
point that led to the end of the occupation: activists accepting every restric-
tion made by the police, and the lack of an efective plan to resist, outside
the courtroom, Walker’s illegal restrictions on entry.
Te direct action that had brought hundreds into the Capitol only
hours before the occupation ended, the successful occupation on the
night of Sunday, Feb. 27, and the smaller actions inside the Capitol last
week showed that activists could efectively resist police orders. But this
lesson was absorbed too late to bring sufcient people into the Capitol to
hold it in the face of the decision of much of organized labor to scuttle
the occupation.
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 209
Te fault lines exposed in the Capitol debates will reassert themselves
in the post-occupation strategies for taking the movement forward. Te
unions’ strategy is to focus everything on eforts to recall the Republican
senators. Te idea is that special elections can elect Democrats who will
modify Walker’s attacks on collective bargaining, maintaining unions’ legal
existence—and their campaign contributions.
A recall efort could put pressure on Republican legislators to back
away from their harshest demands. But it is no substitute for the kind of
struggles—the teachers’ sickouts and the Capitol occupation—that have
propelled the struggle forward.
And in practice, the push for the recall strategy is explicitly being
counterposed to action. Tus, the recall strategy relegates the hundreds of
thousands of people who have protested Walker’s so-called “budget-repair”
bill to an almost wholly passive role. At best, they will be phone-bankers
and signature-gatherers for an electoral campaign focused in eight relative-
ly conservative districts.
Instead of building the mass movement to stop the cuts now, the
Democrats and union leaders are willing to take the risk of the cuts going
through, based on the hope that they will recapture the state Senate in a
few months’ time. But given that Walker will remain in ofce and the state
Assembly will remain in Republican hands, it will be almost impossible to
reverse those cuts once they’ve passed.
Te cost of the Democrats’ strategy of counterposing recall elections
to mass action can already be seen, from the constant—and frankly conde-
scending—admonitions to “be peaceful” to the attempts to carefully man-
age a media message. In fact, union leaders preferred to split the March 5
rally rather than let Michael Moore speak from their stage, for fear that he’d
call for a general strike. Tis refects a deep distrust of rank-and-fle work-
ers and the power of their self-organization.
But that power is what has propelled the movement forward over the
last three weeks in Wisconsin. Tis has been seen from the regular mass
demonstrations to the self-organization of Capitol City, when the hundreds
of us sleeping in the Capitol managed to run it better than normal. It was
direct action by large numbers of people who occupied the Capitol, spear-
headed by teachers.
Te most efective strategy for building a new labor movement will
involve organizing the direct power of the masses of angry, hopeful, fright-
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 210
ened and inspired people whose lives Walker is planning to wreck. Te
teachers gave us a glimpse of that power when they shut down schools for
four days and led the blockade of the state Legislature that launched the
occupation of the Capitol.
But all this hasn’t been enough to stop Walker. A disruption serious
enough to make Walker and his corporate backers think twice would have
to involve mass action that could shut down multiple sectors of the state
at once.
Tat vision can sometimes feel impossible to realize, even to those of us
who favor it. But occupying the Capitol for over two weeks sounded just as
crazy—before we did it. Te question being posed to all of us in Wisconsin
is whether we are going to make the most of this historic opportunity and
try to organize, from the bottom up, a labor movement that fghts—or
fritter it away because of the fear that things will get out of hand.
Elizabeth Wrigley-Field is a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-
Madison and a member of the Teaching Assistants’ Association, the Wiscon-
sin Resists coalition, and the International Socialist Organization.
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
Church service about to start in the rotunda.
10:05am Feb 27
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
Word from several sources in capitol is if there are enough protesters in
building, police won’t arrest them all. #wiunion
#notmywi #wearewi
11:03am Feb 27
@cabell Cabell Gathman
Members of marginalized groups (POC, LGBTQ, low-income, etc.) risk
greater consequences for civil disobedience. #WeAreWI
1:15pm Feb 27
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
They are restricting access to the Capitol. Line formed at the King Street
entrance. #wiunion #wearewi
1:40pm Feb 27
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
RT @ddayen: My sense is that the Capitol police don’t quite know yet
how they will clear this building #wiunion
1:44pm Feb 27
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
If the Capitol is “open to the public” until 4, but they won’t let the public in,
how is that open? #wiunion
2:27pm Feb 27
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
I haven’t felt this rushed and panicky since my frst contested hearing.
2:43pm Feb 27
@ddayen David Dayen
Release from protesters: “citizens to remain in Capitol” more in a minute
#wiunion
2:54pm Feb 27
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 212
Versions of this essay were originally published on Daily Kos, Proposition
Press, and the Justseeds blog.
Two months into the Wisconsin uprising a movement still exists, but where
it goes from here is unclear. Te “budget-repair” bill that will end collec-
tive bargaining rights for most public employees in Wisconsin is currently
tied up in the courts. Legal challenges will likely go on for several months,
maybe longer. In the meantime, risks, challenges, and contradictions loom
within a movement that can be described as painfully moderate. Wisconsin
citizens have arisen and protested in massive numbers. Te sleeping giant
that is the labor movement plus working class solidarity has awoken. But
the outlook is not entirely optimistic.
Te Wisconsin uprising has refected the strengths and weaknesses of
the organized labor movement. Organized labor has mobilized huge num-
bers of people and demonstrated the collective power of public and private
unions to combat Governor Scott Walker, the GOP, and corporate greed.
But the movement has also become sadly refective of the labor’s leaders—
cautious, allergic to direct action and civil disobedience, and most of all,
averse to calling a strike. Labor leadership has instead curtailed a move-
ment that had real potential to defeat Walker and real potential to demand
Dan S. Wang and Nicolas Lampert
April 28, 2011
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 213
and create a more just and equal society, and transformed it into a move-
ment that has become all about protest marches, recall eforts, and votes for
Democrats.
Tis is a shame. For the frst week, the Wisconsin uprising was all about
taking risks, the eminent power of self-organized action, and the snowball-
ing impacts of tactical escalation. Even the fight of Wisconsin’s 14 Demo-
cratic senators to Illinois—to break the quorum needed for the Legislature
to vote on the union-busting bill—was an act of aggression, a true counter-
attack that served as an escalation. Every escalation risks a loss of support, a
desertion of the nervous, the unsure, and the moderate. But in each of the
earlier escalations—the student walkouts, teachers’ sickouts, the Capitol oc-
cupation, resolve stifened and excitement grew massively.
But precisely because these 14 Democratic senators are elected of-
cials, their move opened up a whole front of legalistic minutiae, opaque
and inaccessible to the vast majority of the citizenry. At the same time, as a
media storyline, the 14 drowned out the other risk-taking constituencies—
rank-and-fle union members, non-obedient law enforcement workers,
unorganized private-sector workers, and high school, college, and gradu-
ate students. As movement voices, the Senate Democrats presented solu-
tions in terms of legislative compromise and electoral strategy. While we
credit them for their timely move, for all the above reasons, the fight of the
14—i.e., inserting themselves into the movement—in hindsight represents
a structural moderation from within the movement.
Tis was confrmed when some of the returning 14 Democratic sena-
tors spoke to more than 150,000 people who gathered around the Capitol
for a huge rally on Saturday, March 12. Tey spoke almost exclusively of
the movement as an electoral efort, and neglected to credit the chain of es-
calations that made their own move possible. For us, the lesson of the day
was that the grassroots would do well by refraining from over-valorizing
the 14. And we would do better by refecting on the actions of fellow work-
ers and global citizens in Egypt who inspired us during the frst week—the
ones who peacefully toppled a 30-year autocrat partly thanks to an unwav-
ering general strike. In times like this, when public unions are fghting for
their very existence, and a wide range of constituencies face attacks that
threaten to undo decades of hard-earned progress, all tactics are needed to
win, including strikes and direct action. No action can be ruled out.
From the point of view of the raging non-unionized grassroots and
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 214
many rank-and-fle union members, a one-day strike should have been
called on the day that Walker signed the anti-union bill. Te hot potato then
would have been thrown back into Walker’s hands, confronting him with
the queasiness of having to carry out his stated threats to fre public work-
ers. But it did not happen. Te union leadership responded with words, not
actions, thereby severing the chain of escalations, and accepting defeat. By
this time the movement had for all practical purposes become identifed,
including from within, as union-led, leaving the non-union grassroots with
nowhere to channel their outrage, energy, and willingness to share risk. A
precious historic opportunity was lost.
What we’ve been reminded of in Wisconsin over the last two months
is that once started, following through on the chain of escalations gives us
a better chance of winning specifc battles and puts our opposition on the
defensive—as long as we have the courage, vision, and creativity to increase
the pressure when the opportunities present themselves. Strategically
speaking, the events in the chain of escalation itself are what generate the
spaces for new possibilities, new ways of relating to each other as citizens,
the beginnings of the democracy we want, and the ground on which new
leaders and new ideas emerge from the grassroots. Electoral politics alone
do not accomplish this. Neither do the cautious tactics of labor leaders. Ask
yourself, when has labor won a signifcant victory without calling a strike?
And when has a social justice movement won signifcant demands without
the one-two punch of electoral politics combined with civil disobedience
and actions that led to mass arrests?
Now that the chain has been broken and the conservatives have pre-
vailed for the moment, the question is how to restart a series of mean-
ingfully oppositional actions. In other words, if this movement is to be
sustained, it can no longer be exclusively or even primarily about unions,
collective bargaining, or the GOP’s greed and lies, as egregious as they
are. In order to win, we need to imagine and articulate the society that
we want to live in, not simply fght defensively against the latest round of
GOP/corporate attacks. Te Wisconsin uprising must evolve into a move-
ment that speaks to the priorities of immigrants and the inner-city poor,
the unorganized private-sector workers, the struggling farm communi-
ties, the unemployed, and the incarcerated—as loudly as it speaks to the
concerns of the unionized. We need to ask what it would take to make this
movement truly popular. We have the power of numbers but we remain
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 215
separated by walls of division.
As we move forward we need to examine why overly cautious labor
leaders and unimaginative Democrats took the reins of a movement that
held such promise, and how we let them. We urge our fellow citizens and
grassroots activists to reserve our power separately from the “leadership”
and prepare for the next uprising, the one that will erupt in a day, a week,
a month, or years down the road—the one in which we do not let the op-
portunity slip away.
Dan S. Wang is a writer and artist who lives in Madison and works at Columbia
College in Chicago, where he is a member of the part-time faculty union (PFAC).

Nicolas Lampert is a Milwaukee-based activist-artist who teaches at the Uni-
versity of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and belongs to the TAUMP union (American
Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin). He is a member of the Justseeds Artists’
Cooperative (www.Justseeds.org).
@andrewkroll Andy Kroll
T-minus ffteen mins until #wiunion protesters scheduled to be moved
out... #wearewi
3:15pm Feb 27
@evale72 evale72
The voice you hear is the our advisers instructing the crowd on their legal
options and non violent civil disobedience tactics.
3:16pm Feb 27
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
Hello awesome tweeps: I’m not PLANNING to get arrested. Just prepared
for all contingencies. Thanks for your concern. #wiunion
3:27pm Feb 27
@andrewkroll Andy Kroll
RT @MikeElk: When arrests begin, in capitol we will play Dr King’s fnal
speech where he was in Memphis to support AFSCME sanitation workers
3:28pm Feb 27
@ddayen David Dayen
People planning on not leaving holding up their hands #wiunion
3:40pm Feb 27
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
All of a sudden press is everywhere. all it took was a few hundred people
ready to get arrested. #wiunion #wearewi
3:49pm Feb 27
@ddayen David Dayen
Chant “stand our ground” #wiunion
3:51pm Feb 27
@evale72 evale72
RT @brandzel 3rd police offcer in a row whose simply said, “thank you for
being here”. Something very unusual is happening..
3:56pm Feb 27
@ddayen David Dayen
Countdown to 4:00 #wiunion
3:59pm Feb 27
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 217
“I believe leaders of the business community, with few exceptions, have
chosen to wage a one-sided class war in this country...”
– Doug Fraser, UAW President, 1978
“...20 years or so down the road we’ll be talking about the ‘before
Wisconsin’ and ‘afer Wisconsin’ movements.”
– Tom Juravich, labor organizer and researcher 2011
“...the organization does not supply the troops for the struggle, but the
struggle, in an ever growing degree, supplies recruits for the organization.”
– Rosa Luxemburg, Te Mass Strike, 1906
As the last decade or more has demonstrated, unions don’t grow incremen-
tally as a result of their patient, even persistent eforts to recruit. Rather,
unions grow more or less rapidly in periods of intense confict and labor
upheaval. Such was the clear experience of the 1930s. In a somewhat more
uneven fashion, the period from the mid-1960s through the 1970s saw ris-
ing numbers of strikes, increased rank-and-fle rebellion, and the addition
of 4 million members to the ranks of organized labor.
While some level of organization is required to spark a rise in labor’s
side of the class struggle, Rosa Luxemburg was essentially right that it
is “the struggle, in an ever growing degree, (that) supplies recruits.” Te
Kim Moody
Against the Current, May/June, 2011
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 218
February–March events in Wisconsin, across the Midwest, and indeed
around the country, have already ignited a spark that has drawn tens, per-
haps hundreds of thousands into action.
It’s not just that the demonstrations have been big and bold, which
they certainly have been. Nor is it that fairly high-placed union leaders
called for actions, refreshing as that is. Rather it is that these events, the
occupations, the growing numbers, the rallying of non-union support-
ers, the national outpouring, are the consequence of countless grassroots
initiatives—of worker self-activity—that carried these events beyond
what those who might have initiated them had ever imagined possible,
or perhaps desirable.
Like the beginnings of upsurge in earlier times, the rebellion that be-
gan with Wisconsin’s public workers—against one of the most far-reaching
attacks on workers’ rights in some time—came as a result of anger building
afer years of pressure on public employees all across the nation.
Real wages of Wisconsin public employees, for example, grew by less
than 1 percent from 1999 through 2009. Municipal employees in Madison
hadn’t had a wage increase for three years. But we are to imagine that they
are to blame for the state’s newly manufactured defcit, even though the
research arm of the National Nurses United found that two-thirds of Wis-
consin corporations paid no taxes. So, to injury was added insult.
Crisis and Pressure
Tese kinds of pressures, of course, are not unique to public-sector workers.
Enormous pressures of work intensifcation have joined slumping income
and attacks on benefts of all kinds. Te Great Recession brought still more
pressure on those with jobs, while continuing the shif of the workforce as
a whole to lower-paid work. I’m suggesting here that these same attacks
and erosions of power, which have brought about labor’s retreats and stale-
mates, may also be what impels people to rebellion.
Not surprisingly, the recent Great Recession dealt another blow to a
very weakened labor movement. In 2009 and 2010, afer a couple of years
of moderate growth, the unions lost 1.4 million members, with all the net
loss in the private sector. Collective bargaining outcomes followed suit.
In 2008, according to Bureau of National Afairs reports, the average ne-
gotiated frst-year wage increase was 3.6 percent. By 2009 it had sunk to
2.3 percent, and by the frst nine months of 2010 to 1.7 percent. State and
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 219
local public-workers did even worse as frst-year increases dropped from
3.2 percent in 2008 to 2.0 percent in 2009 and 1.3 percent in the frst nine
months of 2010. In this latter year 35 percent of all agreements contained
no frst-year wage increase.
Benefts had been eroding for some time, and by 2009 only 20 percent
of all workers still had a defned beneft pension. Te percentage of work-
ers with employer-provided health insurance fell from over 68 percent in
2000 to just under 62 percent in 2008. Of course, union workers are more
likely to have such coverage, but here too erosion has been at work as more
workers pay more in deductibles, co-pays, or even premiums. Te results
among diferent groups of workers varied, of course, but what seemed to be
the object of capital was a gradual redefnition of what “subsistence” would
amount to in the Marxist sense, i.e., the historically and culturally accept-
able living standard for the “average” worker.
Ongoing increases in the intensity of work had become a regular
feature of the 2000s, afer the recession of 2000–01. From 2002–2007
productivity grew by 2.2 percent a year, much higher than even the rate
of the 1983–89 recovery. Te Great Recession provided still another op-
portunity to increase this rate even more, as production grew faster than
hiring. Not surprisingly, corporate profts hit an all-time high at $1.7 tril-
lion in the third quarter of 2010, an increase of 28 percent over the year
before. And it was not the fnancial sector that brought these new profts,
but the domestic profts of the non-fnancial sector where profts soared
40 percent in that period.
With strikes at an all-time low, a little over 100 in 2009 according to
the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, it might be concluded that
Doug Fraser’s “one-sided class war” was still the reality. But prolonged pe-
riods of massive pressure on work, particularly when joined by falling in-
comes, tend to build resentment and anger.
Tis may be expressed in both negative and positive ways. Disgusted
union voters stay home or even vote for Republicans, as in 2010. A few may
join the largely middle-class Tea Party movement. But sooner or later the
anger is likely to fnd the real culprits and explode. Tis is what happened
in the 1930s afer fve years of speed-up and wage cuts, and in the mid-
1960s as the impact of what Mike Davis calls “the management ofensive of
1958–63” took its toll. Tis may well be what has happened in Wisconsin
and around the country in early 2011.
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 220
Create Crisis, Blame the Workers
Te fscal crisis that the states fnd themselves in today has to be under-
stood in the context of the massive shif of income that occurred in the last
30 years or so, as labor income shrank from 73.9 percent in 1979 to 70.4
percent in 2006. Much of this was simply the huge rise in the rate of surplus
value extracted from the working class over this period (see “Crisis and
Potential in Labor’s Wars,” Against the Current No. 145, March/April 2010),
but some of this shif unquestionably derives from the reduction of taxes
on corporate America.
Tus the annual share of afer-tax proft as a proportion of total prof-
its rose from 54–55 percent in the 1960s and 1970s to two-thirds in the
1990s and 2000s. At the state level corporate taxes fell from 9.7 percent of
total (non-federal) receipts in 1970s to 6.7 percent in 2006. Tis underlying
source of state fscal problems would be enhanced in Wisconsin by the ac-
tions of Governor Scott Walker.
As noted above, Wisconsin public workers have not seen any real in-
crease in weekly wages for a decade. Indeed, as one study by the Economic
Policy Institute shows, Wisconsin public employees make 14.2 percent less
than comparable private-sector workers in annual wages and 10.7 percent
less in hourly terms. Tey have better benefts, but they pay more for them:
26.7 percent of total public-sector compensation goes to non-wage benefts,
compared to 19.4 to 22.8 percent in the private sector.
Health insurance accounts for 12.9 percent of compensation for public
employees, compared to 7 percent to 9.7 percent for those in the private
sector. Te comparable fgures for retirement benefts are 8 percent to be-
tween 2.5 and 4.9 percent. Yet Walker and his big business allies, including
the billionaire Tea Party backers David and Charles Koch and the far-right
business group Club for Growth Wisconsin, are saying in ads and elsewhere
that public-sector workers aren’t sacrifcing like everyone else (everyone?).
Demonizing public employees has been a nationwide campaign for
some time, and recently no group of public workers has been more system-
atically targeted than teachers. Campaign afer campaign has claimed that
“bad teachers” are to blame for America’s slumping test results, as though
these were the measure of everything. Newsweek ran a 2010 cover suggest-
ing the solution to poor education was to fre poor teachers. Last August
the Los Angeles Times rated thousands of teachers as bad, based on leaked
test scores.
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 221
President Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” has also demonized teachers.
Te drive to deprive teachers of seniority and collective bargaining has gained
momentum, despite the fact that states with strong teachers’ unions and col-
lective bargaining are among the highest scoring. Furthermore, nationally be-
tween 2000 and 2006 teachers’ salaries have fallen behind infation by 3 percent.
Wisconsin teachers actually make $2,600 a year less than the national average.
Teachers, of course, played a big role in the Wisconsin rebellion.
Nevertheless, Walker’s entire case for his draconian anti-union legisla-
tion rests on the assertion that public workers are to blame for the state’s
defcits, their wages and benefts said to be “unsustainable.” So it is neces-
sary not only that these should be cut, but that the workers’ ability to resist
such cuts be removed entirely.
On top of anger about their own economic reality is the fact that Wis-
consin’s public-sector workers know they are not the source of the defcits.
It was known that Walker has ballooned the defcit for the next fscal year,
mainly by handing out $140 million to various business and special-interest
groups. Had he not done this, there would be no crisis with which to beat
up the state’s public employees.
Indeed the problem in Wisconsin, as in many states and within the
federal government, goes back even farther. A study done by the research
arm of the National Nurses United showed that two-thirds of Wisconsin
corporations had paid no taxes for years. Public-worker anger not only had
more fuel, it also had a culprit—in fact, a cluster of very well-of culprits.
Walker, along with other newly elected Republican governors and state
lawmakers, are on a rampage to destroy public-sector unions and collec-
tive bargaining. As any number of commentators have argued, this is about
power, class power, not budgets. His legislation not only limits collective
bargaining to wages, which he has vowed to cut, but eliminates dues check-
of and requires an annual decertifcation vote, a combination that would
certainly destabilize most unions. Tis is, in short, an attack on the unions
as institutions, a fact that in itself explains much about the origins of the
fght in Wisconsin, above all the unusually militant responses of the state’s
top level union ofcials.
Dynamics of the Struggle
Te call for escalating demonstrations beginning on Tuesday, Feb. 15 from
the local American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 222
(AFSCME), Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) and
American Federation of Teachers (AFT), was meant specifcally to protest
the bill that was to be introduced on that Tursday. Te threat to the very
institution of unionism was enough to stir the top leaders to action.
AFSCME President Gerald McEntee came to Madison on the frst day,
John Nichols tells us in Te Nation (Feb. 15, 2001), “not merely to protest
but to lobby.”
In other words, militant tactics were tied to conventional strategies—
lobbying to stop the bill. As the crisis deepened, WEAC took a step further
and urged its members to call in sick and rally in Madison. Afer two days
they would call of the sickout. Furthermore, with the institutional defense
foremost in mind, these leaders agreed in advance to grant Walker the cuts
he was asking, including an 8 percent wage cut.
Whatever the narrow, if understandable, objectives and means the top
ofcials had in mind, they had set something in motion that would go far
beyond conventional lobbying or protest and even, for some, beyond the
ofcial union goals. Te escalating numbers, rising to 30,000 on Friday the
18 and then 70,000 on Saturday, the occupation of the Capitol’s rotunda
night afer night by workers and students, the growing out-of-state contin-
gents, reaching a peak of perhaps 100,000 on Saturday the 26, all spoke of
grassroots initiatives.
Observers called the growing demonstrations and occupations “spon-
taneous,” and pointed to the roles of volunteers in organizing the overnight
occupations of the Capitol. Local unions took turns volunteering for “slee-
pover” duty on diferent nights. Car pools from around the state and then
from out-of-state were organized by local unions, groups of activists, and
even individuals.
In short, the union ofcialdom had called into being a movement that
exceeded its expectation or intentions. A lobby and demonstration became
a major disruption that drew thousands from their jobs into the streets of
Madison, the halls of the statehouse, and then cities around the country.
Te dynamics of class confict had revealed themselves for all to see.
Tis truly mass movement has had unexpected and unconvention-
al results. Te 14 Democrats who lef the Capitol for Illinois on Feb. 17
certainly did something out of character. Te fact that they remained
out-of-state for as long as they did was also a consequence of the mass
movement—they had looked their electoral base in the eye and saw it
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 223
demanding action. Indiana’s Democratic legislators took the cue and did
the same. If in the end, the movement could not stop the Republicans from
ramming through their bill, it did disrupt politics-as-usual to an extent
rarely seen in the United States.
Te dynamics of the struggle also pushed past the expectations and
intentions of most top union ofcials in at least three other ways. For one
thing, the mass movement galvanized public opinion. “Which side are you
on?” goes the old song and by almost two to one the public, both in Wis-
consin and nationally, sided with the movement against the governor.
Perhaps less desired by some union ofcials was the anti-concessions
wing of the movement that developed around the National Nurses Unit-
ed (NNU). Tis led to a demonstration explicitly opposing the state labor
leaders’ agreement to accept Walker’s cuts, including the 8 percent wage
reduction and the cut which would cost 70,000 people Medicaid coverage.
On March 3 a no-concessions “funeral” march, led of by a New Orleans-
style brass band, drew 7,000 people. Te march was addressed by Jim Ca-
vanaugh, president of the South Central Federation of Labor (SCFL), which
played a central role throughout the movement.
Ten there was the resolution passed by SCFL calling for education
and preparation for a general strike if the legislation passed. Te resolution
passed with the votes of all but one of its 97 afliates in both the public and
private sectors. A committee was set up to consult with European union
about how they organize such strikes. General strike or not, the idea came
from an on-the-ground central labor council composed of local union del-
egates caught up in the spirit of rebellion.
Te fght against the anti-union laws proposed in several states didn’t
actually begin in Wisconsin. To the 400 or so Minnesotans who stormed
their state Legislature the week before belongs that honor. And of course
workers and their unions in Ohio, Indiana, and elsewhere launched their
own demonstrations and occupations of resistance. But it was the massive
nature of events in Wisconsin that brought union members into the streets
across the entire nation on Feb. 26 in support of their struggle.
Te speculation on the impact of all of this ranges from “D-Day” to
“Dunkirk,” as labor analyst Harley Shaiken put it. Some union leaders seem
genuinely inspired. Te CWA, for example, intends to recruit veterans of
the struggles in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana to help them organize 20,000
T-Mobile workers. Certainly the thousands who participated in one way or
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 224
another have not only been inspired, but have learned much about the real-
ity of class politics in America. Tere is an enormous opportunity here.
An “Afer Wisconsin” Movement?
If there is to be the sort of growth organized labor desperately needs, it will
not be just a matter of more and better organizing tactics and strategies. It
will have to come through an intensifcation of the level of struggle that, as
Luxemburg put it, “supplies the recruits to the organization.”
Tere are at least two ways in which the recent events, including the
passage of the anti-union legislation in Wisconsin and soon across the Mid-
west, can aid this process. Te frst is the obvious possibility that thousands
of people who participated and/or were inspired by the Wisconsin upsurge
will become the volunteer army that U.S. labor has long needed to grow.
Te second fows from the fact that the Republicans have made labor rights
a political issue in a way they have not been for a long time.
Like the “black box” of work itself, labor rights are seldom considered
media-worthy despite the alarming state into which they have fallen or
been pushed. Te relative invisibility of labor rights in mainstream political
discourse was one reason why it was so easy for Obama and the Congres-
sional Democrats to bury the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). No one
outside the unions themselves and a handful of academics saw this as a
make or break political issue.
With public opinion now running two to one in favor of labor rights
as a basic cornerstone of democracy, it is possible that this could become
the national debate it needs to be—perhaps even to the point of reviving
the EFCA as an issue in the 2012 elections. Tis must not, however, be just
another election techno-mobilization a la 2008, but a grassroots movement
in the streets, schools, and workplaces (union or not) of the nation. As with
the labor movement of the 1930s and the social movements of the 1960s
and 1970s, it is mass action that alters the political agenda in U.S. politics.
Both these possibilities depend to a dangerous degree on the ability of
the labor ofcialdom to provide leadership, resources, and support to such
a movement. I say “dangerous” because the track record is not good. Te
almost congenital proclivity of America’s top labor leaders to turn progres-
sive mood swings into a conventional, though no doubt well-funded and
stafed, Democratic Party election campaign may well prove irresistible. If
this is all that happens, a great opportunity will have been lost.
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 225
Among the many lessons of the Wisconsin events is that politicians
develop backbone to the degree their base is in the streets and “out of con-
trol.” Should the Democrats take back various statehouses, perhaps even
Congress, and the mass movement subsides, they will fall back into their
pattern of compromise and retreat. Post-Wisconsin politics need to be a
politics of mobilization and direct action if the debate on workers’ rights is
to replace that of austerity and increasing empoverishment.
For the past two years, the right and their Tea Party shock troops domi-
nated political discourse in the style of a semi-mass movement, sometimes
attracting the angry and frustrated with their sharp rhetoric. Tis year in
Wisconsin and across the Midwest, the Tea Party eforts to support these
Republican governors were pathetic and that movement was reduced to
its true proportion as a middle-class minority. Tis year, the working-class
majority spoke in the loudest voice and clearest terms it has for decades,
and attracted broad support in the process.
A growing labor movement can drown the sound of the right, but
growth will not be orderly or commanded from some center. Te events
in Wisconsin did not reach the point of a mass strike movement. Never-
theless, once again the words of Rosa Luxemburg concerning the fears of
union ofcials that their organizations will “fall in pieces in a revolutionary
whirlwind like rare porcelain” remind us that, on the contrary, “from the
whirlwind and the storm, out of the fre and glow of the mass strike and the
street fghting rise again, like Venus from the foam, fresh, young, powerful,
buoyant trade unions.”
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
Announcement: The Capital is now closed. #wiunion
4:01pm Feb 27
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
If you are at the capitol and want to leave, you should do so now. If you
choose to say, move peacefully to the frst foor rotunda.
4:07pm Feb 27
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
Everyone is quite calm.
4:09pm Feb 27
@andrewkroll Andy Kroll
Have #wiunion protesters called @govwalker’s bluff? Cops aren’t
moving, neither are protesters...Capitol looks about the same...
4:21pm Feb 27
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
Chanting is loud as ever, protestors are determined not to leave #wiunion
#wearewi
4:27pm Feb 27
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
We’re still here! We’re still here! Fuck. Yes. (because if anything ever
deserved the fbomb for awesomeness, it’s this)
4:29pm Feb 27
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
No way cops are arresting anyone any time soon. Too many people.
Incredible #wiunion
4:33pm Feb 27
@WEaC WEAC
RT @edcetera: Whether you are for or against #wiunion take note of how
Twitter, uStream Qik, etc helping coordinate everything
4:52pm Feb 27
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
My take: protesters will be here all night. Can’t confrm but it appears
police won’t make a move. #Wiunion
5:15pm Feb 27
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 227
Since the fnancial crisis and President Barack Obama’s election in the fall
of 2008, there have been two major actions taken by working people that
commanded the attention of America’s fnancial elite—the 2008 occupa-
tion of Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago and the current
Wisconsin Capitol occupation. Both events won enormous public support.
However, these types of events not only threatened economic elites
that run our economy, but posed a challenge to established progressive
leaders in Washington; how to incorporate them. Te mass, spontaneous
civil disobedience and direct action allowed workers to take matters into
their own hands and upset the normal function of the insider relationships
the progressive elite tend to rely upon.
As the president came into ofce in December 2008, United Electrical
Workers (UE) at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago shook the world
when they occupied their factory afer its closure was announced. For eight
days and nights, the factory occupation held the attention of state, national,
and international media as unions around the world issued statements of
solidarity. Even President-elect Obama—then in downtown Chicago, just
miles away from the factory—announced his support for the workers. Te
workers were ultimately successful in winning their legally-owed severance
from Bank of America. As a result of the attention drawn to the struggle,
Mike Elk
Alternet, March 5, 2011
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 228
the workers were able to fnd an owner to reopen and run the factory.
Despite the success in Chicago, there was no follow-up in terms of fac-
tory occupations by unions, plants employing thousands continued to close
under Obama with little resistance. Te progressive movement has so far
not responded to the economic crisis in the way that the activists during the
Great Depression did. Tey did not engage in the mass campaign of factory
occupations and strikes that led to the New Deal nor did they engage in the
campaigns of nonviolent civil disobedience that won civil rights for African
Americans in the 1960s. And little efort was made to incorporate the suc-
cess of Republic Windows and Doors.
“Tere were these big expensive conferences where people talked about
how to build a progressive movement, but never was I or anybody from our
union invited to talk about how we could replicate the tension with the
banks that led to victory at Republic Windows and Doors,” said veteran UE
Political Action Director Chris Townsend. “Instead, the progressive move-
ment just went back to relying on the same overpaid media consultants,
playbook, and insider relationships that had resulted in their betrayal dur-
ing the Clinton administration and the Carter administration before that.”
And talk of nonviolent direct action was virtually nonexistent until
events forced state public workers to rise up in Wisconsin. It seemed as if
Governor Scott Walker was on his way to crushing public-sector unions
in Wisconsin—and then something unexpected happened. Protesters oc-
cupied the Wisconsin Capitol, inspiring 14 Democratic senators to fee and
efectively shut down the Wisconsin state Legislature. Te current Capitol
occupation has shaken elites throughout the country, created a political
stalemate in Wisconsin, and forced governors in states like Indiana, Michi-
gan, Florida and Iowa to back down from assaulting workers’ rights.
Trough dozens of interviews I conducted on the ground in Wisconsin
with people involved in the protests at all levels, it became abundantly clear
to me the protests in the early stages were not driven by top-down organi-
zations or even the leadership of the Wisconsin-based labor organizations,
but by the activists and workers themselves. While the leadership of these
organizations played somewhat of a role in promoting the protests, the size
and intensity of the protests was not something their leaders had the capac-
ity to organize.
“When Governor Walker announced his budget-repair bill the Friday
before, we met and thought it would be difcult for us to get 5,000 people
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 229
for a rally the following Tuesday,” says Dave Poklinkoski, president of IBEW
Local 2304 and a prominent member of the 45,000-member Madison-
based Wisconsin South Central Federation of Labor (SCFL). “When nearly
20,000 people showed up I was amazed. People saw what was happening
and just simply showed up in solidarity.”
One of the major sparks for these actions occurred at a little high school
in a conservative suburb of Madison known as Stoughton. On Monday,
Feb. 14, about 100 students at Stoughton High School decided to walk out
of classes in a sign of solidarity with their teacher. While this high school
walkout occurred, thousands of college students were spontaneously walk-
ing out of classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to attend rallies
at the Capitol and in front of Walker’s house. Tese two actions inspired
high school students the following day to walk out of schools throughout
Madison in the thousands and attend a rally with 20,000 people, mainly
students, at the Capitol.
Madison teachers, inspired by their high school students who had lef
class that day, decided Tuesday evening to go on a strike themselves on
Wednesday. As news of the call of the Madison teachers’ strike spread, mem-
bers of the Teaching Assistants’ Association decided to occupy the Capitol
overnight, which helped escalate the intensity of the protests dramatically.
On Wednesday, 30,000 people showed up at the Capitol, far exceeding the
wildest expectations of local labor leaders.
At this point on Wednesday when a critical mass of support had been
grown by individual activists without much top-down organizing, the Wis-
consin Education Association began to call on teachers unions throughout
the state to call in sick on Tursday and Friday. Dozens of protests began
to appear in cities and towns throughout Wisconsin that had never in their
history seen protest crowds of that size. Even the conservative bastion of
Appleton, Wisconsin, hometown of Joseph McCarthy, saw an unheard-of
protest with over 2,000 people.
By Tursday, Feb. 17, the day the vote was expected on the budget-re-
pair bill in the Wisconsin state Senate, crowds had grown to nearly 50,000
at the Capitol. State senators watched the crowds from their windows as
they caucused that day and decided to fee the state. Many would later
claim the senators were inspired to fee afer seeing the massive outpour-
ing of support on the lawn of the Capitol. Tese protests were organic;
they weren’t orchestrated by the direction of some established leader, but
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 230
they certainly inspired leaders.
Since the protests, many progressive leaders in Washington who were
nearly invisible during the frst two years of the Obama administration
have been attempting to take the spotlight, positioning themselves as
representing the masses gallantly occupying the Wisconsin Capitol. An
article appeared in Te Washington Post shortly afer the protests, claim-
ing, “the president’s political machine worked in close coordination
Tursday with state and national union ofcials to get thousands of pro-
testers to gather in Madison.” In the dozens of interviews I conducted in
Wisconsin, I did not encounter a single person who said they showed up
at the protests because of an email from Obama’s Organizing for America
or the Democratic National Committee.
Te internet-driven advocacy group, Progressive Change Campaign
Committee got attention this week from sources including Te Atlantic,
Talking Points Memo, and AlterNet when they announced they were pay-
ing for thousands of dollars of robocalls in an efort to jumpstart the recall
eforts of eight Republican Wisconsin state senators. Tese articles did not
mention that most people fnd automated robocalls annoying and intru-
sive. Nor did they note that actual activists in Wisconsin had already been
blanketing voters with calls in these districts for two weeks gauging support
for recall eforts.
Many D.C.-based groups have spoken on behalf of the Wisconsin
events as though they had some real role in the events, using tactics that
have little proven efectiveness: press releases, passive internet-based activ-
ism, and expensive TV ads and robocalls. But how serious are these groups?
Would they push to go as far as needed to actually win the fght in Wiscon-
sin? On the ground, you can hear workers and local activists calling for a
general strike.
Te governor and the Republicans clearly intend to follow through on
their assault,” says Dave Poklinkoski, a forklif driver at a local utility com-
pany and president of IBEW Local 2304. “As history in America has shown,
and most recently in Egypt has shown, it is when the working class begins
to strike and shut things down that the capitalists start thinking seriously
about backing of.”
Poklinkoski played a key role in getting the 45,000-member SCFL, the
local chapter of the AFL-CIO for the Madison and Southern Central Wis-
consin area, to vote last week to make preparations for a general strike.
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 231
Te motion passed the 97-member body nearly unanimously, with only
one dissenting vote.
One person who worries about the role of D.C.-based organizations
hampering the spreading of mass direction action is Stephen Lerner. One
of the labor movement’s brightest stars, Lerner led SEIU’s famous Justice for
Janitors and Wall Street/Bank Campaign.
“Labor, civil rights, and other groups that are involved in building a
progressive majority and infrastructure are important to the movement but
can’t lead or control such a campaign. Tey are essential to funding, to cre-
ating capacity, credibility and scale,” says Lerner.
“But the reality is that there is just enough political access, fnancial
assets, and institutional interests to hinder and ultimately strangle a cam-
paign, whose strategy must be built around tactics designed to create the
level of disruption and uncertainty needed to force fundamental changes
in how the economy is organized,” says Lerner. “Tat’s why the campaign
needs to be independent, and not controlled by institutions with too
much to lose.”
Te progressive movement is at a turning point. Will we embrace the
same passive messaging and online activism tactics that led to progressive
defeat in the last two years? Or will progressives adopt the tactics of civil
disobedience and direct action used during the 1930s and 1960s that led to
massive progressive gains?
Under the Taf-Hartley Act, a general strike in support of other workers
is illegal; the key words of the SCFL resolution were the calls for the feder-
ation—not individual unions—to “begin educating afliates and members
on the organization and function of a general strike.”
Many private-sector unions would not formally endorse the idea of a
general strike out of fear of being of sued by their employer, but workers
without formal endorsement of their unions could engage in wildcat strikes
by simply deciding to walk out individually.
“If the unions do not make a formal call for a general strike, it probably
avoids a Taf-Hartley issue,” says Don Taylor, an assistant professor at the
University of Wisconsin School for Workers.
In order to create conditions in which workers might walk out of work
on a type of general strike, there has to be a great deal of discussion in the
progressive and labor movement by organizations encouraging them to do
that. If most of these online-based D.C. advocacy organizations wanted to
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 232
show true solidarity with the protesters in Wisconsin, they would send out
emails to their millions of members educating them about the possibility
of a general strike in order to save collective bargaining in Wisconsin. Un-
like unions, these organizations could legally do this under Taf-Hartley
because of their non-union status.
If the large progressive advocacy organizations were willing to educate
workers and activists about how to organize a general strike, it could spur
on a dramatic people-powered political act not seen since the 1930s. Does
Wisconsin represent the birth of a new, powerful progressive movement or
is it simply the last violent, desperate gasps of air of a dying movement?
@ddayen David Dayen
Basically we all suck compared to these amazing kids and activists
holding the Capitol in Madison #wiunion #onedaylonger
5:22pm Feb 27
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
Firefghters, teachers and students literally hand in hand right now.
Like Seattle. Totally incredible #wiunion
5:32pm Feb 27
@brandzel Ben Brandzel
Just got a message on qik from someone singing we shall overcome
with us from switzerland. #SwissForSolidarity :)
5:36pm Feb 27
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
Only the most jaded souls or the most hardcore Friedmanites could not
be moved by what I am witnessing right now #wiunion
5:45pm Feb 27
@WEaC WEAC
RT @mikeelk: Women sit in a knitting circle to stop arrests - classic
midwest union move #wiunion
5:49pm Feb 27
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
If you can help spread the word that we’re still here & we did not go
quietly into the night, I’d appreciate it. News has it wrong. #wiunion
6:02pm Feb 27
@andrewkroll Andy Kroll
Well, folks, we seem to be at a stalemate right now. Cops not moving,
protesters just doing their thing, drumming and chanting.
6:11pm Feb 27
@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht
@AndrewKroll Don’t think this is a stalemate. Looks more like the
protesters are winning. #Wiunion
6:18pm Feb 27
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 234
Te following is adapted from a talk given by Monica Adams at the 2011
Lef Forum.
It’s clear that most everyone in Wisconsin is opposed to Governor Scott
Walker’s bill. What is not clear is what exactly are we for? I mean this in a
larger scale, outside the context of the specifc bill. What exactly will bring
hundreds of thousands of people together again? Will it be to protect free
lunch, or will it be to protect reduced lunch? Will it be to save food share, or
will it be to save BadgerCare, health insurance to low-income families with
children under age 19? In this sense, there’s a lack of unity.
It’s very clear that we are collectively shouting, “Kill the Bill.” But what
is not clear is what is the alternative. Is the vision to simply go back to the
way things were a year ago? Or is the vision something greater?
Kwame Ture, also known as Stokely Carmichael, brings up an interest-
ing point in thinking about building movements. He says there’s a signif-
cant diference between mobilizing and organizing. Mobilizing is when a
group of people are against the same things. Organizing is when a group of
people are for the same things. While we’ve been proud of the work we’ve
been doing in Madison, in fact, it’s a huge mobilization efort and not so
much a big organization efort. I think we need to spend more time fguring
Monica Adams
March 20, 2011
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 235
this out. If we’re all trying to build a vision or to fgure out what it is we’re
for, we know our work has to go beyond the sectors in which we participate.
What’s happening in Wisconsin can no longer be talked about as just what’s
afecting public-sector workers. It can no longer be talked about as just a
movement of unions. It can no longer be talked about as groups of people—
frefghters or cops or teachers. Instead, we have to understand the response
to what is happening in Wisconsin as part of a larger movement that strives
for racial and gender justice, queer liberation, as well as dismantling ableism
and other larger forms of oppression.
My experience doing the work in Wisconsin is that it has been in-
credibly inspiring to be part of a large group of people who are out mobi-
lizing to achieve something. But, at the same time, it has also been trou-
bling. Te harsh truth of the matter is that a lot of the workers who are
out there mobilizing against Walker are the people who put him in ofce
to begin with. It’s important to understand this because it’s going to de-
termine how to build a solid base in order to build a movement. A lot of
people who voted for Walker initially did so because they believed the all-
too-common narrative of “lazy workers”—thinking it was just a targeted
attack on people of color and immigrants, when, in actuality, he was talk-
ing about all of us. Surprise.
While we are supporting workers’ rights, people of color, immigrants,
and fghting in solidarity, we have to ask the critical question: “Will the same
group of people be with us on our issues?” For example, in the bill there is a
piece of legislation that says health-care providers will no longer be required
to pay for contraceptives for women, but they would still pay for Viagra. In-
stead of thinking of this as just some small piece of legislation or something
peripheral to the larger fght around collective bargaining, we must view this
as a fundamental attack on women’s reproductive health rights.
What’s central in movements is that people have an identity around
something and it cannot just be a mobilization. It cannot be that we all
just agree on this—that’s a coalition. If we’re talking about a movement,
we all have to collectively strive for something and be able to identify with
each other on some sort of level. So the question is, “Who is the “we” of
Wisconsin?” Is the “we” just the workers or just the middle-class public
sector, or is it also the undocumented workers who make up a signifcant
part of the dairy industry? Is it the chronically unemployed, underem-
ployed, and those who never get the chance at a meaningful job due to
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 236
structural racism, classism, and genderism?
Also, is the playing feld leveled for all to participate in this movement?
For example, what does the leadership and decision making look like?
Frankly, I’ve been in too many places where all the people look the same.
If we are building a movement of people and for the people, where the hell
are all the people?
I think what’s unique about this opportunity is now we are forging an
alliance of folks who are not traditional allies. Tis could be something in-
credibly good, but we have to be able to do the hard work to ensure that
it’s something incredibly good and not give Walker, Republicans, and Tea
Partiers the opportunity to play divide and conquer antics.
Also, in that spirit, we’ve been doing a lot of assuming about us having
a common enemy, therefore necessitating that we are friends. I think we see
on many diferent levels that’s not necessarily true. So, how deep is the alli-
ance? Is there really solidarity? For instance, what happens if we win collec-
tive bargaining? What happens if Walker says, “Damn it, I’m tired, you’ve
won?” What if he says he’ll leave the rights of collective bargaining alone?
Do we all go home? Or do we say, “No, we’re going to knock this Capitol
down if you don’t give back BadgerCare?”
In thinking about identities of folks, we also have to translate that into
what kind of strategies we take up to further the movement. As I mentioned,
not all of us have the same identities, so all of us can’t equally participate in
the same strategies. For example, do you honestly think that 150,000 black
people can occupy the Capitol for 16 days? We have the ability to mobilize
that many, but will we be there in solidarity with the police? Absolutely not.
So this means we have to think about building inclusive strategies. I also
think it took an incredible amount of privilege to be there. I was there for a
few days, but I also had the privilege to be able to be there because I didn’t
have children. Folks I knew who had children who wanted to be there were
not able to do so. Like all these other things, if we’re talking about building
a movement for the people, we have to create entry points so that all people
can participate in all of the work that we are doing.
In that same spirit, we have to do the hard work of base building, but
coming from a place of solidarity, which means we need ongoing political
education around not just what it means to be a Republican, or what it
means to be a Democrat, or how the mayor’s ofce runs, but around what
have been the struggles of folks of color in this country. How is 100 years
the revolution will not be phonebanked | 237
of oppression tied to current policies?
In addition to political education, we need to get back to grassroots
training. I think it’s very attractive and easy to engage in some of this aca-
demic and high policy work, but what about the everyday ability to knock
on doors and get people out who have no idea that this is going on?
We need to begin to escalate strategies, which we are beginning to see
more of. So we need to be training folks around direct action organizing.
Not only are we going to be peacefully protesting—we’re still going to be
nonviolent—but we’re going to turn up the fre. We’re going to shut down
M&I Bank, but we’re going to do more things. It’s very clear that the right—
Walker and others—has a very escalating strategy. Not only do we need to
match it, we need to be able to defeat it, which requires us to develop our
own escalating strategy.
We also need to be able to develop strategies that are relevant for people
in their lives. Marches and protests feel very attractive, but we need to use
people’s skills and put them in more relevant areas. For example, if teachers
want to strike, by all means strike. But I also think teachers are in a unique
position to be able to mobilize an entire youth body by using their teaching
skills to educate and politicize the youth. We know all social movements
need young folks, and there are more schools than just UW-Madison. We
also need to think about the way that people live their daily lives and how
that can be politicized and connected to a larger movement. Tere’s a lot
of wisdom in the resistance that people carry every day, so I really want to
connect that to a larger struggle.
Lastly, we need to start to build alternatives. I question any structure,
any government that is able to take away so many rights so quickly. How
does that happen? We cannot support such a structure. My rights should
not be determined by whether or not this person in ofce is hopefully a
good person. We should begin to invest in grassroots structures, in folks
building alternative societies who have been doing it all along. As is written
on the BadgerCare card, as the state motto goes, as the movement demands
it: “Forward.”
Monica Adams is a community organizer from Milwaukee, working in Wis-
consin’s black, Southeast Asian, and queer people of color communities to
build an alternative society as the means to ending oppression.
@MelissaRyan
I will never stop loving the sound of the drums.
so unexpected, and
so unlikely, that there are no clear answers to the question of “What comes
next?” Will we as progressives be able to turn the Wisconsin moment of
transformation into a lasting movement? Will we be able to avoid returning
to timid and defensive ways of the past, and instead continue to fght with a
reawakened sense of boldness and possibility?
Many of the contributors to this collection have some pretty great ideas
that, while by no means easy, speak to what is needed to create a larger
movement of Wisconsin-like breakthroughs:
Emphasize progressive identity and history wherever you are, building
today’s fghts atop legacies of the past whenever possible. Connect diferent
progressive fghts under a common banner to strengthen each and build a
larger movement as a result. Create a strong progressive infrastructure
everywhere—it was Madison’s many cooperatively run institutions, lef-
leaning university departments, and strong local alternative media that
helped raise the profle of the Wisconsin uprising early on and provided
support networks for the protesters once it was underway. Develop good
relationships with local police, so that they’re on our side when it matters.
Embrace a wide spectrum of people and organizations on the lef—from
anarchists and socialists to Democrats in the center, not dismissing each
on wisconsin! | 240
other but fguring out what each can contribute toward common goals. Tell
our own stories through social media, and highlight the work of writers,
photographers, and videographers—both amateur and professional—who
are showing what’s really happening. Tink about ways to involve frst-time
activists. Make sure that anyone who wants to take part can plug in to real
leadership positions, rather than being forced into low-level roles within a
top-down organization. Recognize that people want to be connected, not
divided, and they want to be part of a meaningful experience and com-
munity. Capitalize on moments of transformation. Force elected ofcials
to take bold action. Keep asking the question of how we’ll do this—to
everyone you know—because the answer is contained in that continued
questioning. Don’t count us—progressives, the labor movement, radicals—
out. Many like to speak about a movement taking its dying breaths, but if
Wisconsin proved anything, it’s that we’re just getting started.
– Erica Sagrans
@andrewkroll Andy Kroll
Every time I pass a big groups of police offcers, at least one is using
iPhone to take video of protests #wiunion #wishyouwerehere
6:44pm Feb 27
@MikeElk Mike Elk
POLICE said Protestors can stay the night in Wisconsin Capitol #wiunion
6:53pm Feb 27
@cabell Cabell Gathman
RT @kimberlycreates: RT @sickjew I can’t believe the only way I can
watch US history is from some dude’s iPhone: http://qik.com/video/38
7:22pm Feb 27
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
And on day 14 we kept our house. #wiunion
7:30pm Feb 27
on wisconsin! | 242
It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.
– Joan Didion
In the February weeks I spent in snowy Madison, Wisconsin, that line of
Didion’s, the opening of her 1967 essay “Goodbye to All Tat,” ricocheted
through my mind as I tried to make sense of the massive protests unfold-
ing around me. What was I witnessing? Te beginning of a new movement
in this country—or the end of an existing one, the last stand of organized
labor? Or could it have been both?
None of us on the ground could really say. We were too close to the
action, too absorbed by what was directly in front of us.
Of course, the battle between unions, progressive groups, and Wis-
consin Republican Governor Scott Walker is not over. Not by a long shot.
A county judge recently blocked “publication” of Walker’s anti-union leg-
islation, saying it was possible Senate Republicans violated Wisconsin’s
rigorous open-records law when they rammed through a vote on his bill
to do away with the collective bargaining rights of state workers. Te case
could end up before the state Supreme Court. But that didn’t stop the
state’s Legislative Reference Bureau from publishing Walker’s bill anyway,
touching of another round of arguing about the tactics used to make the
Andy Kroll
TomDispatch, March 31, 2011
on wisconsin! | 243
bill into law. As of this writing, its actual status remains unclear. If a judge
does force a new vote, it’s unlikely the outcome will change, though even
that’s not certain.
Either way, the meaning of Madison, and also of what similar gover-
nors are doing amid similar turmoil in Columbus, Indianapolis, and other
Midwestern cities, remains to be seen. Without the ability to bargain col-
lectively, unions may indeed be fatally weakened. So, you could argue that
the wave of attacks by conservative governors will gut public-sector unions
in those states, if not wipe them out entirely.
On the other hand, those same eforts have mobilized startling num-
bers of ordinary citizens, young and old, educated and not, in a way none of
us have seen since perhaps the 1930s. I know this for a fact. I was there in
Madison and watched hundreds of thousands of protesters brave the numb-
ing cold while jamming the streets to demand that Walker back down. Te
events in Madison radicalized many young people who kept the fame of
protest burning with their live-ins inside the Wisconsin Capitol.
What remains to be seen is whether the new spark lit by the Republican
Party’s latest crusade against unions can in some way fll the space lef by
those unions which, nationwide, stare down their own demise.
“Take the Unions Out at the Knees”
Madison was the beginning. When Walker threatened to use the Wisconsin
National Guard to quell a backlash in response to his draconian “budget-
repair” bill, it set of a month of protests. Almost as soon as Madison erupt-
ed, Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich, a former executive at Lehman
Brothers, unveiled a union-crushing bill of his own, known as Senate Bill
5. Kasich sought even more power to curb unions than Walker, proposing
to curb bargaining rights for all public-sector unions—Walker’s exempts
frefghters and cops—and even outlaw strikes by public workers.
As in Madison, thousands of protesters poured into the Ohio Capitol
in Columbus—that is, those who got inside before state troopers locked
and blocked the doors. Tey brought megaphones and signs saying “Pro-
tect Workers Rights” and “Daughters of Teachers Against SB 5.” And in
response, like Walker, Kasich has shown not the slightest willingness to
negotiate; earlier this month, he promised to sign the bill into law as soon
as the legislature approves it.
Meanwhile, the union-busting movement continues to spread. Iowa’s
on wisconsin! | 244
House of Representatives, controlled by Republicans, passed its own law
in March gutting collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions. Te
measure, nearly identical to Wisconsin’s, would have made it to the desk of
Republican Governor Terry Branstad, who backed the bill, and into law had
the state’s Democrat-controlled Senate not killed it on the spot.
In early March, Idaho’s Legislature voted to eliminate most bargaining
rights for public school teachers, not to mention tossing out tenure and
seniority. Two separate anti-union bills are wending their way through
the Tennessee Legislature—one in the House that resembles Idaho’s, and
another in the Senate that aims to outlaw collective bargaining for teachers
altogether.
And now comes Alaska, one of the latest states to join the fght. Tere,
on March 21, a Republican state legislator introduced a measure nearly
identical to Wisconsin’s that would strip most public-sector unions of the
right to collectively bargain on health-care and retirement benefts. By one
estimate, more than 20 state legislatures are considering bills to limit collec-
tive bargaining for unions.
Not to be forgotten is Indiana, where Democrats in the Legislature’s
lower chamber camped out beyond state lines for more than a month (as
had Wisconsin Senate Democrats before them) to protest multiple pieces of
legislation that would hurt unions and public-education funding. Tey re-
turned to Indianapolis on Monday to cheers from supporters, their protest
having killed a bill that would have made Indiana a “right-to-work” state
while undermining support for other anti-union measures.
Even if, in the end, its lawmakers don’t pass any anti-union legislation,
Indiana is already illustrative of what happens when collective bargaining
is wiped out. With a fick of his pen, Republican Governor Mitch Daniels
banned it for state employees in 2005 by executive order. Te result, as Te
New York Times reported, was signifcant savings for the state, but skyrock-
eting health-insurance payments and a pay freeze for state workers. Man-
agement fred more experienced employees who would have had seniority
under old union rules. And union membership among state workers dwin-
dled by 90 percent, with one former labor activist claiming workers, fearing
repercussions from their bosses, were afraid to pay union dues.
Not that unions can’t exist in states without collective bargaining rights.
In Arizona and Texas, for instance, unions still operate, even though both
are heavily conservative “right-to-work” states, which means employees can
on wisconsin! | 245
opt out of union membership but still enjoy the wage increases and benefts
negotiated by unions. Still, in those states, organized labor’s infuence pales
when compared to that of unions in Michigan or Wisconsin.
Ten there are the political ramifcations. Elected ofcials in each of
these embattled states denied that any political motives lay behind their bills,
but that’s obviously not true. Public-sector unions like the American Federa-
tion of State, County, and Municipal Employees are a pillar of support for the
lef wing of the Democratic Party. Knock out the unions, and you efectively
“defund” that party, as my colleague Kevin Drum put it recently.
Despite their pleas of ignorance, Republicans in Wisconsin, Iowa,
Tennessee, Ohio, and every other state where legislation of this type is
being considered understand perfectly well the damage their bills will
infict on their political opponents. As the top Republican in the Wisconsin
Senate said, “If we win this battle, and the money is not there under the
auspices of the unions, certainly what you’re going to fnd is President
Obama is going to have a … much more difcult time getting elected and
winning the state of Wisconsin.”
Indeed. So, in one sense, the intensifying assault on unions across much
of the nation may represent an ending for a labor movement long on the
wane and at least 30-years under siege by various Republican administra-
tions, national and state. It is visibly now in danger of becoming a force of
little signifcance in much of the country.
Tis is exactly what conservatives and the GOP want. As a director for
the Koch brothers-backed advocacy group Americans for Prosperity recently
admitted, “We fght these battles on taxes and regulation, but really what we
would like to see is to take the unions out at the knees so they don’t have
the resources to fght these battles.” If the bills mentioned here make it into
law, the power wielded by public-sector unions—to fght for better wages and
benefts, to demand a safer workplace, to elect progressive candidates—will
wither. And with history as a guide, if union clout fades away, so, too, does the
spirit of democracy in this country.
If you look at the last 150 years of history across all nations with a work-
ing class of some sort, the maintenance of democracy and the maintenance of
a union movement are joined at the hip,” Nelson Lichtenstein, a professor and
labor historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said recently. “If
democracy has a future, then so, too, must trade unionism.”
on wisconsin! | 246
Te Radicalization of Tom Bird
If the events in Wisconsin and elsewhere do signal an end, they may also
mark a beginning. I saw it in the outpouring of protesters in Madison, the
young and old who defed convention and expectation by showing up day
afer day, weekend afer weekend, signs in hand, in snow or sun, to voice
their disgust with Walker and his agenda. For me, the inspiration in that
crowd came in the form of a tall, string-bean-thin 22-year-old with a sheep-
ish smile named Tom Bird.
Bird’s radicalization, if you will, began innocently enough. As he told
me one evening, when the news leaked out about the explosive contents of
Walker’s bill, his reaction was typical: angry but resigned to the fact that, in
a GOP-controlled legislature, it would pass. “What was I going to do about
it?” was, he said, the way he then felt.
Bird was no labor activist. Far from it. A master’s student in nuclear
engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he felt at home in the
world of plasma physics. He’d opposed the Iraq war, but collective bargain-
ing, walkouts, picket lines… well, not so much. He joined his frst student-
organized march from the university campus to the Capitol downtown in
the days afer Walker announced his bill more out of curiosity than indig-
nation. He was, he told me, just tagging along with a friend.
Yet something kept pulling him back to the growing protests. He’d drop
in on the demonstrators on his way to and from campus, wading through
the throngs of people, admiring the signs taped to the walls of the Capitol ro-
tunda, taking in the exhortations of the speakers at its center. Te frst night
he spent in the Capitol, Bird testifed in the all-night hearings taking place by
reading a statement once given by Clarence Darrow, the famous civil liber-
ties lawyer, in defense of a man named Tomas I. Kidd charged with treason
for inciting workers to unionize in Bird’s hometown of Oshkosh. And in do-
ing so, Bird felt something new: an urge to be part of a movement.
Day afer day he gravitated closer to the drum circle and the speak-
er’s pulpit, the beating heart of those Capitol protests. And then, one day,
someone handed him the megaphone. It was his turn to speak. He hadn’t
necessarily planned this, so feeling the energy of the moment he simply
stepped up and said what he thought. Before long, he was an activist whose
impassioned cries rang out in the rotunda as loud as anyone’s. Any time
I ventured into the Capitol I looked for Bird, with his Wisconsin baseball
cap, lining up new speakers and keeping the drums beating. Someone even
on wisconsin! | 247
dubbed him “Speaker of the Rotunda.”
Bird and his newfound activist friends even organized the disparate
groups inside the Capitol—the medic team, university teaching assistants,
protest marshals, and more—into the Capitol City Leadership Commit-
tee. Te CCLC, while short-lived, was created to ensure that the protests
remained safe, peaceful, and forceful. It had its own leadership structure
and governing bylaws. Once the police squeezed the protesters out of
the Capitol for good, instead of dissolving and disappearing, the group
evolved into the Autonomous Solidarity Organization, an outft now de-
termined to continue the fght for workers’ rights and social justice.
I’ve thought a lot of about Bird since then. If a 22-year-old plasma
physics geek can be transformed into an activist in mere weeks, then may-
be the crushing efects of Walker’s and Kasich’s bills and all the others can
be channeled into new energy, into a new movement. It may not look like
organized labor as we’ve known it, but it could begin to fll a void lef in
states where governors and legislatures are gutting the unions.
In Wisconsin, the upcoming weeks will put this new energy to a test.
Right now, campaigns are under way to recall eight Republican state sena-
tors for their support of Walker’s “repair” bill; in the case of GOP Sen.
Randy Hopper, opponents have already collected enough signatures, in-
cluding that of Hopper’s estranged wife, to demand a recall vote. And
on April 5, Wisconsinites will go to the polls to choose between a liberal
candidate and a corporate-backed Republican for a seat on the state Su-
preme Court. Tat race is the frst since the protests, and so could be the
frst true test of whether the crowds that stormed the Capitol can translate
their anger into pressure at the polls.
No one can say for certain what Wisconsin, or Ohio, or Iowa will look
like if organized labor is whacked at the knees. Will public-sector unions
fnd a way to reinvent themselves, or will they slide into irrelevance like
so many unions in the private sector?
As grim as the bills may be, I can’t help but feel hopeful, thinking
about the massive protests I witnessed in Madison. I particularly remem-
ber one frigid night, when a group of protesters and reporters adjourned
to a local bar for beers. At some point, Tom Bird bounded in, so full of
energy, moving restlessly between our table and another with friends.
At one point, he rolled up his sleeve to reveal a scrawny bicep. Some
of his fellow activists, he told me, wanted to get tattoos of one of the
on wisconsin! | 248
most enduring images from the protests, a solidarity fst in the shape
of Wisconsin. “Except on mine,” he told us, “I want the Polish version:
Solidarnosc.”
Tat, of course, was the labor movement that, afer a decade-long strug-
gle, helped bring down the Soviet Union. Who knows what could happen
here if Bird and his compatriots, awakened by the spark that was Madison,
were to keep at it for 10 years or more? Who knows if Wisconsin wasn’t the
beginning of the end, but the beginning of something new?
@andrewkroll Andy Kroll
Protester standing next to me: “we *did* it. we kept this thing open.”
#wiunion #wearewi
7:36pm Feb 27
@MikeElk Mike Elk
More tweets from journos about Andrew Sullivan leaving the Atlantic
than #wiunion not leaving Wisc state Capitol #SHAME
8:09pm Feb 27
@brandzel Ben Brandzel
So, apparently that feed had over 100k people on it. Um, wow. Your
support means so much to folks here. We really are all in this together.
10:14pm Feb 27
@andrewkroll Andy Kroll
Tweeps, it pains me to say this but time to go for me. fight’s at 6am tom,
need to pack, eat, say my goodbyes. it’s been amazing!! #wiunion
10:22pm Feb 27
on wisconsin! | 250
Monday, April 4, marked the 50th day since protests started at the Wis-
consin Capitol in Madison over a bill that would gut public employees’
collective bargaining rights. Fify days of Wisconsinites standing up and
making their voices heard—through hearing testimony, through meetings
with their elected ofcials, through letters and emails to the governor’s of-
fce, through protests, through where they chose to sleep, through signs,
through chants, through showing up and taking part, through recall can-
vassing, and through adding their signatures to recall petitions. Fify days.
When the protests started, I didn’t know enough about the bill to
know what its impact would be. I just knew that I was opposed to the
idea of a “budget-repair” bill that substantially changed workers’ rights
being rammed through the Legislature in a week, which was the reported
Republican plan. I thought that, at the very least, it was an issue that de-
served more time for the public to gather information and participate
in the debate. So I showed up at the Capitol to make sure my voice was
heard. My dad showed up. My friends showed up. People who I never
even knew were interested in politics showed up. And it became some-
thing a lot bigger than any of us.
On Feb. 16, when I stood in the stairwell leading to the room in which
the Joint Finance Committee was about to vote, I yelled with the crowd,
Jenni Dye
Isthmus, April 5, 2011
on wisconsin! | 251
“Te people united will never be defeated,” and I knew that this was difer-
ent than anything I’d seen before and, possibly, anything I’ll ever see again.
As that frst week unfolded, I educated myself about the contents of the bill
and found I didn’t at all like what it contained. My motivations changed
from merely procedural to substantive—I wanted to stop that proposal in
its tracks. I wanted compromise. I wanted our elected ofcials to sit at a
table and talk.
During that frst week, which I mostly spent protesting with my dad,
my former teachers, and a few close friends, I felt a sort of hope that had
been dormant for years. Hope that people joining forces really can make
a diference. On Day 50, I stood on the State Street steps to the Capitol
and listened as Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s
legacy on the anniversary of his assassination.
Jackson told the crowd that it was our responsibility to ensure that Dr.
King lived on through us, that his dream was not ended with a single bullet.
As Jackson spoke, I stood next to a fellow protester whom I had never met
50 days ago, but now consider a friend. Behind me, two protesters held a
sign bearing the Martin Luther King quote: “Our lives begin to end the day
we become silent about things that matter.”
Our voices have been largely ignored by Governor Scott Walker, broth-
ers Sen. Scott Fitzgerald and Rep. Jef Fitzgerald, and their allies. Tey tried
to trample our hope by locking us out of the Capitol, but we brought our
sleeping bags and blankets and showed them that it didn’t matter if we slept
inside or out, our opposition remained steady.
Tey held public meetings with minimal notice, trying to cut us out
of the process. But we showed up in force anyway, and we refused to allow
violations of Wisconsin’s open-meetings law to go unchallenged. Tey tried
to make us go away by “passing” the legislation, but that night, we flled the
streets surrounding the Capitol and continued our protest. And now, seven
weeks afer we started, we are still standing up and making our voices heard,
letting them know we don’t like their budget-repair bill, their infringement
of our constitutional rights, or their way of “opening” Wisconsin for busi-
ness by closing our open government.
We may not have gotten through to Walker or the Fitzgeralds or their
friends yet, but those of you who have also devoted your time and your
energy to this movement have gotten through to me in a way that is perma-
nent and life-changing. For every moment in my past where I have ques-
on wisconsin! | 252
tioned whether there are good people out there, the compassion and com-
mitment of those raising their voices at our Capitol have proved 10 times
over that there are people who care about each other, care about perfect
strangers, care about Wisconsin, care about democracy and open govern-
ment, and care that things are done the right way, even when the proposal
itself is abhorrent.
Tere have been days when my voice is not strong, but I’ve found that
I can rely on others to carry the load. Tere have been days when I literally
might have collapsed into a sobbing heap on the Capitol foor were it not
for the kindness of friends and perfect strangers. Tere are days when a hug
is an absolute lifeline to maintaining any sanity at all. Sometimes relief and
renewal have come in the form of inspiration from the words of speakers at
a rally and sometimes from perfect strangers who are also dedicating their
time to the cause. I’ll never be able to thank you all individually. I’ll never
be able to thank you all enough.
It’s not enough, but I will forever be grateful for what the individuals
involved in this movement have given me. And I plan to keep giving it my
all until we take Wisconsin back.
@yoProWI Young Progressives
Access to the capitol is reportedly restricted to those who have offcial
business, or those who are attending a hearing!
11:08am Feb 28
@taa_Madison TAA Madison
Medical supplies running low in Capitol. They need: handwarmers, rubber
gloves, children’s Tylenol, ibuprofen, toothbrushes, soap #wiunion
2:07pm Feb 28
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
Latest: Ppl not being let into Capitol right now. Protestors mtg w police to
determine how many will be let in #wiunion
2:23pm Feb 28
@taa_Madison TAA Madison
Dems are starting a public hearing. You will be escorted inside & out. Info
we have now is that you will not be allowed to stay. #wiunion
4:31pm Feb 28
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
If we can’t take the building we’ll take the whole square. Bring tents,
heaters, and warm sleeping bags @ king! #wiunion even when its cold!
7:52pm Feb 28
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
I can’t stop smiling. As much as Walker’s actions are abhorrent, the
people here sticking it out in the cold are amazing. #wiunion
10:26pm Feb 28
@legalEagle Legal Eagle
There’s a lot of people settling in here at #walkerville. Thanks to
@TAA_Madison and everyone else who brought extra blankets! #wiunion
1:42am Mar 1
on wisconsin! | 254
Tomas M. Bird was a mild-mannered graduate student from Oshkosh,
voting Democratic but paying only slight attention to politics, before
Governor Scott Walker announced his “budget-repair” bill. He didn’t
make it over to the Capitol in Madison until Feb. 17, four days into the
protests. Within a couple weeks, he was a ranking member of the Capitol
City Leadership Committee, an umbrella organization made up of the dif-
ferent groups performing tasks in the building—the megaphone people, the
Teaching Assistants’ Association, the volunteer marshals, the information
station coalition, the medical station volunteers, and the Wisconsin Work-
ers Solidarity Sit-In. Bird participated in meetings coordinated under their
own democratic rules. “Te group meets regularly and we ensure that each
meeting has an even number of people. Any business is put to a democratic
vote. If there is a tie, there are three rounds of debate and then the motion
is tabled. Te Wisconsin Republicans could probably learn a thing or two
from us.” Tis is a protest, Wisconsin-style.
As Walker cracks down on the activists inside the Capitol rotunda on
the day he releases his 2011–2013 budget, he will be unable to quash the
spirit of people like Tomas M. Bird, whose life will never be the same.
What may not be clear from outside of Wisconsin is the level to which
the grassroots protesters and the Democratic members of the Wisconsin
David Dayen
Firedoglake, March 1, 2011
on wisconsin! | 255
Legislature have become one throughout this struggle. Not just the “Fab
14” group of senators who still reside in Illinois, denying the Republicans a
quorum and stalling the budget-repair bill that would strip most collective
bargaining rights from public employees. But the Democrats in the state
Assembly have become activists themselves. Tey are readily identifable
in the orange “Assembly Democrats: Fighting for Working Families” shirts
they’ve been wearing for two weeks. Tey help negotiate access to the build-
ing and use their resources to get in people and supplies. Tey hold public
hearings through the night to force the Capitol to stay open. Tey spent 63
hours on the Assembly foor stretching out debate on the bill, forcing the
local media to report on what it contained. One Assembly Democrat had
reconstructive surgery for skin cancer last Tuesday, and was back on the
foor Wednesday for debate. She was in the Capitol Sunday night, with a
bandage on her face, as the protesters readied themselves to be arrested.
“Tis is civil disobedience at its fnest,” she told me.
“Our Democrats, ofen disappointing, have delinked from the compro-
mises of the Democratic party, and linked in to the opinions of the progres-
sive grassroots,” said John Nichols, writer for Madison’s Te Capital Times
and Te Nation and unofcial mayor of Madison. He was speaking to “Te
People’s Legislature,” at a Crowne Plaza conference room on the east side
of the city. A group called Fighting Bob, named afer the legendary pro-
gressive leader Robert La Follette and organized by the popular reformer
and former U.S. Senate candidate Ed Garvey, was meeting to discuss their
next move to respond to the assault on public workers taken up by Walker.
Nichols said proudly, “We have in a sense retaken the Democratic Party in
this state,” and the People’s Legislature wanted to make good on that. Over
the course of a day-long meeting, they plotted out a multi-pronged strategy
that also has echoes of the kind of medium-term and long-term fghts that
the grassroots in the Capitol rotunda will wage.
Everyone is focused on the short-term goal of stopping the budget-
repair bill, and that may happen. Te Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which
endorsed Walker on its editorial pages, now routinely criticizes him and
today came out against the bill. Walker’s ramping up of out-of-state-funded
TV ads shows his nervousness over whether his allies, the Senate Repub-
licans, will waver and eventually lack the numbers to pass the bill. Charles
Koch himself, and not a Bufalo-based blogger, actually placed an op-ed in
Te Wall Street Journal to announce support, which only extends the focus
on wisconsin! | 256
on that prank call, one which may have led to a host of legal trouble for
Walker. So the possibility exists that this gets stopped. But even if it doesn’t,
Wisconsin’s grassroots, growing by the day, and buttressed by a completely
responsive Democratic Party which protesters and activists will now crawl
across glass for, have a plan. It goes like this:
•Legal Claims Against the Bill. Milwaukee’s city attorney came out today
and declared that the budget-repair bill is unconstitutional:
Walker’s budget-repair bill would be unconstitutional because it would
violate the constitutional “home rule” that protects cities and villages from
interference in local pensions by the state, according to a legal opinion is-
sued today by Milwaukee City Attorney Grant Langley.
In a letter to Milwaukee Alderman Joseph Dudzik, Langley stated, “In
our judgment, the courts would fnd the statue unconstitutional on three
grounds: First, that it unconstitutionally interferes with and intrudes upon
the city’s home-rule authority over its pension plan; second, that given cer-
tain vested rights or benefts that have accrued to employees currently in
the plan, the statute would constitute an unconstitutional impairment of
contract rights under the state and federal constitutions; and third, given
these same vested rights or benefts, the proposed statute would violate the
due process clauses of the state and federal constitutions because it would
abrogate the terms and conditions of the Global Pension Settlement …”
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (who lost to Walker in the gubernato-
rial race) has already asked Walker to seek a legal opinion from the state
attorney general on the topic. Tese aren’t the only legal questions about
the bill. AFSCME has fled an unfair labor practice claim against Walker for
refusing to negotiate while under a collective bargaining agreement. Tere
is still a lingering sense that the Assembly vote was illegal. Democrats are
still looking at all footage of the vote, to see if their suspicions are correct
that Republicans leaned over and voted by electronic device in place of their
missing colleagues. “Te most important thing over the next two weeks,”
Nichols told the People’s Legislature, “Is to maintain the rule of law and the
rules of the Senate. We can’t let them roll over process.” Te point is that
lawyers plan to sue the state the moment Walker signs any budget-repair
bill that includes the stripping of collective bargaining rights. “I believe
there are enough good judges lef in this state to get injunctions and slow
this down.”
on wisconsin! | 257
•Legal Claims Against Walker. Te phone call from “David Koch” features
a number of statements from the governor that could violate ethics, labor,
and election laws, according to Peg Lautenschlager, the state’s former Dem-
ocratic attorney general. Tere are campaign fnance questions regarding
Walker’s acceptance of an ofer to come to California afer he “crushes the
bastards.” Tere’s the infamous answer “we thought about that” to the ques-
tion of why Walker isn’t using planted thugs to disrupt the protests. Tere’s
the admission that Walker is trying to break public-employee unions like
Reagan broke PATCO, and how layofs in particular would be used in that
fght. All of these things have questionable legality, and I believe the claims
will be fled.
•General Strike. Te Capital Times picks up on the fact that the Wisconsin
South Central Federation of Labor (SCFL) has endorsed the notion of a
general strike. Tat’s basically all they can do; the federation has no author-
ity to call a strike. But afer March 13, state public-employee unions will be
operating without a contract. At that point, all bets are of. And workers
throughout Madison, though barred by Taf-Hartley requirements from
joining strikes, may do so anyway. If the bill passes, chances are there will
be at least some portion of Wisconsin that will go on a general strike for
some amount of time. Tere’s a very large piece of construction paper in
the Capitol with thousands of names of people who signed their support
for a strike.
•State Supreme Court. On April 5, there’s a race for a state Supreme Court
seat between an incumbent Republican, David Prosser, and the Democrat,
JoAnne Kloppenburg. Supreme Court races in Wisconsin are actual elec-
tions. Tey feature TV commercials and debates and retail politics. And
the Democrats are both energized and ready. “Tis will be a national-level
battle, a proxy Presidential race,” said Nichols, who thinks that $10 million
will be spent on it between both sides. Prosser has said publicly that he
would coordinate his rulings in alliance with Republican ideology. He’s part
of a 4-3 Republican advantage on the state Supreme Court. Tis would shif
the balance of power there and provide a major setback for Walker and the
Republicans. Organizing has begun and is intense inside the Capitol and
throughout the state.
on wisconsin! | 258
• Legislative Seats. Te same day as that April 5 special election, there
are primaries for three state Assembly races, vacated by three Republi-
cans who joined Walker’s cabinet. While at least two of the three are seen
as strong Republican seats, progressives in Wisconsin plan to contest all
three. “If this (protest) means anything, it means that the rules of where
we compete have to be thrown out,” Nichols insisted. “We fght for every
inch of Wisconsin!”
•Recalls. Tere will absolutely be recall elections for many of the “Repub-
lican 8” state senators who can be recalled immediately. Te organizing for
this has already begun; a Democratic strategist in the state found the Re-
publican 8 vulnerable to recall because of the heightened passions around
the issue. Tis will also happen on the Democratic side; a group from Utah
has already begun that process. You will see many recall elections in the
coming year, putting the closely divided state Senate up for grabs in Wis-
consin. Recall elections are basically do-over elections in the state, with pri-
maries and general ballots. “Te recall is the progressive gif to the citizens
of this state,” Nichols said to the People’s Legislature. “It was established for
this moment. … We have a duty to recall those legislators who failed us, and
defend those who stood with us.”
One particular recall battle stands out, and progressives may take it on
frst. Sen. Alberta Darling is the co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee,
which reported out the budget-repair bill. She represents a North Shore
suburban Milwaukee district, which is heavily Jewish and fairly Democrat-
ic. It’s the kind of seat many Democrats lost in 2010. In 2011 in Wisconsin,
there’s already a candidate lined up for the recall, former Assemblyman
Sheldon Wasserman. “Tis will be a critical contest,” said Nichols. “Tere’s
our referendum.”
And then there’s the possible recall of Walker, which could not begin un-
til January 2012. Whether progressives take it up could depend on whether
they win these fghts prior to it. Tey have a very deliberate strategy to build
momentum at every step of the way. Tey are fghting for workers’ rights
on a host of fronts. And they have the Democratic Party behind them. Tis
is a new synchronicity between the party apparatus and the grassroots, and
it’s starting to spread. Perhaps more remarkable than the Wisconsin battle
is the one happening in Indiana. State House Democrats walked out there
in protest of a bill that would have crushed private-employee unions. Te
on wisconsin! | 259
Republicans pulled back on that. But Democrats REMAINED out of the
district, and vowed to stay put until an education bill that would set up a
voucher system was scotched. Indiana Democrats are not exactly known as
fghting progressives; in some cases they may be to the right of Wisconsin
Republicans. But they have responded to their grassroots and are standing
by them.
Ultimately, that’s how this new American progressive movement will
move forward. Te activists and the politicians, the protesters and the
reformers, the signature-gatherers and the people fghting in the streets,
the unions and the college students, all must unite on a series of goals
dedicated to the rights of the worker to have a good job and a house and
a reasonable way of life for themselves. People power, basic fundamental
rights, and justice. Tese are the tenets of the movement. “Te question
shall arise in your day: Which shall rule, wealth or man?” said Edward
Ryan, the Chief Justice of Wisconsin’s Supreme Court, in an address to the
law school in Madison in 1873. “Which shall lead, money or intellect; who
shall fll public stations—educated and patriotic free men or the feudal
serfs of corporate capital?”
Te spirit of that has not yet been extinguished in America.
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
Restraining order has been granted, so start heading to the Capitol!
Doors are opening soon. #wiunion
11:26am Mar 1
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
We have confrmed that there will be a hearing at 2:15PM on public
access to the Capitol in room 4A of the Dane County Courthouse.
11:59am Mar 1
@millbot Emily Mills
RT @LegalEagle: Why in God’s name are the doors still locked? When
a court order means nothing, our system has failed. #wiunion
3:09pm Mar 1
@millbot Emily Mills
Only 20 members of the public allowed in to watch budget address.
Assuming Walker scuttled into Capitol via tunnel. Pretty lame. #wiunion
4:09pm Mar 1
@millbot Emily Mills
I don’t think Walker has more than one facial expression. #wiunion
4:32pm Mar 1
@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan
Apparently if I take $200 from you, what I’m actually doing is giving you
the tools you need to succeed. #Walkernomics #WIunion
4:41pm Mar 1
@WEaC WEAC
Dedicated supporters are sleeping outside the Capitol again. Follow
#wiunion and #walkerville for their coverage. Thank you!
9:38pm Mar 1
@millbot Emily Mills
RT @LegalEagle: Access to the Capitol is more restricted right now than it
was in the days and weeks following 9/11, when I worked there ...
11:18am Mar 2
on wisconsin! | 261
I attended an ecumenical conference on rural ministry this past weekend,
held annually in the city of Dubuque, Iowa. Tat I would take up such an
opportunity for professional development ought to tell you something
about just how exciting my life has become these days.
Te opening speaker was a professor of rural sociology with a thick
Missouri accent who was met by an impatient room of pastors fddling with
empty cofee cups and wondering when dessert would arrive. Te professor
cheerfully attempted to help us understand the people in our pews with the
help of corny jokes and stories and cultural insights so old they might have
had grandchildren. I don’t want to harp on the man, because he was sincere
and intelligent and genuinely committed to the well-being of the church.
But if anyone has not heard by now the idea that diferent generations see
the world diferently, they should check into the validity of their college
diploma. My guess is it will turn out to have been printed on high-quality
cardboard that could have been put to better use as a cereal box.
Afer almost an hour of talking about such tidbits as the formative ef-
fect the Challenger disaster had on my generation, the professor got around
to what I thought was the obvious point, which was how economics shape
cultural perspective. Tough traumas stick out in our minds, the stagna-
tion of real income for most of the past 40 years has done more to shape
Daniel Schultz
A Pastor’s Notebook, March 11, 2011
on wisconsin! | 262
people my age than the loss of 10 space shuttles could ever achieve. When
asked why Gen-Xers are so cynical, I used to reply that our frst memories
of watching television ofen ran to seeing President Richard Nixon resign
or helicopters being pushed of the side of aircraf carriers as Saigon fell.
Now I believe that it has more to do with seeing our economic opportuni-
ties chipped away, year by year. We’ve never thought there was much future
in being us.
You might think that recent events in Wisconsin would confrm this
bias. Indeed, some people have claimed that no matter what the legislative
outcome, conservatives have scored a big win in this battle. I suppose, if you
can claim running down teachers as winning something worth having.
About that legislative outcome, though: It will no doubt face legal chal-
lenges, and the state senators who voted for it will come up against well-
organized and well-funded recall campaigns later this year. But for now it is
done. We will have to wait to see its fnal disposition.
Tere is a lot lef undecided in Wisconsin these days. If I can impress
upon my out-of-state friends any single point, it is the terrible uncertainty
Cheddarheads live with these days. Our school district, like many others,
has no idea what its budget might look like next year because state aid has
not passed the Legislature. Te projected shortfall runs into the millions. It’s
possible that teachers may be laid of. It’s also possible that our son’s school
may be shut. We have no way of telling. I say nothing about cuts to social
services that may or may not afect our daughter’s treatment.
Again and again I am asked, how does this end? I don’t know.
Come what may, I discern a light, for myself and my children. It
may seem today that the battle is lost. Republicans had the votes to shove
through legislation canceling collective bargaining. In short order, they will
have enough bodies in the Senate and Assembly to authorize the meanest of
budgets. But the cost to them has been delay and thousands—possibly hun-
dreds of thousands—of ordinary people pouring into the streets in opposi-
tion. Governor Scott Walker has poked a hornet’s nest of immense propor-
tions, and seems determined to keep poking it to suit his ideological bent.
Tyrants fear tomorrow, because where there is a future, there is hope
that things could be diferent. It is no accident that Walker continually
pleads that crisis forces his hand. Nor is it accidental that the most contro-
versial measures are the ones that move the quickest. If it doesn’t have to
be done right now, it opens the possibility that it doesn’t have to be done at
on wisconsin! | 263
all. Or perhaps things don’t have to be the way they are arranged presently.
Tomorrow is the greatest threat there is to an unjust today.
Te protesters in the streets of Madison and anyone who watches
them with any astuteness have learned this lesson well. Te protesters have
learned that their voices can be heard, that they can change outcomes, that
when they stand together, they can have a future that is meaningfully dif-
ferent than the present. Tere is no political structure, however imbalanced,
however stacked against ordinary people, that can withstand this mix of
hope and social solidarity. On Feb. 17, it seemed certain that the story had
run its course and any opposition to the original bill would come to noth-
ing. Since then, the people have forced one tomorrow afer another, evading
every opportunity to end the situation today. Even now, afer the legisla-
tion has passed, the end is nowhere near manifest. Tomorrow, tractors and
200,000 protesters are expected on the Capitol square. By March 2012, it is
possible that we may have replaced every senator eligible for recall and be
preparing to vote on Walker’s future. I don’t envy him next year.
I am perhaps fanciful enough to see in this chaos the hand of the trick-
ster God Yahweh. He has a track record of being a singularly ill-behaved
deity, refusing to bow to conventional expectations of the divine, such as
endorsing the rule of whoever happens to be on top of the social heap at
the moment. God is no respecter of wealth and privilege, but he does seem
inordinately fond of creating new possibilities and disrupting “the seem-
ingly self-evident way things must be.” When the Israelites cried out under
the oppression of Pharaoh, the Lord heard them, and began to move them
toward freedom, new and unheard-of possibilities. No one ever thought
that the most powerful ruler in the world could lose his slave labor force!
Tis was simply not the way things were done.
But it did happen, or so the Bible tells us. It took a very long time:
Moses was 80 years old when he appeared before the king of Egypt, and
afer dickering with him, it took another 40 years before Israel had enough
of its stuf together to enter into the promised land.
1
In all that time, God
remained patient, tugging his children into a new future gently but insis-
tently, creating a way forward where there was none. I will teach my son
that in the streets of Madison, God did it again, and that with a little faith
1
Tey promptly slaughtered the previous residents. I hope this is one piece of the
story that will not repeat itself.
on wisconsin! | 264
and a little grace, the people who have been weighed down for so long
with legal and economic injustice can once again be free. I hope and I
trust that years in the future, when some sociologist shorthands the char-
acter of his generation, he will note their sunny optimism formed by the
knowledge that pharaohs come and pharaohs go, the economic tides for
working-class families rise and the tides fall, but through it all, there is
always a tomorrow.
#WEaREWI
@analieseeicher Analiese Eicher
Yessssssssss!!!!! MT @sandycullenWSJ: 4 Dem Reps. moved desks
outside the Capitol to meet with constituents who can’t get inside.
#wiunion
2:37pm Mar 2
@WEaC WEAC
RT @fnnryan Assembly dems have moved their desks OUTSIDE Capitol
& are meeting w/ constituents. Go talk to them! North wing #wiunion
2:47pm Mar 2
@abeckettwrn Andrew Beckett
Hearing on Capitol access lawsuit will go to a third day. Testimony
expected to resume at 1pm Thursday. #wiunion #wibudget
6:29pm Mar 2
@analieseeicher Analiese Eicher
No order from judge kicking ppl out of the cap tonight. Stay strong
rotunda community! #y’allrock! #wiunion
6:36pm Mar 2
@edcetera Ed Cetera
Everyone hang in there. The light is making its way through the cracks.
We’re so close to victory. #wiunion
7:48pm Mar 2
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
News: WI Senate passed a resolution ordering arrest of Senate Dems if
they don’t return by 4 p.m. today. Constitutionality unclear. #wiunion
12:38pm Mar 3
@millbot Emily Mills
Walking around downtown the city feels decidedly changed. Hope for that
state, too. Offcially not just protest but a movement. #wiunion
1:09pm Mar 3
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
3 PM rally outside of the Capitol to demand that the public be allowed to
enter their house!
3:02pm Mar 3
@yoProWI Young Progressives
The State is now seeking a court order to remove the people from
the capitol.
3:12pm Feb 28
@analieseeicher Analiese Eicher
Hulsey said getting into bldg was easier for himself today, but not for
constituents. #wiunion
3:20pm Mar 3
@abeckettwrn Andrew Beckett
Closing arguments done. Judge taking a few minutes, but expected to
rule soon. Hints decision may include restraint on sleeping at capitol
5:19pm Mar 3
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
Judge drafts letter asking Rotunda to be vacated after the closing of
business hours tonight. #wiunion
5:41pm Mar 3
@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin
Let’s give the exiting demonstrators a heros’ welcome when they leave
the building! Meet at the Capitol @ 6pm. Pizza will be there. #wiunion
5:53pm Mar 3
@millbot Emily Mills
RT @benmasel: March out proud tonight, march in proud in the morning.
#wiunion
6:37pm Mar 3
an hour before
another of the evening demonstrations that brought thousands, then tens
of thousands, then more than 100,000 public employees, teachers, students,
and their allies to the great square that surrounds the Capitol in Madison,
Sarah Roberts was sitting in the Ancora cofee shop warming up. With her
blunt-cut blond hair and hip retro glasses, the library sciences grad student
looked the picture of urban cool, except perhaps for the decades-old factory
ID badge bearing the image of a young man. “A few weeks ago I asked my
mom, ‘What made my grandfather such a civic-minded man? Why was he
always there to help someone who had lost their job? Take food to someone
who couldn’t make ends meet? Serve on the City Council? What made him
so incredibly engaged with his community and his state?’ Mom looked at
me and she said, ‘Labor.’”
So it was that the granddaughter of Willard Roberts—a 45-year
employee and proud union man at the Monarch Range plant in the fac-
tory town of Beaver Dam—pulled out her grandpa’s ID and pinned it to
her jacket when she learned that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was
proposing to strip state, county, and municipal employees and teachers of
their collective bargaining rights. “Tis state was built by people like him;
this country was built by people like him. I think we all kind of forgot that
John Nichols
The Nation, March 3, 2011
epilogue | 270
until the governor woke us up,” she said. “Walker thought he could bust
the unions, privatize everything, give it all away to the corporations. But
that was a great misfre. Because when he attacked the unions, he reminded
us where we came from. We’re the children and grandchildren of union
workers and farmers and shopkeepers. Tat goes deeper, way deeper, than
politics. Tis legislation is an afront to my whole family history.”
Afer three decades of attacks on public-sector unions, dating back at
least to President Ronald Reagan’s breaking of the air trafc controllers in
1981, the mass uprising against Walker’s attack has revealed a popular un-
derstanding of the necessity of the labor movement that is far richer than
even the most optimistic organizer imagined. Te bonds are not just eco-
nomic or political; they are emotional and personal. And when the determi-
nation of corporate interests and their political pawns to destroy unions—
not by slow cuts, as is so ofen the case, but all at once—is revealed, all that
talk of building coalitions, of creating movements linking union members
with those who have never joined, suddenly moves from theory to practice.
Tousands of students show up for an impromptu show by rocker Tom Mo-
rello and pump their fsts in the air as they shout the lyrics of union songs
they are only just learning. Tens of thousands of citizens—not just pub-
lic workers fearing for their livelihood but students fearing for their future
and small-business owners fearing for their community—chant in unison
as they rally in cities across the state, “An injury to one is an injury to all.”
Afer we fnished talking, Roberts told me she couldn’t go to the demo just
yet: “I’m meeting my mom here. She’s driving in. She wanted to be here to
honor her father and to stand on the side of the workers.”
Te remarkable events that have transpired in Wisconsin since Feb.
11, when Walker announced he would attach proposals to a minor budget-
repair bill to strip away the rights of public employees and teachers to or-
ganize in the workplace and to engage in meaningful collective bargaining,
have made Wisconsin, in the words of AFSCME President Gerald McEn-
tee, “ground zero in the fght for labor rights in the United States.” Tey
have also created what the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who rallied more than 50,000
demonstrators on a freezing Friday night, describes as “a Martin Luther
King moment” for supporters of economic and social justice. Te size of the
demonstrations, which have flled the central square of this capital in much
the way that demonstrators flled Tahrir Square in Cairo just weeks earlier,
has focused more attention on an American labor struggle than has been
epilogue | 271
seen in decades. Tis struggle—all but certain to see legislative disappoint-
ments, legal challenges, and dramatic electoral twists and turns before it is
done—raises key questions about whether mass movements can forge not
only a new and better economy but a new and better politics. Walker will
get his way on some issues—too many issues. But that’s not the most impor-
tant story out of Wisconsin. Te most vital story is the one that people on
both sides of this struggle least expected: Afer years of eforts by unions to
rebrand and reposition themselves as “partners” and “constructive collabo-
rators” with employers, many Americans still recognize that perhaps the
most important role of the labor movement is as a countervailing force not
just in the workplace, but in politics. And this at a time when public services
and education are under constant assault from corporate privatizers and
billionaire political donors who are more than ready to “invest” in election
results that will lower their taxes and serve their interests.
Joel Greeno, a dairy farmer from western Wisconsin, fnished his chores on
a Saturday morning one week afer mass demonstrations prompted Demo-
cratic state senators to fee the state in order to deny Walker’s legislative
allies a quorum to pass the bill. Greeno then drove his truck to Madison to
join what would turn out to be probably the largest demonstration in Wis-
consin history and one of the largest pro-labor demonstrations in Ameri-
can history. “Te big corporations are organized. Tey’re in this fght with
all the money in the world,” he shouted above chants of “What’s disgusting?
Union-busting!” “Te big-money guys, they know what it’s all about: If they
can take away the collective bargaining rights of unions, if they can shut
them up politically, we’re all fnished. How are farmers going to organize
and be heard? If this goes through, none of us stand a chance.”
Walker actually agrees with Greeno. It was clear from the beginning
that Walker’s initiative, backed by big-money TV ad campaigns and by
such national conservative groups as the Club for Growth, had more to do
with politics than balancing budgets. His bill, like similarly motivated if not
quite-so-draconian measures proposed by GOP governors in other states,
uses a fscal challenge as an excuse to achieve a political end. Te governor
says he must eliminate most collective bargaining rights to deal with short-
falls in revenues. But state Rep. Mark Pocan, a Madison Democrat who is
former co-chair of the powerful legislative Joint Finance Committee, says,
“Wisconsin can balance its budget. We’ve actually dealt with more serious
epilogue | 272
shortfalls. Tis isn’t about revenue and spending. Tis is about fnding an
excuse to take away collective bargaining rights and to destroy unions as a
political force.” Te governor disputes Pocan’s argument, and there is great
debate over whether this “budget-repair” bill is needed. Pocan points to a
review by the nonpartisan Fiscal Bureau that suggested the state might be
able to end the year with a slight surplus if a tax dispute with Minnesota and
issues regarding Medicaid payments are resolved. While Wisconsin faces
a genuine shortfall, it is much smaller than the one former Governor Jim
Doyle and Democratic legislators sorted out two years ago in cooperation
with state employee unions.
Walker’s real goal has always been clear. Let’s consider some context.
A year before the governor took ofce in January—afer winning a rela-
tively low-turnout fall election that also saw Republicans take charge of this
traditionally blue state’s Assembly and Senate—the U.S. Supreme Court’s
Citizens United v. FEC decision removed barriers to corporate spending in
election campaigns. GOP candidates reaped tremendous benefts from that
ruling, which cleared the way for former White House political czar Karl
Rove and fellow operatives to spend hundreds of millions on federal and
state races. Te Republican Governors Association, having collected a $1
million check from billionaire right-wingers Charles and David Koch and
smaller contributions from other corporate interests, invested at least $3.4
million in electing Walker. As Lisa Graves, who heads the Madison-based
Center for Media and Democracy, noted, “Big money funneled by one of
the richest men in America [David Koch] and one of the richest corpora-
tions in the world [Koch Industries] … put controversial Wisconsin Gov-
ernor Scott Walker in ofce.” Walker’s debt to the Koch brothers, whose
PAC donated $43,000 to his campaign, was highlighted in the governor’s
budget-repair bill—which in addition to attacking unions outlined a plan
to restructure state government so Walker could sell of power plants in
no-bid deals to frms like Koch Industries, while restructuring state health-
insurance programs so that tens of thousands of Wisconsinites could be
stranded with no access to care.
Te Koch-Walker connection became a central issue of the Wisconsin
uprising when the tape of a prank phone call—in which the governor can
be heard talking over strategy with a blogger impersonating David Koch—
was released to the public. On it, Walker talked about coordinating spend-
ing campaigns to shore up GOP legislators who back the bill. But even more
epilogue | 273
telling is the governor’s repetition of the phrase “Tis is our moment.” At
one point, Walker recalled a dinner with cabinet members on the eve of his
announcement of the anti-union push. “I said, you know, this may seem
a little melodramatic, but thirty years ago, Ronald Reagan ... had one of
the most defning moments of his political career, not just his presidency,
when he fred the air trafc controllers,” said Walker. “And, uh, I said, to
me that moment was more important than just for labor relations or even
the federal budget; that was the frst crack in the Berlin Wall and the fall
of Communism. ... And, uh, I said, this may not have as broad of world
implications, but in Wisconsin’s history—little did I know how big it would
be nationally—in Wisconsin’s history, I said this is our moment, this is our
time to change the course of history.”
Walker certainly understands the stakes. Across the United States, but
particularly in the swing states of the Great Lakes region and the upper
Midwest, public-employee unions like AFSCME, the American Federation
of Teachers, and afliates of the National Education Association are more
than labor organizations. Tey are the best-funded and most aggressive
challengers to attempts by corporate interests and their political allies to
promote privatization, to underfund schools, and to win elections. If unions
in Northern states are disempowered—as they are already in much of the
South, where “right-to-work” laws are common—a debate already warped
by the overwhelming infuence of corporate cash will become dramatically
narrower and even more deferential to wealthy donors and big business.
Progressives have been talking about these concerns for a long time.
Tey have tried to create movements to push back, sometimes with suc-
cess, sometimes not. Te same goes for organized labor. So what is diferent
about Wisconsin? And, more signifcant, what potential is there to build a
movement that extends far beyond one state?
Trade unionism has deep roots in Wisconsin. It was here that the fore-
runner to AFSCME was founded in 1932 and that pioneering labor laws
were enacted, including the frst state law allowing local government work-
ers and teachers to engage in collective bargaining, signed by Governor
Gaylord Nelson in 1959.
Wisconsin has ofen been a political outlier. More than a century ago
Robert La Follette forged the progressive movement in the state. It grew
so strong that when the former Wisconsin governor ran for president in
1924 as an independent radical backed by the Socialist Party and the labor
epilogue | 274
movement, he beat the Democratic and Republican presidential nomi-
nees in Wisconsin. Te maverick strain was maintained through the 20th
century by liberals and radicals who briefy governed the state under the
banner of the Progressive Party, by Milwaukee voters who kept electing
Socialist mayors well into the 1950s (even as a right-wing populist, Joe
McCarthy, was winning statewide and stirring a red scare nationally), and
most recently by former Sen. Russ Feingold. Pride in the progressive tradi-
tion runs so strong that as many as 10,000 people gather each September
for an annual “Fighting Bob Fest” in rural Sauk County, where invariably
there is a reading of the words of the man who inspired La Follette, for-
mer state Supreme Court Justice Edward Ryan, who said in 1873: “Tere
is looming up a new and dark power. ... Te enterprises of the country
are aggregating vast corporate combinations of unexampled capital, boldly
marching, not for economical conquests only, but for political power.”
When students afliated with the Teaching Assistants’ Association
marched from the University of Wisconsin to the Capitol in one of the
initial protests against Walker’s bill, they decorated the area around the
bust of La Follette. And as protesters slept-in at the Capitol while Demo-
cratic legislators kept hearings going 24 hours a day in the early stages
of the struggle, union activists like AFSCME’s Ed Sadlowski kept a vigil
at the La Follette bust. But it’s not just nostalgia or tradition that distin-
guishes Wisconsin in general and Madison in particular. Madison was a
hotbed of 1960s protests and has remained a center of activism and in-
dependent media. Tere are strong community stations like WORT-FM,
and even commercial radio hosts like John “Sly” Sylvester have given daily
coverage to the protests. Progressive TV and radio hosts like MSNBC’s Ed
Schultz, Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman and radio’s Tom Hartmann
have broadcast from Madison in the past, and Schultz and Goodman re-
turned for live broadcasts as the current dispute developed. Local elected
ofcials tend to be progressive and pro-union; Dane County Sherif Dave
Mahoney played a critical role in easing tensions at the Capitol, making it
possible for demonstrators to maintain a sleep-in afer the governor and
GOP legislators tried to force them out. Tat infuriated Walker so much
that he and legislative allies initiated a clampdown limiting access to the
Capitol before a judge ordered its reopening. Mahoney responded that his
deputies weren’t “palace guards.”
Wisconsin’s history and progressive infrastructure created a sense, ex-
epilogue | 275
pressed by many in the state, that was perhaps best summed up by an
instructor at Madison Area Technical College, Mary Bartholomew, who
declared, “I’m so glad it came here first. But I know it’s going to have to
go everywhere.” Bartholomew is right; it does have to go everywhere.
But that will not happen easily. While Walker is not backing down,
other Republican governors will be smarter than Walker, as will Demo-
crats who seek to make cuts in public-employee pay, benefits, pensions,
and workplace protections. Noting the news from Wisconsin, Michigan
Governor Rick Snyder announced, “We’re going to go negotiate with
our unions in a collective bargaining fashion to achieve goals. It’s not
picking fights.”
But even if other governors avoid Walker’s divisive rhetoric and ex-
treme tactics, that does not mean the labor movement and progressives
can’t learn powerful lessons from this fght. Te frst is that even afer years
of right-wing messaging, Americans—at least in key swing states—don’t
have much taste for union-busting, even in the public sector. A Public Pol-
icy Polling survey of likely Wisconsin voters, released Feb. 28, found that if
they were electing a governor today, Democrat Tom Barrett would defeat
Walker by a 52–45 margin. And other surveys have found solid support for
collective bargaining rights. Recent national polls suggest that Americans
favor protecting collective bargaining rights by a 2–1 margin. Tat’s im-
portant when public employees and teachers are under assault from con-
servative think tanks and their media echo chamber.
Te second lesson is that when the assault comes, it is vital to be
bold and fexible. Members of the Teaching Assistants’ Association were
among the frst to start sleeping at the Capitol, and that inspired others.
So did a decision by members of Madison Teachers, Inc. (MTI), the city’s
education union, to take four days of to march and lobby against the bill.
When Walker tried to set police and frefghter unions against the broader
movement by exempting them from the worst assaults, MTI’s John Mat-
thews immediately went to frefghters and got them to join the protest in
solidarity; the initiative was so successful that frefghter and police union
members became key players. When the teachers went back to school, par-
ents and private-sector union members stepped into their places on the
picket line. When Walker tried to portray the unions and their members
as greedy, union leaders made the not wholly popular choice to concede on
a host of economic issues so the focus would remain squarely on the fght
epilogue | 276
to keep collective bargaining rights. When Walker claimed that the dem-
onstrators were being bused in from out of state, marchers began carrying
signs naming the towns, villages, and counties they came from; many state
and local employees showed up in their work uniforms. Te international
unions certainly provided tactical and economic support, but they did so
with an awareness of the need to be open to new ideas and approaches
learned from the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle; indeed, the Seattle infu-
ence was so deep that some of its slogans were adopted, particularly “Tis
is what democracy looks like.”
Te third lesson is that Democratic politicians can act in smart and
courageous ways, especially when they see tens of thousands of their
constituents through their ofce windows. Te decision by state Senate
Democrats to leave the Capitol to deny a quorum for the governor’s bill
was essential in giving its opponents time to build their numbers and ral-
ly communities. Te marathon resistance by state Assembly Democrats,
who forced a 60-plus-hour debate led by younger legislators like Mark
Pocan, Racine’s Cory Mason, and Milwaukee’s Tamara Grigsby, strength-
ened opposition and further expanded the movement. Tis outside/in-
side strategy was critical for protesters and legislators. Ultimately, some
Democrats still disappointed, and communication between the unions
and the Democratic senators was stilted and at times dysfunctional. Te
Democrats are not a labor party in any classic sense, but the best of the
Democrats championed labor’s cause at critical junctures.
Te fnal lesson is that the infuence of corporate money in our politics
must be highlighted, in order to show how fscal crises are ofen manufac-
tured or twisted for political gain. Even when the problems are real, the
answers ofered by Republican governors like Walker are not. One of the
most popular signs on the streets, distributed by National Nurses United,
said, “Blame Wall Street.” Instead of concessions, the nurses argued, it’s
time to focus on the corporate CEOs and speculators; as they point out:
“In U.S. states facing a budget shortfall, revenues from corporate taxes
have declined $2.5 billion in the last year. In Wisconsin, two-thirds of
corporations pay no taxes, and the share of state revenue from corporate
taxes has fallen by half since 1981.” Te same is true in other states. Tese
facts must be stressed, repeatedly and aggressively, if the debate is going
to shif from cuts in public services and education to demands for fair
taxes and the revenues necessary for services and schools.
epilogue | 277
For all the excitement of Wisconsin, for all the hope the protests have
generated, we are still only at a point where we can talk about changing
the terms of the debate. But that’s a big deal. Afer the policy compromises
of 2009 and the electoral setbacks of 2010, which were so disappointing to
progressives, the upsurge in Wisconsin has inspired people so powerfully
that national labor leaders like United Steelworkers International Presi-
dent Leo Gerard were ecstatic as they addressed the crowds of students,
young teachers, and state employees at the Capitol. “You have inspired
this fat old white guy!” Gerard said.
But it’s not just the labor leaders who are inspired, and that’s the most
important lesson. “Something about this has struck a chord of fairness and
humanity that runs deep in all of us,” Sarah Roberts told me as she waited
for her mom. “We’ve been pushed around for so long, told we didn’t have
any power for so long. But I think our grandparents and our parents, they
planted something in us, some values. And if we get pushed too far, we
are going to push back. I think it started here, and I am so excited to see
where we take it.”
appendix: timeline | 279
During the extraordinary protests that took place this winter in Wisconsin,
events developed at a breakneck speed. What follows is an overview of what
happened over the frst few months of Wisconsin’s struggle for workers’
rights, presented as a timeline of the major developments in what was ofen
a complex and rapidly changing situation.
What set these unprecedented demonstrations in motion was this: On Friday,
February 11, Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s newly elected Republican governor,
launched an attack on state workers in the form of his now-infamous “budget-
repair” bill. Walker had come into ofce as part of the 2010 conservative wave
that ushered in Republican control of the U.S. House of Representatives; in Wis-
consin, the governorship fipped from blue to red and a Tea Party-supported
billionaire ousted progressive champion Senator Russ Feingold.
Walker’s bill proposed severely limiting state employees’ right to col-
lectively bargain on wages, and would take away unions’ ability to negoti-
ate on sick leave, workplace conditions, grievance procedures, and benefts.
Te bill would force unions to undergo annual elections to maintain their
existence, allow employers to fre or discipline workers without cause, and
would require public employees to contribute a much higher percentage
of their pay into pensions and health care costs, reducing their paychecks
What Happened in Wisconsin: A Timeline
appendix: timeline | 280
by eight percent. While the governor claimed the bill was necessary to ad-
dress the state’s budget shortfall, many saw his move as a blatant assault
that used the state’s budget crisis as pretext for weakening public unions
in Wisconsin—the frst state to allow their existence. Adding insult to the
blow, Walker announced that he was willing to mobilize the state’s National
Guard to suppress dissent or prevent a potential workers’ strike.
Te frst day of large demonstrations took place on Monday, February
14, when a thousand University of Wisconsin students marched to the
Capitol. Tey carried Valentine’s Day cards that read “I Heart UW,” and
they urged Walker to not cut university funding. Tough the rally had been
planned weeks before Walker announced his bill, the new attack on workers
and unions energized many more to come out and join in.
On Tuesday, February 15, more than 10,000 outraged Wisconsinites
flled the Capitol to express their opposition to the bill that they saw as a
direct attack on their state’s identity and its deeply-rooted values. Te crowds
included 700 students from Madison’s East High School, who walked out
of classes to march to the Capitol. People flled the Legislature’s Joint Fi-
nance Committee hearing on the bill, signing up to testify by the hundreds,
and crowding into overfow rooms around the Capitol. Organizers from the
University of Wisconsin graduate assistants union, the Teaching Assistants’
Association (TAA), and other groups saw an opportunity: In Wisconsin, the
Capitol is required to stay open as long as a hearing is taking place. So they
encouraged people to continue signing up to testify in order to keep the mo-
mentum of the packed Capitol going strong. Hundreds watched and waited
for their turn to speak, and as afernoon became evening, protesters contin-
ued streaming in, bringing food, drinks, and sleeping bags. As Alexander
Hanna from the TAA said, “If you go home and come back you’re going to
have a lower turnout the next day. ... We were staying.” Yet Republican mem-
bers of the Joint Finance Committee repeatedly tried to end the marathon
hearing, and eventually succeeded in cutting of the ofcial session at around
3 a.m. that night. But with hundreds of people still waiting to speak, Demo-
cratic members kept an informal hearing going throughout the night, and
the Capitol remained open as people testifed—one afer another in two-
minute time slots—until dawn. In this way, as a sleep-in started by those
waiting to testify against Walker’s bill, the Capitol occupation was born.
appendix: timeline | 281
On Wednesday, February 16, more than half of Madison’s teachers called
in sick to protest Walker’s bill, completely shutting down the city’s schools until
February 22. Tey too joined the Capitol protests, and their act of defance—
and the fact that they risked their jobs by leaving work and efectively going on
strike—energized many others. Firefghters and police ofcers, two groups that
Walker had specifcally exempted from the bill’s reach, came to show solidarity
with protesters, and were greeted with raucous cheers by the crowds in the ro-
tunda. But afer hours of testimony, Walker’s bill passed out of the Joint Finance
Committee. For the second night, protesters slept inside the Capitol.
Te bill then moved to the state Senate—but before a vote could be held,
on Thursday, February 17, Wisconsin’s 14 Democratic senators fed the
state. By doing so, they stood with the thousands of protesters in the Capi-
tol that day, including hundreds of people who had been holding a sit-in
in front of the Senate chambers to block senators from going inside. With
no Democrats present, Republicans were lef one senator short of the quo-
rum required to hold a vote, and unable to move forward with the bill. State
troopers were sent to Democratic senators’ houses to track them down, but
they remained on the run, moving from hotel to hotel across state lines in
Illinois, where Wisconsin police had no jurisdiction. Teir dramatic move
energized the crowds of protesters, who swelled to an estimated 25,000 that
day, with hundreds continuing to sleep inside the Capitol.
On Saturday, February 19, 68,000 people took part in rallies outside
the Capitol. A smaller group of between 3,000 and 5,000 turned out for a
counter-protest, where they heard from Tea Party favorites Joe the Plumber,
Andrew Breitbart, and Herman Cain. Despite the close proximity of the two
opposing groups, the gathering remained peaceful.
On Wednesday, February 23, news broke that Walker had been punked.
Bufalo Beast editor Ian Murphy recorded a call to Walker, in which Murphy
pretended to be billionaire Tea Party and Walker campaign-donor David
Koch. Murphy talked to Walker for 20 minutes, during which time Walker
admitted that he had considered attempting to lure Democratic senators
back to the state under false promises of negotiation and had thought about
planting rabble-rousers amongst demonstrators to create a violent image of
the protesters.
appendix: timeline | 282
In the early hours of Friday, February 25, with the legislation still blocked
in the Senate by the 14 Democrats’ absence, the Republican leadership in
the State Assembly suddenly called for a vote on Walker’s bill. Tere had
been 60 hours of debate, but representatives had only seconds to cast their
vote, and many Democrats who attempted to vote didn’t even have time for
their choice to be registered. Crowds of protesters shouted, “Shame!” from
the rotunda at the Republicans as the legislators hurried out of the building
afer the vote. Later that day, police announced that on Sunday the Capitol
would close at 4 p.m. for cleaning, and would return to “normal business
hours” on Monday.
Saturday, February 26 saw between 70,000 and 100,000 protesters
gathered in Madison amid freezing temperatures and heavy snow. Across
the country that day, MoveOn.org held solidarity rallies in all 50 state capi-
tals, where more than 50,000 people gathered to show their support for the
Wisconsin fght.
Te next day, police tried to put a stop to the Capitol occupation that
had gone on for more than a week. As they had announced on Friday, on
Sunday, February 27 police continued to announce their plans to close
the Capitol to protesters at 4 p.m., saying that protesters would have to leave
so that the building could be cleaned for public health reasons. Tension
built throughout the day, and many protesters made preparations to engage
in civil disobedience and be arrested rather than voluntarily leave the Capi-
tol. Yet as the announced deadline approached and then passed, the police
did not take action to arrest the protesters. Hundreds remained inside the
Capitol; by having held their ground they achieved a powerful victory. Yet
while police refrained from making arrests, they began tightening security,
with entry to the Capitol severely limited from that day forward.
On Tuesday, March 1, Walker unveiled his full proposed budget, a sepa-
rate piece of legislation from the budget-repair bill, with an address at the
Capitol, where he was rushed in and out through an underground tunnel
to avoid the protesters. Te number of demonstrators inside the building
dwindled—with only one protester being let inside for each one who lef—
as the courts heard legal challenges to the governor’s attempts to force and
keep protesters out of the building.
appendix: timeline | 283
On Wednesday, March 2, Democratic state representatives moved their
desks outside, into the freezing cold temperatures, where they met with
constituents in protest of how restricted access to the Capitol had become.
Te Capitol occupation came to an end on Thursday, March 3, 16 days
afer it had begun. Protesters were exhausted—many had been in the Capi-
tol continuously since access had become tightened several days before—
but they promised to continue the fght and return once the building was
reopened afer the weekend.
Without warning, on Wednesday, March 9, Republican legislators de-
cided to quickly separate out the fscal provisions from Walker’s bill and
vote on only the union-busting measures, making it clearer than ever that
Walker’s push was not a response to the state’s budget crisis, but a targeted
political attack. Since a quorum of 20 senators is only needed for a fscal bill,
Republicans went ahead with a vote with no Democrats present—passing
the bill through the Senate on March 9, and through the Assembly on
Thursday, March 10. Amid a massive outpouring of opposition, Walker
signed the bill into law on Friday, March 11.
On Saturday, March 12, the Democratic state senators returned home.
Tey were greeted with a hero’s welcome in Madison as they marched into
town and through the streets outside of the Capitol. With estimates of more
than 100,000 protesters out that day, March 12 was the biggest of the Madi-
son rallies—the largest Wisconsin had seen since the Vietnam War, and one
of the largest labor protests in American history.
On March 18, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi blocked
Walker’s bill from being implemented, ruling that the way in which it was
passed may have violated Wisconsin’s law requiring 24-hours notice before
a vote.
On March 25, the Legislative Reference Bureau published the bill anyway,
circumventing the Secretary of State and following the instructions of Re-
publicans who said they would enforce the new law.
On Tuesday, April 5, Wisconsinites went to the polls to vote in the frst
appendix: timeline | 284
election to be held afer the protests. Te race was for the Wisconsin Su-
preme Court, between upstart challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg and David
Prosser, the Walker-backed incumbent judge. Were Kloppenburg to win,
her victory would shif the balance of the Wisconsin Supreme Court—the
body who would ultimately decide whether Walker’s budget-repair bill had
been passed legally. On Election Day the race was unexpectedly close, and
the challenger that people hadn’t heard of just a few weeks before ended the
night with a lead of fewer than a thousand votes, though the race remained
too close to call. Days later, a Republican county clerk found 7,000 uncount-
ed votes that had been stored on her home computer. Many were outraged,
accusing Republicans of Florida-style election shenanigans. Kloppenburg
challenged the fndings—but afer a lengthy recount process, Prosser was
determined to be the legal winner.
On May 26, Judge Maryann Sumi voided Walker’s bill, saying that it was
passed illegally in violation of Wisconsin’s open-meetings law.
But on June 14, the Wisconsin Supreme Court reversed Judge Sumi’s rul-
ing, arguing that the closing of the Capitol doors did not violate the con-
stitutional mandate that the building stay open while the Legislature is in
session.
On June 29, following months of protests, Walker’s budget-repair bill
became law in Wisconsin.
At the time of this writing, many of the protesters in the Wisconsin struggle
are immersed in the eforts to recall six Republican state senators from of-
fce. In all of Wisconsin history, only four previous recall eforts have been
attempted. In 2012, Walker himself will be eligible for recall, and many
groups have already pledged that this will be a major focus.
While the tale of the Wisconsin struggle evolves each day, this collec-
tion captures a moment in time that is part of a much longer story that has
only begun.
appendix: statement from thomas m bird | 285
At several points in this collection we meet Tom Bird: a Wisconsite whose
story, for a number of authors, came to represent many frst-time activists
who were involved in the Wisconsin fght. A 22-year-old engineering gradu-
ate student from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Bird decided to check out the protests
several days afer they had begun. Once there, he quickly became part of a
tight-knit group of protesters, none of whom knew each other previously, who
lived in the Capitol for days on end and played an important role in keeping
the occupation going strong.
What follows is Bird’ story, in his own words—the original and unedited
text of a statement Bird wrote in early March, refecting on what for him had
been a life-changing few weeks in February.
On Tursday, February 17th I entered the Capitol building for the frst time
during these protests. I write this early in the morning on March 1st. 12
days have passed since this began for me but I cannot even comprehend
those 12 days through my usual perception of time. It feels like a month. My
life has been irreparably changed in ways that I am only starting to come
to terms with. I began by simply trying to write a brief timeline of what
happened on each day... and there are entire days that I cannot place any
specifc events into. As I write this I am gripped with a sense of purpose that
A Statement from Tomas M Bird
March 1, 2011
appendix: statement from thomas m bird | 286
I have never felt before in my life. All I can do now is try to describe what I
have experienced in the hope that I do not forget more.
First, a brief history of my life as is relevant to these events. I grew up
in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I became politically aware around the time of the
frst Iraq war in 2003, when I was only 14 years old. A friend of mine was a
frst generation American from Lebanon. He was very politically involved
and active in the local peace and justice movement. I can’t remember what
exactly galvanized me to oppose the Iraq war so strongly at such a young
age, but the day the war started I walked out of school, following my friend’s
lead, and spent the day protesting. It was a great experience but did not
change my life in any signifcant way.
From that point on I was aware of the broader political movements
in the country. However I did not begin to follow politics rabidly until the
fnancial crisis and presidential election in 2008. At this point I began to self
educate myself on macroeconomics and began to tune myself in to the na-
tional political scene. As this happened it became clear to me that I agreed
very strongly with the major tenets of the Progressive movement, which of
course happened to be born here in Wisconsin. While I have mostly voted
Democrat, I have always felt disappointed in the national Democratic party
due to their tendency to let the radical Republican party frame the debate
and control “the center”, which the Democrats would promptly claim as
their new territory and the process repeats. Te progressive members of the
Democratic party have been the only thing holding me back from complete
cynicism. I could not be prouder to say that I was able to cast a vote for
Tammy Baldwin and Russ Feingold.
Te 2010 midterm elections deeply saddened me. Russ Feingold was
defeated by a man who is signifcantly less qualifed than myself to be a
United States Senator, and that is not to say that I am particularly quali-
fed, but rather that Ron Johnson’s only real qualifcation was the number of
digits in his bank statement. Te Republicans took complete control of the
state government of Wisconsin. Prior to the past few weeks I had not fol-
lowed the state government all that closely, but I knew it would be nothing
but bad news for Wisconsin and our proud, Progressive tradition. We have
one of the better public education systems in the country (which I benefted
from immensely), one of the fnest state universities in the country or world
(which I have also benefted from to an even greater degree), and a strong
social safety net (growing up as the son of a paraplegic I also benefted from
appendix: statement from thomas m bird | 287
this.) Wisconsin had a proud history of being a union stronghold, pioneer-
ing many of the rights that workers across the country enjoy. I knew we
would begin to see much of this dismantled, and I felt rather hopeless and
cynical. But there was little I could do and my life went on.
I believe it was Friday, February 11th that the details of the “Budget
Repair Bill”, (SB 11 in the state senate) began to be released. I saw that col-
lective bargaining rights were being stripped from nearly every public em-
ployee union in the state, with a few exceptions (frefghters, some police).
I couldn’t believe it, but I also did not believe anything could be done. Pro-
tests began on Monday the 14th. My life continued as normal, going to
classes and attending to my research. On Tursday the 17th I did not have
any classes, so I decided to join the University of Wisconsin student walk-
out which met on campus and marched to the capitol square. I entered the
building for the frst time during these protests and my life has never been
the same.
I quickly met my frst “protest friend” afer chatting briefy while stand-
ing on the 1st foor overlooking the rotunda foor. At this point rumors
began circulating that the 14 Senate Democrats had fed the state. I couldn’t
believe it, but my spirits were immediately raised. We took part in a sit-
in outside of the senate chamber, blocking anyone from entering (the 19
Republicans were inside but needed 20 members for a quorum to pass any
fnancial legislation.) We complied with the police to allow anyone to leave.
For the frst time it crossed my mind that I might be arrested, which was
exciting but I was still nervous about it. Eventually the Republican senators
lef and I wandered around outside the capitol, still not understanding what
was about to happen. I decided I would join those sleeping in the Capitol
building for at least a night, perhaps just as a novelty. My new protest friend
and I spent most of the night awake, discussing politics and everything else
under the sun. I signed up to testify in the public hearing the Assembly
Democrats were running around 1 am. My friend found a wonderful state-
ment for me to read from Clarence Darrow, a famous ACLU lawyer, in de-
fense of Tomas I. Kidd who incited workers to unionize in my hometown
of Oshkosh and was charged with treason.
At around 4am I entered the room where the hearings were taking
place. Unfortunately I didn’t get to testify until 7am but it was a powerful
three hours. I saw, for the frst time, several brave young men who I now
view as my family. I heard incredibly articulate high school students give
appendix: statement from thomas m bird | 288
impassioned statements out of love for their teachers. I heard passionate
teachers describe how collective bargaining allowed them to keep class siz-
es smaller. Not one word about pension contributions, not one word about
salary. I heard downtrodden union workers describe how they would gladly
see their salary go down (many of them already had) but merely wanted to
protect their basic right to collectively bargain. It was emotional and in-
credible. Te Assembly Democrats running the hearing listened intently
and provided thoughtful, intelligent commentary. I began to fall in love
with them. Tat sounds a bit cliché but it is the only language I know of to
describe what I felt.
At 7am on the morning of Friday, February 18th I lef the Capitol
building and was greeted by the now risen sun. It felt strange... and yet I
still did not understand what was to come. I went home and showered, and
then returned to campus for the next UW student walkout. It wasn’t until
11am but I ended up helping organize the march. I found myself in the
front row of the student march, locking arms with new friends I had just
met. We slowly marched up State Street from campus to the Capitol square,
in contact with the police who were escorting us. It was my frst taste of
being an organizer. It was a wonderful day, but I don’t remember too much
at this point. I decided to spend the night and testify again, but this time I
had no other friends in the Capitol. Some students from Milwaukee had a
megaphone and drum circle set up on the ground foor in the center of the
rotunda. Emboldened by others who stepped up and talked into the mega-
phone, I did it for the frst time. I testifed again and thankfully ran into a
friend whose group I slept next to that night.
Saturday the 19th saw even bigger protests. An estimated 70,000 pro-
tested, including a Tea Party counter-protest. I cannot verify the statement
because I spent the entire day inside the Capitol building, staying close to
the center of the rotunda. I spoke on the megaphone again, this time to a
massive crowd. I merely decided to thank the 14 Senate Democrats, starting
a “Fab 14” chant. At some point I joined the drum circle and started pound-
ing on a plastic bucket with a drumstick. I began to meet the others drum-
ming or running the megaphone who would become my family. Tere was
still no organization at all amongst the protestors... just a beautiful open
microphone for anyone to speak and all to listen.
Tat night I joined some of my new drum circle friends to sleep in our
little encampment on the 1st foor overlooking the rotunda foor. Eventually
appendix: statement from thomas m bird | 289
we would come to be called “the cuddle puddle”, though the name came
from a random passerby. I lef valuables unattended several foors up the
entire day as thousands poured through the building. Food orders were
pouring in from across the country by this point. Some people had set up
an information station, some people had set up a makeshif medic station,
but there was no overall organization. Te UW Teaching Assistant Associa-
tion had access to a room where they were distributing food and had an
army of laptops set up. Volunteers donned marshall vests to help the police
maintain order. It was a beautiful, organic thing. Everyone pitched in to
keep the building clean.
Sunday the 19th saw smaller rallies inside the rotunda where I contin-
ued drumming and built a stronger relationship with my new friends. We
let a young child join us on our drum and ended up spending hours having
a lot of fun. Te child’s mother eventually became such a good friend that
she lef her child with us for 30 minutes at a time, knowing that we would
keep an eye on him. Tat night we drummed our hearts out and had a lot
of fun. A group of ballroom dancers joined us to help entertain. I started to
get a feeling that something special was happening. I had never been more
well fed in my life.
Monday the 21st through Wednesday 23rd were a bit of a blur. At some
point, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine spent a night with us in
the capitol. I stood next to him as he spoke into the megaphone to a packed
building, reading a statement from one of the leaders of the Egyptian revo-
lution ofering complete support to our movement. I couldn’t even fathom
how that could happen at the time. I had spent the past few weeks following
the situation in Egypt very intensely and was inspired by the incredible,
brave struggle of the Egyptian people. Te United States had long support-
ed the oppressive dictator whom they overthrew, and within days they were
standing in solidarity with us. I am still in awe of that. I met Medea Benja-
min of Code Pink, a wonderful person, just back from Egypt. She shared
with us the lessons of Tahrir square, but there was still no formal organiza-
tion so it merely planted ideas into our collective conscience.
Union workers from across the country had come to the Capitol in
massive numbers, ofering their support. I began to hear about similar
political battles beginning to erupt across the country. Te infamous prank
call happened at some point. It became very clear that we were at the focal
point of a decade long assault on unions in the United States. It became clear
appendix: statement from thomas m bird | 290
that Wisconsin was targeted due to its proud union history and history of
pioneering new workers rights. I began to feel a true sense of purpose.
On Tursday the 24th, the Senate Republicans tried to pass a Voter
ID bill to bait the Democrats into returning. In principle, the bill was not
fnancial and did not require the 3/5ths quorum of fnancial legislation. I
had followed this issue in the past and knew it was a naked, political attack
on the poor designed to discourage voters who tend to vote Democrat. I
lef the rotunda and sat upstairs listening to the Republican Senators speak,
feeling sick to my stomach. Fortunately, prior law in Indiana required that
free identifcation cards must be provided for this bill to be legal, which
required funding thus making the legislation fnancial. I read this online on
my iPad and literally ran down to the rotunda to announce it on the mega-
phone. Te crowd erupted into a massive cheer. Perhaps years of spending
my free time reading about politics were beginning to pay of.
Tat night, the Assembly voted. My understanding was that the Capitol
building could only stay open outside of its normal hours if the legislature
was in session. Te Assembly Democrats had kept the building open by
running public hearings on the bill throughout each night. Afer that vote,
we thought we would be asked to leave. I was preparing to be arrested.
Tere had been numerous information sessions on civil disobedience so I
understood that I would not face any signifcant charges. I was a bit excited.
I believed in the cause and wanted to peacefully be arrested in defense of
it. I was nervous and excited. I listened intently as the Assembly Demo-
crats poured their hearts out in front of the cameras. Te representative
from Oshkosh, my hometown, described the wonderful physics teacher he
learned from at his high school. It was the same teacher I learned from, who
inspired me to take up the career path I have embarked on. Tat was a pow-
erful moment and only strengthened my resolve. Te bill was supposed to
come up to a vote at around 4am. At 1am, the Republicans broke their own
legislative rules and forced a vote. Only roughly a third of the Democrats
even had a chance to vote.
Te Republicans fled out of the chamber as the Democrats shouted
“Shame! Shame!”. Te mood in the rotunda was incredibly tense. Many
were angry, justifably so. We knew this was an important moment to main-
tain peace. It was difcult but many of us quieted the crowd and kept it
peaceful. Some of us gathered in the center of the rotunda on the ground
foor for a group hug, preparing to be arrested. It was incredibly emotional.
appendix: statement from thomas m bird | 291
Several Assembly Democrats came down and spoke. A friend of mine gave
a powerful, moving speech. I even gave a speech, but I forget what I even
said now. We embraced each other and prepared to be asked to leave. It
never happened, and eventually we went back to sleep.
Tat night, the diferent groups running various aspects of the new
“Capitol City” began to organize. I was asked to stay in the center of the
rotunda by the microphone and ensure that we kept a peaceful, open mi-
crophone for all to have their voices heard. We knew the coming weekend
was important. I don’t remember Friday the 25th all that well sadly. I believe
it was when 160 union workers from Los Angeles chartered a plane and
showed up all at once, marching into the rotunda. Tat was quite a moment.
I had already met so many wonderful union workers from across the coun-
try, but Los Angeles really surprised me being so far away. We were building
momentum and I began to feel a confdence which has yet to leave me. Te
Polish Trade Union “Solidarity”, who helped bring down the Communist
government there, had come out in support of us. Our victory was their
victory, they said. Another incomprehensible honor which I will forever
feel unworthy of.
Saturday the 26th was another massive protest day. A large snowstorm
passed through yet the crowds likely surpassed 100,000. Tey began to limit
what food we could bring into the building. Te frst half of the day I was
reminded what cafeine depravation felt like, which wasn’t pleasant. It was
very stressful to watch over the megaphone and try to get as many people’s
voices heard while still making administrative announcements. I knew the
most important thing we could do was initiate recall elections for the 8
Republican senators who could be immediately recalled. I started to an-
nounce their names over the megaphone as frequently as I could without
overriding the peoples voices. It was a delicate balance and very stressful.
We began to hear that on Sunday they would ask us to leave at 4pm and the
building would return to normal hours. Te Capitol City Leadership Com-
mittee, an umbrella organization of the 6 diferent groups which had been
performing various tasks in the building, had been meeting by this point. I
was technically in their command but I didn’t need to know much to do my
part. Te meetings are a paragon of the democratic process. Each meeting
has an even number of representatives. All business is put to a democratic
vote. In the event of a tie, there are 3 rounds of debate and then the motion
is tabled. Eventually we will release videos of this process. Te Wisconsin
appendix: statement from thomas m bird | 292
Republicans could probably learn a thing or two from us.
Sunday the 27th was an intense, emotional day. I fnally told my own
story on the megaphone, to a massive crowd and many many cameras. A
video of this will be released soon... but I was able to channel years of frus-
tration with the Republican Party into a coherent, emotional message. It
felt amazing. A group of musicians and actors spontaneously broke out into
a song from Les Miserables in the rotunda at some point. One of my new
friends, whose ancestors were Polish, brought a Polish fag with “Solidarity
1980” written on it. I stood next to him holding this fag as we sang a song
written about the French revolution, in Madison Wisconsin. It was really
just designed to be a fun event, obviously we weren’t seeking to evoke the
French revolution as our inspiration, but it was still powerful. Once again
a brave woman with colon cancer whom I had become good friends with
came to the megaphone and spoke. Tis bill, if it passes, will almost cer-
tainly result in her losing her chemotherapy as it gives the governor direct
control over funding to our healthcare programs. I had been able to avoid
tears up to this point, some how, but I broke down and cried. I doubt I will
ever be more motivated by a single story than I have been by her brave
struggle.
As 4pm approached it became a bit chaotic. Rumors were constantly
being spread that the police had dogs and were targeting the leaders. Te
police had protected us for nearly two weeks at this point and had been
nothing short of incredible, so I did not believe those rumors. We were
expecting to be asked to leave, and those of us who would refuse would be
arrested. We constantly were imploring the crowd to cooperate (that is to
say, those who wished to be arrested would at least go peacefully and not
force the police to drag them out) over the megaphone while also continu-
ing to let everyone who wished to speak do so. Representative Brett Hulsey
asked the crowd to peacefully follow him out of the building when asked.
Tey announced over the speakers that we were being asked to leave, and
for those who wished to refuse and be arrested to go up to the frst foor. I
made one last speech imploring people to cooperate and headed up to the
frst foor. It was starting to become apparent that maybe we wouldn’t actu-
ally be arrested, so I jubilantly walked around the 1st foor with someone
collecting signatures for recall petitions for the 8 Republican senators.
Tose of us who stayed were not arrested. Later that night I eventually
lef, exhausted, as my sleeping supplies were no longer in the building. As
appendix: statement from thomas m bird | 293
I write this the Capitol building has still been not reopened to the public
since 4pm on Sunday the 27th. Te longer they keep the building locked
down, the more they lower their profle and raise ours. Tis was an unprec-
edented, beautiful, peaceful event. I believe that there are no rational, hon-
est reasons for continuing to lock us out of the building. Some of my friends
who I cherish as family are still inside and I do fear for them, but I can only
hope that decency will prevail.
I believe that the progressive movement and the labor unions are the
only political force lef in this country capable of standing up for the brave,
hard working Americans who have seen their voice drowned out by the in-
fuence of corporate campaign donations. Tese Americans are not partisan
ideologues, many do not have the leisure of intensely following the political
developments in this country, nor would they want to waste their time on
such things. And this is bigger than just America. Although our stature has
been lessened recently, the United States still sets an important example for
the rest of the world. Whether we win or lose, it will echo across the country
and the world.
Te Democratic representatives of the state of Wisconsin have con-
verted me from being a cynic into being an activist. It is the greatest honor
of my life that I have been a part of this fght, and I will do everything that
I possibly can do continue it. I should proof read and edit this statement, as
I’m sure I’ve constantly reused the same language, but it came directly from
my heart, and I will leave it as it is.
Wisconsin Progressive Blogroll
_____
Blogging Blue
www.bloggingblue.com
Blue Cheddar
www.bluecheddar.net
Cognitive Dissidence
www.cognidissidence.blogspot.com
Dan Cody: Left on the Lake
www.dancody.org
Dane 101
www.dane101.com
First Draft
www.frst-draf.com
Forward Lookout
www.forwardlookout.com
Folkbum
www.folkbum.blogspot.com
Illusory Tenant
www.illusorytenant.blogspot.com
The Political Environment
www.thepoliticalenvironment.blogspot.com
Uppity Wisconsin
www.uppitywis.org
THANK YOU
Christopher Hass, my designer, editor, and partner at every step of this
process.
Mike Elk for being a shit-kicking labor journalist and for supporting this
book from the beginning.
John Nichols for your encouragement, stories, and Wisconsin history lessons.
Kristian Knutsen and the other editors of Madison’s Isthmus newspaper,
whose online protest coverage helped me fnd the majority of the tweets in
this collection.
Tank you to Alex Hanna, Jill Hopke, Magda Konieczna, Ben Stein, and the
rest of the Teaching Assistants’ Association.
Tom Bird, Matt Wisniewski, Bill Fetty, and the whole Autonomous
Solidarity Organization.
Melissa Ryan, Andy Kroll, Paul Adler, Ben Manski, John Peck, Natalie Fos-
ter, Joel Handley, and the Justseeds artists.
Tanks and #solidarity to the London crew behind Fight Back! A Reader
on the Winter of Protest, the book that helped inspire this one. Let’s keep
it going.
Tank you to all of the contributors to this collection, to the tweeters and
bloggers and others who told this story, and most importantly, the people
of Wisconsin who made it happen.
SOLI DARI TY FOREVER
Tasora

welcome

What happened in Wisconsin in the winter of 2011 is a remarkable and important story that needs to be told. We Are Wisconsin is one of the first steps towards telling that story, and we’ve made it available as a free PDF in order to reach the widest possible audience. Please share this book with anyone who might be interested—and help spread the word by writing your own review on Amazon.com. Printed copies are available for purchase on Amazon.com and at WeAreWisconsinBook.com, where you can also find the latest bookrelated news and updates. Many thanks and much #solidarity. – Erica Sagrans, editor

we are wisconsin

edited by erica sagrans

Tasora

We Are Wisconsin Copyright © 2011 www.wearewisconsinbook.com ISBN: 978-1-934690-48-2 Content licensed under Creative Commons, unless otherwise noted, and used with permission of the authors. Individual tweets copyright the tweeters. “Union Made” poster used with permission of the artist, Colin Matthes www.justseeds.com Wisconsin fist image used with permission of the artist, Brandon Bauer www.justseeds.com Capitol rotunda photo copyright Emily Mills Editor: Erica Sagrans Cover and Interior Design: Christopher Hass Copy Editor: Joel Handley Printed in the United States of America Tasora Books 5120 Cedar Lake Road S Minneapolis, MN 55416 (952) 345-4488 Distributed by Itasca Books 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2

#WIUNION .

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we are wisconsin | 8 12 18 23 36 40 47 52 56 63 67 72 76 86 93 .

we are wisconsin | 9 102 105 118 123 127 134 137 144 149 154 160 166 172 182 185 .

we are wisconsin | 10 189 192 196 205 212 217 227 234 242 250 254 261 269 279 285 294 .

@MelissaRyan Scott Walker just declared war on Government workers. .

2011 Memorial Union. rallied on a frigid February morning to object to Republican Governor Scott Walker’s plan to strip public-employee unions of collective bargaining rights. You need to get active now!” It worked. inside were thousands more—students. Faculty and staff are under attack. And while the crowds outside the Capitol were massive.. A few dozen members of the Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA). . Two weeks later. The message from TAA organizers to union members was blunt: “All publicsector workers are under attack. Yet the demonstration on that third Saturday was not the largest to occur during the month of protests at the Capitol.. upwards of 125.John Nichols July. a significantly larger crowd would fill the downtown of the city and hail the return of Democratic state senators who had decamped to Illinois for the better part of a month in order to deny the governor and his Republican allies a legislative quorum.000 Wisconsinites rallied at the Capitol in Madison as tens of thousands more gathered in communities across the state. Two weeks after that first protest. The UW as a whole is under attack. the oldest graduate employee union in the world. and snowplow drivers who had occupied the building around-the-clock for more than a week. teachers. .

Feb. The people were offended by their governor’s false premises—not just with regard to the makeup of the protests but with the trumped-up “budget crisis” Walker was using to bust unions. the black-and-white contrasts. Cory Mason (D-Racine) leveled “tyranny. Wisconsinites do not take offense in the ordinary way. and slash funding for schools and public services. and filled every floor of the statehouse for what local historian Stuart Levitan described as “the largest political event ever in Madison. Fred Risser (D-Madison) described as Walker’s “dictatorial” actions.” The people-power surge came in response to what the senior member of the Wisconsin Legislature. or occupations. what happened in Wisconsin in the first months of 2011. 26. are reflected in this fine collection of writing. The full picture is always a nuanced one—complete with a history.foreword | 13 But the Wisconsin uprising was not just about crowds. And it was not just because of what I saw in Madison—although what I saw in Madison was awesome. however. and prospects that are only beginning to be realized. Like all epic struggles. attack local democracy. economic demands. and the shades of gray that make the picture of what has happened in Wisconsin. And their handmade signs put the liar in his place: “Walker: Governor of Wall Street. Not Wisconsin” . it was that third Saturday. spilled down the streets of the city. but Wisconsinites recognized them as appropriate to the moment. Snow fell throughout the day. and what continues to this day. social complexities. The daylong demonstration surrounded the Capitol. cannot be reduced to simple story lines. coming from a politician who was spinning a web of deception.” Those are charged words. protests. If there was a day when it seemed absolutely clear to me that what was happening in Wisconsin would shape the lives not just of Wisconsinites but of Americans for years to come. They get all creative. and temperatures were brutal. All of the vibrant colors. or what is still happening in Wisconsin. state Sen. Walker had tried to spin the fantasy that the crowds that had surrounded the Capitol for almost two weeks weren’t made up of real Wisconsinites. In interviews with national networks. That was a lie. They do not get all huffy. and to what state Rep.

as well as Washington. What Planet Is Walker From?” Hundreds of signs recalled the governor’s 20-minute conversation— revealed days earlier—with a prank caller who had gotten past Walker’s receptionists and staffers by identifying himself as conservative billionaire David Koch: “Walker Has One Constituent: David Koch” “Governor Walker. along with unions across the country. and vital human services.” That became clear as the day unfolded. women’s organizations. police. celebrated the success of “Rallies to Save the American Dream. D. and more—are inspired and ready to fight.” explaining that. Instead of creating jobs. The National Nurses United union took the lead in organizing national solidarity marches and rallies that Saturday. The Wisconsin protesters were joined that day by supporters in every one of the nation’s state capitals. the American Dream is under fierce attack. emergency response. seniors.org and other progressive groups. And they had to take that fight to the streets—not just on behalf of labor rights but for basic premises of a just and equitable society.” Standing in solidarity with the people of Wisconsin on Feb. students. Energized by the images of Wisconsinites rallying night after winter night—and filling the state Capitol with chants of “What’s disgusting? Union-busting!”—the nation’s savviest unions were coming to recognize that they were in a fight for survival.C. But what made the day a turning point was the fact that the movement was no longer playing out in a single state. 26. Your Koch Dealer Is On Line Two” That Saturday’s rally in Madison was the largest gathering of activists to that point in what had already become an unprecedented state-based movement for economic and social justice. MoveOn. “In Wisconsin and around our country. Republicans are giving tax breaks to corporations and the very rich—and then cutting funding for education.foreword | 14 “I’m From Wisconsin. those who rallied in all the nation’s capitals announced that: “We demand an end . with executive director Rose Ann DeMoro declaring that the first lesson to be taken from Wisconsin is “Working people—with our many allies.

Santa Fe and Sacramento. In solidarity. We demand investment to create decent jobs for the millions of people who desperately want to work. in Juneau and Jefferson City. JOHN NICHOLLS July.” they declared. 2011 . in Tucson and Tallahassee. and of the radical possibility it has given Wisconsin and America. They stood in Atlanta and Boston. And they stood in Madison. And we demand that the rich and powerful pay their fair share.” “We are all Wisconsin. This book tells the story of that solidarity.foreword | 15 to the attacks on workers’ rights and public services across the country. in Columbus and Denver. We are all Americans.

#sOlIdaRItyWI .

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I often agreed with them. D.C. As a staffer at the Democratic National Committee. each week I read survey responses from sometimes-supporters who admonished Democrats to “toughen up” or “show some spine”—and those were among the gentler words they had for us. 2011 I had immersed myself among British activists as they prepared for one of the biggest demonstrations in London’s history—where half a million people took to the streets to protest the deep and painful cuts to basic government services that were about to take place. earlier that winter.C. I had fled Washington. I knew there was energy on our side too. and wondering when the left would find a way to match the Tea Party’s grassroots energy bubbling up on the other side. Like many progressives. politics after Obama’s 2008 victory. Like many of the young people who had started working in D. when high school and university students stormed the Conservative Party’s headquarters to protest tuition hikes and were met with violent police confrontations. it just wasn’t being channeled or organized as effectively—and much of it took the form of frustration directed at the Democratic Party. So we shook our heads . After several years working in national Democratic politics. I was dispirited by large losses in the midterm elections. frustrated with some Democrats’ inability to stand up for progressive values.Erica Sagrans July. The protests had grown out of Britain’s student uprising that began earlier that winter.

During a teachin at a London university. who had been part of the revolution that had toppled her country’s dictator after a brutal 30-year rule. but unable to watch it elsewhere. and their own power. for days and then weeks—and Democratic state senators stood with them. as we prepared for the March 26 demonstration it was impossible to stop thinking about the Wisconsin protests. hundreds of us spoke with activists in Madison through Skype video. Chalk messages were scrawled on the sidewalk . It was a strange but beautiful confluence of earth-shaking change. teachers and students and police officers and farmers gathered at their Capitol and refused to leave. all part of something incredibly unlikely and incredibly powerful. A British activist told me how he had been riveted by the live video stream my American friend had broadcast from his iPhone during the Madison Capitol occupation—video that was seen over a hundred thousand times by people who were fascinated by what was going on. as well as the awe-inspiring Egyptian revolution that had just unfolded.” and “Care about educators like they care for your child” were just a few. and watched a YouTube clip of farmer Tony Schultz firing up crowds in front of the snowy Wisconsin Capitol. Stores along State Street were filled with posters and pins and bumper stickers that combined Wisconsin pride with support for unions and state workers (“We have ‘State workers are sexy’ pins. breathing some new life into both the labor movement and the progressive left overall. a thousand people cheered Egyptian activist Gigi Ibrahim.introduction | 19 and did what we could to steer the huge ship we were on a few feet to the left whenever possible.” “Walker gives welfare to the rich. I went to Wisconsin to see what it was like there during the weeks following the protests that shook the Capitol and the state.” one chalkboard sign on the sidewalk proclaimed). The people of Wisconsin were no longer waiting for politicians to lead—they were finding their own voice.000-person rallies. but it was impossible to miss that something incredible had just happened. it felt like we were all connected. At an East London gathering a few weeks before the big march.S.. In Wisconsin. In London. the whole world is watching. In the neighborhood where I stayed. handmade signs remained in nearly every window or yard: “Governor Walker. But something changed while I was away. From Madison to Cairo to London. There were no more 100. After returning to the U. Their actions helped inspire similar protests at capitols around the country.

Walker’s attack on collective bargaining has become law. Madison seemed like a place where you could live well. Telling individual stories was a way of sharing and documenting the protests. In this. local food was plentiful. inside. Battles continue in Wisconsin each day. along with a desire to recharge and figure out what comes next. it was the protesters—almost every one of them—who told the story of the uprising using their phones. Though the organizing in Wisconsin continues. But this anthology attempts to bridge the gap between the immediacy of Twitter and the permanence of academic study. This collection is a first draft of the story of the Wisconsin uprising. That isn’t to say there is not a strong desire to tell the Wisconsin story to a larger audience. tasty. It’s a huge loss. strangers were friendly (one greeted me with an energetic “Hello citizen!” and a salute from across the street).introduction | 20 outside the Capitol. through Twitter and Facebook and email and blogs. the impact of what happened during those unlikely months in Wisconsin will be felt for a long time to come. there is now an opportunity to begin to take stock of the events that have taken place. to be sure. and cameras. from the elections to recall Wisconsin’s state senators to the (likely) eventual push to recall Governor Scott Walker himself. there is also a palpable sense of fatigue. laptops. After all. Many of the Wisconsinites I spoke with had not yet sat down and truly reflected on what they had been part of—they were too busy getting back to some semblance of normal life after weeks spent completely consumed by the demonstrations. regardless of whether you had a job with a fancy title or a big salary. The statehouse takeover began when protesters packed a hearing room to . The story told here is by no means complete. when these folks’ way of life was attacked by Governor Scott Walker’s efforts. People biked along the tree-lined streets and on paths next to the shimmering lakes. For now. No doubt it is a story that will be told and retold for years to come. Yet regardless of the fate of this particular piece of legislation. they stood up to fiercely defend it. because the story is far from over. I could see why. large letters spelling out the word “Solidarity” hung facing outward in legislators’ office windows. I was also struck by how good life seemed to be in Madison. but storytelling also played a central role in the Madison Capitol occupation itself. in formats more nuanced and more in-depth than this one.

It is for progressives who don’t think that the idea of unions or collective organizing matters for them. I wanted to help tell the story of the Wisconsin protests as a way of documenting what happened and inspiring others to continue the fight that began in Madison—in whatever form that may take. These short messages came together to form a fascinating narrative that was captured daily through the liveblogging done by web editors at the Madison Isthmus. While the protests eventually captured the attention of the mainstream media. keeping the proceedings going all night long and into the next day. progressive journalists. While there are certainly real disagreements that these writers don’t shy away from. This book is for people who were not there to hear the stories told in the Capitol rotunda. the left. radical grassroots activists. and those who did not previously consider themselves at all political. As more and more people flocked to Madison to show their support. or people with certain shared values—can come together around common goals. as well as those who spent days scrolling the #WIunion hashtag on Twitter for the latest update. We Are Wisconsin highlights a range of voices from the left. It is for those who merely caught glimpses of the Wisconsin protests through the mainstream media. union members. this collection focuses on telling the story of the people directly involved: the Wisconsinites who spoke out in hours of testimony and speeches at the Capitol. tweeted. but that have already begun to fade away into the ether of the internet. From that impromptu occupation grew an incredible new community unlike anything protesters had experienced before. those inside the Capitol found what had been lacking for too long—a sense of power and a true feeling of solidarity. It also includes a glimpse of the parallel story that was told in real-time through Twitter updates from those at the scene of the protests. While this is not my own story in any significant way. which served as an invaluable resource when putting together the posts included in this book. . those who blogged. This collection pulls together many of the blog posts and links you may have stumbled upon while the action was at its height. the aim is to push each of us to look beyond our narrower labels and consider where we— as progressives.introduction | 21 give their personal testimonies in opposition to Walker’s “budget-repair” bill. and reported updates from the protests day and night. broadly-defined: Democratic elected officials.

by fighting we inspire others to do so—and onward it goes. ERICA SAGRANS July 2011 For a detailed overview of the events surrounding the Wisconsin protests.introduction | 22 It is for union members. Wisconsin. see the timeline beginning on page 281. It is about people around the world who are standing up and saying “no” to the budget cuts and austerity measures that use real or perceived crises to pull the rug out from under working people. we will win. organizers. and anyone who wants to build a stronger labor movement. but wants to know what regular people can really do to stand up for these values. from the places that have already begun rising up to the places that are next. Cairo. as I walked with demonstrators on March 26. In the streets of London.” What’s become clear to me over these past few months is that when we do choose to fight. and leaders. we can win. But no matter whether we win each particular battle. I saw a sign that read: “London. This story is much bigger than just Wisconsin. It is for anyone who believes in the tenets of basic fairness and economic justice. but wonders how they can appeal to a broader audience. we will fight. It is about the global connections that are starting to be built between movements. .

even at the risk of losing their jobs. These experiences had a profound effect on me. What workers taught me was that while someone may be more powerful than you and make your life miserable. inspired me to fight back against the bullies who teased me heavily as a child. 2011 the one thing I learned about myself at a young age was that whenever I joined my father at picket lines and union meetings. At times though. and that is why I’ve dedicated my career as a labor journalist to giving a voice to the workers who helped me grow so confident and happy in my own voice. they could never truly beat you down as long as you stood up for yourself. Spending time with workers who stood up for themselves and organized against powerful corporations. This past winter I found myself sinking into a dark . my uncomfortable sense of insecurity vanished in the face of all that brave determination.Mike Elk July. it’s been tougher than I expected for both the labor movement and myself.

. And as a freelance labor journalist. It was so over-the-top and aggressive that it almost didn’t seem real. as it appeared that the labor movement was going to be wiped out for good. and yet. and that some union leaders might try to make separate deals to save their own individual unions at the expense of others. and Florida were racing at breakneck speed to see who could take away public employees’ collective bargaining rights first.burning down the forest | 24 lull. D. They all seemed to agree that organized labor was a part of the problem. The leadership of the trades council. At the time. As that dark winter stumbled slowly into February.. nobody except a small handful of reporters seemed to be writing about these new attacks on organized labor. It was hard to find anyone who disagreed. whose members were facing 40 percent unemployment. I was broke and with bleak prospects. and most days I was so tired that I could barely crawl out of bed. to the current economic recession. most of the media conversation about labor was focused on the themes of the documentary film Waiting for Superman—which argued that overpaid public employees and teachers were to blame for the decline of American society. rather than the solution. I was still reeling from a bout of chronic pneumonia.C. since few publications were interested or had the funding to print stories about organized labor. It seemed as if labor was doomed. were convinced that they could find political support and additional revenue to fund construction projects by advocating for the cutting of benefits and wages of public employees. just as my girlfriend left me shortly before the Christmas holidays. Ohio.. It was unclear if labor would even stand up for itself anymore—was this still the same gutsy labor movement whose stories inspired me in my childhood? In February I went to New York to take a break from the problems haunting me in D. LaBarbera had endorsed a controversial group that called for policies curtailing New York’s publicemployee unions. even among middle-class liberals and Democrats in Washington. where I live. And it went right up to the top: Democrats like President Barack Obama even seemed to endorse the attack on public-sector unions by calling for a wage freeze on federal workers in January. To make matters worse. and in part to understand why New York City’s Building and Constructions Trades Council President Gary LaBarbera had turned on public-employee unions. newly elected Republican governors in Wisconsin.C.

it was hard to think that the American working class would march together in strength ever again. “people will see what is happening in Egypt and all of a sudden they will realize they have a voice. when 10. On Friday Feb. Kelber lived in a beautiful apartment in Brooklyn Heights.000 . my activist grandparents had passed away within months of each other. and there were so many plants it seemed they were sprouting out of every corner. but it was hard not to be skeptical. it’s tough to put that away. It will spread like wildfire. and it will happen here again with the great attack labor is under. I received a phone call from a friend. American Federation of Teachers organizer Jan Van Tol. when Kelber himself was still in his twenties. both were 92 when they died. inspired by the recent revolution in Egypt. The mood inside the apartment was bright and cheerful. who told me that people were outraged by Walker’s actions and that they expected protests the following week that could possibly number in the thousands. three days after I visited Kelber.burning down the forest | 25 I was also going to New York City to see the legendary 96-year-old labor journalist Harry Kelber. whose dictator looked like he would be stepping down any day now after weeks of popular protests. I missed them dearly. 11. contrasting sharply with my own darkness. the Labor Educator. They had always helped me get through my occasional bouts of depression by sharing their wisdom about the many twists and turns in life. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker upped his war against public-employee unions by threatening to call out the National Guard to prevent state workers from striking.” I left Brooklyn Heights that day desperately clinging to Kelber’s dream of a working-class uprising. and as I headed to New York I hoped Harry Kelber could provide me with the same kind of insights that my grandparents used to share. I saw it happen in the 1930s. the walls were adorned with gorgeous paintings and posters depicting labor’s great struggles of the past. The year before. Kelber seemed upbeat. “I can just feel it. Kelber had covered the labor movement’s birth in the 1930s. His apartment was littered with books and sheet music that he was using for his own original compositions. By Monday they had already exceeded that expectation. with a jawdropping view overlooking the harbor. and he continues to write three columns a week for his website.” Kelber told me. Once people see they have a voice.

started walking out of class.000 people jammed the Capitol grounds. Hanna was confident that students and workers would have their voices heard by turning the Wisconsin Capitol into their own Tahrir Square. Crowds swelled by the tens of thousands nearly every day. holding up solidarity fists and disappearing into the crowd outside. Even though I wasn’t in Wisconsin during that first week of protest. An hour later news broke that Wisconsin’s 14 Democratic state senators had not only left the Capitol chambers. I watched as 75. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I sat glued to my computer in D. and teachers around the state of Wisconsin began to join students in walking out of school. of course. had never been union members. a graduate student who had just returned from Cairo a few days before.C. trying to get a sense of what was unfolding while frantically making phone calls to any labor organizer I could find in Wisconsin. and the images of the Capitol covered in a sea of red T-shirts. painted a picture so rich in my mind that I often forgot I was in D.. One of the union’s leaders was Alex Hanna. I was getting antsy. fighting for labor—nothing like the Democratic Party hacks in Washington constantly attacking teachers’ unions. the Teaching Assistants’ Association made a daring but key decision to step up the protests and occupy the Capitol. I realized I was witnessing a flickering of the old Democratic Party. not in D. but had fled the state in order to deny Republican . for upwards of 20 hours a day. 17. After seeing the events in Egypt firsthand. thanks to Twitter I felt like I was there. Stories like the woman who. I thought it was only a symbolic gesture when Wisconsin Democratic state senators left the chamber together. and they began sleeping there overnight. The following night.burning down the forest | 26 people showed up at the Wisconsin state Capitol. scattered the ashes of her union member father on the Capitol grounds. hoping somehow to present a show of force that would cause the Republicans to back down from passing the anti-labor bill. Thursday Feb. Madison’s teachers union voted to go on a “sickout” strike. hundreds of students from high schools around Madison.C. looking at a Twitter stream. I wanted to be inside the Capitol rotunda. And it spread: On Tuesday. when the Wisconsin state Senate was scheduled to vote on the “budget-repair” bill to restrict public employees’ collective bargaining rights. who.C. during a rally.

filmmaker Michael Moore agreed to sponsor me to go to Madison under an arrangement where I would write for a variety of publications. my God. through our mere voices. and I knew I had to be there. . but I couldn’t shake the disappointment of being stuck in D. Activists held tight that day.burning down the forest | 27 members the quorum needed to vote on Walker’s bill. had saved the labor movement. Tweets of rejoice began streaming out as it became clear that the people’s stand in the Capitol had won that day’s battle. Over the following days. We workers. Senators that day were inspired to literally shut down the Wisconsin Senate. we did it. I made phone calls to different editors. Finally. I began to cry—we had saved the labor movement. Wisconsin was where the big fight was. And then. occasionally I found myself home alone singing “Solidarity Forever” as I frantically typed updates from Twitter sources on what was happening in Wisconsin. asking them to send me to Wisconsin. and Republicans left the building unable to pass the bill. I started seeing reports on Twitter that groups of 30-40 union activists had barricaded each of the doors to the Senate to prevent Republican senators from re-entering the chamber. all of a sudden. a photo of the sea of Wisconsin’s Badger-red T-shirts covering the marble floor of the Capitol emerged on my Twitter feed and captured the collective nature of what we as the labor movement are able to achieve.C.

I had to get to Wisconsin right away. all flights were delayed due to an ice storm. I went straight to the Capitol.” was how he greeted me. bent down on hands and knees. I couldn’t contain my joy and my pacing: This was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. with oldtime potbelly union activists in sleeping bags camped next to college hippies cuddling in a corner. But first. The first sight that struck me was of people mopping up the floor with gentle strokes. a labor journalist who runs a small radio show in Central Pennsylvania. Elk. to whoever was following us through Twitter. Almost immediately upon arriving in Madison. but things in Wisconsin were moving so rapidly that I couldn’t wait another a day to get there. No sooner had I arrived than I ran into my friend Brett Banditelli. I spent the trip anxiously flipping my iPhone in and out of my hands. fidgeting impatiently. The Capitol had turned into some strange version . Previously our audiences had been quite small. ground zero of the class war. I felt like a nervous combat correspondent touching down in a hot LZ–in my case. For the moment. perhaps even a general strike. With most of Madison’s teachers out on sickout strike. but we now found ourselves trying to explain what was happening in Wisconsin to the larger world.burning down the forest | 28 Within hours. This was their house. and they were taking care of it as they would their own house—they aimed to protect and preserve what had become a symbol to the nation of the power of workers’ voices. it seemed like anything could happen. The people had reclaimed it. The bus was so full that two-dozen people were forced to stand in the aisles. When I arrived at the airport. I quickly rebooked a flight to Chicago and found a bus from the Windy City that took me straight to Madison. It wasn’t easy. Banditelli and I were bewildered by the campsite of protesters sleeping out on the floor of the Capitol. Brett was representative of the small network of labor reporters and citizen journalists who provided the bulk of the coverage of the Wisconsin protests. Labor had largely been ignored by all but a few reporters from mainly smaller publications and those who worked for labor-funded programs like Banditelli’s. absolutely nobody in the labor movement—outside of the old optimists like Harry Kelber—thought this was even possible. I had a ticket to Wisconsin. we had to make sense of the situation for ourselves. to be honest: Just a few weeks earlier. Mr. “Look who finally decided to show up to the class war.

but in the occupation of a state Capitol. I thought. I worked feverishly to document the revival of the in-your-face direct action. period. I even forget to eat most of the time. Holy crap. I went a second night without sleep due to the excitement.C. only this time they were organizing for themselves. I made my way to the headquarters of the occupation. As labor fought for its life in Madison. These were kids who had worked for Obama in 2008 and despite the disappointment that many had felt about the President’s administration. arranging for more food deliveries to the Capitol. While most reporters focused on covering the legislative and political action playing out. I worked around the clock interviewing people. not for Obama. I don’t know exactly how. I tried to cover something different. setting up phone banks to get more graduate students to come out for protests. and coordinating volunteer protest marshals who had been self-policing the protesters. hope and change are still alive. Students were running around like headless chickens. chaotic. civil disobedience. As I looked around the room I noticed several laptops with “Obama/ Biden” stickers. I was so caught up in it that I even managed to forget about the girlfriend who left me. and organizing that had built the labor movement in the 1930s. strikes. Hell. now in its ninth day. and filed three to four stories a day from the front lines. they had not given in to despair. I would argue that it went even deeper than that: Wisconsin changed the way people do politics. replaced by the passive point and click activism of the internet age and cautious top-down. complete with bratwursts and drum circles.-centric labor leadership. caffeine-soaked scene. Most of the media narratives coming out of Wisconsin were about how this had changed the politics of union-busting and shifted public opinion in the unions’ favor. and solidarity actions that had seemed to be all but extinct. but suddenly all those months of lethargy after . I forgot about everything: I forgot about sleeping. D.burning down the forest | 29 of Paris Commune meets old-school Midwestern union hall. There was a growing sense of confidence that was emerging that turned ordinary students and workers into gung-ho union organizers. fueled by cold pizza and high fives. They had learned valuable lessons about how to organize. Something much deeper was happening among the activists. It was a crazy. a command center set up by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Teaching Assistants’ Association. Madison revived the concept of street protests.

talked about shortly before he was put to death in 1887 for a crime he did not commit: “If you think that by hanging us you can stamp out the labor movement. Wisconsin has become a rallying cry that gave activists a sense that they could win.burning down the forest | 30 coming down with pneumonia just disappeared and I was full of energy again. The ground is on fire upon which you stand. to rest. busting down barricades and reoccupying the building in disgust. But then I started noticing a new optimism about the labor movement that hadn’t been there before. It was a body blow. but here. It seemed like for the time being we had lost in Wisconsin. at every union rally I go to across the nation. Everywhere I went. and behind you.” Wisconsin lit a spark in me. as pro-union activists argue. It seemed like things were getting back to usual. My doctor ordered me to go back home to D. then hang us. and there. had caught up with me. As United Steelworkers Local USW 7-699 President Darrell Lillie told me when I visited him during a bitter year-long lockout at a Honeywell uranium facility in Southern Illinois: “You have to understand Wisconsin to understand that we can win here and win as a labor movement. push through the bill stripping public employees of their right to collectively bargain. I returned home physically exhausted. but there was nothing they could do.” . It is a subterranean fire. my body crashed. A week later. it lit a spark in all of us. General Electric workers in Erie. the flames will blaze up. had figured out a way to strong arm the labor movement. Corporate America. Here you will tread upon a spark. Then one morning. I woke up and was nearly unable to move my legs. workers seemed inspired by Wisconsin. which was pushing for workers to make concessions. in violation of the state open-meetings laws. weakened from pneumonia and lack of sleep and food. Pennsylvania adopted the Wisconsin Badger as their mascot as they threatened strikes against GE. but mentally energized and full of hope for the future—going over the possibilities of rebuilding the labor movement that Wisconsin had unleashed. A spark that union organizer August Spies.C. The adrenaline of the protests kept me working 20 hours a day covering the new dynamic emerging on Wisconsin’s streets. with the boss always winning out over workers. like always. You cannot put it out. one of the Haymarket martyrs. and in front of you. I see people wearing shirts of the state of Wisconsin shaped like a solidarity fist. My immune system. the Wisconsin Legislature was able to illegally. Now. Protesters stormed the Capitol.

As Kelber predicted. MIKE ELK July 2011 . once people found their voices.burning down the forest | 31 Wisconsin was a new spark of that subterranean fire of justice that burns deep in all of us. it started to spread like “a wildfire. A spark that the 96-year-old labor journalist Harry Kelber had witnessed with his own eyes when labor first came alive in the 1930s.” Let’s burn down the whole goddamn forest. as they did in Wisconsin.

preferably by chanting? #wiunion . Could somebody point it out.@daveweigel Not sure what democracy looks like.

and a “People’s Mic” for anyone who wanted to speak to the crowds gathered at all hours. Volunteers set up an information station. first-aid facilities. Side-by-side they slept on the hard marble floors of Madison’s Capitol—farmers next to student activists. What began as a spontaneous sleep-in of people waiting their turn to testify against Walker’s “budget-repair” bill soon evolved into a highly-organized. created a charging station to plug in electronics. and stood in solidarity with the police officers that patrolled the grounds. diverse community determined to stand its ground for as long as necessary. teachers beside firefighters. . It was part protest. and designated a children’s area where families could go to get away from the crowds.protesters occupied the Wisconsin Capitol in an attempt to stop Governor Scott Walker’s attack on unions and state workers. part sleepover. Protesters cooperated with Capitol cleaning crews. part new city sprung up to meet the unique needs of its residents. They coordinated food donations from local businesses and around the world. those who would be directly affected by the bill and those who saw it as an assault on all workers’ rights.

People who took part in the occupation describe it as an almost sacred community that kept them camped there for days or continuing to return for more. There were moments of anger and frustration. In a rare instance. developing democratic process looked like. the Capitol became the place where protesters negotiated tactics and discussed strategies.what democracy looks like | 34 As the physical center of the resistance. they had claimed the Capitol back from the usual lobbyists and legislators and turned it into a true people’s house. . but many more of joy and connection. they showed what a real. The remarkable occupation lasted for more than two weeks. Even amid intense disagreements. despite attempts throughout by Walker and his allies to tighten building access and push protesters out of the Capitol. from the daily drum circles to nightly gatherings for old labor films and protest music.

9:56am Feb 15 @weeks89 Lin Weeks Weirdly high number of signs ref’ing egypt. but it really feels like Scott Walker’s actions could inspire something special in Wisconsin 5:19pm Feb 13 @millbot Emily Mills Est. follow this account for any necessary updates during the protest. 12:30pm Feb 15 @millbot Emily Mills Contingent of firefighters showing support for unions tho Walker exempted them from bill. This is our Capitol today #solidarityWI #wiunions 12:57pm Feb 15 . #wiunions 12:52pm Feb 14 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin Tomorrow is going to be huge. #wiunion 12:37pm Feb 15 @bluecheddar1 blue cheddar We belong. today was for love! #handsoffourteachers 2:33pm Feb 14 @JamesEBriggs James Briggs People waiting in line to get into the public hearing. went right to gov’s office with big pile of v-day cards protesting budget bill.@ttagaris Tim Tagaris No idea if it will materialize. 3-400 ppl at rally.” 11:20am Feb 15 @aClUMadison ACLU Madison RT @WORTnews: East High School staff member calls in to say that 700 students walked out of school to join the labor rallies at the Capitol. And now chanting: “From Egypt/ to wisconsin/ power to the people.

February 24. to see if they would hold out. It’s very hard to explain unless you see it for yourself. And that’s the story of the state Capitol. a pizzeria. under a virtual occupation for the tenth straight day. or if they would crack and return to Madison. That’s really not overstating the case. “Thank God for CNN or I’d never know what’s on . But I was drawn to something quite different. a display of wit and the site of a new progressive movement. and not just with protest slogans and witticisms. I expected to break down vote counts to determine whether the “budget-repair” bill had the numbers to pass. but I’ll try. though they are there as well (“Hey Stewart/Colbert. or look up arcane Wisconsin law to see if Republicans could engineer a workaround to get their anti-union measures passed into law. I expected to talk to the lawmakers who were holding back an assault on workers’ rights and the union leaders fighting for their continued existence. we came to your rally.what democracy looks like | 36 Firedoglake. When I got to Madison. And I expected to check in with Wisconsin’s 14 Democratic senators. As you walk into the Capitol. 2011 David Dayen The Wisconsin labor fight has no shortage of compelling storylines. an organizing hub. “The Curdish rebels of Wisconsin”. the walls are basically covered. an information center. What started as a protest has taken on the quality of a virtual city on the square. The Capitol has become a site for dissent. now come to ours”. safely ensconced out of state.

Phone banks have been set up. Governor Scott Walker is getting a lot of mockery as well. While protesters rally and wave signs and give public testimony on the legislation (a process that has been going on for days). so you could absolutely see something like this happen. or how much of the federal budget is spent on war and the military. Other fliers announce Twitter feeds to follow for information or sites collecting YouTube videos of the event. pushing their little riders to help out their clients. (The idea of a general strike has been discussed and even endorsed by a local labor council. There are even historical treatises about how Abraham Lincoln once jumped out of a window to avoid a quorum call in the Illinois Senate. There’s a lot of earnestness. Other flyers announce self-organized protests. after all. There’s coffee as well. This is a wonk rebellion too. knowledge and even humor throughout the Capitol. And the unity in the rotunda is remarkable. 1 State-run government program that provides health coverage to low-income Wisconsinites . it’s really a takeover.) At another station on the ground floor is the pizza distribution. others are harnessing the frustration and passion. paid for by donations coming in from around the country and the world.org. You know what there’s not a lot of? Lobbyists. like DefendWisconsin.what democracy looks like | 37 Twitter”). but by mid-March most public unions would not be operating under a contract with the state. “I would strike to kill the bill. There’s a sign-up sheet that reads. including one today in front of the new lobbying offices for Koch Industries. I’ve been to a few state capitols in my day. this is David Koch. And then there’s the organizing. Ian’s Pizza on State has basically become the official supplier of the protests. the percentage cuts to BadgerCare1 in the budgetrepair bill. and periodically calls for supplies go out and get fulfilled. depending on what legislation goes forward. which popped up just a couple weeks after Walker’s election. my favorite banner reads.” with a pretty long list of names. will you talk to me?” Madison is the birthplace of The Onion. There are websites up devoted to the protest. You’re seeing none of that in Madison. But the walls are also festooned with a surprising amount of graphs and charts depicting inequality in America. furthered by the internet and the easy accessibility of data. Private unions wouldn’t be able to go out because of the Taft-Hartley Act. and the suits are invariably flitting about. “Hey Scott Walker.

They want something different. . people who weren’t all that political to begin with. who are exempted from the collective bargaining restrictions under the bill. One person said to me that the outpouring here is paradoxically similar to the outpouring that ended up sweeping Walker into office. of being part of a generation falling behind that of its parents.what democracy looks like | 38 Some of the most visible union members in there are police and firefighters.” High school and college students are extremely active as well. but they don’t know what that is. It’s an interesting theory. “Private Sector Nonunion Employee – I Stand with Labor. I saw a guy walking around with a sign reading. and I think there’s a bit more nuance than that. of seeing wealth float to the top. and this isn’t Walker country no matter what. has consumed Wisconsin and the nation. Madison is a liberal town. People are tired of losing good jobs. in many ways. It has consumed the town and. But in the bars and on the streets. Now they see the true agenda of these Republicans who got elected. people who I would characterize as townies. are incessantly talking about this issue. We’re finally talking about things that matter to the mass of people. and the same energy has gone into fighting that.

But I for one felt inspired by Egypt’s strong desire 4 a say in governance. 12:07am Feb 16 . we elected you? Don’t get to ignore us. 7:24pm Feb 15 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin Come sign up to speak IMMEDIATELY. NOW NOW NOW. RT @jef4wi Gov Walker’s budget head said that no amount of testimony will change this bill. they’ll get a chance to speak #killthisbill 2:29pm Feb 15 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin Get your pillows and pull an all-nighter at the Capitol! Sign up to speak and keep this hearing going till the morning! #killthisbill 5:16pm Feb 15 @millbot Emily Mills Um.@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin Sen. 6:03pm Feb 15 @JacquelynGill Jacquelyn Gill @GBsOwnMrsDiSH It was so clear today that folks aren’t just stereotypical Madison liberals. Democracy #solidarityWI #wiunion 11:57pm Feb 15 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin We’re hearing Republicans are going to leave and Democrats are going to keep hearing testimony through the night. Taylor just entered the overflow room to a standing ovation! She’s telling people to stay. Lots of working class folks from all over WI. They may cut off the number of speakers they are accepting. #killthisbill 8:45pm Feb 15 @eigenjo Jo Nelson My thumbs hurt but i will persevere 9:52pm Feb 15 @bluecheddar1 blue cheddar #Madison is no Cairo. Rights.

” “We didn’t know each other before this happened. ‘They’ve got a cuddle puddle going on. It’s just that things like this don’t ever happen in state capitols. peopled by union workers and college . “Most of us met between 10 and two days ago.’ And we liked it. “and somebody said. But those aren’t the same thing as a 10-day sit-in of a public building. fueled by donations from thankful liberals in other states. “We were all lying down in the sleeping bags. an unofficial spokesman for the cuddlers. Sure. anti-Republican stance of the protesters.” says CJ Terrell. anti-Republican protesters turned the hallways of the Wisconsin state house into a commune Slate. 2011 David Weigel They call themselves the Cuddle Puddle. He and Bird became Facebook friends only this week. there have been temporary sit-ins at statehouses. The graybeard liberals of Madison—this city does not lack for them—remember sit-ins to build pressure for a nuclear weapons ban and against the Vietnam War. It’s hard to admit this without it sounding like an endorsement of the pro-labor. It’s not. February 25.” says Tom Bird. and they were among the first people to start camping out in the Capitol. a University of Wisconsin-Madison grad student. There are 10 of them. There were scattered one-day sit-ins to protest the Iraq war.” says Terrell. They did not come up with the name.what democracy looks like | 40 How a bunch of pro-union. You can walk the halls 100 times and not lose your sense of wonder and amazement at the occupation.

two do now. it just confirms that the supplies are dropped off by Samaritans who ask what’s needed. Before it does. and so on. Band-Aids.” handwritten on notebook paper. They film themselves and upload the videos to YouTube. we’re gonna lay down and die? Screw us and we multiply! 6:55 p. It’s an old song he has repurposed with new protest-specific lyrics: You think you’ll beat us.what democracy looks like | 41 students who have built a little commune on marble. and they are constantly in front of cameras gathering footage for news or for exposés by the conservative MacIver Institute.000 or so letters. Since Monday. Thus the little village protesters have built will be disrupted. Senate offices—some of which had been used to house protesters for sleeping or strategizing— will be closed to anyone who’s not a senator. My night happened to coincide with the night that Republicans pushed the budget-repair bill through the Assembly. pleading with Walker to cave. and because the minority Democrats started hearings last week.” Bandleader Andrew Rohn is still thinking about where to put the parentheses. It’s got to happen sometime. Instead of every door to the building being open. On the left: a table for medical supplies. Starting on Saturday. only two are. Down the stairwell. which is performing an original song tentatively called “Wisconsin (Cheddar Revolution). A sign says the group has 10. and volunteers are told to give a “press release.: Parts of the second floor have been closed off. to anyone who asks questions. There are no photos allowed. on the second-floor atrium. The hallway outside his office is lined with letters collected by MoveOn. and the striking thing was how little changed after that happened. How’d it happen? Because it’s legal to sleep in the Capitol if hearings are going on. feminine hygiene products. but protesters have complete control of the area around Office 116N. a crowd has parted for a nine-piece funk fusion group called VO5. perhaps even disbanded. All four wings had unrestricted access. I decided to spend a night with the micro-commune.m. .: Governor Scott Walker’s press conference ends with no real news.m. 6:28 p. police have tightened up access to the Capitol.org from Wisconsinites. crowded with aspirin.

He doesn’t mind if people make off with the “Capitalism is Doomed” posters or “Organizing in the Workplace” guides. as well as remind people to use the hand sanitizer nearby liberally. and piles of bagels.m. where children frolic. takeout containers. I . Ben Stein.: Dane Spudnik. The walls are lined with donated coffee. The room itself is about to be closed down on Saturday. Now that we have.what democracy looks like | 42 On the right: two tables of foodstuffs.: Ryan Henry. play with communal toys. or rest on yoga mats. “I’m a student right now. “That’s been our Situation Room. and charts—lots and lots of charts—to sign up for cleaning duties. In the center: a “family area.: The “War Room” of the Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA) is tucked away on the third floor. a tub of peanut butter that a volunteer describes as “various peanut butters working together in solidarity for the cause of deliciousness. and I don’t think we could have put together any of this without that room. a casualty of the Senate’s tightened security. The food is paid for by donations. tart candies. singing along Laughing all the way to the Pentagon. stands in a first-floor hallway singing original songs with a kind of Bob Dylan or Fred Neil lilt: Tea Party on the Capitol lawn And Sarah Palin. they include a Tupperware container of chocolate chip cookies. At the moment. is manning the anarchist lending library set up next to a stairwell.m. “because there are no jobs. “We organized everything from there. with supplies that dwindle and change quickly. volunteers buy it and serve it. 7:44 p.m. The song is drowned out at times by the sound of a whistle being blown by Drake Singleton. a construction worker from Baltimore. I’m bonked in the head painlessly by a ball tossed by a child being watched by Trina Clemente.” 8:27 p.” 7:23 p. who works at the Willy Street Co-op in town. or to pick up a bright-green vest and act as a marshal. cereal. a little glumly. but he wants to make sure “nobody sees this copy of The Shock Doctrine and says.” regular bread and gluten-free bread.” she says.” says one graduate student. who’s drawing attention to his silk-screened T-shirts commemorating the sit-in. I can sell that for $5.” It’s a safe space with no cameras allowed. oh.

George Boulamatis.what democracy looks like | 43 think we can keep it going. There has been very little damage to the building.: The TAA offers to let me do a round of trash cleanup.: League of Conservation Voters organizer Matt Dannenberg was listening to the speakers playing the Assembly debate. Dave Cullen is on the floor. Chris Danou. 8:43 p. the TAA does regular runs around the building. Tammy Baldwin. a secretary at a nearby school. is in the Situation Room talking to some students. The usual Capitol custodians do cleanup on regular hours. Once protesters were warned that taping signs everywhere might damage the property. 10:31 p. signs went up warning against this. has two components. they often get boisterous cheers from the second floor of the Capitol. when they do. but—that was a nice room!” Rep. One of my fellow representatives was telling me he has three hours of labor history to talk about. “and they said they needed air mattresses. per an agreement with the custodial staff. I grab plastic gloves and a bag.: The debate in the Assembly is dragging on. which will be deployed within hours. The scribbling stopped.m. He’s one of . Other students are grading papers or calling people in for shifts. has to leave for a 10:30-6:30 shift.m. “I asked them what they needed.” A lot of Democratic members are talking about the Kochs. and start downstairs. putting their trash bags next to trash cans. which has kept the Capitol remarkably clean.” She points to the inflatable mattresses she just delivered.” says Baldwin. My ethical qualms vanish when Diane Blum. Rep. who represents Madison. The protesters who can’t are heading out. 9:50 p. After a moment’s hesitation. “We can keep going for a long time. Republicans sit as still and look as alert as they can. 9:14 p.” says Rep. demands to carry the trash bag. and he sounds like a tape slowed down on the reel as he hammers Walker over his conversation with a phony “David Koch.m.m. So: The trash pickup.: Protesters who’ll sleep in the Capitol are starting to settle in. Once protesters realized that some people were writing unkind things on the Scott-brand toilet paper containers in bathrooms. a corrections officer in Racine. my journalistic instinct takes over: Collecting trash would give me exclusive access to a whole new part of the commune. where the proceedings are audible.” “That’s one of our quietest members on the floor right now. they switched to blue electrical tape. but he listens to an ad hoc string band play folk songs before he goes.

m. It’s like living in a dorm.what democracy looks like | 44 the first people to notice that Republicans have made an end-run around the Democratic filibuster and are about to force a vote. One sign around the Capitol says. who’d yelled. We Need to Focus on the Senate. knits a solidarity bracelet and talks about staying even after the bill passes. screams and chants get intermingled with smooth jazz. swinging his arm toward the Assembly. 1:20 a.m. a protester grabs it as if Eddie Van Halen has tossed a guitar pick. “This is a travesty!” says Rep. “Until seven minutes ago. a UW student wearing her mother’s American Federation of Teachers (AFT) shirt.: The Assembly debate dragged on for hours after Republicans started to force the vote—by now.” What about the constant noise? “It’s fine. we need more people!” Protesters jump off of their mats and bedrolls and run toward the police tape blocking them from the Assembly. Democrats explode.: In the first-floor atrium. A heavyset trumpet player is allowed to the very front of the crowd. “What do I want to do next? I don’t even want to say. They start to file out of the chamber. who have a megaphone at the ready. A Democratic staffer emerges from the chamber and waves his arms in a “raise the roof ”-type gesture. “We’ve been here 10 days and I’m starting to get used to the marble floor. furious not just at the result but at the fact that the vote lasted fewer than 15 seconds. Leon Young tosses his orange T-shirt into the crowd. Rep. and Republicans are fed up.” she says.” He joins his colleagues in a caucus meeting. “I’ve . Kramer gavels in a quick vote.m. 11:20 p. explicitly. and thanks the protesters. Bill Hulsey.: The protesters calm down a bit. “This is not democracy! This is not democracy! Come on. Cory Mason joins the Cuddle Puddle. “Everything that’s being said has been said three or four times already.” So there’s a sense of resignation at a vote that was always going to go against them. it’s been going on for more than 60 hours. “Shame” at Republicans louder than almost anyone. “Get people over here!” he says. no one was listening.” said Speaker Pro Tempore Bill Kramer. “The Assembly Will Pass The Bill. Except me. “It actually helps that we’re more exhausted. Rep. and one by one they go to a railing and wave to the hundreds of people crammed onto the floor below.” Minutes later.” 1:01 a. Kristina Nielsen.

of course. after Democratic staffers left and handed him and other protesters the cold remainders of their Ian’s Pizza.” he says. stops me and speaks happily about the sleep he managed to get.m.” 7:45 a. and before they do I take a quick survey of the feeding/sleeping areas.what democracy looks like | 45 never been so glad that we have two chambers. the first of the Cuddle Puddle to wake up. roused. “For the first time in my life. some seem to have slept through the apocalypse.m. are doing TV interviews through heavy eyelids.: Every night there’s a rumor that the Capitol will be cleared. In the other chamber. “I know I am doing what I was born to do. “because this is going to be a big weekend. “I had to sleep. Some of the sleepers. you know? There have been so many double-crosses.” Reporters try to talk to Terrell.” . “How can you sleep?” says Mary McDonald. as there are every day. with stacks of bagels and cream cheese in the breakfast nook. so the bill is stuck. but there’s a massive rally planned for Saturday. but he gives them little information before holding up. a representative of AFT Healthcare in Washington. 2:14 a. He’s wearing a cutoff shirt that displays a fresh tattoo. a fist in the shape of Wisconsin with “SOLIDARITY” written alongside.” he says.: The doors to the Capitol are about to open again. The food has been replenished. CJ’s brother.” he says.) There are rumors. that the Capitol will be closed to protesters. “It’s so dramatic! It’s so upsetting! How can these people possibly work together now. striking Senate Democrats are not present for a vote. The megaphone is passed to Damon Terrell. Some protesters are sitting up straight.” he says. (There’s no fresh coffee just yet. He returns to the circle for hugs. It’s not being cleared tonight. “I really want to be in the moment now. Tom Bird.

getting resounding applause #killthisbill 3:22am Feb 16 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin Sen. Taylor announcing that hearing will continue in 411S. This is LIVE here http://www.” #killthisbill 2:31am Feb 16 @eigenjo Jo Nelson do not be discouraged . Lena Taylor “I’m staying until everyone has testified. with a tieless. Jauch: “at 3am. Mark Pocan. this state is alive.” 3:20am Feb 16 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin Dems are addressing crowd now. hearing is talking/crying.wiseye. #capitolfashion #wiunion #latenight 10:34am Feb 16 @JacquelynGill Jacquelyn Gill We’re calling it a work stoppage. A man. includes fac/staff @DanMotor RT @eigenjo: rumored uw ta teach out tomorrow.C. untucked shirt. this is the rebirth of the progressive movement here.org/ #solidarityWI 1:24am Feb 16 @taa_Madison TAA Madison Sen. is looking a bit disheveled.we have demonstrated an unfathomable opposition to the bill. and we must continue to do so. we are making history! 2:56am Feb 16 @ryan_rainey Ryan Rainey I estimate at least 300 here right now. And Ian’s Pizza has donated pizza?! #killthisbill 3:25am Feb 16 @JamesEBriggs James Briggs Rep. Spread the word 11:56am Feb 16 . D-Madison.F. A teacher.@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar Another person testifying at the J.

. uncomfortable space for weeks on end. a recipe for total meltdown. and it’s not a miracle. They’re surrounded by police day and night. shrink and starve the ongoing protest within. And there’s no sign of any such confrontation to come. noisy. bright. And that’s exactly why Walker is so desperately tightening the screws. 2011 Ben Brandzel As Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker bolts the windows and bars the doors of the Capitol to scare. And yet there hasn’t been a single episode of serious conflict between protesters or with the police. I write this after completing a once-in-a-lifetime week in Madison as one of the many camped out in the occupied Capitol. it’s important for everyone outside to understand just what he’s so afraid of. unbreakable culture that has evolved in the hallways of the occupied Capitol. It’s the product of a sophisticated. Imagine a group of several hundred sleep-deprived. hungry people crammed into a confined. Surely. And they’re mere inches away from the chambers where the devastating legislation they’re gathered to protest is being rammed through right in front of their faces.what democracy looks like | 47 The Huffington Post. And now I know why Walker is so frightened. There are no showers. How is this possible? It’s not an accident. March 1. and why. no reliable food supply and no proper beds.

A dedicated volunteer medical team operates a well-stocked first-aid clinic (with all-donated supplies). I didn’t see a single example of permanent damage or the slightest desecration of the building. a man I’d never met halfcarried me to the medical station. Before you can touch the megaphone in the rotunda.” On the second floor a large poster reads. looking out for injury or signs of illness. of course. you would see the bedrocks of this incredible culture all around you: Responsibility. cold packs. Medics patrol the building wearing handmade badges or red-tape crosses. say.what democracy looks like | 48 If you were to walk through the halls of the Capitol. wearing now-iconic reflective vests. There’s no hierarchy to it. convey instructions from the legal authorities and gently keep the peace. it is greeted with thunderous applause and chants of “Thank you!” All the thousands of posters are hung with special blue tape that will leave no trace. I can speak to the effectiveness of this system firsthand: While distributing flyers one evening. I saw masseuses drive for hours and haul their chairs up three flights of stairs just to give free massages (before. “Remember. The bathroom door sign reminds you “Tagging the wall is hurting the movement. distribute information. In my entire time there. the . your average major city. Fabulous homemade stews and soups appeared daily for lunch until the police were ordered to ban Crock-Pots. The occupied Capitol has become a far safer. this is OUR house—so let’s keep it clean!” When the cleaning crew takes its floorsweeping Zamboni out onto the rotunda floor. Everything is donated. I tumbled down a flight of stairs and badly sprained my ankle. Respect. The system ensures the protest remains a largely self-regulating phenomenon. This limits tension with the police and inculcates a spirit of responsibility and good stewardship among every participant. or breakfast burritos from an organic cafe. The community survives because people from Madison to Cairo have chipped in for Ian’s Pizza. healthier place than. The marshals are all fellow protesters. endless bagels. Immediately. Piles of Emergen-C line the hallways. you just sign up with the Teaching Assistants’ Association and get a brief training on that night’s priorities. Generosity. Volunteer marshals of every age and background. you’re asked to use Purell. Health. where medics who would never think of payment administered top quality care. ace bandages and lots of attentive follow up. Handmade signs everywhere urge respect for the premises. Hand sanitizer dispensers are taped to the walls.

We all knew they might at any moment be ordered to remove us. several trainings are held throughout the building on how to remain “peaceful and prepared. It’s why managers and students and private-sector workers are sleeping in hallways to protest an attack on public school teachers and civil servants. no matter how thunderous. When AFL-CIO union officials announced their commitment to provide legal and logistical support. But we also knew . Solidarity. solidarity is a way of life. The culture of respect for the police in the Capitol runs very deep.” Every speech from the rotunda. And it’s what defines perhaps the most remarkable feature of life there: the strongly positive relationship with the police. The spirit of solidarity drives everything in the occupied Capitol. And when the pizza supply was cut off. Nonviolence. the firefighters are exempted from the devastating restrictions in the “budget-repair” bill.” The volunteer facilitators help protesters understand their rights. In the occupied Capitol. I saw people who hadn’t eaten all day gladly share their only slice. But what Walker didn’t realize is that these guys risk their lives every day to save others from burning homes—and for people like that. This weekend. I saw people who had slept on cold marble for weeks gladly share or give away camping mats and pillows. “Remember. declares a firm commitment to avoid violence at any cost. they made it extremely clear all offers would evaporate for anyone committing a violent act. it cannot come from above. locals started smuggling pizzas in through the windows from the snowy ground (prompting Walker’s unspeakably cruel order on Monday to bolt the windows closed).what democracy looks like | 49 massage chairs were banned). It requires a thousand individual efforts to build resolve from the bottom up. Last Wednesday evening the entire crowd erupted in uproarious cheers as a line of Wisconsin firefighters in full uniform streamed into the building to spend the night on the floor with us. Every night. when food supplies were blocked and reserves ran dangerously low. this is a peaceful protest. It’s the word two brothers from Madison camping with us had tattooed on their arms. that resolve is everywhere. As one of the few public-sector unions not to oppose Walker’s election. For nonviolence to solidify as an unshakable collective commitment. One of the firefighters held up a hand-drawn sign of “Divide and conquer” written in a circle with line through it. That pretty much says it all. Hand-drawn signs on every floor declare. but are equally focused on teaching breathing techniques and planning skills to avoid even an unintentional flash of violence during a tense moment.

As a giant poster on the first floor declared. as was frequently the case. the occupation has given rise to a new and powerful culture. health. They are who we want be and how we want to live. it has become a tightly woven community that now stands together at a crossroads in history. That’s why Walker is so scared of this community. but they knew we would be here camping out to defend their rights if they were on the chopping block (police unions. Bound by these principles. extending his hand. generosity. activists stand for officers. And these principles—responsibility. No matter what happens next at the standoff at the Wisconsin Capitol. The officers knew their duty and executed it well. On Friday afternoon I saw an elderly member of the pipefitters union going up to each uniformed police officer. “Thank you for being here. They are the values of the society we are protesting for. “Thank you! We know if this goes through. often bringing large “Cops for Labor” signs with them. The occupied Capitol has become so much more than a protest. the Capitol Police. were also exempted from the bill). we’re next!” Many of the same officers who guarded us during the day would take their uniforms off at night and join us in protest. many of which also endorsed Walker. It’s a culture that wins more allies and draws more strength every day.” One of them smiled back and said.” For their part.what democracy looks like | 50 they were never our enemy. Because he knows he’s not up against a fleeting burst of anger. and saying. respect. as well as State Troopers and officers brought in from other municipalities were consistently friendly. . Madison Police. helpful and polite—even when forced to take all-night shifts sandwiched between two consecutive day shifts. nonviolence and solidarity—are more than just the defining qualities of the protest camp in the Capitol. “Officers stand with activists. And it is unbreakable. that Walker is trying to tear down. He’s up against human nature at its best—and its strongest.

people who love their state. Let this be heard in the corridors of the capitol. Will all stay as long as it takes. We have Dems who R conducting a 24hr+ hearing 12:35pm Feb 16 @eigenjo Jo Nelson It is amazing to be a part of history today 12:41pm Feb 16 . 12:08pm Feb 16 @bluecheddar1 blue cheddar If you didn’t know. students. I hope they pause and listen. #notmyWI 12:05pm Feb 16 @eigenjo Jo Nelson Unions do good for the people. 11:58am Feb 16 @MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan This crowd is made up of families. And they can hear. teachers. now. Holding the line against the onslaught against Progressive values 12:10pm Feb 16 @bluecheddar1 blue cheddar Lemme lay it out: #Madison AND #WI has a literal shit-storm of protest rt. you do now: Wisconsin is ground zero.@millbot Emily Mills Firefighters have entered main throng of rally with bagpipes! Style.

What I do know is that there are tens. Tuesday I found myself in the middle of a 10. It’s been intense. 2011 Emily Mills I’ve spent the last few days almost entirely immersed in the ever-growing protest on behalf of workers’ rights and against Governor Scott Walker’s attempt to take them away. While I’m sure there were some in the crowd who simply found themselves swept up in the moment and the opportunity to miss class. union and non-union alike. and doing so peacefully but passionately. but incredibly inspiring. I walked with over 700 students from East High School as they marched up East Washington Avenue to the Capitol to join the protesters there. I spoke with several who expressed a desire to fight for the rights of their teachers and family members . the vast majority knew what the issue was and what was at stake. if not hundreds of thousands of people in Wisconsin who are out there walking the line. as they stormed the Capitol and filled its halls with the almost overwhelming echoes of their chants and cheers. I don’t know what the outcome will be—whether Walker and his cronies will simply ignore the deafening will of the people of their state and push the “budget-repair” bill through as is—or if reason and compassion will actually win the day. February 16. showing support for their friends and families.000-plus crowd of students and workers. and force them to at least delay and reconsider.what democracy looks like | 52 Isthmus.

craned my neck in every direction and couldn’t see a single patch of ground unoccupied by someone. and all around there was an all-encompassing sense of determination. it became all the more clear the damage this bill will do on the ground—not just for the teachers themselves. A group of firefighters. But that’s about all I’d be willing to give him credit for. social workers. though exempted from Walker’s scheme. a substitute teacher at Madison East High School. rushed through in just under a week as it’s been. support stickers to fellow picketers when I asked him what the bill’s passage would mean for him.and privatesector. There will always be those cynics who dismiss the activism of youth as naive and pointless. but for children across the state who rely on them for education. people danced. will teachers have a say in what they teach their students? Or . but this is our future. both public.what democracy looks like | 53 who worked for the state. prison guards. steelworkers. personally. Mostly. came out in force. was handing out Madison Teachers. for security even. sanitation workers.” Two women who are teachers in Madison but preferred not to give their names expressed serious concerns over what the bill would mean in terms of how they actually did their jobs.” he answered with a rueful chuckle. Talking with a couple of local teachers who turned out to the rally. teachers. other important safety and school issues that are important to students— and that’s why we teach. law enforcement. Today I stood on a stone pillar on the King Street side of the Capitol. Music blasted. folks. they were concerned with just how much remained unknown about the bill’s particulars. I saw union workers. If Walker’s goal was to galvanize the organized labor movement in this state. “That’s what we decided. Jesse Wiedmeyer. he’s succeeded admirably. from every occupation—nurses. bagpipers and all.” said one. Inc. “Without collective bargaining rights we can’t negotiate curriculum. “New job or a new state. If collective bargaining rights for everything but salary are to be taken away. the future’s looking pretty damn good. As far as I could see yesterday (and again today. civil servants. to show support for fellow union members. Children stood with their parents or schoolmates and waved handmade signs in support. for a second home. as yet more students joined the throngs). y’know? If we want to keep teaching maybe Wisconsin’s not the place.

That’s not the Wisconsin I’ve come to love in the 10 years I’ve lived here. a teacher from Sun Prairie and one of the speakers at today’s rally said. They made a series of them at the end of contract negotiations that were ultimately struck down by the lame-duck session of the Legislature that bowed to the wishes of the incoming administration. Wisconsin. so far.” Stripping 50 years of established labor law in less than a week is a dangerous and frankly disgusting act of stubborn. Walker says he doesn’t want to negotiate and seems completely blind to the massive outpouring of opposition coming from his constituents.what democracy looks like | 54 will the governor have the ability to legislate curriculum? It’s just one of a slew of serious questions that are being asked regarding the bill and. Keep it up. but rather someone more concerned with personal gain and autocracy. though. This isn’t about money. it’s much more about the loss of workers’ fundamental rights. going unanswered by Walker. That to me indicates a person not interested in being part of a democracy. and there are tens of thousands of people (at least!) who visibly agree with me. “As much as this is about salaries and benefits. compassionless. shortsighted governance. State workers have stated time and again that they’re more than willing to share in the burden of balancing the budget through concessions. Solidarity! . As Brad Lutes.

COME TO THE CAPITOL ASAP AND GET READY TO STAY OVER #killthisbill #wiunion 4:39pm Feb 16 @MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan Email from @DailyKos encouraging people to come to the rallies. Even if we beat him now. imagine what he would do his last year in office! #dumpwalker 4:11pm Feb 16 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin VOTE FOR THE BUDGET REPAIR BILL IS BEING PUSHED THROUGH TONIGHT.@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar @athenae Some try 2 paint #Madison as only sandals..to/iaF9wf Will now be eating . 3:12pm Feb 16 @swell Swell We have to recall Scott Walker in January 2012. Well yestrday I saw WAY MORE WORK COATS & coveralls in town #wiunion #solidarityWI 12:44pm Feb 16 @aemilli Emily I effing love my city and my state so much right now. @ThisBowers: The battleground is in Madison. #notmywi #killthisbill #wiunion 1:32pm Feb 16 @cruiskeen cruiskeen RT @aemilli: Apparently Ian’s Pizza brought free pizza to the protesters at 2 a..m. last night. 6:16pm Feb 16 .lattes. 1:38pm Feb 16 @JacquelynGill Jacquelyn Gill #TAA says we’re going to have another sleepover in the Capitol tonight! Bring your sleeping bags! #wiunion 2:57pm Feb 16 @MissPronouncer Miss Pronouncer Just watched a report on nt’l TV about WI possibly being a “template” for other states as fight for workers’ rights builds at state capitol. http://huff.

” Others—mainly younger—feel like they are discovering who they are as they converse with the like-minded strangers who have thronged the halls and rotunda of the Capitol.” Older union organizers have been sharing their experiences organizing . a veteran organizer whose father famously vied to head the United Steelworkers of America in the late ‘70s. 2011 Mike Elk “I am suffering from audio nausea from all these drums and shouting. I’m exhausted. talk. it’s also been an exhilarating experience for many of its participants. who feel they have found their collective voices in the banging of drums and the singing of “Solidarity Forever. The Wisconsin Local 40 member had been sleeping on the cold marble floor of the Wisconsin state Capitol for over a week when I caught up with him.” sighed 42-year-old AFSCME staff representative Edward Sadlowski. “However. or see straight.what democracy looks like | 56 The Atlantic.” he said. “My father always said during a strike is when we would rebuild the labor movement. “I can barely hear.” Sadlowski’s comments sum up what it has been like to be in the Capitol as pro-union protesters occupy it for the second week in a row. I am loving every moment of it and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.” said Sadlowski. Amid the noise and confusion. “We are proving it right here. I am on overload. February 25.

This level of organization is what has made it sustainable for hundreds of people to more or less live in a Capitol of a major Midwestern state. the Capitol occupation was almost entirely coordinated by the Teaching Assistants’ Association. toothbrushes.what democracy looks like | 57 in the workplace with students who have never before engaged with the labor movement.” Likewise. and go to nearby houses and dormitories to take showers. you can find tables full of food as well as boxes of donated supplies like toilet paper. In one back hallway. People put on street theater performances and organize arts and crafts projects. water. Activities have been organized to create a festive environment. hundreds of protesters have turned the Capitol into their temporary home. 15. People have been sleeping there overnight since Tuesday. organizing groups to clean the building and provide food and supplies for people camping out there.” said Andrew Cole. new ideas—and new hope that it might be possible to rebuild the much-decimated labor movement. but through this collective voice we have been able to define the national debate about unions.” But unlike a church. Local pizza businesses have been experiencing a mini-boom as people from all over the country and even the world have called in delivery orders for the protesters. Some youngsters have been so inspired that they are talking about dedicating their lives to it. the union of teaching assistants at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. But other unions have become more involved in occupying the Capitol since. it’s a spiritual experience for a lot of people. where people go home at night. who is in his twenties. Sadlowski has served as a bridge between the two groups. spare hats. One night . “I think what we created here is the first true labor temple. They eat meals there. Feb. “We are just a bunch of people standing around a Capitol talking together and singing songs. “Every day I come down here I just feel like we are winning. beaten down by years of anti-union actions. young and optimistic organizers have been giving older ones. often coordinating communication among protesters occupying the Capitol. It’s rejuvenating. while Midwestern grandmothers with thick Wisconsin accents stop by to deliver trays of food cooked at home. and gloves that are free to take. There are bands and drum circles that play throughout the day. In the early days.” he said. scarves. soap. “Coming down to the Capitol is a lot like coming to church.

even as the sit-in has continued. “The labor movement understands they have to stand in solidarity with the young people who started this occupation. The presence of blue-collar workers in the Capitol has made it more difficult for Governor Scott Walker or Capitol Police to kick protesters out. As the political stalemate deepens in Wisconsin—and the size of protests dampens—the political importance of occupying the Capitol has risen. creating a sense of normalcy for most people in Wisconsin. and protesters will risk being kicked out.” . a group of people meditating. When everyone goes to bed. president of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2304. we have proven that numbers and masses determine what happens. you can walk around the Capitol and find young college couples cuddling and kissing in one corner. “Each night one union will take a shift and send down a hundred of its member to sleep in the Capitol.” said Dave Poklinkoski. “Right now the only thing we are disrupting is this Capitol. “As long as we hold onto this Capitol. we have a chance. Another night.what democracy looks like | 58 I spotted a group of women knitting.” “In a struggle such as this.” said Sadlowski. while families with children bed down for the night in another. His union is planning to stay in the building Saturday night. the next the construction unions. Teachers who were out on strike for the first few days of the protest have returned to the classroom.” said Sadlowski. One day the firefighters will come. when some of the rooms being occupied will become contested territory.

#kIllthIsBIll .

@legalEagle They will keep the building open as long as testimony is being taken. #wiunion . it’s about all of ours. It’s not just about your voice.

teachers. Over the course of the days-long hearing on the proposed bill. these stories were woven together to create a narrative that was stronger than any one voice could ever be. For some it was the first time they felt their voice mattered. and students who helped catalyze the protests from just another show of activist anger to a sustained demonstration that captured the country’s attention.000 people testified. in a culture that doesn’t always value that. a microphone was set up beneath the Capitol dome each day so that speakers could continue to address the assembled crowds. observed how powerful it was “to have people listen to you and care about what you were saying. of making the fight personal. . and of energizing fellow demonstrators by reminding each other why they were there and what was at stake.people came to the Wisconsin Capitol to tell their stories as a way of speaking out against Governor Scott Walker’s attack on workers. more than 1. One by one.” These speeches and shared testimonies were a form of resistance. Even after the hearing ended. It was these farmers. who spent weeks documenting and participating in the protests. firefighters. Videographer Matt Wisniewski.

@legalEagle Legal Eagle Capitol is PACKED. and Oshkosh schools will be closed tomorrow. everyone. I broke mental promise not 2 cry. I’m so sexy. #wiunion #killthisbill 9:34pm Feb 16 . Verona. Oregon. nice. I cannot move. Monona Grove.” #wisolidarity #wiunion #notmywi 9:32pm Feb 16 @cabell Cabell Gathman thx 4 encouragement. #wiunion 9:03pm Feb 16 @legalEagle Legal Eagle Can no longer hear JFC over chants of “the people united will never be defeated. 7:51pm Feb 16 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin Dem senator says: I’m convinced that the nation if not the world is watching. Woman nxt 2 me was v. #wiunion #killthisbill 8:06pm Feb 16 @taa_Madison TAA Madison Madison. 7:17pm Feb 16 @ddayen David Dayen Obama tells WTMJ in Milwaukee that Wisconsin bill stripping public employee rights “seems like more of an assault on unions. 6:32pm Feb 16 @legalEagle Legal Eagle RT @rjetty: Scott Walker is the best union organizer that I’ve seen in ages. but I got through it.” 7:36pm Feb 16 @MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan 900 people spoke at the hearing last night and today. Middleton Waunakee. Deforest. I smell like I imagine a sumo wrestler might.

dear scott walker | 63 March 12. The following is text of a speech given by Schultz at the farmer labor solidarity “tractorcade” on March 12. Wisconsin. 2011. 1 Community Supported Agriculture . like the labor movement. and I’m a third generation family farmer. born and raised on a 50-cow dairy. I’m a member of Family Farm Defenders farmers union. It’s values that I think overlap entirely with the values of the labor movement. Family farmers. and board member of Family Farm Defenders. Today my partner Kat and I run our farm as a 150-member CSA1 with some beefers. maple syrup. like the labor movement. 2011 Tony Schultz Tony Schultz is a family farmer in Athens. to be empowered by your work—not alienated by it. Family farmers. value economic democracy. value the means to have a beautiful and constructive setting to raise a family. Family farmers. and chickens and pigs. My name is Tony Schultz. like the labor movement. and it’s the values that I’m reminded of every time I look at our state’s license plate and see that little red barn. value the dignity of being able to have some control over your work and your life. I came back to the family farm after college because of my values.

said—and this couldn’t be truer—“The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up the fortunes of a few unprecedented in human history. 14 of 44 teachers got pink slips. we’ve been sitting in. It’s bad for our children’s education. Those people have petty resentment that is amplified by right-wing radio until they think that a fireman’s pension is the problem. saying. and because of the pathetic and volatile price we receive for milk and other commodities that don’t meet the cost of our production. when workers and farmers came together to struggle for a progressive income tax. it’s bad for the very future of our school district. we have been picketing together. and they are the centers of our small towns and rural communities. I want you to know that those aren’t farmers.dear scott walker | 64 What is a union anyway. It was over 120 years ago when Tom Watson. and we say no! It’s a farmers’ issue because Scott Walker wants to hack BadgerCare. “The interests of rural and urban labor are the same. acting together to improve their lives? And that is what we are here to do: to act together. And then there are groups that represent this evil: The Dairy Business Association was here on Wednesday at “Ag day at the Capitol” saying. we’ve been dumping milk. and will be laid off because of this budget. and I want Wisconsin and the world to know that this is the real Ag Day at the Capitol. We depend on this. we’ve been blocking traffic. Eleven thousand Family Farm members depend on BadgerCare because of the exclusivity of for-profit health insurance companies. It’s a farmers’ issue because our rural schools are getting decimated by this budget. it’s bad for the stability of our town. Listen to these quotes.” Ignatius Donnelly. “Hooray for Walker’s budget. “We reject this unionbusting bill. the Georgia Populist. Their enemies are identical. for unions and the eight-hour day. and we reject this budget!” Solidarity between farmers and workers is an old and sacred alliance of producers that dates back beyond the populist movement. and we are going to take this state back! And yet there are those who tell us that this isn’t a farmers’ issue. but working people coming together. for a financial system that served the people. the Minnesota Populist. In my hometown of Athens.” Well. said in 1890. and we support BadgerCare! . They’re agribusiness corporations with a few factory farmers in front. and this is a farmers’ issue.” For more than 100 years we have been fighting together. to speak together in solidarity.

and neighbors. and we say no. The way I see it is we got two choices: I can have my unions busted and stand alone and be pitted against my neighbor in a desperate and unequal economy. or we can come together to say ‘This is what our families need. and our family members. We go up together or we go down together. this is what a just wage is. It’s a farmers’ issue because public workers are our friends.dear scott walker | 65 It’s a farmers’ issue because we have been battling corporate power for more than a century—this budget could not be a clearer manifestation of corporate power. this is what our communities need. and we stand in solidarity with them! It a farmers’ issue because we know that we’re all in this together. this is what a democracy looks like!’ It’s a farmers’ issue because we understand that an injury to one is an injury to all! Solidarity! .

4th floor north. #wisolidarity #notmywi 11:11pm Feb 16 @emmahduhjemmah Emma Gibbens HELL YEAH! You are on the wrong side of history and on the wrong side of justice! You tell em Sen Jauch! 11:24pm Feb 16 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin Everyone remember to register to testify in the GAR room. 11:38pm Feb 16 @emmahduhjemmah Emma Gibbens More and more people are arriving. 11:44pm Feb 16 . #wiunion #killthisbill 9:45pm Feb 16 @millbot Emily Mills Seeing lots of blankets. I hope some of those leaders organize our communities against him. Amendment fails. I love democracy. to keep the hearing going all night #killthisbill #wiunion 11:38pm Feb 16 @legalEagle Legal Eagle Sen Glenn Grothman just used phrase “so-called community leaders”.@taa_Madison TAA Madison All of Milwaukee public schools will be closed tomorrow. pillows & sleeping bags coming out. We @WEAC” 10:34pm Feb 16 @legalEagle Legal Eagle Party line vote against Democratic amendment to restore collective bargaining. Wear red tomorrow. #wiunion #notmywi 10:20pm Feb 16 @kristinelZ Kristine LZ RT @uwlaxecho: Support a teacher.

I have only fuzzy memories of you—of riding my bike around the corner. I’m your former neighbor from Delavan. while you were a mullet-haired jock). If it isn’t obvious. but you and I grew up not half a block away from each other in the small town of Delavan. I’m writing to ask you. she was a brainy punk rocker.” Our limited acquaintance notwithstanding. and I’m a public-sector worker in Wisconsin. You were in my sister Katie’s high school class. 2011 Sigrid Peterson Dear Governor Walker. Wisconsin. seeing one of the “older boys” in the neighborhood walk out of his house on West Wisconsin Street. there’s Scott Walker. within the past four days I fear I’ve gotten to know you fairly well.dear scott walker | 67 February 14. Six years your junior. I doubt you remember me. In fact. and your Republican friends in the legislature to put a swift stop to your proposed “budget-repair” bill. along with its crude and unapologetic assault on 50 years of rights and benefits granted to Wisconsin’s public-sector employees. Your measure is nothing short of devastating—stripping most (in some cases. My name is Sigrid Peterson. we’ve never formally met. So perhaps it’s time I introduce myself. and hearing my sister say. incapacitating any future . “Hey. though perhaps you didn’t know her then (indeed. your administration. or well enough. all) of our collective bargaining rights.

More importantly. I write this out of respect for my late father too—your old neighbor. His affordable health insurance treated eight cases of chicken pox. he taught me that we should celebrate (versus vilify) this form of work arrangement and ensure that we fight for the same for workers in every sector of the economy. but slimly subsidized all eight of our undergraduate educations at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. but this makes you no more forthright or articulate than a tongue-tied and cowardly teenager breaking up with his girlfriend/boyfriend via text message. Lyle (raised in Richland Center. and a public municipal employee.dear scott walker | 68 resources of our unions. Mom had to exit the formal labor force at a young age in favor of unpaid work in the home to feed. Governor Walker. She still lives in Delavan. Forgive me. Dad raised me and my seven brothers and sisters on a comparatively small municipal accountant’s salary of $32.” And you do this with no effort (none) to meet with workers since you took office. We are teachers. My dad. and further straining the livability and reach of our compensation with steep increases in employee contributions to health care and pensions.000 a year. a lifelong Wisconsinite. Wisconsin). Dad’s pension serving as her fixed income against the backdrop of a labor market that would have punished (if not outright dismissed) her after 40 years of bringing up kids. That salary not only fed (with lots of spaghetti) and housed us. and paid for a total of 137 stitches. web engineers. Five of those kids (and their families) live in Wisconsin today. through two years of chemotherapy treatments. Dad’s pension with the Wisconsin Retirement System is a lifesaver to my mother in her older years. Wisconsin). I assure you it’s in service to things greater than concern over my job. and educate eight good and generous people. And you do this with nothing but unsubstantiated excuses that this is the “only alternative. Shirley (raised in Muscoda. a legacy you and your colleagues delight in dismantling. university doctors. alone. love. Does this mean you’ll bring back your mullet too? If I’m irreverent. and carried Dad to the end of his 10-year battle with cardiomyopathy. clothe. Most importantly. I also write this out of pride in the progressive legacy of my home state. public attorneys. and business . his comprehensive health care saw my mom. was living proof that a public-sector job—with its modest salary but good benefits—garners more than the sum of its parts. 33 episodes of tonsillitis.

transparent city government. as well as helping them get the most out of a few short years of engaging in the profound fun that is thinking and learning. as well as an employee of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.” I’d always take their jab with good humor. my job also grants me a tuition waiver. a legacy my father held dear. I worked on the physical and economic redevelopment of Lower Manhattan’s central business district (“Wall Street”). without which I could never afford to pursue training in the academy. Your proposal. While there. Similarly to teaching assistants (TAs.dear scott walker | 69 people. my friends and colleagues would tease me for hailing from “one of those funny-shaped states in the middle. My mom. the preservation of public education. As typical New Yorkers often do. along with state health insurance to help me weather winter infections and viruses. That job (which grants me membership in AFT local 3220. and one I bragged wildly about in New York. I’m her sixth daughter and seventh child. I’m currently a graduate student in our top-ranked Department of Geography.D. Frank Zeidler. I left a career in New York City to be close to her in Wisconsin and to pursue my dream of getting a Ph. Governor Walker. giving back to young people seeking an affordable public education. or full-time graduate students who dedicate more than twenty hours a week to instructing undergraduates). I devote over half of my workweek as a University project assistant (PA). Gaylord Nelson. following its decimation from the terrorist attacks of 9/11. your bill is also of grave offense to the progressive legacy of the state of Wisconsin. seeks to strip me of the contractual rights to the benefits allowing me to stay here.000 a year. As ambitious as it is damaging. and accountable economic development toward quality jobs. Two and half years ago. and my greatest goal is to repay this debt by becoming a professor in a land grant institution like the University of Wisconsin. I am part of the staff in a policy research center in the Department of Sociology devoted to growing Wisconsin’s economy through statewide partnerships between businesses and workers. in particular. or TAA) provides a small take-home salary of just over $12. We give to our local communities. Importantly. . has spent a lifetime in volunteer service to Delavan fighting for clean watersheds. but try to explain just how deeply proud I was of Wisconsin’s good people and progressive history—the land of Bob La Follette. the Teaching Assistants’ Association. I know just how lucky I am. and I am frightened over what my future holds if it passes. and Russ Feingold.

now. You disappoint me. in a department I respect immensely. and on limited occasions. to see my very good friends. gritty mass of physical infrastructure and embodied space. And what amazed me was the reverence these otherwise powerful actors of private enterprise expressed for the city. when our job titles and ranks melted away (perhaps prior to a breakfast meeting or during a casual work gathering). What’s worse. you embarrass my father. I still have things to brag about. you embarrass Delavan. Maybe it’s the sheer humility one feels when confronted with New York’s awesome. But I regret to say. Please stop your bill.” I doubt the business people I know would care to walk through it.dear scott walker | 70 My job in the city demanded I work with various CEOs and executives of major Wall Street corporations. we spoke candidly about personal interests. I leave in a few weeks to visit New York. While your version of Wisconsin’s “door” may indeed be “open for business. My nerdy obsession with cities and the history of workers came up frequently. and understatedly clever folks of my upbringing everyday. And I get to work for our tremendous state university. I brag a bit less enthusiastically. day in and day out. and you embarrass the state of Wisconsin. of course. especially now—try as you might to steeply discount the entry ticket. but I met power brokers who deeply respected the men and women laboring for the metropolis. and with people I love. nor would they have ever rubber-stamped such a bold-faced erosion to public workers’ basic rights and livelihoods as you endorse today. I still get to live among the kind. you don’t just disappoint me. . and state employees who kept the Big Apple running. and to catch them up on my goings-on in Wisconsin. county. Governor Walker. you embarrass me. for all our sakes. committed. None of the executives with whom I worked were anti-union. old neighbor.

@legalEagle Legal Eagle The vote is now. 11:52pm Feb 16 @legalEagle Legal Eagle 12-4 on party lines. Big thanks to everyone out there fighting the good fight. And with that. the budget repair bill is sent to the Legislature. See you in the morning! #wiunion #notmywi 12:04am Feb 17 . it’s back to protesting. 11:53pm Feb 16 @millbot Emily Mills Big day across Wisconsin tomorrow.

because I still want them to have a beautiful future. could have used some better planning. This is why I fight. This is why I fight. some of you tagged will not agree with me. I fight for the people I love. we dig in and hold fast: . I fight for people who don’t agree with me. I still offer you my story. I have made this note visible to “Everyone”—feel free to share it. to comment on it. 2011 Joanne Staudacher posted the following as a note on Facebook. This is why I will not give up. The war isn’t over. I fight for the land beneath my feet. had to have an amendment over my two-poster limit and I had to tie it around my throat like a cape to keep it all visible. my intent. In true badger fashion. This is the text of the sign I wore on my back when I marched at the Capitol last. my statement of purpose. and the better future I hope we will share. to think about it—whatever makes you happy. the people I will love.dear scott walker | 72 Joanne Staudacher March 18. It is my manifesto. I broke the lines in the same way that my medium and handwriting dictated. for better I hope. my motivation. not worse. the people I have loved. Yes. My manifesto was limited to the size of what I could carry on my back. and every word is truth.

and college classrooms. and time. devout Catholic. cousin. thrift stores. I am unemployed.D. raised. long-lived stock. I am a daughter. wife. methodist. My mother is a seamstress. humane society volunteer—I’ve donated money. Conceived. Both sides farmed. mentor. niece. and hope to die. I have a Ph. I have been a literacy tutor. blood. My father is a forester. restaurants. . friend. CCD teacher. I will be a mother. I have worked for pay in homes. determined. food. employed + unemployed. I come from hardworking. educated. sister. yards. I am pro-union. veteran. computer labs. offices. aunt. living still.dear scott walker | 73 Dear Walker & Hopper: I AM WISCONSIN. warehouses. born.

Green Bay. I sewed my own wedding dress + changed my alternator. I stand before you in my science camp T-shirt + thrift store skirt. I am not a slob. If I were lazy. I have been Chippewa Falls. Milwaukee. You may not remember folks like me. creative. Holcombe.dear scott walker | 74 I will not see my children’s future spoiled. Fond du Lac. Complex. Prairie du Chien. I am Oshkosh. Eau Claire. I am a deer hunter who bakes vegan cookies. I’m equal parts June Cleaver + meat cleaver. but I WILL RECALL YOU. I wouldn’t be here. and I am NOT alone! . I am Wisconsin. I am educated. passionate.

. No vote on Walker’s bill. There are only 17 now. #notmywi #killthisbill #wiunion 9:13am Feb 17 @MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan National media finally taking notice of what’s happening here in Wisconsin. :-) 11:24am Feb 17 @micahuetricht Micah Uetricht Democratic reps just walked out of the capitol. #notmyWI 9:37am Feb 17 @scoutprime scoutprime Sign--100% of teachers better educated than Gov Walker. let’s make sure it is focused on our massive peaceful demonstrations today. (he’s hs grad for u out of staters) 10:15am Feb 17 @aemilli Emily whole building just sang national anthem #notmywi 10:42am Feb 17 @aemilli Emily chanting at the senators going in to vote! kill the bill! #notmywi 10:56am Feb 17 @emmahduhjemmah Emma Gibbens @sentaylor you go girl! Don’t tell me where you’re off to! :D 11:19am Feb 17 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin This is a great thing! The Senate will not be able to vote because they will not have quorum. Needed are 20 Senators.as they have. .@eigenjo Jo Nelson the world has its eye on is.. #wiunion 11:32am Feb 17 . STAY IN THE CAPITOL! #killthisbill #wiunion 11:20am Feb 17 @bluecheddar1 blue cheddar So what I gather: A vote can’t be taken if Dem Senators walk out ..

now have more loot. It’s just that it’s not in your hands. Not by a long shot. from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich. in the greatest heist in history. For us to admit that we have let a small group of men abscond with and hoard the bulk of the wealth that runs our economy. stock. 2011 Speech delivered at the Wisconsin Capitol America is not broke. The country is awash in wealth and cash. then you are simply not being honest about what you know in your heart to be true. cut your wages.dear scott walker | 76 Michael Moore March 5. Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you’ll give up your pension. America is not broke. and property than the assets of 155 million Americans combined. Today just 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined. If you can’t bring yourself to call that a financial coup d’etat. And I can see why. and settle for the life your greatgrandparents had. Four hundred obscenely rich people. Let me say that again. would mean that we’d have to accept the humiliating acknowledgment that . most of whom benefited in some way from the multitrillion-dollar taxpayer “bailout” of 2008. It has been transferred.

It’s part of the Big Lie. scientists. The nation is not broke. They control the message. artists. the banks. the wealthy have done two very smart things: 1. And the population ended up suffering because they reduced their taxes. The schools can’t produce the best and the brightest who will go on to create those jobs. the Packers can’t win the Super Bowl without Brett Favre. To help prevent that day when the people demand their country back. By owning most of the media they have expertly convinced many Americans of few means to buy their version of . and the Fortune 500 now run this Republic—and. It grows when we provide an outstanding educational system that then grows a new generation of inventors. That too caused a reduction in revenue. So they have bought and paid for hundreds of politicians across the country to do their bidding for them.dear scott walker | 77 we have indeed surrendered our precious democracy to the moneyed elite. And here’s what I learned: Money doesn’t grow on trees. and they know that someday you may want to see some of that money that used to be yours. and took wealth out of the system. The crash they created cost us millions of jobs. It’s one of the three biggest lies of the decade: America/Wisconsin is broke. They know they have committed crimes to make this happen. But just in case that doesn’t work. Wall Street. reduced our jobs. It grows when we make things. But if those who have the most money don’t pay their fair share of taxes. there’s lots of money to go around. every student had to take one semester of economics in order to graduate. I have nothing more than a high school degree. Iraq has WMD. LOTS. they’ve got their gated communities. and the luxury jet is always fully fueled. until this past month. And that new idea creates new jobs and that creates revenue for the state. waiting for that day they hope never comes. removing it from circulation. we have seen what they will do with it: recklessly gamble it on crazy Wall Street schemes and crash our economy. the engines running. The truth is. If the wealthy get to keep most of their money. entrepreneurs. Wisconsin is not broke. It grows when we have good jobs with good wages that we use to buy the things we need and thus create more jobs. It’s just that those in charge have diverted that wealth into a deep well that sits on their well-guarded estates. and thinkers who come up with the next great idea for the planet. the state can’t function. But back when I was in school. unable to find a way to do anything about it. the rest of us have felt completely helpless. my friends.

Millions lost their jobs anyway. Goodbye pensions. And when they threatened to release this weapon of mass economic annihilation in September of 2008. Their version of the Dream says that you. and the ground is shifting under the feet of those who are in charge. PLEASE!” The executives in the board rooms and hedge funds could not contain their laughter. Love and compassion toward those who have. your nose to the grindstone. and within three months they were writing each other huge bonus checks and marveling at how perfectly they had played a nation full of suckers. They have created a poison pill that they know you will never want to take. might be rich some day—this is America. “Here! Take our money! We don’t care. and be sure to vote for the party that protects the rich man that you might be some day. and it scared the shit out of everyone. It was friggin’ awesome. great lake with you! You have aroused the sleeping giant known as the working people of the United States of America. Goodbye United States Treasury.dear scott walker | 78 the American Dream and to vote for their politicians. too. 2. 1). too!—might be rich/president/an Oscar winner some day! The message is clear: Keep your head down. It’s just the opposite! We are rich with talent and ideas and hard work and. Right now the earth is shaking. don’t rock the boat. please. Fork it over or it’s goodbye savings accounts. we blinked. We’ll even print more for you! Just take it! But. Wall Street issued this threat: Either hand over trillions of dollars from the American taxpayers or we will crash this economy straight into the ground. But there was no revolt (see No. and millions lost their homes. It is their version of mutually-assured destruction. you. how a guy with a high school education can become a successful filmmaker. As the economy and the stock market went into a tailspin. Your message has inspired people in all 50 states and that message is: WE HAVE HAD IT! We reject anyone who tells us America is broke and broken. leave our lives alone. how the child of a single mother in Hawaii can become president. Goodbye jobs and homes and future. their glee. On Wisconsin! Never has a Michigander been more happy to share a big. love. where anything can happen if you just apply yourself! They have conveniently provided you with believable examples to show you how a poor boy can become a rich man. and the banks were caught conducting a worldwide Ponzi scheme. yes. They will play these stories for you over and over again all day long so that the last thing you will want to do is upset the apple cart—because you—yes. . Until now.

We all knew there had to be a breaking point some day. And that. They had to strip us of our dignity. And let us pause for a moment and remember that it was a poor man with a fruit stand in Tunisia who gave his life so that the world might focus its attention on how a government run by billionaires for billionaires is an affront to freedom and morality and humanity. But in trying to destroy us they have given birth to a movement—a movement that is becoming a massive. or letting a pilot just get a few extra hours sleep so he or she can do their job—their $19. Many people in the media don’t understand this. No. The wealthy couldn’t be content with just paying this man $19. They couldn’t be satiated by simply removing millions of jobs and shipping them overseas to exploit the poor elsewhere. nonviolent revolt across the country. But they still crave what we all crave: our country back! Our democracy back! Our good name back! The United States of America. you have done it. That’s how much some rookie pilots on commuter airlines make. They had to shut us up and shut us down so that we could not even sit at a table with them and bargain about simple things like classroom size. Wisconsin. and that point is upon us. You have made people realize this was our last best chance to grab the final thread of what was left of who we are as Americans. slept on the floor. Thank you. my friends. After all. All he asks is that he doesn’t have to sleep in his car between shifts at O’Hare Airport. But he’s stopped trying to get better pay. For three weeks you have stood in the cold. they had to have more—something more than all the riches in the world. That’s how despicably low we have sunk. never saw it coming. he’s just another slob. maybe even the rookie pilots flying people here to Madison. and one thing is for certain: Madison is only the beginning.000 a year. is corporate America’s fatal mistake. The smug rich have overplayed their hand. we do it with a little bit of Egypt here. They had to have our soul. They say they were caught off guard about Egypt.000 a year job. They wanted to take away his sleep. NOT the Corporate States of America. or bulletproof vests for everyone on the police force.dear scott walker | 79 through no fault of their own. They wanted to demean and dehumanize him. Now they act surprised and flummoxed about why so many hundreds of thousands have come to Madison . The United States of America! So how do we get this? Well. They couldn’t have just been content with the money they raided from the Treasury. ended up as the least among us. a little bit of Madison there. skipped out of town to Illinois—whatever it took.

.. it’s one person. do not retreat. do you. “Why are they all standing out there in the cold? I mean there was that election in November.?” America ain’t broke! The only thing that’s broke is the moral compass of the rulers. they begrudgingly know this one unshakeable basic fact: There are more of us than there are of them! Madison. . and it’s the thing the rich hate most about America—because even though they seem to hold all the money and all the cards. and that was supposed to be that!” “There’s something happening here. and you don’t know what it is. We are with you. one vote. as long as that Constitution of ours still stands.dear scott walker | 80 over the last three weeks during brutal winter weather. We will win together. Never forget. And we aim to fix that compass and steer the ship ourselves from now on.

#ONEdaylONGER .

@MelissaRyan Back inside. Taking a moment to absorb everything. Everyone is the media. So many people documenting this on phones. #notmyWI .

photos and web videos that remained the best ways of following the latest in the #WIunion story. They recruited speakers for television shows looking to cover the story. and solicited donations of food and supplies. made headlines. told followers when and where help was needed. go-to tweeters posted photos of the growing crowds. revealing that Walker had considered planting “troublemakers” among the protesters . Twitter updates scrolled continuously. when Ian Murphy. the bloggers of the Wisconsin “Cheddarsphere” turned the protests into a national story that soon drew support from a vibrant community of netroots bloggers across the country. An outspoken group of Wisconsin bloggers called out Republican shenanigans and helped shape the broader media’s protest coverage. And it was a blogger who provided the strangest yet most revealing moment of the whole saga. if a somewhat questionable journalistic tactic. Rabble-rousing and proudly progressive. prank-called Walker. The call. and challenged traditional media for failing to cover the protests and for portraying the peaceful demonstrators as violent troublemakers. pretending to be billionaire Republican donor David Koch. it was Twitter and blogs.and screens of the mainstream media.

Tens of thousands of people watched the videos that Matt Wisniewski filmed from inside the Capitol. Just as those occupying the Capitol had found a way to take government into their own hands. videographers. and activists had found ways to take control of and tell their own story to the world. stories that bubbled up from Twitter and blogs to the mainstream media—while also spreading the protests’ message in less tangible but equally powerful ways. . Online organizing led to real results—the millions of dollars raised nationally to help with recall elections. and contemplated laying a trap for the Democratic senators who were on the run.do not retreat. retweet | 84 to provoke violence. and over a hundred thousand watched live video that online activist Ben Brandzel broadcast from the Capitol on his iPhone on the night of the first real conflict between police and protesters. these bloggers.

2:44pm Feb 17 @brianekdale Brian Ekdale cop near us is swaying and texting #sheswithus #wiunion 3:23pm Feb 17 @scoutprime scoutprime Balloons carrying poster of fist released to top pf Rotunda. the WI dems can crash at my place if they want / #wiconsin #solidarity 1:06pm Feb 17 @MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan News about the 14 Senators who have left the state has everyone here at @barriques excited and re-energized. Rank and file union workers are livid. #wiunion #killthebill 3:31pm Feb 17 @MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan RT @daveweigel: RT @mamaier262: RT @ufcw: Winning the internet Wisconsin Democratic State Senator tells @govwalker she’ll “brb” 4:06pm Feb 17 . #solidarityWI 12:53pm Feb 17 @thisBowers Chris Bowers RT @Atrios i’ve got some extra room. Everyone went crazy. the convos I’m overhearing are wild.@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht Walking around Madison. Never seen anything like this in my life 11:50am Feb 17 @micahuetricht Micah Uetricht More than a few people here are talking general strike. anyone interested? mention me and i’ll DM you with info. #NotmyWI #aslongasittakes 2:18pm Feb 17 @eigenjo Jo Nelson huffpo wants to get in touch with a firefighter in wisconsin to interview.

the largest community blog in the progressive netroots. The popular #WIunion tag on Twitter no longer updates too fast to read everything. “Wisconsin” dropped from the list of top tags on Daily Kos. though it still sees regular use. It’s gone from getting thousands of people to the Capitol every day and tens of thousands every weekend. 2011 Adapted from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Blog So much has changed politically in Wisconsin in the last three months. Last Thursday. As we’re likely to be feeling the ripple of recent events in Wisconsin for . and has been superseded by the #wirecall and #wivote tags that started being used as the energy of protest politics was shifted towards electoral politics.do not retreat. retweet | 86 Natasha Chart May 3. to getting a few people there every day while mobilizing volunteers to mount and contribute to recall campaigns against Wisconsin Republicans. for the first time since the February peak of the protests in Madison. It shows up clearly in one timeline of the Wisconsin union struggle. The shape of national and social media interest has also changed. The public groundswell of opposition to Governor Scott Walker’s attack on workers’ rights has changed. which begins with historic-low polling favorability for unions and finishes with jaw-droppingly bad polling for Wisconsin’s brand new governor.

where Buffalo Beast blogger Ian Murphy impersonated David Koch and recorded the 20 minutes of conversation he then had with Walker. it’s a good point at which to look back at some of the early social media milestones before they’re lost in the flood. his staff was telling Democratic state senators that he was too busy to talk to them. inspiring people all over the country. 3: They Begged To Differ Blogger Chris Liebenthal covered the budget fight and protests through the largely editorial posts in the “solidarity” archive on Cognitive Dissidence. Listeners marveled at the amount of time the governor made available. 1: The Call The infamous call. or more. Liebenthal’s chronicling of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s support of Walker before its eventual criticism of him over the budget fight in late February is exemplary of the way bloggers in the aggregate tend to connect these sorts of dots into larger stories. Hopefully. on short notice and without an appointment. The list of social media milestones you’ll find below could have been three times as long. generated a media firestorm. retweet | 87 a long time to come. 2: The Mistress The report. the #WIunion struggle was mostly a word-of-mouth popular uprising. but that she was also a lobbyist. was one of the most shocking. Liebenthal has countered Walker’s claims about public . and spurred a fundraising action on Daily Kos to run ads on the topic to support the Hopper recall campaign. Whatever else it was and is. The story was prominently picked up by Firedoglake. if not gonzo. Randy Hopper living with his 25-year-old mistress in Madison. in ways that mainstream media outlets often won’t. for someone that he thought was a billionaire campaign contributor of his. driven in large part by citizen media and email activism.do not retreat.” almost as if he were giving a progress update to a boss. media moments of the “budget-repair” bill fight. via a chain of blog posts and a little sleuthing by Blogging Blue’s Zach Wisniewski. At the same time Walker bragged about his exploits to “Koch. If we’re lucky. that not only was Republican state Sen. we’ll see its like again. it’s just long enough to capture the sense of community purpose and public conversation that made #WIunion a powerful experience.

D. in addition to continuing to deliver their widely-praised pizzas to the protests down the block at the Capitol.. It’s likely that this wouldn’t have happened if the local blogs hadn’t followed the story from the beginning and helped keep it alive. They were delicious. 5: They Built a Town David Dayen of Firedoglake provided one of the definitive eyewitness reports on “The Incredible Ecosystem of the Wisconsin State Capitol. 6: They Got Pizza Word got out that Ian’s Pizza on State Street was taking its leftover pizzas to the Capitol protests while the building was being occupied 24 hours a day during the Assembly Democrats’ marathon budget-repair bill hearings. and an eyewitness debunking of the claim that protesters took hinges off Capitol building doors. a review of the UW-Madison privatization plan.C. Hantschel immediately got the story out that these were peaceful. Ian’s Pizza got call-in orders for the protesters from all 50 states. and dozens of other countries. who tend not to cover events in person if they don’t have writers nearby. Ian’s also makes salads. they got so many orders that they opened the doors and gave away their food for free to anyone who walked in and placed an order. and larger photo diaries from all the big weekend rallies. . Key posts include a photo diary of protesters washing the Capitol floor and playing chess. A few weeks in. with extensive photo archives on the blog and Flickr stream. The local Journal Sentinel and The New York Times heard about it. positive events. People on Twitter were made aware. This is fairly rare for even large blogs.do not retreat. Egypt. striking back against the talking points of Walker’s allies with personal stories and editorials.” when the national blog decided that this was a big enough deal to send a correspondent. retweet | 88 employees and has continued to focus on issues such as alleged “costcutting” measures that will actually cost the state millions. Washington. 4: They Mopped the Floors Allison Hantschel of First Draft started covering the protests early. Some bloggers noticed and asked people to call in orders to be delivered to the protesters so that Ian’s would get reimbursed. Antarctica.

For the nationwide fightback. minimum. #statesos and #1u have been . Madison’s alternative weekly paper. and put the spotlight on stories such as the illegal contributions made to Walker’s campaign by wealthy railroad executives. has prominently featured diaries by community members (including teachers and other union workers) from Wisconsin and interested political enthusiasts from around the country. it was the one that stuck. the “Wisconsin” tag steadily remained among the 20 most popular on Daily Kos. it was updating on April 2 at a rate of two to three times per minute. They also posted video of some key moments. #solidaritywi. It was actually started by Kristian Knutsen of the Isthmus. retweet | 89 7: They Got Thrown Out Madison blog Dane 101’s archive of state government stories featured extensive photo diaries. well before events in Madison became a national story. Although the pace has slowed considerably. 9: They Would Not Be Silent #WIunion: This hashtag isn’t the one that was initially favored by the unions. the Wisconsin Supreme Court race between David Prosser and JoAnne Kloppenburg.do not retreat. 11 and used as a tag for their daily blog coverage. Prosser. and #wivote. as well as educating people about the recall effort. During the first electoral contest following the peak of Capitol protests. a front page analysis of the procedures being followed in the investigation of vote totals in Waukesha was significant in quelling conspiracy theories about the election’s outcome. such as footage of citizens being removed from the state Assembly antechamber in advance of a March 11 vote on a stand-alone bill to strip state workers’ collective bargaining rights. covered day-by-day developments at the Capitol. and still gets updated with new content at least every five minutes or so during the day. And while Kloppenburg lost in the final count. April 28. 8: The Whole Country Watched Until Thursday. Front-page authors picked up the story and covered the topic daily during the height of the protests and budget standoff. This national blog. #wirecall. on Feb. Other tags worth mentioning: #notmywi. many onlookers were amazed that she’d made up a 30-point deficit in the polls to come so close to unseating the incumbent. With a first-mover advantage like that in the Wisconsin Twittersphere. even trending worldwide at one point. while it didn’t send a correspondent.

and Daily Kos). by 23-year-old Matt Wisniewski (no relation to Zach Wisniewski of Blogging Blue). The video link spread like wildfire over Twitter. When people asked if you saw “the protest videos” in Madison at the peak of the demonstrations. set to popular songs and cut together from his own footage of the Capitol protests. 11: They Watched the World A time-lapse video of global protests and uprisings from Dec. and even for many who were. and many Flickr archives of still photos) will define the event for tens of thousands of people who weren’t able to be there in person. and multiple livestreams. 18. 12: They Raised Some Dough The online fundraising driven by the #WIunion events and national publicity definitely deserves its own spotlight. put together the lists of key local bloggers and #WIunion allies for others who wanted to follow their perspective on events. As of May 2. retweet | 90 picking up steam ever since. the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. 2011. as such. over $3 million was raised online from more than 173.000 people. As they head into an unprecedented season of recall elections. 10: They Took Pictures of Each Other This list would be woefully incomplete without a mention of several independent films of the protests posted to Vimeo.org. 2011 was put together by John Caelan of SwampPost. Also noteworthy on Twitter. 2010– March 7. they meant these. Russ Feingold’s former new media director. While not blog posts. each unique to their situations but inspired by the same longing for more just societies. these video montages (though there were many others. Sen. chances were. Democracy for America. . and to thank for it. tapping into popular sentiment among the activist community that saw protests in Madison and other state capitals as part of a global wave of populist uprisings. putting the average donation at a little over $17.do not retreat. and added to his site on March 9. Melissa Ryan. Wisconsin Democrats start with a cash advantage in excess of $1 million. they can mostly look to four online activist organizations that are unaffiliated with either a Democratic Party committee or any of the unions involved (these are MoveOn.

mass transit. and job security in the #WIunion era have been met with bipartisan proposals for even bigger cuts at every level of government.do not retreat. health care. even having unions was a pipe dream. It’s pretty great. Increased protests over cuts to education. wherever governors are launching attacks on working people. eventually. I think everybody will want some. . “One person. Because I’ve seen what democracy looks like. In Wisconsin and around the country. Though once upon a time. There was intense. people past and present have faced despots and tear gas. Funds were raised over email. retweet | 91 And then … Wisconsinites were so fired up that they began collecting signatures to recall six Republican state senators in special elections this summer. there were results. So I have great faith that the final outcome. will be justice for all. unfiltered public conversation through social networking sites. Soon after. conservatives are stepping up their attacks on workers and democracy following the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that unlimited corporate money could be poured into politics. These are not the results the protesters were looking for. Could there be more someday? “Whose house? Our house!” was a regular chant in Madison and. nooses and clubs. one vote. I’ve heard. Often. Still. Walker signed a bill that that made it more difficult for seniors. students. it’s going to take a lot of work before the people who work in “our” houses start acting like it again. and people of color to be heard at the polls. Volunteers were recruited on websites. these cuts are offered side by side with tax cuts for millionaires and big business. Yet.” used to be a laughable proposition. public safety. For those ideals.

watching cable news from KY: Watching the news. My job doesn’t provide ANY health care. I don’t have a pension.000 workers and students crying for justice & not feel moved. 5:48pm Feb 17 @bluecheddar1 blue cheddar No profile 2 pick out I see dudes in sweatshrts n on the mullet side along w.hipsters aside oldr couples #wiunion 7:04am Feb 17 . #wiunion 4:57pm Feb 17 @MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan Text from my Mom. There is food and water available.@analieseeicher Analiese Eicher RT @chicagobars: Free drinks on me for any WI state senators hiding out in Chicago from Gov Scott Walker’s power play. 4:44pm Feb 17 @micahuetricht Micah Uetricht Anyone who has ever complained that the American populace is too lazy to fight back should be in Madison right now. 4:51pm Feb 17 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin Please be peaceful and non-violent. #wiunion 4:54pm Feb 17 @JacquelynGill Jacquelyn Gill I defy anyone with a soul to feel the energy of >30. I want to be in a dark room with a stiff drink. Rallies getting more and more coverage. Walker isn’t. #unionWI #killthebill 4:45pm Feb 17 @cabell Cabell Gathman RT @nateckennedy: 30. And also a scalp massage. Keep fighting! #WIunion 5:18pm Feb 17 @legalEagle Legal Eagle I am not a union member.000 people protesting in Wisconsin and Fox News is talking about the “silent majority” who disagrees. We are winning this. Tons. I’m still in solidarity with #notmywi #wiunion. 4:22pm Feb 17 @legalEagle Legal Eagle When all of this is over. This is OUR state capitol. Sheesh.

but it was mostly just people holding signs and looking at the camera. I think was on February 18. And all the news coverage that came out right when it started was very factual. and there was also some weird stuff that was coming out from Fox News and Drudge Report that sort of made us look bad or . Erica Sagrans: I was in London during the Wisconsin protests. There was some video on local news. 2011 Matt Wisniewski is videographer and public employee at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. and people there were mentioning seeing photos and watching videos online as one of the main ways that they stayed in touch with what was going on in Wisconsin. There were a couple pictures attached to each story. created powerful videos from the Capitol occupation that quickly went viral and helped spread the story of the protests around the world. retweet | 93 Erica Sagrans May 2. who was 23 at the time of the protests.com/mgwisni. which was about four or five days from when the rally started. His videos can be seen at Vimeo. Your videos really resonated with a lot of people who weren’t able to experience the protests up close. What do you think you were able to convey to people. which perhaps wasn’t being shared elsewhere? Matt Wisniewski: The first video I put out. Wisniewski. maybe February 17.do not retreat.

do not retreat, retweet | 94 inferring that we were a riotous crowd. But what I think made the first video so successful and made it spread so quickly was that I gave a face to the protest. I showed the diversity of people that were there. And I gave it an emotional angle that the other factual information didn’t really show. That first video really conveys the energy that we had the first three weeks. It was such an infectious thing because people that I knew who lived in Madison who hadn’t gone would see the video and be like, “Wow, it’s really great,” and then they would be inspired to go down to the Capitol and they’d be like, “Holy crap, I didn’t realize it was so powerful. I was so wrong to doubt this.” But I think the fact that I gave it a face and I really conveyed the emotion that was happening, because the emotion was infectious, it was incredible down there, I think that really helped the first video take off. ES: I was looking at your website and read some of what you’d written about the power of story and narrative. I’m wondering what for you is the story of these past few months, or the story that you were trying to tell with your videos? MW: That is a difficult thing to say. That’s like a book by itself. What I saw and what I got out of this—I’ll tell you my story. I’m a public employee, so the budget-repair bill is directly going to affect me. It’s going to take money away from the paycheck I get every month. I initially went down to the Capitol to protest the money, the monetary value of what I was losing—and then when I got down there, I saw a lot of people from unions (I’m nonunion), and I started to meet people from unions, and I started to learn about the labor movement, stuff that I hadn’t learned in school. I started to realize how powerful this whole thing is, the labor movement, and it started to get tied into civil rights, and labor rights are human rights. The thing that kept me coming back was this sense of community that we had. Everyone that was down there was working together—the people who were staying in the Capitol overnight, people who were delivering them food and supplies. They started to organize offices in the Capitol. There was a wing that was just for children and their parents to hang out in. There was a wing that just had a ton of food, and people were there watching it and making sure no one was coming in there and stealing it. There were people handing out food and making sandwiches. There was also an information station

do not retreat, retweet | 95 where people could go and ask where they could get blankets or pillows or sleeping bags. It was really like a community and everyone really cared about each other. I think that’s something unique not only to the Midwest but to Madison as a city, is that people really do take stock in each other’s well-being. ES: I know that you posted your email address where people could send in messages of support for protesters. Will you talk about what kinds of messages you got and what you did with them? MW: At first I was getting a lot of emails through my website, and those are more difficult for me to respond to because when I hit “reply” I can’t reply without changing the “from.” So I actually posted my email on the website, and my email blew up then, obviously. Probably for about two weeks I was getting close to 200 emails a day, and then it died down after that. I would say over the course of the last two and a half months I probably got several thousand emails. Eventually I started to post those on a website, and I would try to document where the email came from, and I’d post the comment they sent me. I got thousands of emails. I don’t think I got more than five that were negative, and even those were people who disagreed but wanted to have a discussion, a civil discourse. I was getting emails from people all over Wisconsin, people all over the United States, and I got several from outside the country. All of ‘em were just like, “Keep up the fight, because we know if you guys fail, then they’re going to come after us next.” It was really incredible. There was this hearing that was going on for the budget-repair bill, and the reason we could keep the Capitol open was because the hearing kept going on, and it went on for eight or nine days in a row, 24 hours a day. I signed up and gave my testimony really late on a Saturday night or Sunday morning, it was like 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning. I went up and I was reading off emails I had gotten. During it I broke down in tears, I’m not exactly sure why, but I think it was that I’d been living the entire protest through my camera lens, I hadn’t really absorbed the emotion and expressed it. I felt like there was so much pressure on me to convey these messages from the thousands of people who had been sending me emails. It was a position I’d never been in before, where I was a spokesman for this huge group of people. I was really stressed out for awhile.

do not retreat, retweet | 96 I read a bunch of [the messages in the hearing], but we also had this thing called the People’s Mic, and people could speak on it, and I went on there probably a dozen times and read a few emails. ES: The People’s Mic seemed like a really interesting part of the whole occupation, how much people were speaking out and sharing their stories with one another at the microphone set up in the Capitol. MW: I’m part of the organization that ran the People’s Mic now, and we were talking about the People’s Mic recently. We live in a country where it sort of feels like your voice doesn’t matter, because there’s so many of us. Someone compared it to old-school Rome, where people would speak about politics in the open and have discussions—it felt like that. People were up there and they knew that people were listening, and they cared about what they were saying, and they started to realize that their voice matters and their vote matters. It was really powerful to have people listen to you and care about what you were saying in a culture that doesn’t always value that. ES: During the protests, did you see yourself mostly as someone documenting what was going on, or as someone who was doing video and participating in other ways? Or did you see making videos as a way of protesting? MW: The first few days I went, I just happened to have my camera with me, and I take pictures a lot. I was sort of documenting what was going on. The reason I actually made the first video was basically just so that my friends who couldn’t go down there could see what was going on. I do wedding videography, and I just edited it together in the way I do wedding videos—I pick a song and then edit it to the music. Once the first video went viral and the second video was really popular, I almost felt like I had to go, because people were counting on me to show them what was going on. I also felt like if I wasn’t documenting this, then no one might see it. I ended up with 200 or 400 gigabytes of video footage. I haven’t even gone through any of it practically. I would sit in front of the People’s Mic sometimes and just record what people were saying because I knew that if I didn’t, no one would ever see it or hear what they were saying. I did feel like that was how I was participating because I hoped that the people who were seeing my videos were either protesters who were there already and using it to

do not retreat, retweet | 97 motivate themselves to go back every day, or people who weren’t there and would use it to eventually go down to the Capitol on those big rally days. I think it was both. ES: Had you done video of a similar event or big events like this, or had you been involved politically in something like this before? MW: Not hardly at all. I considered myself to have pretty strong political beliefs, but I hadn’t really participated in democracy in that way before. And the only videos I’d really produced were for weddings. ES: What’s next for you, either organizing-wise or video-wise? MW: I’m part of Autonomous Solidarity Organization now, but I don’t have a very senior role there. I’m trying to participate just enough so that I do what I say I can do. I don’t want to be the person who says they can do something and then fails to do it, because I do have a full-time job and other stuff going on. I’m going to definitely stick with them for awhile and help ‘em out as much as I can. As far as a political career or what I want to do in politics, I don’t know if I want to be involved more than I really have been so far. I really like where I am an activist/documentarian. I actually got offered a job by AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) to work in Washington, D.C. as their video guy— but I just love Madison so much, and I have a full-time job that I really love to do, and I don’t know if I want to have my entire life be politics. I really love what we did, and I hope that we can keep helping this change move forward, but I don’t see myself as a lifetime activist or anything like that. Hopefully once we turn the tide and fix our rights I can go back to being a kid for a little longer. I haven’t dressed in suits so much in my entire life as I have for the past two months. ES: Right—as someone who’s been involved with politics in D.C., I think it’s great to do that, but we need people all over, doing video, doing different things all over the country. There’s not just one way to effect change. MW: That’s something that was so cool about this movement—the way people were using media. There were a lot of events or periods during

do not retreat, retweet | 98 the rally that I only learned about through Twitter. I basically became a Twitter celebrity on accident. I had a Twitter account and the last time I used it before this started was probably a year ago, and I had 10 followers who were my friends. And then one day I logged into Twitter after this happened, and I had some 500 followers, and I was like, “What is going on?” So then I had to start using Twitter because people were listening to me. The way people were using their camera phones, and taking video and putting it online and capturing all these moments that were really important and spreading them on Facebook—that was such a unique thing that I don’t think people have really seen before. I think that it’ll definitely be a case study in social media use for a long time. ES: What do you think the role of social media was—was it a way of people capturing the protests and telling that story, or a way people organized, or what else? MW: It was just that we could see so many more facts and events that were happening outside of only the media realm. Normally an event like this, you learn about it through either being there or reading in the newspaper. In this event, there were so many more sources of information than that, anybody who went down there was a source of information who could take pictures, or video, or tweet about it, or put it on their Facebook. It was like an aggregator, but it was also getting other people involved. It was incredibly valuable. One of the more important nights of the rallies was the night that they passed the budget-repair bill after hours—it was on a Wednesday or a Tuesday, and the doors usually close at 5 o’clock on those days, and there was hardly anybody there, probably a few thousand people at the Capitol. Somebody tweeted, “They’re trying to pass this budget bill tonight, get to the Capitol”—and thousands of people showed up. And we occupied the Capitol that night, and that was the first night the doors were open. It was crazy. I would never have known about it if it hadn’t been for Twitter. I think it played an incredibly important role. And there’s actually now a circle of influential Wisconsin union tweeters who are spreading knowledge out to people who are still listening and paying attention to what’s going on. ES: Who are the main tweeters you’ve been following?

I was thinking. They were putting up tweets and pictures and videos on a timely basis. and I love that I got to spread that around. “Oh man. as well as her friend @edcetera who tweeted a lot during the protests. I would hope that what I did did help the movement and got people to come to the Capitol—I will never know for sure if that’s true. I will never forget that experience for the rest of my life. but is there anything else you think is an important part of the story or that you’d want to share? MW: I think something that was really important to my part of the story here was if I hadn’t chosen to get involved and to do something. the love that we were all sharing.000 people. When I was taking the video I was really nervous. and he had his baby daughter on his back. The fact that you called me about a story for a book—that’s crazy to me—no one’s ever cared what I talked about before. and all the time that I spent and all the nights that I didn’t sleep. was such a fulfilling thing for me. have all this free time—but the fact that I got involved and that I was actually doing something to try to help this movement spread. do whatever I wanted. who does a radio show. retweet | 99 MW: The main ones I was following closely are @bluecheddar1. I could have spent the whole time at home. but I would hope that that’s true. There are three reporters from Madison who were covering the protests every day and tweeting all the time and providing a lot of really good information—two were @News3David and @News3Jessica. and an attorney named @LegalEagle. One email that I got really resonates with me—I took video during the first really big rally with 100. I’m nervous that this guy’s going to think something weird .do not retreat. and I took video of this dad. She must have been less than two years old. then none of my side of the story would have ever happened. ES: That’s it as far as my questions go. It was really cool that there were citizen journalists providing information. that those were all worth it because of what ended up happening and this community that we built together that isn’t going to be shut down. But I think that sometimes you have to put away your personal wants for a movement that is a lot bigger than just you. and I love all the emails that I got. but also that there were actual news journalists who were really into it and spreading knowledge more than just putting out a story. I love what we did. It’s just not something I’ve experienced before.

and he ended up emailing me and was like. “Thank you for putting us in the video. People are going to be watching it 10 years from now and that’s so cool—they’ll remember what happened in Madison and look back on it and say.” That really hit me that what I did and what I captured and created is going to be out there for the rest of my life.” And I put it in the video because I just thought it was such a cool moment. retweet | 100 about me taking pictures of his daughter. It’s so awesome.” . When she grows up I’m going to show her the video.do not retreat. “We started something there that changed things. and she’s going to know she was there for this historic event.

bathrooms clean & completely stocked with all your necessities. You are our hero. come for the hot union men and women in uniform! #whatisitaboutfirefighters? #wiunion 10:01pm Feb 17 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin We have been testifying for over 60 hours and counting! If you haven’t had your voice heard. 10:33pm Feb 17 . and unionized. I used to think what was missing from my life was a giant flag.@WEaC WEAC RT @wendykloiber: RT @thebookpolice: Am I to believe that not a single friend of the worker in WI has a damn vuvuzela? #solidarity 7:11pm Feb 17 @bluecheddar1 blue cheddar @sentaylor Thank you Senator Taylor for everything. if food and beer don’t tempt you to protest. I hope things R well w. #wiunion #wisolidarity 10:12pm Feb 17 @cabell Cabell Gathman Dudes. When they come for him. head to room 328 NW #killthisbill #wiunion 10:03pm Feb 17 @legalEagle Legal Eagle HUGE thanks to the Capitol cleaning crew . 9:41pm Feb 17 @JacquelynGill Jacquelyn Gill @karamartens The Packers issued a statement of solidarity . but now I know it’s a flag AND a bullhorn.it/GtH8w 8:37pm Feb 17 @legalEagle Legal Eagle RT @pourmecoffee: Governor Walker will regret radicalizing teachers. I <3 HAVING A BULLHORN.they’re publicly owned. U & all the Senators #wiunion 8:11pm Feb 17 @eigenjo Jo Nelson RT @WiStateJournal: BREAKING: Madison schools to close Friday amid calls for more protests http://dlvr. and they stand with us! #wiunion 9:50pm Feb 17 @JacquelynGill Jacquelyn Gill Or.on day 4. all he will see is rulers and then darkness.

who flew him out to the Badger state. Murphy’s an editor of the Buffalo Beast. March 7. Walker’s naked corporate agenda was revealed for what it was. More importantly. And it gave proof to what many of us had suspected—Walker is in for the long haul and will start layoffs in an attempt to crush bargaining rights. Murphy is a folk hero around here. visited Madison this weekend and took in the protests. His punking of the governor gave huge momentum to the burgeoning pro-democracy movement. and unlike many out-of-towners who have descended upon Madison recently.do not retreat. Walker went so far as to admit he considered inserting provocateurs in the peaceful protests. Wisconsin. who pretended to be right-wing billionaire (and Governor Scott Walker supporter) David Koch. But even the corporate media had to take notice. The role of right-wing money in funding anti-union efforts often goes unnoticed by the press. 2011 Elizabeth DiNovella Prank caller Ian Murphy. bursting the “budget crisis” storyline. Murphy was invited to Wisconsin by a schoolteacher from Fond du Lac. he knows how to dress for . People began protesting at the Koch brothers’ lobbying offices here in Madison and elsewhere. retweet | 102 The Progressive. by releasing the audio of Walker speaking candidly about the crisis. Murphy changed the narrative.

retweet | 103 the cold. After our chat. I thought the jig would be up each time I called. whose call would he take? I had been following Koch brothers. He totally looked like a Wisconsinite. Mike. He was thrilled to talk to me. He introduced Murphy. one of the 14 Democratic state senators who left the state. took him to the Capitol rotunda. you know. Dorothy Moore. So I thought. to get some sausage. and he and his entourage stopped by the office to say hello. The first call answered by a male secretary. Q: How did you decide to be David Koch. the teacher from Fond du Lac. He transferred me over to Walker’s executive assistant. He knew the name David Koch. Walker’s chief of staff. He said that could be arranged and that I should just leave my number. will not return phone calls. I knew they had been involved with union-busting.] I read this in a piece by Amanda Terkel on Huffington Post. will not communicate. and the crowd cheered him and shouted chants of “Beast! Beast! Beast!” Murphy is a fan of The Progressive. . She told me my name sounded familiar and asked me to please call back. The choice was obvious. [”He’s just hard-lined—will not talk. they headed down to State Street Brats. which had just reopened the day before. with a round face and shaggy brown hair underneath a big fuzzy hat.do not retreat. He’s stocky. Q: Were you surprised that the prank worked? Ian Murphy: Very. I was a little unprepared. rather than someone else? Ian Murphy: I came across a quote from Tim Carpenter. I called back and spoke to Keith Gilkes.” said Carpenter. Walker wouldn’t talk to them. Q: You made more than one call? Ian Murphy: Yes. I told him I had to talk to Scott. about Walker not talking to the Dems. He wouldn’t pick up the phone. He was expecting me to call.

I would’ve had her deported. So I told them my maid Maria washed my cell phone. He checked the governor’s schedule and told me to call back at 2 p. Gilkes thought this was funny. Q: Were you surprised by what Walker said? Ian Murphy: Yes. “Scott. so they kind of deserved it. One of the funniest is. you have to tip your hand a little. your Koch dealer is on line 2.” . I tipped my hand with the maid. retweet | 104 One problem was that I was using Skype. I said. but she works for close to nothing. And disturbing.do not retreat. With pranks. And I did and I got through to the governor. Murphy put the prank call on the Buffalo Beast website.m. Now every day I see an anti-Koch protester sign. The part about planting provocateurs was really amazing. The rest is history.

uh. THERE ARE NO INNOCENT. male receptionist who. well. What we were thinking about the crowd was. 2011 Ian Murphy “David Koch”: We’ll back you any way we can. retweet | 105 Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker answers his master’s call Buffalo Beast. Tim Carpenter (D) on Walker Carpenter’s quote made me wonder: who could get through to Walker? Well. will not return phone calls. was planting some troublemakers. February 23. I first called at 11:30 a. CST. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker: You know.” –Wisconsin state Sen.do not retreat. NO NAMES HAVE BEEN CHANGED TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT.m. the only problem with that—because we thought about that… WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO WITNESS IS REAL. –MURPHY ___________________________________________________________ “He’s just hard-lined—will not talk. upon hearing the magic name Koch. nobid “budget-repair” bill? The obvious candidate was David Koch. will not communicate. immediately . what do we know about Walker and his proposed union-busting. and eventually got through to a young.

He said that could be arranged and that I should just leave my number. there’s an opening at 2 o’clock Central Standard Time. “We’ve met before.” I said.do not retreat. and that the name was “familiar. or whatever it’s called. Walker: Hi. uh. What follows is a rushed. He was “expecting my call. abridged transcript of my—I mean. She asked about the nature of my call. “I really need to talk to Scott— Governor Walker. put my phone in the washer. “I’m calling from the VOID—with the VOID. David! I’m good. I called at noon and was quickly transferred to Moore. Just call this same number. we’re actually hanging pretty tough.” I said. I mean—you know. but she works for next to nothing. and we’ll put you through.” Could it really be that easy? Yes. yes.” But she insisted that Walker was detained in a meeting and couldn’t get away.” Gilkes found this amusing. amazingly there’s a much smaller group of protesters—almost all of whom are in from other states today. How are you? Walker: Hey.” “David!” he said with an audible smile. who then transferred me to Walker’s chief of staff Keith Gilkes. what’s the latest? Walker: Well. not knowing how friendly Gilkes and Koch may be. Maria. she thought she had met Koch. David Koch’s conversation with Walker. “I just needed to speak with the governor.” I nudged. He was eager to help. and she’d have a better idea of when he would be free. “I was really hoping to talk directly to Scott. this is Scott Walker. but. Dorothy. I explained to Gilkes. retweet | 106 transferred me to executive assistant Dorothy Moore. I politely said hello.” She said that. I’m a little disheartened by the situation there. the Snype!” “Gotcha. You know. Koch: Scott! David Koch. “Let me check the schedule here… OK. I balked. She told me to call back at noon. I’d have her deported. He knows what this is about. The state Assembly is taking the bill . “My goddamn maid.” Gilkes said. And yourself? Koch: I’m very well.

and that is: The Senate organization committee is going to meet and pass a rule that says if you don’t show up for two consecutive days on a session day—in the state Senate.do not retreat. And each day we’re going to ratchet it up a little bit. Walker: Well. I’ll have to give that man a call. in his case I wouldn’t call him and I’ll tell you why: he’s pretty reasonable but he’s not one of us… . but the check has to be personally picked up and he’s instructing them— which we just loved—to lock them in their desk on the floor of the state Senate. . actually. but—can actually have your payroll stopped from being automatically deducted— Koch: Beautiful. Walker: —into your checking account and instead—you still get a check. Koch: Now you’re not talking to any of these Democrat bastards. the Senate chief clerk—it’s a little procedural thing here.. to tell him I wasn’t going to budge. mainly to tell him that while I appreciate his friendship and he’s worked with us on other things. are you? Walker: Ah. But they’re waiting to pass it until the Senate’s—the Senate Democrats. Koch: Goddamn right! Walker: His name is Tim Cullen— Koch: All right. the Assembly Democrats have about a hundred amendments they’re going through. excuse me. I—there’s one guy that’s actually voted with me on a bunch of things I called on Saturday for about 45 minutes. The Senate majority leader had a great plan he told about this morning—he told the Senate Democrats about and he’s going to announce it later today. many of which are things members on the Democratic side care about. retweet | 107 up—getting it all the way to the last point it can be at where it’s unamendable. The state Senate still has the 14 members missing but what they’re doing today is bringing up all sorts of other non-fiscal items..

If you heard I was going to talk to them that’s the only reason why.do not retreat.. We think there’s at minimum an ethics violation if not an outright felony. one of the things we’re looking at next … we’re still waiting on an opinion to see if the unions have been paying to put these guys up out of state... people can pay for protesters to come in and that’s not an ethics code. Gotta crush that union. and they take a recess.. We’d only do it if they came back to the Capitol with all 14 of them… . here are the juiciest bits:] Walker: I’ve got layoff notices ready. anything like that … [*** Important regarding his later acceptance of a Koch offer to “show him a good time. . I mean. but. I know they’re paying for these guys—I mean. Sometimes.” ***] [I was stunned. Legally. Walker: [bragging about how he doesn’t budge]… I would be willing to sit down and talk to him. In the interest of expediting the release of this story. they’re probably putting hobos in suits. not negotiate and listen to what they have to say if they will in turn—but I’ll only do it if all 14 of them will come back and sit down in the state Assembly. literally if the unions are paying the 14 senators—their food. Koch: Well. So we’re double-checking that. Koch: That’s what we do. I am stunned. Secondly. the Assembly Democrat leader. once they’ve gone into session. plus the other two Republican leaders—talk. the 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they’d have quorum. we believe. . … Koch: Beautiful. If they’re actually in session for that day.. they don’t physically have to be there. Walker: I mean paying for the senators to be put up.. . Walker: Yeah. beautiful. their lodging. retweet | 108 Koch: Now who can we get to budge on this collective bargaining? Walker: I think the paycheck will have an impact.

Andrew Breitbart down there. That’s what I’d do. Walker: [Blah about his press conferences. “Scott... don’t come to Nevada because I’d be afraid you beat me running for governor. I think we could do the same thing with Rick Scott in Florida.] Koch: Beautiful. Walker: So this is ground zero. retweet | 109 Koch: Bring a baseball bat. the new governor of Nevada.do not retreat. called me last night. I have a slugger with my name on it. Snyder—if he got a little more support—probably could do that in Michigan. a dozen or so lawmakers I worry about each day and said. Walker: [union-bashing. I think. and all the great press he’s getting.” Koch: Goddamn right! We. Walker: Good stuff. he said. I talk to Kasich every day—John’s gotta stand firm in Ohio. Walker: I have one in my office. Koch: He’s our man. Koch: Yeah. you know. unionized workers.] Brian [Sandoval]. you’d be happy with that. uh. we should get that story printed out and send it to anyone giving you grief. [Talks about a “great” New York Times piece of “objective journalism. “Everyone. there’s no doubt about it. we sent.” Talks about how most private blue-collar workers have turned against public. Koch: Beautiful. He said—he was out in the Lincoln Day Circuit in the last two weekends and he was kidding me. uh.] … So I went through and called a handful. You start .” That’s all they want to talk about is what are you doing to help the governor of Wisconsin. Walker: Yeah. uh. attacking Obama.

[Abrupt end of first recording.do not retreat.] My only fear would be if there’s a ruckus caused is that maybe the governor has to settle to solve all these problems. uh. and some of them flip him off]. the only problem with that—because we thought about that.] … Let ‘em protest all they want. Walker: Oh yeah.. Koch: Now what else could we do for you down there? Walker: Well the biggest thing would be—and your guy on the ground [Americans For Prosperity president Tim Phillips] is probably seeing this [stuff about all the people protesting. but who watches that? I went on “Morning Joe” this morning. This is our moment. You know they’re off the deep end. retweet | 110 going down the list there’s a lot of us new governors that got elected to do something big.. Koch: Joe—Joe’s a good guy.] Walker: [Bullshit about doing the right thing and getting flipped off by “union bulls. . I like it because I just like being combative with those guys.. was planting some troublemakers. but. not the liberal bastards on MSNBC.. well. . . the public is not really fond of this. What we were thinking about the crowd was. and start of second.” and the decreasing number of protesters. The problem—the. Walker: You know. [Explains that planting troublemakers may not work. uh. my only gut reaction to that is right now the lawmakers I’ve talked to have just completely had it with them. Koch: You’re the first domino.] Koch: We’ll back you any way we can. He’s one of us. … Sooner or later the media stops finding it interesting. Walker: Yep. [something about ‘60s liberals. Or some such. Koch: Well.

C.do not retreat. Super Bowl reference followed by an odd story of pulling out a picture of Ronald Reagan and explaining to his staff the plan to crush the union the same way Reagan fired the air traffic controllers]. who was also on the program. I tell you what. You gotta love that Mika Brzezinski. blah. Good catching up with ya’. he’s all right. retweet | 111 Walker: Yeah. . you know. and their guest was David Axelrod. … That was the first crack in the Berlin Wall because the Communists then knew Reagan wasn’t a pushover. blah. beautiful. function. [Blah. Walker: Oh yeah. Scott: Once you crush these bastards I’ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.] Koch: Beautiful. Walker: This is an exciting time [blah. and he was sitting next to Brzezinski and her father.] Koch: That son of a bitch! Walker: Yeah no kidding huh?… Koch: Well. we have a little bit of a vested interest as well. good. [Laughs] Walker: [Blah] Thanks a million! Koch: Bye-bye! Walker: Bye. blah. Won’t shut up about how awesome he is. good.] Koch: [Laughs] Well. Koch: Absolutely. He introduced himself. she’s a real piece of ass. Walker: All right. [Story about when he hung out with human pig Jim Sensenbrenner at some D. And. Chuck Schumer. [*** Ethical violation much? ***] Thanks for all the support. … It’s all about getting our freedoms back. He was fair to me. … [bashes NY Sen. that would be outstanding. He’s exactly like Reagan. blah.

and his Democratic counterparts across that ever-narrowing aisle that is corporate rule. You want to collectively bargain? You can’t afford a seat at the table. These are known knowns. The protesters in Cairo and Madison have taught us this—reminded us of this. The revolution keeps spinning. Share the news. You want to be heard? Too fucking bad. But money isn’t always power. But it’s not yours. You may have built that table. It’s for the people with money. They can’t buy a muzzle big enough to silence us all. so that the everwidening gap between the haves and the have-nots can swallow all the power in the world. ReTweet. Try not to get too dizzy. It’s guarded by Republicans like Walker. Government isn’t for the people. Do not retreat. . kids.do not retreat. and now we just know them a little more. retweet | 112 So there you have it. It belongs to the Kochs and the oligarch class.

#WIshyOUWEREhERE .

@emmahduhjemmah Sen Dems leaving the state? Hell yeah! .

” . the senators opened up a space for the protesters to keep the momentum of the occupation going strong in their absence.” and “Fighting 14. State troopers were sent to track them down. The 14 Democratic senators had taken the extreme measure of fleeing Wisconsin in order to block Governor Walker’s bill from being brought to a vote by the Legislature. By bringing the legislative process to a halt. where Wisconsin police had no jurisdiction. longer than anyone expected. “Thank You Fab 14. Republicans held a 19-14 majority in the state Senate. the group was welcomed home by over 100.000 supporters who cheered and held signs saying. but a quorum of 20 senators is required by law in order to hold a vote on financial matters. where Republicans were trying to pass it as quickly as possible despite the outpouring of opposition. but it soon became clear that they had left the state and regrouped at an undisclosed location across the border in Illinois.” “We Heart the Wisconsin 14. Republicans needed only to persuade a single Democrat to return—but all 14 remained together and on the run for more than three weeks.the fourth day of massive protests in the Madison Capitol. all 14 of Wisconsin’s Democratic state senators disappeared. When they finally did return.

progressives had become frustrated with an administration and Democrats who seemed too willing to compromise in the face of Republican extremism. where Democratic senators stood with the protesters demanding the bill be stopped. the Wisconsin 14 set an example for the country. didn’t just energize Wisconsin progressives.the wisconsin 14 | 116 This dramatic action. Since the election of President Barack Obama in 2008. and how Democrats could fight back. showing how progressives and elected officials could work together. But for several weeks this winter. . It fired up people all over the country who had become disillusioned by Democrats’ reluctance to stand up and fight for their principles.

12:58am Feb 18 .@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht Fox is really saying WI protests are violent? I’M IN MADISON. i remember 9pm on tuesday 2/15 we feared our voices would not be heard! 11:13pm Feb 17 @micahuetricht Micah Uetricht CONFIRMED: Further violence in Capitol. G’night. positively none. unsolicited. #wisolidarity 12:44am Feb 18 @bluecheddar1 blue cheddar I am toast. Absolutely. you inspire me. and gave us all homemade cookies #WIunion 11:22pm Feb 17 @liz_gilbert Liz Gilbert “Great sign: the national guard can’t teach organic chemistry” -@M_Pomerantz #killthebill #wiunion #notmywi 11:29pm Feb 17 @legalEagle Legal Eagle May or may not have announced to my friends my plan to run for office tonight.A woman just entered. AND THERE IS NOT A SHRED OF VIOLENCE. Wisconsin. #WIunion 10:54pm Feb 17 @eigenjo Jo Nelson it is amazing to see the outpouring of national attention.

among other things. 2011 David Dayen Wisconsin state Sen. Larson believes that he and his colleagues have been able to get their message out. and the constituents out in the streets in Madison and elsewhere. “There have been huge rallies in Wisconsin. there’s been a lot of attention on us.” Despite the disadvantage of being outside the state. participating in a “filibuster with our feet” to slow down the “budget-repair” bill. “We’re trying to focus it back on this ridiculous legislation. Senate Democrats have denied Republicans the 3/5 quorum needed for passing legislation with a fiscal intent. but in our districts in support of us and against this legislation. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) is one of 14 Democrats hiding out in Illinois. Not just in the Capitol. He believes that the stalemate has forced a spotlight on what Governor Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans have been doing since taking office.” said Larson in an interview last night from his undisclosed location in Illinois. “Ever since we stepped away. Larson and his 13 colleagues and their whereabouts have become a major part of this unfolding story. before Democrats ever got . February 22.” Larson said. Trying to ram this budget-repair bill through the Legislature in a matter of days. but he’d rather the focus go to the legislation on offer.the wisconsin 14 | 118 Firedoglake. By walking out of the state. which would strip collective bargaining rights from public employees. with radio and TV ads on the air from the Club for Growth.

Larson said that his constituents fully understand the difference between labor concessions on pension and health-care contributions. who control both houses of the Legislature. We were the first state in the nation to provide public employee bargaining rights. warning noncompliant businesses that they would call a nationwide strike if they didn’t meet the demand by May 1886. He cited one event in particular that sticks in the minds of Wisconsinites: My district is in Bay View. “Frankly. We started this back then. have been operating. “This has been happening since they got in there. workers there decided to strike for eighthour workdays and weekends. there hadn’t been much public outcry because of the Packers. Sulzberger in an article in The New York Times today. When that date rolled around. picking up new recruits at each factory and workplace along the way. A hundred and twenty-five years ago. Larson attributes this awareness from the public to the long tradition of organized labor in the state. labor leaders spent several days marching through Milwaukee. including a series of corporate tax cuts totaling over $140 million at a time when Walker and his party keep talking about a budget crisis. Seven people died at Bay View. is an important corollary to what’s happening in Madison today. and the stripping of virtually all collective bargaining rights. south of Milwaukee. given the tough economic and budget environment. The governor said at the time that if they strike and march on the factory they’ll get shot. referring to several bills rubber-stamped by the Legislature in January. Most labor groups have agreed to the givebacks but not the loss of their bargaining rights. is a symptom of how Walker and the Republicans. The strikers shut down every factory in Milwaukee except for one. They had enough of 16-hour days and poor work conditions. ‘What the hell is going on?’” Contrary to the opinions of A. The Bay View Massacre of 1886. People weren’t paying attention. The striking workers spent two years building their movement for an eight-hour workday. . People get workers’ rights in Wisconsin.the wisconsin 14 | 119 a chance to see it. It’s not a coincidence that it’s a week after the Super Bowl when people wake up and say.G. The first AFSCME local is here.” Larson said. coming up on its 125th anniversary on May 5.

He was struck down by a stray bullet. During the night the sentries were shooting at anything that moved.the wisconsin 14 | 120 the North Chicago Railroad Rolling Mills Steel Foundry in Bay View.org Public sympathy after the massacre (and others like it. The crowd approached the mill and faced the militia. as he was getting water and was not part of the strike. “Eight hours. He ordered the militia to fire. May 5: Around nine in the morning the strikers gathered again chanting. concentrate. did not hear him. The strikers spent the night in open fields nearby while the militia camps stayed at the Mills with sentries posted. but everyone was united in one single purpose.Libcom. and after a one-day standoff.” Captain Treaumer then ordered his men to pick out a man. The Milwaukee Journal reported that six were dead and at least eight more were expected to die within 24 hours. such as the Haymarket Riot in Chicago) eventually led to widespread change in . Meanwhile. but the strikers. and kill him when the order is given. Before Treaumer knew the crowd’s real intentions he ordered halt. For several days afterwards a few strikers were still marching throughout the city but no one would join them. The dead included a 13-year-old boy who tagged along with the crowd wondering what was going on and a retired worker who lived in Bay View.” A reporter who slept with them reported that it was odd that this was a group with no real leadership. shoot to kill. who were ready to fire. “If the strikers try to enter the mill. . some strikers called for revenge on the militia but to no avail. Governor Jeremiah Rusk gave the order: Rusk called the Mills and told Captain Treaumer of the Lincoln Guard. The crowd was in chaos as people fled the scene. A Navy tug brought provisions for the guard. who were about two hundred yards away. They could not get entry into Rolling Mills.

a 45. “This has happened for 50 years. ‘I don’t have that but I’d like to. and lost it during the Great Recession. “Those people look at the public sector and its union protections. workers won the right to an eighthour day.” Many public-sector unions and some construction unions could go out on strike as part of this effort. punched. Mike Elk reports that the Southern Central Federation of Labor (SCFL). shot at for protecting their rights. health insurance. We’re just one piece of that. people who never would stop by my office. The state Senate committee in Wisconsin has raised $330. and working conditions. Larson did feel a certain burden as part of the group of senators leading what has become a nationwide effort to fight back against an assault on workers’ rights.” Larson said. people who aren’t in unions are coming out.” .’ The right wing’s counting on the middle class fighting among themselves and the rich getting richer. If anything it’s brought the middle class together. These rights were won with blood. Eventually.’ I don’t fault people who get frustrated. benefits. People have been spit on.’ or ‘I hope no one does. so the SCFL announcement takes care to say it will “begin educating affiliates and members on the organization and function of a general strike. Socialists were voted in during the next election in 1888. But Larson said he was trying not to let that go to his head.000 in a matter of days in online contributions from ActBlue. Only individual unions and not the labor federation can call a strike. but I hope they say.” He said he understood the plight of those workers who had decent wages. There’s a kind of eternal recurrence here. Walker doesn’t get it. just endorsed a general strike if Walker signs the budget-repair bill and strips workers’ rights.000-member AFL-CIO local in the Madison area. beat up. They did it through collective action. These are the hard-fought rights that Walker’s measure would basically take away from public employees—the ability to bargain in their interest for appropriate pay. ‘I hope everyone rises up to that level. thanks largely to efforts by the netroots and progressive groups. He’s not understanding why we’re upset.” Larson continued: “Scott Walker is trying to pit the middle class against itself. and a good pension. They can either say. people stopping by my office. believing instead that he was part of a continuum with the Bay View marchers. I’m getting emails and phone calls. “People have always stood up for labor.the wisconsin 14 | 121 Milwaukee county and city governments.

. But also PLENTY of men in Carhart jackets . :) 1:56pm Feb 18 @eigenjo Jo Nelson change fb status to “Today I stand with the teachers. Follow him & @MotherJones #wiunion 2:52pm Feb 18 . nurses. and all public employees of Wisconsin who are fighting for their rights.the universal workman coat. #wiunion 2:38pm Feb 18 @WEaC WEAC RT @stanscates: Mother Jones reporter @AndrewKroll is on his way 2 Wisconsin. Look for yellow vests #wiunion 11:33am Feb 18 @finnryan Finn Ryan Yes. Yes.@legalEagle Legal Eagle RT @analieseeicher: My republican gpa says he’ll walk the streets (w/bad knees) to collect sigs for Walkers recall..” #fb 2:06pm Feb 18 @bluecheddar1 blue cheddar @mommelissab Many teachers. but I WILL ALSO LOSE MY RIGHTS AS A PUBLIC WORKER #wiunion 12:01pm Feb 18 @WEaC WEAC You can hear the crowd roar as Russ Feingold walks by.#wiunion 12:18pm Feb 18 @eigenjo Jo Nelson Ian’s Pizza says people are calling from all over country to order pizza to deliver to the protesters as thanks. I will lose $4000-$5000 from my annual salary if this bill passes. 11:22am Feb 18 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin Come outside of the Capitol after speeches at 1 PM to help us clean. <3 my family #wiu . Show @GovWalker that we take care of WI.

Public testimony was halted with still hundreds waiting to testify. By crossing state lines we were outside the reach of the majority party who would have compelled us to vote.” the man told me. Thursday morning and was scheduled for a final Senate vote the same day. We chose our only option to slow the process and work toward honest negotiations. He listened to the radio all afternoon and was convinced I needed to be in Madison to do my job. At the same time. chip away at the civil service system. my constituents pleaded with me to fight for workers’ rights.m. The governor says the proposed law is necessary to balance the budget. the only committee hearing was the following Tuesday. my Senate Democratic colleagues and I decided to move our base of operations to Illinois. Last Friday state and local public-employee union leaders agreed to .the wisconsin 14 | 123 Wisconsin State Senator Kathleen Vinehout February 23. We needed time for the people’s voice to be heard. We did not take this decision lightly. Leaving Madison was the only way my colleagues and I could stop a bill that would fundamentally change Wisconsin. 2011 “Get back to work. On Feb. The bill is fast-tracked. Invoking a Wisconsin Constitution provision. The bill passed out of committee at 12 a. 11 Governor Scott Walker introduced a bill to make sweeping changes in the state’s Medicaid system. and do away with public-workers’ rights.

Now it is time for Walker to negotiate in good faith. We cut government programs by $2 billion. clean government. We reminded him that a large coalition of religious leaders asked that he sit down with leaders. The calls run 10 to one opposed to the bill. My Democratic colleagues and I respectfully asked the governor to negotiate. counties. quality public schools.the wisconsin 14 | 124 all financial aspects of the bill. and school boards are passing resolutions asking that parts of the bill eliminating public-workers’ rights be removed. he could call for passing parts of the bill dealing only with fiscal matters. public-employee union leaders agreed to those financial concessions. I received more contact from constituents on this bill than all other issues in the past four years combined. Even though I write this from an undisclosed location in Illinois. But the governor refuses to sit down with labor leaders. and refuses to negotiate at all. Cities. Now the state faces a deficit of less than half that amount. But if the governor wants to get the state’s fiscal house in order by the end of this fiscal year. and local media. Many local officials expressed dismay over the way the bill usurps local control. . My office phone has rung continuously for over a week.6 billion to the state coffers. local government officials. refuses to acknowledge the concessions made by those leaders. We filled the deficit with a balanced approach to spending and taxes that protected vital services and infrastructure. We cut spending by more than $3 billion—the deepest cut in Wisconsin history.6 billion budget hole. There is absolutely no need to destroy Wisconsin’s traditions of civil service. Still the governor claims he must eliminate public-employee unions to resolve the budget deficit. We closed tax loopholes and made other tax changes to bring an additional $1. Two years ago Wisconsin faced a $6. Some mayors who complained unions gained too much power say the governor’s bill is too extreme. According to the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau the state isn’t even required to pass a “budget-repair” bill. In good faith. and peaceful labor relations. The governor called on public employees to pay more for their health care and pensions. I continue to talk with constituents. making nearly every aspect of government do more with less.

And I continue to represent the people of our Senate district.the wisconsin 14 | 125 I work with my staff to respond to thousands of constituents who write or called about this bill. . People asked me when we will return to Madison. Something so far he has refused to do. He has the power to end the strife by simply calling all sides to the table. Right now the ball is in the governor’s court.

worked an 8 hour day.drove to Chicago at 5am. So worth it though.” Awesome.@legalEagle Legal Eagle Just saw myself in a mirror. I look like a person who hasn’t slept in days. #weac 4:14pm Feb 18 @eigenjo Jo Nelson At capitol now. 4:43pm Feb 18 @micahuetricht Micah Uetricht Stayed up all night in capitol. Kind of wish I was wearing socks. Love the masses. 3:40pm Feb 18 @legalEagle Legal Eagle Angry man 2 inches from my face tells me to “get some skin in the game” instead of being protected by union. we love you but please dont come home. and I’m pumped! @WIunion 5:08pm Feb 18 @eigenjo Jo Nelson Dear dem senators. and now leaving to return to Madison. I’m not a union member. thanks for being our fearless leaders and advocates! #wiunion 5:17pm Feb 18 @JacquelynGill Jacquelyn Gill RT @millbot: Jesse Jackson just called the protests the “Super Bowl of worker’s rights. This is a King moment. We are getting this party started. #wiunion #wisolidarity 3:04pm Feb 18 @legalEagle Legal Eagle It’s cold and windy in Milwaukee.” #wiunion #notmywi 6:21pm Feb 18 . #wiunion #notmywi 6:12pm Feb 18 @jjoyce Jason Joyce Jackson: “This is a Ghandi moment.

as unions are fighting for their lives in Wisconsin and Ohio. in support of the fight for workers’ rights in Wisconsin. fight.C.S. Congress—one which impacts far more people—hasn’t resulted anywhere near the same amount of activist outpouring. spurred on by the existential threat to labor lacking in the D.C.C. While some organizations are faced with the void in the D. and made political contributions totaling in the millions. the relative lack of an existential threat is one of the key differences. labor remains the undisputed champion in its ability to turn people out to events not hosted by a candidate for president. inspired many people around the country to take action themselves. However.the wisconsin 14 | 127 Daily Kos. I can’t help but wonder why a simultaneous spending fight in the U. most notably Planned Parenthood and NPR. A second important difference between the Wisconsin and D. The sheer energy of the protests in Wisconsin. Certainly. a third. As a political organizer. spending fight. more fundamental reason for the relative lack of . there isn’t a strong belief they will disappear entirely while Democrats control the Senate and the White House. March 20. Among all center-left constituencies. tens of thousands of grassroots progressives have hit the streets. fights is the relative lack of pageantry inside the beltway. 2011 Chris Bowers Over the past five weeks.

Who would believe he would do that? As such. cutting a number of deals with Republicans during the lameduck session. almost everyone believes the White House would rather give Republicans most of what they want than go through a government shutdown. The most likely outcome is what happened in December: The White House is going to work out some deal with Republicans behind closed doors. Bush’s tax cuts. Democratic leaders in the White House and Senate made it plain that they agreed with the basic Republican campaign premise of slashing nondefense discretionary spending. he presents himself as a bipartisan dealmaker. It wasn’t long before a couple million bucks poured in. a government shutdown. the Democratic Party of Wisconsin followed suit by officially backing recall efforts against all eight Republican state senators who were eligible. the Wisconsin 14 launched national activist efforts into high gear.the wisconsin 14 | 128 grassroots activism is that Democratic leaders in Congress and the White House haven’t picked a fight with Republicans.000 donors.C.k. Aside from the debatable question about whether or not that’s good politics. The whole time. the crowds on the ground in Madison—and . forging bipartisan deals behind closed doors unquestionably functions as a severe dampener on grassroots activism. The exact opposite happened in Wisconsin. the line between the two parties is pretty blurry right now. Instead of pleading for bipartisanship. By doing so. the Senate Democrats there left the state in order to deny Senate Republicans the quorum needed to pass the “budget-repair” bill. He burnished this image back in December. on at least an unconscious level we all know there is not going to be a big public fight. Starting in late November. most notably an extension to all of former President George W. While Democrats have some differences with Republicans over the quality and quantity of the cuts they desire. In the same vein as inching toward Republicans on policy.a. If Obama presents himself as anything. when President Barack Obama backed a pay freeze for federal workers. over spending cuts in D. giving them most of what they want. This has been central to his image since he launched his campaign for president more than four years ago. The idea that Obama will suddenly make a break from his longstanding motif to engage in a high-stakes fight over a government shutdown comes off as ludicrous. a. A couple of weeks later. quickly raising more than three-quarters of a million dollars from 30. Vagaries such as “winning the future” aren’t clearing up the picture.

supporters. could experience a similar windfall in activist support during the spending fight. they would likely have to say “no” to some specific Republican demands and suffer through a government shutdown.C. this wasn’t due to shyness. as Governor Scott Walker and Senate Republicans did in Wisconsin. They can choose to walk through it if they wish.C. However. Back when I was a consultant. If Democrats appeared to be the unreasonable party. then Democrats would simultaneously fire up their base and receive a nice bump in the polls. To do so. In most cases.” by which they meant lots of buzz. When I told them it usually required becoming a leader in a big national fight. Democrats in D. high reward. they would take a significant hit in the polls and Obama’s re-election would be imperiled. especially Obama. clients repeatedly asked me how they could get some of that “internet magic. if it succeeded. The Wisconsin Democrats picked real fights. High risk. more often than not they demurred.the wisconsin 14 | 129 around the country—kept getting bigger and bigger. but instead because it simply wasn’t an option open to them (going viral isn’t easy). This line of action would definitely be risky. . however.. and the activism flowed freely as a direct result. and Republicans were viewed as the unreasonable party. an option open to Democratic leaders in D. but right now there is no good reason to believe they will. and money. It is.

@gregtarnoff Wow. . Kinda makes me feel like a rebel in Egypt. #wiunion is trending on twitter.

There were distinct similarities. occupying a physical location—Tahrir Square in Cairo and the Capitol in Madison—was key. In both the Middle East and the Midwest. the use of Twitter and social media played a central role in organizing the action and keeping participants informed about the latest developments.” read the signs that demonstrators waved in the air at rallies and posted throughout the statehouse.” “Walker is the Mubarak of the Midwest. In both. While some called it the “Twitter Revolution” in Egypt. The Republican leadership in Wisconsin even appeared to take a page directly from Egypt’s playbook. one of the major organizing and information sites that protesters had created.this winter were clear inspiration for the tens of thousands of people who occupied the Wisconsin Capitol just weeks afterward.” and “March Like an Egyptian. “Hosni Walker. was blocked from within the Capitol. In both the Egyptian and Wisconsin uprisings. the Wisconsin protests may have been the United States’ first popular movement captured with and largely driven by social media tools. citizens began to feel as though their bold actions were bringing about unlikely yet profound changes in the world. when access to DefendWisconsin. .org.

there and in Egypt.-backed dictators after decades of repression.from the middle east to the midwest | 132 Despite the connections. protesters in Madison risked being caught up in a drum circle.S. And yet. Comedian Jon Stewart put things in perspective by joking that while protesters in Egypt risked being shot. . however. some felt that comparing the Wisconsin uprising to the Egyptian revolution did not fairly reflect the staggering nature of what had just taken place in the Middle East. there was a distinct—if complex—connection between the Wisconsin uprising that unfolded just weeks after the Egyptian revolution. From pizza orders called in from Cairo to mutual demonstrations of solidarity. the revolt began when a fruit vendor set himself on fire. people overthrew brutal U. there was no denying that Egypt was very much alive and in the air as an inspiration for the protesters in Wisconsin. and hundreds were killed over the course of the protests. In Tunisia.

Tomorrow. Breitbart and Tea Partiers descend on Madison. Geography graduate students are taking up a collection to support us. of Kentucky Geographers! #wiunion 6:25pm Feb 18 @abeckettwrn Andrew Beckett Funniest part of the day? Watching people in the Assembly gallery get admonished for doing “jazz hands” instead of applauding. #wiunion 1:09am Feb 19 . but EVERYONE I’ve talked to says they’re willing to contribute/make sacrifices 8:00pm Feb 18 @micahuetricht Micah Uetricht Finally time to sleep.@taa_Madison TAA Madison At the U. #wibudget 6:35pm Feb 18 @legalEagle Legal Eagle @jenniebrand I haven’t heard anything official. of Kentucky. Thank you U.

when they raise their voices loud and clear. 9 and 10. Stand firm and don’t waiver. From this place. We want you to know that we stand on your side. No one believed that our revolution could succeed against the strongest dictatorship in the region. Victory always belongs to the people who stand firm and demand their just rights. But in 18 days the revolution achieved the victory of the people. the dictatorship was doomed. Don’t give up on your rights. This is the place were many of our youth paid with their lives and blood in the struggle for our just rights. KAMAL ABBAS: “I am speaking to you from a place very close to Tahrir Square in Cairo.from the middle east to the midwest | 134 February 21. I want you to know that no power can challenge the will of the people when they believe in their rights. 2011 Kamal Abbas The following is a statement to workers of Wisconsin from Kamal Abbas. and the victory of the people became inevitable. When the working class of Egypt joined the revolution on Feb. the general coordinator of Egypt’s Centre for Trade Unions and Workers Services. and struggle against exploitation. ‘Liberation Square. . I want you to know that we stand with you as you stood with us.’ which was the heart of the revolution in Egypt.

your struggle will succeed. Bahrain and Algeria. We support the struggle of the peoples of Libya. Today is the day of the American workers.from the middle east to the midwest | 135 We and all the people of the world stand on your side and give you our full support.” . democracy. As our just struggle for freedom. who are fighting against exploitation. who are fighting for their just rights and falling martyrs in the face of the autocratic regimes. We salute you American workers! You will be victorious. and for their just rights. and justice succeeded. We support you. Victory belongs to all the people of the world. Victory belongs to you when you stand firm and remain steadfast in demanding your just rights. and they will be victorious. The peoples are determined to succeed no matter the sacrifices.

I love the universe today. #notmywi #wiunion 10:52am Feb 19 @MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan All 300 of you. --Capitol rally speaker #wiunion 11:40am Feb 19 . 9:11am Feb 19 @cjliebmann cjliebmann RT @Cog_Dis: Remind the teabaggers that they are enjoying their Saturday off thanks to the blood. #solidarityWI #wiunion 11:38am Feb 19 @micahuetricht Micah Uetricht Madison summarized in one sentence: Wisconsin is in the middle of a class war--and we will hold the line. #wiunion #notmyWI 10:53am Feb 19 @cjliebmann cjliebmann RT @Cog_Dis: @ChrisJLarson and @sentaylor Just stay low.co/JNhAO1E @muskrat_john. Nice of you to join us on day 6. We got this one for you. sweat and tears of union workers. #wiunion 9:46am Feb 19 @MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan Welcome “counter” protesters. Egypt supports Wisconsin Workers: http://t.@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan #WIunion RT @knitmeapony: Holy crap.

sleepless. a hard-right Republican. . February 27. New Zealand. As the police moved in to clear it out on Sunday afternoon. Ian’s couldn’t make pizza fast enough. Uganda. tens of thousands of raucous. More than 50 countries around the globe.from the middle east to the midwest | 137 Eating Egyptian Pizza in Downtown Madison TomDispatch. from Morocco. the focal point of rallies and concerts against a politically-charged piece of legislation proposed by Governor Scott Walker. grizzled. an elegant domed structure at the heart of this Midwestern college town. Those pizzas. and the generosity of distant strangers with credit cards was paying for it all. And in they came. China. in effect eviscerating the unions themselves. and by then Ian’s Pizza on State Street in Madison. from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It was Saturday. eliminate collective bargaining rights for most of the state’s public-sector unions. That bill. energized protesters have called the stately building their home. it was still the pulsing heart of the largest labor protest in my lifetime. Turkey. Belgium. Feb. For nearly two weeks. was overwhelmed. 2011 Andy Kroll The call reportedly arrived from Cairo. and even a research station in Antarctica. would. One employee had been assigned the sole task of answering the phone and taking down orders. Pizza for the protesters. among other things. Haiti. of course. Wisconsin. the voice said. officially known as the Special Session Senate Bill 11. were heading for the Wisconsin state Capitol. 20.

The walls of the Capitol. offer regular reminders of Egypt’s feat.” cheered the protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. That was the day the Associated Press published a brief story quoting Walker as saying he would call in the National Guard to crack down on unruly workers upset that their bargaining rights were being stripped away. There was a medic station. live music. day after day. “We have brought down the regime. Alexandria. Like Cairo’s Tahrir Square in the weeks of the Egyptian uprising. the autocrat who had ruled over them for more than 30 years and amassed billions in wealth at their expense. I’ve watched the crowds swell. Six thousand miles away. I arrived in Madison several days into the protests. 11 was an even more momentous day. breathing community. Egypt is a presence here in all sorts of obvious ways. I’ve interviewed protesters young and old. Feb. picked up right where the Egyptians left off. while the drums pound and cowbells clang. the demonstrations in Wisconsin. child day care. hundreds of signs and banners. you could say.000 protesters filling the streets of Madison. a food court. the center of the Egyptian uprising. children and retirees. stone floor of the Capitol (twice). 11.from the middle east to the midwest | 138 “Kill the bill!” the protesters chant en masse. and a sense of camaraderie and purpose you’d struggle to find in most American cities. I’ve huddled with labor leaders in their Madison “war rooms” and sat through the governor’s press conferences. Weary but jubilant protesters on the streets of Cairo. The air is charged with it. nearly all of those arriving—and some just not leaving—united against Walker’s “budget-repair” bill. In calendar terms. multiple . sleeping quarters. It was strongest inside the Capitol. Believe me. I saw. A previously seldom-visited building had been miraculously transformed into a genuine living. and other Egyptian cities celebrated the toppling of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. possibly anywhere else in this country. students and teachers. most of what happens inside the Capitol’s walls is protest. I’ve slept on the cold. and within a week there were close to 70. One Pain The spark for Wisconsin’s protests came on Feb. to take one example. union members and grassroots organizers. the spirit of Cairo is here. “What’s disgusting? Union-busting!” One World. as well as ways harder to put your finger on. for instance. Labor and other left-leaning groups seized on Walker’s incendiary threat.

you know. I was inspired by the Egyptian people. The man. Wisconsin. told me. and Municipal Employees. Abbas announced his group’s support for the Wisconsin labor protesters in a page-long declaration.” “The Mubarak of the Midwest” On the Sunday after I arrived. I asked Graham whether he saw a connection between the events in Egypt and those here in Wisconsin. the economic security of Americans is at stake. After all.” The picture is all the more striking for what’s going on around the man with the sign: A sea of cheering demonstrators are waving Egyptian flags. as if showing support for brethren halfway around the world was important enough to break away from the historic celebrations erupting around him. “Our very labor movement is at stake. I was wandering the halls of the Capitol when I met Scott Graham. hands held aloft. Not long after Egypt’s January revolution triumphed and Wisconsin’s protests began.from the middle east to the midwest | 139 copies of that famous photo on Facebook of an Egyptian man. striving for their own self-determination and democracy in their country.” Graham .” Stephanie Bloomingdale. labor leaders knew they had to act—and quickly. I’ve seen multiple copies of a statement by Kamal Abbas. his face halfobscured. “EGYPT Supports Wisconsin Workers: One World. faces in the opposite direction. County. the American Federation of State. “And when that’s at stake. secretary-treasurer of Wisconsin’s AFL-CIO branch. While we haven’t seen similar strikes yet here in Madison—though there’s talk of a general strike if Walker’s bill somehow passes—there’s no underestimating the role of labor unions like the AFL-CIO. the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). and the American Federation of Teachers in organizing the events of the past two weeks. Then there’s the role of organized labor more generally. holding a sign that reads. taped to the walls of the Capitol. Faced with a bill that could all but wipe out unions in historically laborfriendly states across the Midwest. “Watching Egypt’s story for a week or two very intently. His response caught the mood of the moment. however. a third grade teacher who lives in Lacrosse. Over the cheers of the crowd. One Pain. Similarly. the general coordinator for Egypt’s Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services. widespread strikes coordinated by labor unions shut down Egyptian government agencies and increased the pressure on Mubarak to relinquish power.

from the middle east to the midwest | 140 told me. “I was very inspired by that. And when I got here I sensed that everyone’s in it together. The sense of solidarity is just amazing.” A few days later, I stood outside the Capitol in the frigid cold and talked about Egypt with two local teachers. The most obvious connection between Egypt and Wisconsin was the role and power of young people, said Ann Wachter, a federal employee who joined our conversation when she overheard me mention Egypt. There, it was tech-savvy young people who helped keep the protests alive and the same, she said, applied in Madison. “You go in there everyday and it’s the youth that carries it throughout hours that we’re working, or we’re running our errands, whatever we do. They do whatever they do as young people to keep it alive. After all, I’m at the end of my working career; it’s their future.” And of course, let’s not forget those almost omnipresent signs that link the young governor of Wisconsin to the aging Mubarak. They typically label Walker the “Mubarak of the Midwest” or “Mini-Mubarak,” or demand the recall of “Scott ‘Mubarak.’” In a public talk on Thursday night, journalist Amy Goodman quipped, “Walker would be wise to negotiate. It’s not a good season for tyrants.” One protester I saw on Thursday hoisted aloft a “No Union Busting!” sign with a black shoe perched atop it, the heel facing forward—a severe sign of disrespect that Egyptian protesters directed at Mubarak and a symbol that, before the recent American TV blitz of “rage and revolution” in the Middle East, would have had little meaning here. Which isn’t to say that the Egypt-Wisconsin comparison is a perfect one. Hardly. After all, the Egyptian demonstrators massed in hopes of a new and quite different world; the American ones, no matter the celebratory and energized air in Madison, are essentially negotiating loss (of pensions and health-care benefits, if not collective bargaining rights). The historic demonstrations in Madison have been nothing if not peaceful. On Saturday, when as many as 100,000 people descended on Madison to protest Walker’s bill, the largest turnout so far, not a single arrest was made. In Egypt, by contrast, the protests were plenty bloody, with more than 300 deaths during the 29-day uprising. Not that some observers didn’t see the need for violence in Madison. Last Saturday, Jeff Cox, a deputy attorney general in Indiana, suggested on his Twitter account that police “use live ammunition” on the protesters occupying the state Capitol. That sentiment, discovered by a colleague of mine,

from the middle east to the midwest | 141 led to an outcry. The story broke on Wednesday morning; by Wednesday afternoon Cox had been fired. New York Times columnist David Brooks was typical of mainstream coverage and punditry in quickly dismissing any connection between Egypt (or Tunisia) and Wisconsin. On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart spoofed and rejected the notion that the Wisconsin protests had any meaningful connection to Egypt. He called the people gathered here “the bizarro Tea Party.” Stewart’s crew even brought in a camel as a prop. Those of us in Madison watched as Stewart’s skit went horribly wrong when the camel got entangled in a barricade and fell to the ground. As far as I know, neither Brooks nor Stewart spent time here. Still, you can count on one thing: If the demonstrators in Tahrir Square had been enthusiastically citing Americans as models for their protest, nobody here would have been in such a dismissive or mocking mood. In other parts of this country, perhaps it still feels less than comfortable to credit Egyptians or Arabs with inspiring an American movement for justice. If you had been here in Madison, this last week, you might have felt differently. Pizza Town Protest Obviously, the outcomes in Egypt and Wisconsin won’t be comparable. Egypt toppled a dictator; Wisconsin has a democratically-elected governor who, at the very earliest, can’t be recalled until 2012. And so the protests in Wisconsin are unlikely to transform the world around us. Still, there can be no question, as they spread elsewhere in the Midwest, that they have re-energized the country’s stagnant labor movement, a once-powerful player in American politics and business that’s now a shell of its former self. “There’s such energy right now,” one SEIU staffer told me a few nights ago. “This is a magic moment.” Not long after talking with her, I trudged back to Ian’s Pizza, the icy snow crunching under my feet. At the door stood an employee with tired eyes, a distinct five o’clock shadow, and a beanie on his head. I wanted to ask him, I said, about that reported call from Cairo. “You know,” he responded, “I really don’t remember it.” I waited while he politely rebuffed several approaching customers, telling them how Ian’s had run out of dough and how, in any case, all the store’s existing orders were bound for the Capitol. When he finally had a free moment, he returned to the Cairo order. There had, he said, been questions about whether it was authentic

from the middle east to the midwest | 142 or not, and then he added, “I’m pretty sure it was from Cairo, but it’s not like I can guarantee it.” By then, another wave of soon-to-be disappointed customers was upon us, and so I headed back to the Capitol and another semi-sleepless night. The building, as I approached in the darkness, was brightly lit, reaching high over the city. Protesters were still filing inside with all the usual signs. In the rotunda, drums pounded and people chanted and the sound swirled into a massive roar. For this brief moment at least, people here in Madison are bound together by a single cause, as other protesters were not so long ago, and may be again, in the ancient cities of Egypt. Right then, the distance separating Cairo and Wisconsin couldn’t have felt smaller. But maybe you had to be there.

@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht One contingent not seen here: anarchists in black. One contingent representing heavily: middle-aged teachers w/families. #wiunion
12:00pm Feb 19

@ryan_rainey Ryan Rainey #tea party here not as numerous but just as passionate as #wiunion protesters
12:14pm Feb 19

@cjliebmann cjliebmann #wiunion is trending third in U.S. but i’m wondering why “national christmas tree” is trending at all?
12:15pm Feb 19

@kyleMianulli Kyle Mianulli Opposing side of capitol has light and celebratory sense. Teabaggers seem tense and angry.
12:19pm Feb 19

@ryan_rainey Ryan Rainey After speaking with police and #wiunion supporters it appears a visit from pres Clinton is still a rumor. Can anyone confirm?
1:06pm Feb 19

@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan @leftofthehill You’re welcome! WI bloggers have been working nonstop to cover this and deserve all the love, support, and props we can give.
1:07pm Feb19

@JacquelynGill Jacquelyn Gill Remember: If things start getting heated near you, start the crowd chanting “peaceful!” Don’t let the bullies incite the crowd. #wiunion
1:07pm Feb19

@WEaC WEAC Counter-protesters wearing red @SEIU shirts in hopes to incite. Actual @SEIU members are wearing PURPLE shirts, not red. #wiunion
1:15pm Feb19

@WEaC WEAC Good Facebook status:”Tweeting the #wiunion revolution. *brb*”
1:28pm Feb19

from the middle east to the midwest | 144

Alexander Hanna
June 12, 2011

The Cairo evening seeped with optimism and joy, with dancing punctuated by shouts of Egyptian pride, and people waving the red, white, and black flag with the eagle emblazoned in the center. I was nearly breathless when I reached the Qasr al-Nil bridge that led to Tahrir Square after running from my hotel wearing oversized khakis and uncomfortable shoes with no socks, equipped with only my two cell phones (American and Egyptian), which I had assembled hastily minutes after Egypt’s vice president had announced that President Hosni Mubarak had stepped down and subsequently bolted out the door. I had flown to Cairo five days earlier, after nearly two weeks of staying up late at night, eyes glued to my computer, focusing on Twitter and Al Jazeera. As a sociology Ph.D. student at the University of Wisconsin, my research is on activists who use social media in Egypt; now bloggers and citizen journalists I had tracked for months had abandoned their computers and were fighting against Mubarak’s regime in the streets, although still tweeting and blogging from smartphones. Two days later, on my way back to Wisconsin, I rested on an airport floor in Istanbul, using my backpack as a pillow after sleeping little on the plane. I posted on Facebook, “Egyptians faced and won against the notorious Central Security Forces. State employees can do the same against

but did the two really have anything to do with each other? Yes. I initially smirked at the comparisons of Cairo to Madison. the only other person I know of that was at the heart of both events. 13. It may have merited a tweet or a Facebook status update. But my latter and much more long-held sentiment was that of distaste and annoyance with the continued comparison. and Scott Walker’s face onto that of Mini-Me’s. of Mubarak to Walker.” in response to Governor Scott Walker’s threat of calling in the National Guard if corrections employees went on strike. Evil from Austin Powers. I joked that someone should create an image of the two shaking hands.” hoisted by a few in the thousands of pro-labor protesters stationed in front of the statehouse. being assaulted with homemade cookies? I don’t want to belabor the obvious differences or similarities here. The “From Cairo to Madison” meme became a common part of the protest discourse. so the connection seemed to be a funny coincidence. I did. youth and social media did help catalyze action. “Walk Like an Egyptian. How can you compare the struggle in Egypt. Yes. Yes. after all. there were occupations in both. a comparison that was in vogue during the early days of the Wisconsin protests. And on Sunday. Lena Taylor and activist Medea Benjamin. including Wisconsin state Sen. But stationed in the overflow room of the Wisconsin Capitol during the first day of mass protests in Madison. the Teaching Assistants’ Association. But making the comparison has some serious implications for how we do . I’m somewhat less Pollyannaish than many others when it comes to making the connection between Cairo and Madison.from the middle east to the midwest | 145 measly Wisconsin National Guard troops. many people participated. I puzzled over the waving of Egyptian flags and signs that read. It certainly was coincidental that large protests in Madison had come shortly after those in Cairo brought to an end Mubarak’s regime. used by many. I chuckled at a website that photoshopped Mubarak’s face onto that of Dr. like a red string I had threaded from Cairo to Madison. in the office of my union. wherein a popular movement forced the hand of a dictator who had held onto the reins for 30 years—to a struggle against a fairlyelected governor who had only been in office for three months? Could you actually compare the deaths of over 800 Egyptian martyrs to a situation in which your greatest threat was perhaps. I was back in Madison. Feb. as labor journalist Micah Uetricht noted. just come from Egypt.

I don’t agree with the now-infamous sign. breaking down a stagnant political regime and culture of fear. although on the surface we may be seeing a new opening for political possibility. plainclothes thugs. In Wisconsin. and that it . which will be remembered as a world-changing event decades from now? Furthermore. This movement is finally bearing political fruit. Public-sector unionism has been on the decline for the past 30 years. First off. marred now by aged. The flip side of this is selfaggrandizement by the Wisconsin protesters. Between the two. one that must resort to farfetched comparisons to justify its relevancy. Cadillac health care and pension plans. While the Egyptian movement seems new. even though they had been exempted from the effects of Walker’s collective bargaining law. Off-duty police officers frequently participated in the protests. at most risked their jobs—especially in the case of Madison teachers “sicking out”—but did not risk life nor limb in their involvement. One Pain. an ugly public image of union thugs. Gone seem to be the days of social movement unionism in which the “haves” feared the collective power and solidarity of the “have-nots. an organization that brutally abducted political dissenters in the middle of the night). Finally. Madison protesters. possibly most damning. braving attacks by Central Security Forces.” Now we’re fighting with our backs against the wall. a service model of unionism in which members see their own union as merely “insurance” against abuse by The Boss. held by Egyptian Muhammad Saladin Nusair to show support for Wisconsin workers. Compare this to Wisconsin-based police forces that were broadly in favor of protest action. and. State Security Investigations (the infamous mukhabarrat. we see each movement heading in radically different directions. that it is “One World.from the middle east to the midwest | 146 politics in the United States. holding “Cops for Labor” signs. the labor movement is decades-old but is almost at its nadir. and Mubarak supporters riding on horses and camels. it belittles and trivializes the efforts and struggles of Egyptians. Egyptians emerged en masse on Jan. it is emerging from a vibrant history of human rights work and labor struggles. in participating. Capitol Police had daily meetings with protest organizers and the Capitol occupants to ensure clear lines of communication and so that cleaning operations could take place each evening. 25 and eventually held Tahrir Square. creaky institutions. the comparison itself signals a lack of political imagination.” While it’s good to see solidarity alive and well. Against enormous odds.

D. student in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and co-president of the graduate student union. It will take organizing and self-criticism of what in our unions and political organizations is awry.” That’s more like what the situation looks like now for an increasing number of states. for the creation of a more democratic political regime. it’s weathering winters. “Being union got you dead.from the middle east to the midwest | 147 is true that “the whole world is watching. It seems more apt for Wisconsinites to look towards inspiration from American labor’s heyday. to quote the singer Travis Morrison. As unionists.” hope is a thin thread on which to connect movements. of which Wisconsin is the opening salvo in a full-on attack by the right. It’s going to take a lot of time and energy to actively stoke the stove fire and remodel the log cabin. But if there’s one thing that Wisconsinites have done well for years. when there were few guarantees of rights and the ability to organize. Alexander Hanna is a Ph. we huddle together against ice and snow. while in Wisconsin it’s become winter. and rebuild and reorganize our unions from there. our own vision of American labor should place it in proper historical context. the Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA). in Middle America. against the northern wind that cuts to the bone. . The buds of the Egyptian spring are trying to survive against whipping winds and torrential downpours. that chatters the teeth and freezes the hair in our nostrils. On the other side of the world. But the reprieve between the storms may allow time for development. And so Egypt has seen a spring. when unions weren’t insurance and. maybe more than we are willing to admit.

but after six days of #wiunion. 4:47pm Feb 19 @micahuetricht Micah Uetricht TAs wandering arnd Capitol.lu/ai2JrI #WIunion #solidarityWI 4:29pm Feb 19 @JacquelynGill Jacquelyn Gill Want to help #wiunion from afar? Call major media outlets and ask them why Twitter is doing a better job of the news than they ate. I just broke down in tears with the positive emotion at this Capitol. 3:17pm Feb 19 @WEaC WEAC RT @charlesmonaco: I’m a Maine legislator .000 donors. patiently explaining that comparisons to genocide are inappropes #boutdamntime #wiunion 5:05pm Feb 19 . 3:03pm Feb 19 @JacquelynGill Jacquelyn Gill Don’t tell my fellow thugs. $16k for the Wisconsin Senate Democrats in just one hour: http://actb. A few marching around.@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht RT @MikeElk: @mmflint (Michael Moore) paying for me to come up to Wisconsin and cover #notmywi #wiunion 2:53pm Feb 19 @micahuetricht Micah Uetricht May be 1000s of Tea Partiers here.but I honestly haven’t seen em.coming cross country by Uhaul to Madison with food and solidarity. a couple hundred at both capitol entrances #wiunion 2:57pm Feb 19 @kyleMianulli Kyle Mianulli So proud of the state of Wisconsin. Peaceful protests with health dose of passionate democratic discourse. #WIunion 4:15pm Feb 19 @MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan RT @actblue: 1.rounding up Hitler signs.

The two are closely intertwined. 20. are heading in opposite directions: toward gaining rights in Egypt. a primary reason why they are the bane of systems of power. and defending rights under harsh attack in the U. sent a message to the “workers of Wisconsin”: “We stand with you as you stood with us.-backed Hosni Mubarak regime. 2011 Copyright 2011 by Noam Chomsky. Egyptian union leader and prominent figure in the Jan. and to compare their struggles for labor rights and democracy.S.S. On Feb. Kamal Abbas.” Egyptian workers have long fought for fundamental rights denied by the U. 25 uprising was sparked by the Facebook-savvy young people of the April 6 movement. Kamal is right to invoke the solidarity that has long been the driving force of the labor movement worldwide. The trajectories of labor struggles in Egypt and in the U. Labor movements have been in the forefront of protecting democracy and human rights and expanding their domains.from the middle east to the midwest | 149 Noam Chomsky March 11. 25 movement. both state and private.S. The two cases merit a closer look. Reprinted with permission of City Lights Books. which arose in Egypt in spring 2008 in . The Jan.

Indeed. We can anticipate that Washington will keep to its traditional policy.” Matta adds. 25 movement. Matta’s observations are confirmed by Joel Beinin. and its allies cannot easily tolerate functioning democracy in the Arab world. a U. The economy also shifted course sharply toward financialization and export of production. the public regards the U. After World War II the country enjoyed unprecedented growth. has taken a different turn. Most resorted to increased . For the majority. real incomes stagnated.” labor analyst Nada Matta observes. the impact was decisive. workers have established bonds and can mobilize readily. For evidence. Inequality soared. authority on Egyptian labor. State violence crushed the strike and solidarity actions. which ended the liberal era. and in many other measures. By overwhelming majorities.S. largely egalitarian and accompanied by legislation that benefited most people. internal and external. The strike became particularly threatening to the dictatorship when workers’ demands extended beyond their local concerns to a minimum wage for all Egyptians. The U. look to public opinion polls in Egypt and throughout the Middle East. hedge fund managers and the like. in establishing right-wing think tanks to capture the ideological spectrum. Democracy in the U. not Iran. most think that the region would be better off if Iran had nuclear weapons. and Israel as the major threats. The external barriers are clear. but Mahalla was “a symbol of revolt and challenge to the regime. When the workers joined the Jan. primarily due to the skyrocketing wealth of the top 1 percent of the population—or even a smaller fraction.from the middle east to the midwest | 150 “solidarity with striking textile workers in Mahalla. Over many years of struggle. well-confirmed by scholarship: Democracy is tolerable only insofar as it conforms to strategic-economic objectives.S. That was a great victory for the Egyptian democracy movement. and the military command sent Mubarak on his way.S. The trend continued through the Richard Nixon years. The backlash against the democratizing impact of ’60s activism and Nixon’s class treachery was not long in coming: a vast increase in lobbying to shape legislation. Beinin reports. though many barriers remain.S. The United States’ fabled “yearning for democracy” is reserved for ideologues and propaganda. limited to mostly CEOs.

unnoticed by the Federal Reserve and almost all economists.S. deregulation. with CEO Lloyd Blankfein receiving a $12. the poor. unions are the primary counterforce to corporate tyranny. costs of campaigning sharply increased. private-sector unions have been severely weakened. Concentration of income confers political power. the very young. business leaders warned of “the hazard facing industrialists in the rising political power of the masses.. Alongside this vicious cycle. “on track to pay out $17. on . In 1978. In the U.” As working people won basic rights in the 1930s.S.” and called for urgent measures to beat back the threat. the minorities. Popular anger must be diverted from the agents of the financial crisis. When the bubble burst.6 million bonus while his base salary more than triples to $2 million. and even many in the middle class of our society. who were enthralled by efficient market dogmas. Public-sector unions have recently come under sharp attack from right-wing opponents who cynically exploit the economic crisis caused primarily by the finance industry and its associates in government. for example.5 billion in compensation for last year. and the Democrats (now pretty much equivalent to the moderate Republicans of earlier years) following not far behind. By now. unwritten compact previously existing during a period of growth and progress. debt. and the very old. the economy collapsed to near-Depression levels for manufacturing workers and many others. driving both political parties to cater to the corporate sector—the Republicans reflexively. and asset inflation. United Auto Workers President Doug Fraser condemned business leaders for having “chosen to wage a one-sided class war in this country—a war against working people. which in turn leads to legislation that further enhances the privilege of the super-rich: tax policies. according to scholar Alex Carey in Taking the Risk Out of Democracy. who are profiting from it.” and having “broken and discarded the fragile. Instead. rules of corporate governance. Then came the $8 trillion housing bubble. Goldman Sachs. as the process was taking off.” the business press reports.from the middle east to the midwest | 151 working hours. the unemployed. They understood as well as Mubarak did that unions are a leading force in advancing rights and democracy. and much else. propaganda must blame teachers and other public-sector workers with their fat salaries and exorbitant pensions—all a fabrication. U.

Invoking the deficit as an excuse is pure farce. . the slogan is that austerity must be shared— with some notable exceptions. no less than it is in Tahrir Square. the fate of democracy is at stake in Madison.from the middle east to the midwest | 152 a model that is all too familiar. to other Republicans. To Governor Scott Walker. Walker can count on at least a large minority to support his brazen effort to destroy the unions. In different ways. Wisconsin. The propaganda has been fairly effective. and many Democrats.

Solidarity! #wiunion 5:08pm Feb 19 @ryan_rainey Ryan Rainey Large #wiunion crowd chanting “@foxnews lies” near their camera 5:12pm Feb 19 @WEaC WEAC RT @YoProWI: A man in Cairo Egypt just called Ian’s pizza ordering food for the rallyers here in Madison.. 5:34pm Feb 19 @micahuetricht Micah Uetricht Just ate two pieces of pizza paid for by anonymous generous union supporters somewhere in America. i can’t shake the sense that i’m walking away from one of the more impt events in recent american history 7:59pm Feb 20 . how proud we are that you are in this fight with us. #solidarityWI 10:34pm Feb 19 @micahuetricht Micah Uetricht Sign in rotunda: Obama come to Madison 1:34pm Feb 20 @micahuetricht Micah Uetricht Just occurred to me: the most striking part of these protests is massive amounts of young ppl fired up abt labor mvt. w no prior labor ties 2:40pm Feb 20 @micahuetricht Micah Uetricht For the 2nd time since I’ve come. So. with hearts full.. so powerful.It was really good. I spent 20mins hearing testimony from everyday WI citizens abt effects of bill. #wiunion 5:19pm Feb 20 @micahuetricht Micah Uetricht Leaving the state capitol. hmm.@WEaC WEAC We say again.

echoes of Cairo are everywhere.” and “Government Walker: Our Mubarak. After camping out with the students and workers in the Capitol. “Solidarity with Egyptian Workers. Bahrain.” has been hanging from the balcony of the Capitol alongside solidarity messages from around the country. Wisconsin. One Pain.from the middle east to the midwest | 154 Medea Benjamin The Huffington Post. 2011 Here in Madison. and Yemen. My travels from Cairo to Madison seem like one seamless web. I gave an earlymorning seminar on what it was like to be an eyewitness to the Egyptian revolution and the struggles that are taking place right now in places like Libya. I had mentioned that in Cairo the activists were constantly . where protesters have occupied the state Capitol to stop the pending bill that would eliminate workers’ right to collective bargaining. Folks told me all day how inspiring it was to hear about the uprisings in the Arab world. February 21. Looking around at the Capitol that was starting to show the wear and tear from housing thousands of protesters. “Egypt Supports Wisconsin Workers: One World.” The signs by protesters in Madison include “Welcome to Wiscairo. Some took the lessons from Cairo literally.” The banner I brought directly from Tahrir Square saying. Protesters here were elated by the photo of an Egyptian engineer named Muhammad Saladin Nusair holding a sign in Tahrir Square saying.” “From Egypt to Wisconsin: We Rise Up.

” Solidarity is. and tears from the Egyptians. “I saw how the Egyptian people were able to rise up and overthrow a 30-year dictatorship. now has thousands of new American Facebook friends. The Democratic Assembly members have been giving folks a chance to voice their concerns about the governor’s pending bill. I heard echoes of Cairo in the Capitol hearing room where a nonstop line of people had gathered all week to give testimonies.” a Wisconsin fireman commented when he was told that the garlic pizza he was eating had come from supporters in Cairo. They talk about the history of workers’ struggles to earn living wages and have decent benefits.from the middle east to the midwest | 155 scrubbing the square. It is a way we show our oneness with all of humanity. but he was taught that “we live in ONE world and under the same sky. Ian’s. One world. their health care. in Madison’s rotunda. the one whose photo supporting Wisconsin workers went viral. CODEPINK sent flowers to the people in Tahrir Square—a gesture that was received with kisses. a beautiful thing. one pain. then everything we’ve created and established since the very beginning of existence is in great danger.” one of the high school students told me. . “We shouldn’t let borders and differences separate us. hugs. And time and again.” From the trenches of Wisconsin’s Capitol. indeed. and placed a huge order to feed the protesters. their pensions. one humanity. one hope. it is a way to reaffirm our own humanity. Egyptian engineer Muhammad Saladin Nusair. I heard people say. people were on their hands and knees scrubbing the marble floor. “We’re quick learners. They talk about the governor manufacturing the budget crisis to break the unions. “Pizza never tasted so good. The campers in Madison erupted in cheer when they heard that an Egyptian had called the local pizza place. people talk about the impact this bill will have on their own families—their take-home pay. A few hours later. We were made different to complete each other.” “If a human being doesn’t feel the pain of his fellow human beings. In this endless stream of heartfelt testimonies. to integrate and live together. smiling as she picked at the remains of Oreo cookies sticking to the floor. and that inspired me to rise up and fight this bill. hope—and solidarity—are alive and well. determined to show how much they loved the space they had liberated.” Muhammad wrote. He wrote in his blog that many of his new friends were surprised by his gesture of solidarity.

This is backward.” #notmyWI .@MelissaRyan “Our State motto is Forward.

In 1911. Wisconsin was the first state to enact workers’ compensation. who became a national icon for progressive reform. it was the first to pass unemployment insurance. and with good reason. In the 1860s. Much of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation was inspired by the work of Wisconsin progressives. not special interests. In 1959. Wisconsin has been a pioneer in promoting justice and equality—often serving as a model for other states around the country. introducing the “Wisconsin Idea” that institutions should be controlled by voters.John Nichols. Wisconsinites helped runaway slaves travel north to freedom in Canada and proudly fought in the Civil War in order to help bring about the end of slavery. and in 1932. says that people from his state deeply believe that it is the greatest in the nation. political writer and seventh-generation Wisconsinite. Wisconsin became the first state in the nation to allow public workers to join unions and bargain . Wisconsin was the birthplace of the progressive movement under Governor “Fighting Bob” La Follette. The progressive movement helped Wisconsin become the first state to pass child-labor laws and one of the first states that ratified the amendment that gave women the right to vote.

And it was Madison’s vibrant leftleaning infrastructure and institutions. More recently. and subsist. and in the 2000s the antiwar movement gained momentum when cities and even small towns around Wisconsin passed antiwar resolutions. County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). When Governor Scott Walker threatened to deploy the National Guard to prevent a potential strike. When 15. the American Federation of State. It was this progressive history that helped foster the conditions that led to the 2011 Capitol occupation. he recalled one of the state’s most violent episodes in labor history. As John Nichols explains. In 1886. In the end. Wisconsinites protesting apartheid in South Africa occupied the Capitol in the 1980s. as well as its global outlook and high concentration of students and teachers that all combined to create an environment where a diverse coalition could come together. in defense of long-held values and shared identity. .what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 158 collectively. it’s not that hard to come out in support of state workers now. “If you could come out as against the war back then. workers across the country marched and went on strike for the eighthour workday. and it was the home of the country’s first public-employees union.” Yet the strong labor movement that grew throughout the years in Wisconsin didn’t come without a price.000 workers gathered outside the Bay View steel foundry to urge the workers inside to join them. seven protesters were shot and killed in what is now known as the Bay View Massacre. Governor Jeremiah Rusk called in 250 members of the National Guard to quell the uprising.

Walker press conference set to start. DM @TAA_Madison TAA Madison if you help set up mirrors 11:34am Feb 21 @bluecheddar1 blue cheddar Somewhere in my many tweets. 2:32pm Feb 21 @bluecheddar1 blue cheddar I see many signs w this sentiment”My teachers taught me 2 stand up 4 myself now I stand up 4 them” #wiunion 4:02pm Feb 21 @legalEagle Legal Eagle Crowd is cheering. It’s a battle of wills & a battle of decibels. #wiunion #wisolidarity 4:50pm Feb 21 @thesconz The Sconz jesus! the daily show brought in a camel that got its leg stuck and fell down! 4:57pm Feb 21 @WEaC WEAC RT @wiartteacher: I can feel the heartbeat of Wisconsin in the Capitol. I learned that 300 California nurses are flying to Wisconsin to rally with us.org is being BLOCKED on the Capitol’s wireless network. Just saying. Amazing #wiunion 1:57pm Feb 21 @WEaC WEAC RT @eigenjo: The vuvuzela might be counterproductive.@MikeElk Mike Elk Wow no metal detrectors at Wisconsin state Capitol just a sign that says please no firearms total Midwest nice #wiunion #notmywi 10:38pm Feb 20 @legalEagle Legal Eagle RT @DefendWisconsin: defendwisconsin. #wiunion 5:02pm Feb 21 . Constantly.

February 21.B.F. But really. I know the history. in Madison. It has a picture of Wisconsin’s Capitol with a question in bold above it: “W.A.T. That’s too simplistic and an inaccurate characterization of the past and present.. and it’s hard to do.F?” Those who know me know I rarely swear. It has a very long history—if only it were new!—in this country and in Wisconsin. In all seriousness. I’ve been reading about how a blue state has gone red. and across the state. As a historian of the United States who has written about unions and working people.what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 160 Andrew E. the button I wore today is still on my shirt. W. and F. The first labor union in .N. 2011 As I sit here at my computer.R.—says it all. Since last November. Rather. It was given to me by the American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin organizer on my campus so I could show my solidarity with others who are protesting our newly-elected governor’s agenda this afternoon in Green Bay.F. I am trying to make sense of this.F.A.U.U. we need to see Wisconsin as a front in the political and economic war that has swept through our nation. Kersten Dissent. W.? There is no other way to put what is going on in this state.T. The struggle between the rich and their politicians and the working class was there at the beginning of the state.T. and with tears in my eyes. like those other great cursing acronyms—S.

The war continued unabated during the Great Depression. The mill owners were among the nation’s most callous and cruel.” Darrow won freedom for his clients. but the bigger fight went on. There were victories such as the nation’s first workers’ compensation law in 1902 and stunning defeats like the successful open-shop movement in the 1920s. 1886. Weakened but not destroyed. conservatives won a major victory with the passage of the Employment Peace Act. Twelve years later in Oshkosh. National Guardsmen fired into the crowd of strikers. this struggle was peaceful.what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 161 Wisconsin predated the state’s admission into the Union by a year. killing seven. windows. . which stunted the Wisconsin Federation of Labor and its member unions. and sashes. And in 1939.” If his defendants went to jail for conspiracy. In 1886. “then there never can be a strike again in this country where men cannot be sent to jail as well. They crushed the strike and brought the strike leaders up on charges of conspiracy. At times.) By winning in court. did not go unchallenged. the great labor lawyer. Wisconsinites were always active partisans in the struggle to shape the political economy. As Darrow said. the war raged in Wisconsin. it was not. workers outside Milwaukee were staging their own protests for industrial democracy at the Bay View rolling mill. while workers in Chicago were fighting for an eight-hour day and in the midst of the Haymarket Massacre. The Bay View Massacre—which is memorialized every year—was just one episode in the labor battles in Wisconsin. a milestone law providing state workers the same rights and guarantees as the national New Deal labor law. Clarence Darrow. there was a general strike by woodworkers laboring in the town’s factories. at other times. the mill owners hoped to smash all unions in Wisconsin and in the United States. On May 4. Darrow declared. Wisconsin’s Baby Wagner Act of 1937. which curtailed the right to strike and picket and opened new avenues to shut down militancy. With or without Darrow. came to their defense and quite rightly pronounced to the jury and by extension the entire American public that the case was not merely about the grievances of abused workers. “Saw Dust City” was a world leader in the production of doors. a battle which was commenced when the tyranny and oppression of man first caused him to impose upon his fellows and which will not end so long as the children of one father shall be compelled to toil to support the children of another in luxury and ease. (They had indeed been abused. the case was “but an episode in the great battle for human liberty.

but these measures did not go far enough in creating prosperity. Certainly we can say that recalcitrant Republicans and their Blue Dog Democrat friends are partly to blame. and erode business and environmental regulation. Wisconsin was the first state to allow its public-sector employees to form unions and bargain collectively. They greatly limited President Barack Obama’s “Summer of Recovery. corporate subsidies. a majority of voters threw out the incumbents and endorsed those with a new plan for wealth.what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 162 workers kept fighting through the Cold War years. at Lambeau Field. Personally. my tears). In Wisconsin. along with the stimulus. bailouts. Why did this happen? The Democrats’ plan for prosperity did not work fast enough. I worry more about those around . we got half a stimulus and a corporate bailout without workers’ rights. And now. the plan was revealed: Destroy unions. there were four significant strikes: at Nicolet Paper. The stimulus package along with the bailouts helped to create wealth and restart the economy. I expect that once the Republicans are done it will cost me a lot more to be an employee of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. which swept the radical right wing into office. I also expect that my wife will lose her part-time job at our local elementary school (hence. Last week. deregulation. It’s all predicated upon the elections last November. Instead. and slash wages and benefits. there were major workers’ struggles and strikes in the core industries in Wisconsin. in this new Gilded Age of corporate greed. it would have worked for us. And yet. and. In 1959. And that is just for starters. In the last 30 years. we are witnessing yet another historic frontal assault on workers’ rights in Wisconsin. and disinvestment. The Republicans plan to gut both K–12 and higher education. at KI Industries. Sure. the federal government can help create wealth. even while labor has been flat on its back.” But I say too that the Democrats missed an opportunity. we will probably be OK. prevent new ones from forming (like faculty unions in the University of Wisconsin system). and voters across the nation were mad and again sought change. but they should also help empower workers to go and get it! It worked for the Greatest Generation. In my hometown of Green Bay in the late 1970s and through the 1980s. Read the 140-page “budget-repair” bill and you’ll see that the fix is in. Obama should have taken a page out of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s playbook and had Congress pass the Employee Free Choice Act. The Summer of Recovery wasn’t what its name promised. at Schneider Trucking. upperbracket tax cuts. of course.

he can expect a dramatically enlarged classroom. Thus. Will we win? It’s going to be tough. FORWARD!. The last time there was any mass. staff. drive workers into the ground. All’s not quiet on the Midwestern Front. not new. If he keeps it. Just like in 1898. A friend of mine who has had a bird’s-eye view of the demonstrations in Madison emailed me today with photos. today there was a student rally and teach-in on my campus. But this class war from above won’t end in Wisconsin or elsewhere in the United States. the events of these last weeks have shown that although the Republicans have captured the statehouse and the governor’s mansion. Although we here in Green Bay are quite reticent. The war rages on. If anything. Far from it. they have not captured the hearts and minds of average citizens. A new friend of mine at UW-Green Bay said the cuts in his pay likely mean he will lose his home. and this time we don’t have Darrow on our side. The other side has the money. The husband of a close friend of mine who also works in the Green Bay public schools stands a good chance of losing his full-time job. What happens over the next few weeks will make or break the lives of workers all over the state. The Republicans have gone over the top here in Wisconsin and are running through our lines in hopes of a final victory. Friends who know my passion for Darrow’s life and legacy ask me: What would he counsel? As he once famously said. as it always is. the protesters seem to come out when the time is just right and the stakes are high. I replied it was not. He wished that I were there seeing labor history unfold and asked if I thought this was the beginning of the end for unions. But like Darrow. who have for almost two weeks been keeping a peaceful and joyful vigil. and as vicious as before: Smash unions. we look to the future. we say in Wisconsin.what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 163 me. “The best proof of the usefulness of the union is that the employers don’t want it. I’m a hopeful pessimist. it’s the end of the beginning. it’s noisy. We have the nerve to say no and the courage to stick together. and students protested President Richard Nixon’s bombing of Cambodia and Laos. What’s happening is not isolated. where Republicans are poised to launch similar attacks using these Cheesehead battle plans. But Wisconsin blue has not become Badger red. the conservatives are on the verge of destroying unionism.” If Darrow were . As such. and reap profits from the lowly. Workers and citizens across the state have joined them in solidarity. they’ve got the points of power. oncampus student demonstration here was in 1970 when faculty.

Andrew E. history in the Department of Social Change and Development at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 164 still among the living. His book Clarence Darrow: American Iconoclast was published earlier this year.S. Kersten is a professor of U. Darrow lambasted the working-class voters who elected and endorsed politicians “who entirely subverted the liberties of the people. . the year after the Populists went down in flaming defeat.” Darrow would be clear: Fight like your very life depended on the outcome. his advice would be: FORM A UNION! He would also give some advice that many might not want to hear: STOP VOTING FOR YOUR ENEMIES! In 1897.

This protest just keeps getting more and more legit. #wiunion 5:10pm Feb 21 @MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan The fighting 14 are closing in on $300. #wiunion 8:56pm Feb 21 .@millbot Emily Mills Walker poo pooing out of state support. Polling & protests suggest otherwise. http://bit. 5:36pm Feb 21 @legalEagle Legal Eagle RT @IsthmusTDP: As the #sleepinginthecapitol and #floorcheckin crowd starts up. but seems like the time to get signatures if that’s allowed. Our fists are up in solidarity. We’ll be here until you can come back. we’re wondering if any romances are blossoming via #wiunion 7:58pm Feb 21 @legalEagle Legal Eagle We have wristbands.000 raised online! Put them over the top already.ly/ff8aqz 5:34pm Feb 21 @legalEagle Legal Eagle Have any recall petitions been started? I know they can’t be FILED yet. I can’t say it enough. @tmorello is reading a letter to WI from one of the organizers of the Egypt protests. still thinks majority of WI supports him. #wiunion #wisolidarity 8:09pm Feb 21 @MspicuzzaWsJ Mary Spicuzza RT @MissPronouncer: Chalkboard showing people from all over the world donate Ians Pizza to protesters in Madison 8:13pm Feb 21 @legalEagle Legal Eagle @sentaylor Thank you. Thanks to every last one of you. #wiunion #wisolidarity 8:34pm Feb 21 @legalEagle Legal Eagle Kid you not.

who spent his long political career—as a U. offered La Follette . Philetus Sawyer. his proposal to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights.S. more than 100.. screaming ‘Right on!’” Who was this man called “Fighting Bob. Many at these rallies called upon the memory of a Republican progressive whose bust stands inside the Capitol: Robert M. After his graduation. governor of Wisconsin (1901–1906).what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 166 Dissent. congressman (1885–1890). senator (1907–1925). La Follette. and candidate for president (1924)—consistently and effectively challenging militarism and corporate power. and his threat to use the National Guard if government workers go on strike. “What Would Bob Do?” and proclaimed. Signs asked.” A professor at the University of Wisconsin told The Wall Street Journal that La Follette would “be standing with the protesters. 2011 Peter Dreier In February 2011.000 Wisconsinites marched on the state Capitol in Madison. La Follette worked as a farm laborer before enrolling at the University of Wisconsin. April 11. a leading state Republican.000 protesters had joined this challenge to Governor Scott Walker’s steep budget cuts. he ran successfully for district attorney. Sr.” who influenced so many reformers and radicals during his life and after his death? Born in Dane County’s Primrose township. more than 15. “La Follette forever. he was elected to Congress as a Republican. In 1884. After an electoral defeat in 1890 he returned to Wisconsin. U.S. By the middle of March.

but took the opportunity to publicly decry the corrosive effect of money in democratic politics. He gave 208 speeches in 61 counties—sometimes 10 or 15 speeches a day—and won handily. Senate in 1906. transportation. and William Allen White. and supported workers’ rights and control of corporate power. He supported measures that doubled the taxes on the railroads. La Follette wrote. (After his death. defended small farmers. it remains a major voice of dissent. Ray Stannard Baker. he ran for governor on a pledge to clean up the corruption. protected workers’ rights. Its goal. Wisconsin. Still published in Madison. In 1900. preserved the state’s forests.) . as the progressive spirit spread to cities and states around the country. the publication was renamed The Progressive. La Follette became a leader of the Senate’s progressive wing. the magazine gained popularity among progressive farmers and working people and raised La Follette’s national profile. state.” As a corrective. In 1909.S.what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 167 a bribe to fix a court case against several former state officials.” To this end. was “winning back for the people the complete power over government—national. La Follette’s Weekly Magazine was edited by his wife. criticized the postwar Palmer Raids as a violation of civil liberties. which gave voters the right to choose their own candidates for office. the magazine championed women’s suffrage. broke up monopolies. taxation. as well as by La Follette himself. railroad regulation. Never a commercial success. and municipal—which has been lost to them. He created state commissions on the environment. Belle. and La Follette spent the next ten years touring Wisconsin denouncing the political influence of the railroad and lumber barons who dominated his own party.” who had “moved upon the Capitol. recruiting experts (especially from the University of Wisconsin) to provide ideas and information. Elected to the U. and civil service. led the fight to stay out of World War I. and regulated lobbying to curtail patronage politics.” making the state a laboratory for reforms that would prove highly influential. The incident lit a spark. To weaken the political influence of big business and party machines. Upon taking office. he successfully pushed for campaign spending limits and direct primary elections. La Follette launched a publication that soon became a major outlet for the movement’s ideas. and featured articles by leading journalists such as Lincoln Steffens. La Follette not only refused the bribe. he promoted the “Wisconsin Idea. he denounced the “corporation agents and representatives of the machine.

what guts he’s got. Then.” After the war. of Wilson’s wartime crackdown on dissent. “But oh. “I do not want the vote of a single citizen under any misapprehension of where I stand: I would not change my record on the war for that of any man.” Some Wisconsinites. On April 4. But.” he told his colleagues. . standing at the back of the chamber with tears running down his cheeks.” After a moment of stunned silence. Party ticket). and they will be heard. “have I heard so much democracy preached and so little practiced as during the last few months. “Never in all my many years’ experience in the House and in the Senate.what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 168 Breaking again with the Republican Party. “The poor … who are always the ones called upon to rot in the trenches. becoming one of only six senators to vote against Wilson’s war declaration. and the Socialist Eugene Debs.. Mr. La Follette stuck to his principles. 1917. or Bull Moose. There will come an awakening. and many Washington insiders and newspapers. “I hate the son of a bitch. Even one of his staunchest critics. La Follette became the dissidents’ biggest advocate. at some time they will be heard. La Follette delivered a forceful speech in the Senate. suddenly. including Debs. the Republican William Howard Taft. have no organized power. my God. the crowd erupted into thunderous applause. President. and his aides urged him to tone down the fiery antiwar rhetoric.” . He found new outlets for his lifelong struggle against corporate power as a close ally of the labor movement and a supporter of farm loan programs. living or dead. two days after Wilson called for the United States to enter the war. he pounded the lectern and stretched his clenched fist into the air.” he told the chamber. La Follette supported Democrat Woodrow Wilson in the 1912 presidential election over Theodore Roosevelt (an erstwhile Republican running on the Progressive. In 1921. But La Follette later risked his political career opposing Wilson. told a reporter. condemned him as a traitor. As the Red Scare continued with the notorious Palmer Raids. He called for investigations of corporate “war profiteers” and defended the victims. They will have their day..” he boomed. the 65-year-old La Follette had to decide whether to seek re-election. La Follette opened his speech by acknowledging old supporters in the room and recognizing that this was an important turning point in his political career. “I am going to be a candidate for re-election to the United States Senate. He was scheduled to give a major speech before the Wisconsin Legislature.

S. La Follette’s success inspired other progressive movements and campaigns around the country. the Progressive Party in Wisconsin. an influential adviser on the 1924 campaign. second in eleven Western states. declaring. far ahead of most political figures. elimination of private utilities. He pledged an expansion of democracy.” La Follette won almost 5 million votes (about one-sixth of the popular vote). convinced him to run for president in 1924 as an independent progressive. Many La Follette-watchers viewed his momentous 1922 re-election victory as a vindication of his antiwar and anti-corporate stances. historically a Republican. “I speak for Avenue A and 116th Street. and farmers. selected Montana Sen. and creeds. socialists. La Follette’s progressive political offspring also include Floyd Olson of Minnesota. including farmer-labor parties in Minnesota and North Dakota. and the American Labor Party in New York City. perhaps the most radical governor of any state. stronger protection for civil liberties. whose 1934 campaign for California governor borrowed many of La Follette’s ideas. La Follette. senator. and presidential candidate helped lay the groundwork for Franklin Roosevelt’s reforms in the 1930s. Upton Sinclair.what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 169 Or perhaps La Follette simply had a better understanding of Wisconsin voters. Burton Wheeler.” Though he died of a heart attack less than a year after the election. a coalition of unions. and winning working-class districts of major cities. Harold Ickes. and New York Congressman (later Mayor) Fiorello La Guardia. instead of Broad and Wall. a ban on child labor. imperialism in Latin America. La Follette’s ideas as governor. “any discrimination between races. became part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s inner circle and a major architect of the New Deal. The Conference for Progressive Political Action. a Democrat. easier credit for farmers. They re-elected him that year with 80 percent of their votes. Sr. He promised to “break the combined power of the private monopoly system over the political and economic life of the American people” and denounced. La Follette’s platform called for government takeover of the railroads. running first in Wisconsin. the right of workers to organize unions. who nominated the senator for president in 1924. condemning reactionary Supreme Court rulings and advocating a plebiscite before any declaration of war. and an end to U. as his running mate.. classes.” . Journalist John Nichols called this “the most successful left-wing presidential campaign in American history.

” And. shared something else in common. Ernest Gruening (D-Alaska) and Wayne Morse (R-Ore. Among La Follette’s political heirs are also several literal descendants. This essay is adapted from The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century. La Follette’s specter haunted Wisconsin’s Walker. due to be published in November by Nation Books. and activists. president once again asked Congress for an authorization to go to war—this time in Vietnam. Gruening had served as spokesman for La Follette’s 1924 campaign. even before the current protests broke out.P. ushered in what some have called a “little New Deal” during the Depression. His son Phil. suggests that it will take more than these ceremonial logistics for conservatives to erase the legacy of La Follette. the first in the nation. elected Wisconsin governor in 1930. The revival of Wisconsin’s radical spirit. avoiding the possibility that he might be photographed sharing a frame with the progressive stalwart. Doug La Follette. Sr. Breaking with convention. the only senators to vote against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. the state enacted its first labor code. told Time magazine in 1956 that his fondest memory as a young man was lapping up liberal philosophy “at the feet of the great Robert La Follette. Walker held his inauguration in a part of the Capitol rotunda far from La Follette’s bust. Phil La Follette pushed through Wisconsin’s unemployment compensation system. who have served Wisconsin as senator.what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 170 Decades after La Follette’s courageous opposition to World War I. . a U. governor. is Wisconsin’s current Secretary of State. a veteran environmental activist. four years before the federal Wagner Act.S. In 1931. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics at Occidental College. That year.). declaring that all workers had the right to form unions and to picket. a Wisconsin native. so evident in the massive and sustained mobilizations in Madison. too. His great-grandfather and La Follette were brothers. Peter Dreier is E. Morse. secretary of state.

Votes do have consequences. Senator recall is/are inevitable. Repub. 8:59pm Feb 21 @millbot Emily Mills RT @IsthmusTDP: Wisconsin Dems say protest website @DefendWisconsin blocked in Capitol http://isthmus.com/r/?r=1365 #wiunion #notmywi 11:47am Feb 22 @bluecheddar1 blue cheddar If a vote strips collec.@cjliebmann cjliebmann RT @markos: Daily Kos community breaks $100K raised for Wisconsin Senate Dems. They’ve raised $317K from overall netroots. bargaining-next-general strikes. 12:37pm Feb 22 @MikeElk Mike Elk Walker Pulls a “Mubarak” and Cut off Internet to Capitol Protestors as Poll Shows Drop of Support http://bit.ly/hsN2aB #wiunion 12:52pm Feb 22 . 12:22pm Feb 22 @millbot Emily Mills Rotunda now chanting “Recall!” at rep now speaking in session.

Students in town for the summer are out entertaining themselves with burgers and ice cream while their professors dine on Nepali food. it is . lawyer. playing roles we can only imagine. in peaceful coexistence with the cop zipping by the lit-up Capitol on a bicycle and the patrons of upscale locavore restaurants strolling to and from their car parks. It is that kind of placid Midwestern town: well-educated. This funky idyll is—or was—the norm in Madison. economically stable. Wang Picture this. competently governed. seemingly far from the turmoil of the world. Hardly noticed are a couple of teens on the lawn and. or lobbyist—who crosses the square from office to condo. I munch a fresh donut at the Greenbush Bakery to fuel my return passage through the quiet dark streets and leafy bike paths. past modestly sized mid-century homes tucked into the slopes. 2011 Dan S. a lone suit working late—an aide. A man with a guitar. and full of intelligent diversions—which is to say.what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 172 March 20. tunes his beat-up instrument. After the band is done at the Orpheum or the Majestic. I walk up State Street and around the square. Near the steps of the Capitol. who resembles the other man with a guitar a little further down the street. I’m pedaling downtown from my home on Madison’s West Side for a show on a summer evening. homeless gentlemen make their beds in spacious intervals along the square. Getting there early.

But in extraordinary times the substance behind the superficiality does make a difference. and then through to the Ian’s Pizza phenomenon (where supporters from every state and over twenty countries ordered hot pies for the frozen demonstrators). the city suffers from a conceit of cosmopolitanism. before fading as the political narrative split into different storylines. Whether and how that internationalism will be re-injected into the language of the movement is unknown. Madison has long been one of those places where you don’t have to look very hard to see the globe. Madison was the natural focus of early and continued action for the obvious reason that it is the capital. place and space in political movements matter more than ever. and villages throughout the region deal with economies that have gone down the greased chute of globalization. But the size and the sustained nature of the outpouring of discontent begs the question: What is it about this particular city that surrounds the square that allowed for this possibility? For one thing. Even better. towns. who had gone to report from Tahrir Square for Al Jazeera. For example. Needless to say. 8. Madison is a favorite stop on the left-wing circuit. just days before the Wisconsin uprising broke out. airports. When Noam Chomsky wrote an analysis for Truthout in which he linked the Cairo and Madison movements. a Wisconsin State Journal profile of Madison native Evan Hill.what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 173 not a normal place at all. The Capitol is where people came to personally confront the extremists in power. In the age of clicktivism and depoliticized sites like malls. The internationalist awareness of the local populace worked to the movement’s advantage over the first week in the many echoes of Cairo. It is a Rust Belt city enjoying the trappings of a modest 20th-century affluence while hundreds of cities. he was thinking about the friendly town he has visited regularly over the years—in 2009 and 2010 he lectured to packed houses at the Orpheum Theatre. where the governor and the state assembly do their work. but internationalist terms remain as a potential advantage and . a scene where sporting Guatemalan pants or quaffing Belgian lambic can be passed off for consciousness and connection. It is this comparatively intact economy and community—and the peculiar abnormalities of Madison that have flourished as a result—that are worth considering following the events of February and March. always supplying national movement figures a reliable audience. in normal times this tendency is irritating to the critical eye. in a sort of distorted reflection. and urban entertainment districts. leaving behind wrecked communities. was published on Feb.

it is a comparatively well-educated force. several locallybased but internationally-networked progressive organizations. especially over the first two weeks. not the demonstrations. A key factor in how the movement materialized over the first weeks of the uprising is that Madison is a people’s city. The city police know this.what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 174 cannot be erased for as long as the movement’s demonstration element is located primarily in Madison. And three. Two. Even in terms of outside agitators. people in Madison have built up a functioning network of co-ops and enlightened businesses. Madison’s main public security threat is the crowds of out-of-control drunk college football fans and the regular party atmosphere in the city’s drinking district. not a police state. the Madison Police Department is strongly committed to a trust-based and non-confrontational philosophy. Their statements damaged Walker. and online. The consciousness of the police and county sheriff bled over into open sympathy for the forces opposed to Walker early on. but nearly all the out-of-state visitors I met mentioned the unbelievably low and friendly police presence. where the cops routinely don $700 worth of hard-shell riot gear to contain depressingly small antiwar demonstrations. radio. without the egregious corruption that plagues the departments of so many cities. unlike the authoritarian law enforcement most Americans now accept. and reinforced the broad unity of public opposition. The lesson here is that building the conditions for large social movements that can assemble in spectacular and peaceful masses includes working to civilize your local police. and so does county law enforcement. There are reasons for this. I can say that by comparison Madison has thus far successfully fended off the pressure to militarize America’s police forces. Over a couple of generations at least. they did not understand that in Madison the police have different and more intelligent priorities. So when right-wing outsiders were baffled by Walker’s tolerance of the occupation. Madisonites take it for granted. In time both Chief Noble Wray and Sheriff Jim Mahoney publicly questioned and/or criticized the governor in their capacity as public security professionals. Speaking from a Chicago perspective. it is the bars that attract the out-of-town rabble. a healthy local alternative media in print. Another thing about Madison is its progressive and countercultural infrastructure. thus depriving the governor of a ready onsite tool of enforcement. One. and thriving . further (and correctly) painting him as a hyper-partisan extremist.

And most importantly. Unions and student organizations bused in people from Milwaukee and other parts of the state for a day at a time. a good deal of free time. To put it negatively. it was the people of Madison. resisting emergency privatization powers in Benton Harbor. Without the laid-back vibe and good humor. move . the local currency project trades heavily in “bodywork. the movement would not have gained the respect that durability commands. and the localized struggles around the wider region (working to defeat new mining initiatives in northern Wisconsin. but without the thousands of Madison residents holding down the square during the week in frigid temperatures. and lots of people who work secure. Madison is one of those enclaves where “artist” is not a meaningful professional category. This infrastructure is maintained and used by a population of graduate students. the hippie element of Madison did in fact prove its worth. Will the nascent police state patched together by Scott Walker to maintain control of the Capitol become a permanent feature of our town? What sorts of punitive measures will the conservatives aim at the workers and students of Madison? Will the events of the past few weeks open opportunities to bring the segregated communities of Madison—all of which will suffer under the Walker agenda—into substantive contact? How will the Generation Y students. the welcome would have stayed theoretical. compared to the big-city rat racers. who kept the attendance of the weekday rallies at respectable and sometimes very impressive numbers for four weeks. the hippie freaks just might be humanity’s last and best hope. Without the easy generosity expressed in a thousand little ways (I did my part early on with a midnight delivery of five dozen donuts to the occupied rotunda—the pleasure is truly in the giving).what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 175 local food and bike cultures. sort-of-creative types. On the whole. as awful as the prospect may be.” and an awful lot of residents seem to have the time and narcissism to “work” on themselves. the anger might have gotten out of control. educators. But a friend once said to me. the dispersed recall campaigns. Michigan. moderately compensated state jobs. who played powerful roles and gained real political experience. and so forth). this is a population that has. After the rallies on the square took a backseat to the statewide April 5 election for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. dedicated and available. for people who live in Madison additional questions concern the lasting effects on our city of this historic uprising. By essentially hosting the Wisconsin uprising.

Now it is up to those of us who call Madison home to take those progressive achievements and privileges afforded by the decades of stability—and to put them to use in the shared struggle that has landed on our doorstep and is not going away. Youngstown. we can be sure that the old “normal” of Madison is gone. the people of Madison rejoined the people of Detroit. health. Dan S. Walker’s attacks have revealed what used to be normal as a temporary arrangement. and the rest of the Midwest as a front in the global class war. Wang is a writer. and freedom in the Midwestern geography of deindustrialization and global reordering. Over the first four months of 2011. .what’s the matter with wisconsin? | 176 forward as radicalized adults facing much greater personal uncertainties than those before them? Although much in this struggle has yet to be settled. but if Madison was a pocket of comfort. Rockford. Janesville. It lasted for decades and the people and institutions of Madison on balance benefited from it. Flint. and activist who lives in Madison and teaches in Chicago. artist. then the conservative offensive has turned that pocket inside out.

#statEsOs .

Indiana. will Ohio be next? #wiunion . Michigan. three states have backed off anti-union bills Florida.@MikeElk In the wake of Wisconsin.

energized student sit-ins from Texas to New Jersey. the newly-formed group US Uncut held its first national day of protests. and prompted New Yorkers to “take the spirit of Wisconsin to Wall Street” to protest their city’s budget cuts. Britain’s successful antigovernment cuts group. 26.000 people joined solidarity rallies organized by MoveOn. more than 1. version similarly argued that government shouldn’t be cutting basic services for people in need while simultaneously cutting taxes for corporations and the rich. 26.org in front of every .S. the U. Fueled in part by the momentum of Wisconsin. On Feb. where activists targeted Bank of America for having paid no federal taxes in 2009. Inspired by UK Uncut. The resistance that began in Wisconsin emboldened citizens to occupy state capitols in Washington state and California.—and provoked by similar attacks on workers’ rights in their states—people across the United States are standing up and fighting back. 55. Also on Feb. while tens of thousand gathered in Madison.3 million people signed in opposition to a bill that closely resembles the one Governor Scott Walker put forward—enough to place repeal on the ballot for this November’s elections. In Ohio. US Uncut has organized hundreds of sit-ins and fostered civil disobedience of a kind not often seen in the United States.

“The fight back has begun.resistance is spreading | 180 state capitol in the country.” . Out of these protests has emerged a new push to “Rebuild the American Dream. In a speech laying out his vision for the American Dream Movement. While it may be impossible to “plan” protests similar to the spontaneous Wisconsin uprising.” an effort led by MoveOn and green jobs leader Van Jones that aims to build a “Tea Party for the left” by connecting various progressive fights under one recognizable banner. building a stronger and more cohesive movement as a result. the demonstrations there have inspired experienced activists and everyday citizens alike with a fresh vision of what is possible. That’s not the great exception. that’s the great example. It’s not just Madison—as extraordinary as Madison was. Demonstrators wore red and white—University of Wisconsin colors—to show their support for the Badgers’ fight. Van Jones said.

#wiunion 2:06pm Feb 22 @WEaC WEAC I see a new sign: “I’m really from WI. http://solidaritywisconsin. #wiunion 8:08pm Feb 22 @MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan You know what @govwalker? It’s not about the cheddar. #WIunion 8:44pm Feb 22 .org Emergency Call to Action: 50-State Wisconsin solidarity rally this Saturday at noon: http://bit. Assuming this is only the beginning.” Or something like that.com/ #Wiunion 4:53pm Feb 22 @millbot Emily Mills Appreciate greatly what the Fab 14 are doing for WI right now. new leadership for future.ly/gPac2J #wiunion 1:18pm Feb 22 @millbot Emily Mills Koch Industries registered SEVEN lobbyists in Wisconsin in January alone. #wiunion 4:24pm Feb 22 @MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan Wisconsin bloggers have created a site to aggregate their content. but still hope this brings out good.@MoveOn MoveOn. This is about fighting for working families. and am really against this bill.

resistance is spreading | 182

Statement from protesters occupying the Washington state Capitol

April 15, 2011

Today, April 15, 2011, we will be continuing our opposition to the budget cuts which will, if passed, leave many people in Washington more desperate and hurting than at any other time in the past 30 years. Too often in our society we are told that we ought to look out for only ourselves. Our sense of real community has been broken down with that constant mantra and the false representations of community which corporations continually throw at us. Enough is enough! It is time that we stand together in unity and solidarity. “An injury to one is an injury to all.” Our personal well-being is tied to the collective well-being of our communities. In order to win this fight we must stand together, link our arms and our wills to create a chain so strong that no one will be able to break it. Too long we have allowed this class war to continue with the rich in constant offensive position, taking and taking what they want, while there has been very little defense from the working classes. G. K. Chesterton said, “Among the rich you will be hard pressed to find a really generous man even by accident. They may give their money away, but they will never give themselves away; they are egotistic, secretive, dry as old bones. To be smart enough to get all that money, you must be dull enough to want it.” We must remember that there will be few if any from the upper classes who do not have a stake in the budget cuts. This is why we are seeing the cuts come to

resistance is spreading | 183 those of us in the more vulnerable sects of society, while the things that meet the ruling class’ wants and needs go untouched. In the Seattle workers’ struggles for dignity, justice, and freedom around the turn of the century, Mr. Doodley, a Washington union activist said, ”Do not ask for your rights; take them. There is something the matter with the right that is handed to you.” The time we’ve been waiting for is here! People young and old have had enough. In the past six years more and more occupations have sprung up. First it began with occupations of Rochester University, then NYU, The New School, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis, UC Irvine, Evergreen State College, and LSU. Now we are seeing it with the occupations of state capitols, Wisconsin state Capitol, Washington state Capitol, and today the capitols of California and Hawaii will be occupied. We are not alone! Mario Savio once famously said while standing on the steps of Berkeley, “There is a time when the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to throw yourself upon the gears, upon the wheels, upon the leavers, upon all the apparatuses! And you’ve go to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!” And that’s what this is all about. If we believe that we live in a democracy, then we’ve got to realize that living in a healthy democratic state means people from all classes, all races, all groups of society having a constant say and stake in what happens. This means we need to be in the streets. As it stands, simply voting every once in a while is no longer cutting it. We need to vote with our bodies in the streets of Washington and the halls of the Capitol. Let us lift our voices so that we might be heard. Let us no longer ask for our rights, but demand them! The time has come! The time is now! Come down to the state Capitol today at 2 p.m.! THE PEOPLE UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED!

@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan Boom! @news3jessica Gov’s office confirms it is Walker in recorded interview circulating online.
10:19am Feb 23

@millbot Emily Mills Of course Walker fell for Koch prank call. Guy is megalomaniac enough to expect random chatty calls from Koch brother re: #wiunion
10:56am Feb 23

@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan RT @ttagaris: So, Wisconsin legislature shuts down its comment line, but Governor immediately takes a call from a Kansas oil billionaire
12:40pm Feb 23

@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar I just chewed out a CNN reporter. He’s was setting up a story I thought was bullshit, and I said as much. He got pissed when I told him..
1:57pm Feb 23

@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht Almost 11pm. Lazy,overpaid teacher in front of me correcting huge stack of papers while observing legislators.She is clearly destroying WI
10:57pm Feb 23

@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht Just walked by WI protester soundly slumbering on floor of capitol w/copy of The Shock Doctrine next to them. Fitting. #wiunion @NaomiAKlein
2:04am Feb 24

resistance is spreading | 185

Yes! magazine, February 18, 2011

Sarah van Gelder

It took a while, but Wisconsin shows that the poor and middle class of the U.S. may be ready to push back. Madison may be only the beginning. The uprising that swept Tunisia, Egypt, and parts of Europe is showing signs of blossoming across the United States. In Wisconsin, public employees and their supporters are drawing the line at Governor Scott Walker’s plan to eliminate collective bargaining and unilaterally cut benefits. School teachers, university students, firefighters, and others descended on the Capitol in the tens of thousands, and even the Superbowl champion Green Bay Packers have weighed in against the bill. Protests against similar anti-union measures are ramping up in Ohio. Meanwhile, another protest movement aimed at protecting the poor and middle class is in the works. Cities around the country are preparing for a Feb. 26 Day of Action, “targeting corporate tax dodgers.” Learning from the UK The strategy picks up on the UK Uncut campaign, begun when a group meeting at a London pub—a firefighter, a nurse, a student, and others— came up with an idea that is part flash mob, part sit-in. In an article published in The Nation, reporter Johann Hari tells the story of the group’s frus-

resistance is spreading | 186 tration about government cutbacks. If Vodafone, one corporation with a huge back-tax bill, paid up, the cutbacks wouldn’t be needed. The group spread the word over social media, and held loud, impolite demonstrations. The idea quickly went viral, and flash mobs/sit-ins materialized at retail outlets across Britain, shutting many of them down. Now, a US Uncut group has formed and announced a Feb. 26 Day of Action here to coincide with UK Uncut’s planned protests on the same day. Already, a dozen local events are planned [UPDATE: As of Feb. 21, there are 30 local events listed on the US Uncut website]. Some groups are keeping quiet about their targets, but several are targeting Bank of America. The goal, according to a statement on the US Uncut website, is “to draw attention to the fact that Bank of America received $45 billion in government bailout funds while funneling its tax dollars into 115 offshore tax havens. ... And to highlight the fact that the poor and middle class are now paying for this largess through drastic government cuts.” The Politics of Class Warfare Across the country, the poor and middle class have suffered from the economic collapse: Jobs disappeared, mortgages sank underneath debt, and opportunities for a college education evaporated. Much of the bailout that was supposed to fix the economy went to the very institutions that caused the collapse. Many of these institutions are now using tax loopholes and offshore tax shelters to avoid paying taxes. The poor and middle class, those who didn’t cause the collapse but have felt the most pain from the poor economy, are now being asked to sacrifice again. It took some time for a political response to coalesce. The Tea Party movement was able to direct discontent away from the Wall Street titans who brought the economy to its knees. Funding from the Koch brothers’ petro-fortune along with fawning attention from Fox News helped get the libertarian movement off the ground. But progressives remained fragmented and few built active, organized bases. Many waited for President Barack Obama to act. The tide may now be turning. Inspired by people-power movements around the world, people in the United States are beginning to push back. The poor and middle class, those who didn’t cause the collapse but have felt the most pain from the poor economy, are now being

Polls show that Americans also want spending for education. We will organize. according to a Bloomberg poll. but fewer than one in five Americans say the federal budget deficit is their chief worry about the economy. and we will NOT be quiet!” . But the crowds in Madison and the momentum of US Uncut tell us that may be about to change. tax-paying families of this country are once again forced to sacrifice. and the package will cost $800 billion over just two years. and environmental protection. investment in infrastructure. 44 percent say they’re most worried about jobs. Congress cut the taxes anyway. according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center. Politicians are scurrying to cut spending. Yet spending in all these areas is up for drastic cuts in state and federal budgets. 59 percent of Americans opposed extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest. the corporations who have so richly profited from our labor. Likewise. polls have been one of the few places where anger at government policies that favor the rich while cutting service to the middle-class has been visible.resistance is spreading | 187 asked to sacrifice again. As a statement on the US Uncut website puts it: “We demand that before the hard-working. our patronage. we will mobilize. Until now. and our bailouts be compelled to pay their taxes and contribute their fair share to the continued prosperity of our nation. on the tax side.

11:37pm Feb 24 @legalEagle Legal Eagle @JErickson85 The bill passes the Assembly. please don’t stand on the Bob La Follette statue! Thanks! #wiunion 2:05pm Feb 24 @cabell Cabell Gathman Metro driver of this bus just honked #solidarity at firefighters for labor. But they will regret it. We responded with peace and love. #wiunion #killthisbill 2:08pm Feb 24 @scoutprime scoutprime This crowd is middle class America.@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin If you’re on the first floor of the Capitol. Discussion is now on passage of the bill. Senate must now approve. Looks like same crowd as a Packer game. 1:31am Feb 25 @thomasmbird Thomas Bird Don’t even know the full details of what they pulled procedurally. #wiunion #solidaritywi 6:20pm Feb 24 @WEaC WEAC RT @mikeelk: John Nichols takes the stage greeted to the sound of vuvuzuelas .quite a greeting for a labor journalist #wiunion 7:38pm Feb 24 @MikeElk Mike Elk Weather observers at antarctica sent a pizza to the protestors in the Capitol yesterday. #wiunion 7:55pm Feb 24 @jjoyce Jason Joyce Motion to remove speaker pro tem fails. #wiunion 2:30am Feb 25 .

the director of Prosperity Agenda and one of the organizers of the April 15 event. And this isn’t the only event of its kind in the works. In another typically excellent article. some seemingly spontaneous acts of desperation from citizens . This will be the first in a series of events we will organize to help give people control of their economic and political life. 2011 Allison Kilkenny For the past week. Resistance cells have been springing up across the country—some planned. I’ve been documenting the plethora of nonviolent protests breaking out across the country in opposition to the government’s proposed radical budget cuts. The necessities of most Americans are no longer being met. told me. The only way to change this is to shift the power to a culture of resistance.” Kevin Zeese. “The economy is controlled by a handful of economic elites. Chris Hedges recently declared that the resistance he’s been calling for has finally begun. who are now fighting back. Hedges announced he will be joining protesters in Union Square for a planned tax-weekend protest in front of Bank of America. The powerful elite got too greedy and took too much from average Americans.resistance is spreading | 189 The Nation. “The political process no longer works. April 4.” Hedges implores the one in six workers in this country who does not have a job and the “6 million people who have lost their homes to repossessions” to join the protest.

and human services group. who writes that citizens don’t need leaders. In New Hampshire. the participants heed the advice from Hedges. occurred in Mississippi. . or formal organizations. though this time protesters actually occupied the Capitol. directives from above.resistance is spreading | 190 at their breaking points. Albany is braced for a “Wisconsin-style” takeover of its Capitol. students in Illinois are organizing to oppose the House of Representatives’ recent actions cutting federally-funded Pell Grants by 15 percent in 2011. “We don’t need to waste our time appealing to the Democratic Party or writing letters to the editor. the Capitol witnessed budget-cut protests that organizers claim was the largest gathering of people on statehouse grounds in 25 years. The “People Power Rally” includes union members representing state university professors. health services. street.” In all of these cases of resistance. Meanwhile. who say the state budget will cripple classroom programs. A similar gathering. The “Pell Yes!” campaign is designed to heighten awareness of the issue and “help students take a stand.” That physical action of leaving the computer at home and occupying the bank. We need to physically get into the public square and create a mass movement. and lowincome New Yorkers. We don’t need more diatribes on the internet. public school teachers. or Capitol is beginning to happen.

! 11:54am Feb 25 @bluecheddar1 blue cheddar RT @gottalaff: RT @ddayen: John Nichols predicts 1 million ppl across the country tomorrow in solidarity with #wiunion 1:04pm Feb 25 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin Vols needed to live-stream Saturday 3:00 PM rally. 4:40pm Feb 25 @WEaC WEAC Great sign: Walker. Silence is requested in the rotunda at that time. Thank you @MoveOn @dailykos @ProgressivesUtd etc. Contact: brandzel@gmail. Sunday they’re easing this process down.com #wiunion 1:17pm Feb 25 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin ANNOUNCEMENT: Senator Taylor will be phoning at 3:00pm.m. #wiunion 2:45pm Feb 25 @Erickleefeld Eric Kleefeld NEWS: Capitol Police announce building will CLOSE 4 p.@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan Heartened to see all the emails today promoting Solidarity rallies across the country. #wiunion 9:51pm Feb 25 . Must have iphone (or similar) or laptop w/aircard. let’s be friends with benefits.

They decided to go for it. He had all the logos of the partner organizations in the background. It was late February. Daniel Mintz. just five days away—a huge undertaking in such a short amount of time. Van Jones wrote an article for The Huffington Post called “Introducing the American Dream Movement. 2011 My wife Lenore Palladino—who is MoveOn. They’ve been planning this since 2008!” .org’s field director—and I were on the train.org to the AFL-CIO. I overheard Lenore talking on the phone with MoveOn’s campaign director.” The response was overwhelming.” framing these rallies as the beginning of a larger fight. They were trying to figure out what they could do to help. They landed on the idea of organizing rallies that weekend. Feb. “There’s a movement here. but it doesn’t see itself most of the time. This was Monday. coming home from a visit with family. Glenn Beck did a special broadcast about it. The rallies would take place on Saturday. By Thursday.resistance is spreading | 192 Billy Wimsatt july 17. MoveOn’s field team and our partners had organized rallies at every state capitol. Feb. complete with permits and sound systems. The idea was to say. 21. so people across the country could have a way to show their solidarity with the Wisconsin protesters. 26. over 40 groups had signed on. and went into a bizarre rant attacking the American Dream: “How did Van Jones and MoveOn organize this in three days? The answer is they didn’t. at all 50 state capitols. from ColorOfChange. and protesters in Wisconsin had been occupying their state Capitol for a week. The next day.

It was unbelievable. awesome. but we haven’t had a similar breakthrough like Wisconsin..resistance is spreading | 193 But it really was organized in three days: I saw it with my own eyes.” The American Dream movement was born. Wisconsin was a turning point.” that’s come out of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. What the American Dream movement is doing is challenging us all to think about how to tell the story and brand all of this as one big effort. The answer is that we need to do this locally where we live. July 16-17. Lenore and her staff.000 people show up in 50 states. and partner organizations had 50. with labor.500 house meetings in more than 400 congressional . with so many groups. not including the 70. their networks of local volunteers. the Campaign for America’s Future. I think their original idea was to do a two-day rally. in the same way the Tea Party has done. Wisconsin has been the inspiration for these efforts. “How do we build on this movement?” The simple act of asking that question empowers each of us to take ownership. The attacks were so extreme. It’s bigger than any one of us. We need to connect it all in a way that lets people see that it’s all one struggle. We’re facing similar attacks everywhere. No one could have predicted it.000-100. Just this weekend.” and people began to put their entire lives on hold to spend a month living in the state Capitol. It was. It gave the progressive movement hope again. the American Dream movement organized more than 1.000 in Madison. “We Are One. And we have to do this everywhere. and has helped bring all of these various groups together as one. saying that we have to protect the progress of the 20th century and put forward a vision for a great 21st century where everyone gets to win together. By that Saturday. The question everyone is asking ourselves now is “How do we build on this momentum? How can we keep the movement expanding?” I think part of the answer lies in asking the question—and asking that question over and over again with millions of people. And there’s a parallel sister effort. Then someone tweeted “as long as it takes.. We’re all working together. people decided they had to go to extreme lengths to stand up for themselves. That’s what we need to do now. MoveOn sent signs: “Save The American Dream. Then they thought maybe it could extend to three days. The American Dream movement is working with MoveOn. the Center for Community Change.

” a progressive economic agenda written and voted on collectively by more than 100. And we woke up. we haven’t gone anywhere. Most people think. Van’s suggestion that we begin to see ourselves as part of a larger movement has been met with an incredible—really an unbelievable—chorus of “Yes. People forget. there’s now a profound openness to sticking together and trying this radical experiment of acting like we’re all on the same team. most recently. we’re here. 2006.000 people. but a whole series of these huge mobilizations happened with tens and even hundreds of thousands of people.com). It’s very exciting.” But instead of the usual mode that we operate in. and it’s been reawakened. that energy was redirected into the peace movement—and then eventually into voter mobilization in 2004. all over the world. we’re not dead. like someone kicked the sleeping giant. or our message. That’s when you first saw these really bold. and 2008 in Obama’s election—then it was finally demobilized in 2010 because we got confused by having Obama in office and started thinking that we didn’t still need to fight for our lives. blues and greens—that was really game-changing when it happened. our name. which also took place during a very dark time (during another Democratic administration) when we felt like the powers that be and the multinational corporations were destroying everything we loved. What happened in Wisconsin has been compared to the Seattle WTO protests.” It’s the same movement. or we’re going to come up with our own. of Please Don’t Bomb the Suburbs: A Midterm Report on My Generation and the Future of Our Super Movement.resistance is spreading | 194 districts nationwide to create a “Contract for the American Dream. Billy Wimsatt is Strategic Partnerships Director at Rebuild the Dream (RebuildtheDream. . unlikely coalitions—of turtles and Teamsters. I think that people are so terrified of what’s happening and there’s such a recognition that the good work we’ve been doing isn’t enough. let’s do that. When 9/11 happened. What the brave folks in Wisconsin did was say: “We’re back. that came together as part of a new global justice movement a decade ago. and the author.” which is pretty uncharacteristic of how the progressive movement has been operating up until this point. “We already have our brand.

@bluecheddar1 blue cheddar @weep4humanity The 4pm closing on Sunday is solid. thank him. so snowy. Sadly most of it isn’t union made. Hasn’t even started yet! #wiunion 2:29pm Feb 26 @legalEagle Legal Eagle Kids in snowpants are adorable. #wiunion @WEAC 2:43pm Feb 26 @micahuetricht Micah Uetricht Have no idea how big this crowd is.#wiunion 11:18am Feb 26 @MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan Starting to see #WIunion related merch show up on the street and in stores. That’s not conjecture. yet the streets are packed. So damn cold. #wiunion 3:37pm Feb 26 @micahuetricht Micah Uetricht Also interviewed guy with sign: “Republican against the bill. And here in large numbers. #SolidarityFAIL 11:42am Feb 26 @bluecheddar1 blue cheddar Sky thick w snowflakes rt now #wiunion 1:23pm Feb 26 @bluecheddar1 blue cheddar High of 15 degrees down here Wearing 2 pair of pants & earflap hat #wiunion 1:25pm Feb 26 @aFlCIO AFL-CIO RT @VanJones68: this isn’t about a shift to the political left or the political right. It’s incredible. #wiunion #wearewi 3:53pm Feb 26 . 2:22pm Feb 26 @millbot Emily Mills Hearing reports from Madison police of something like 100k people for rally. it is about a return to America’s moral center.” Everyone wanted to shake his hand.

women’s rights champions. faith leaders. On Saturday. all who love this country need to do everything possible to spread the “spirit of Madison” to all 50 states. LGBTQ stalwarts. But hope is returning to America—at last—thanks largely to the courageous stand of the heroes and heroines of Wisconsin. celebrities. Reinvigorated by the idealism and fighting spirit on display right now in America’s heartland. February 22. artists. and more—all standing up for what’s right. elected officials. the movement for “hope and change” has a rare. civil rights fighters. This does not mean we need to occupy 50 state capitols.resistance is spreading | 196 Yes! Magazine. But this weekend. things elsewhere are not yet that dire. community activists. students and youth. business leaders. veterans. everyone should prioritize responding and turning out in large numbers. the powers-that-be (in both parties) should see a rainbow force coming together: organized workers. immigrant rights defenders. second chance. those of us who longed for positive change have gone from hope to heartbreak.org and others have issued just this kind of call to action. academics. Over the next hours and days. environmentalists. 2011 Van Jones In the past 24 months. the best of America should rally on the steps of every statehouse in the union. It can renew itself and become again a national force with which to be reckoned. MoveOn. .

nurses. police officers. as tools. Our teachers. If a foreign power conspired to inflict this much damage on America’s first responders and essential infrastructure. We should rise up against it—in our millions. fair. too. That move greatly added to the problem he now wants to fix by attacking essential services with a meat axe. it is the American Dream that the GOP’s “slash and burn” agenda is killing off. and marrow.S. Both parties should be taking steps to solve the country’s problems in a balanced. A slew of GOP governors in places like Ohio are gearing up to take similar approaches. Nobody objects to politicians cutting budgetary fat. this very idea is on the GOP chopping block. how can they champion it here at home? . And we must rescue it now—or risk losing it forever. Something more vital is at stake: Our country needs a national movement to defend the American Dream itself. If deficits are truly the issue. bone. And the fight in Wisconsin creates the opportunity to build one. firefighters. justice. and rational way. and opportunity for all. We need a movement dedicated to renewing the idea that hard work pays in our country. After all. then raising taxes and cutting spending both should be on the table. And if a foreign dictator unilaterally announced that his nation’s workers no longer had a seat at the bargaining table in their own country. But the GOP program everywhere is so reckless that it would actually cut muscle. An attack on them is an attack on the backbone of America. we would see it as an act of war. This approach is both shortsighted and immoral. America will not make it through this crisis healthy and whole if—at the first sign of trouble—we are willing to throw away millions of our everyday heroes. If Republicans would oppose that kind of thuggery abroad. establishment would rightfully go bananas. and others make our communities and country strong. reducing the state’s revenues. the U. that you can make it if you try. Their daily work is essential to the smooth functioning and long-term success of our nation. Right now. But Wisconsin’s governor recently handed out massive corporate tax breaks. that America remains a land committed to dignity.resistance is spreading | 197 Defending—and Defining—the American Dream And we should announce that our renewed movement is more than just a mobilization to back unions or oppose illegitimate power grabs (as important as those agenda items are).

symbolizing “no taxation without representation. Along the way. the people in Wisconsin know that. populist right. The public has just been hypnotized into believing that the richest and most creative nation on Earth has only two choices in this crisis: massive austerity (as championed by the Tea Party/Republicans) or semi-massive austerity (as meekly offered by too many D. Their efforts could blossom into a compelling. And while our re-born movement needs to be as clear and bold as the Tea Parties. Fortunately. The Tea Party attached itself to only a single American principle. We need to call these outrageous plots what they are: unAmerican and unacceptable. America is not a poor country. it revived the political fortunes of the GOP. If we take a bold and courageous stand. we must base our efforts on a deeper set of American values. national force for the good—offering a powerful alternative to those false choices.” . In fact. Someone has to stand up for common sense and fairness. This Is Our “Tea Party” Moment It is time to draw a line in the sand—nationally. So they are fighting courageously. over time. they are assaults on the American Way itself. It is time to use all nonviolent means to defend the American people and our American principles from these abuses. we can win. we can learn many important lessons from the recent achievements of the libertarian. Make no mistake about it: this is our “Tea Party” moment—in a positive sense. They are not just assaults on workers. Democrats). a right-wing uprising was still able to smash public support for “new New Deal” economics. It is ridiculous. A popular outcry from the left could just as easily shatter the prevailing bipartisan consensus that America is suddenly a poor country that cannot possibly help its people meet our basic needs.resistance is spreading | 198 How can they accept for the American people what they would denounce for the people of any other nation on Earth? GOP governors in multiple states are advancing schemes to erase the long-standing rights of American employees to choose a union and bargain collectively. And it identifies itself with only one moment in our distant past: the Boston Tea Party.C. The truth is that we don’t live in Bangladesh or Malawi. Don’t forget: even after the Republican’s epic electoral defeat in 2008.

Reduce spending responsibly by cutting the real fat—like corporate welfare for military contractors. They are the common sense ideas that form the core of who we are as a nation. And the American ideal most in need of defense is our most essential one: the American Dream. once again. Our rising movement should stand for the full suite of American values and principles. and democracy) have gone largely undefended and unheralded in this recent crisis. including trade and currency policies that honor American workers and entrepreneurs. Guarantee the health. Americans turn TO each other—and not ON each other. • • • A Return to the Moral Center By standing up for dignity. Stand for the idea that. That ends—now. opportunity. once again. safety. in a crisis. Maintain the American Way by treating employees with dignity and respecting their right to a seat at the bargaining table. We can make America. to stand up for these values. fairness. We can rally Americans. big agriculture. and fair play. The steps needed to renew and redeem the American Dream are straightforward and simple: • • • • Increase revenue for America’s government sensibly by making Wall Street and the super-rich pay their fair share. equal opportunity. Rebuild the middle class—and pathways into it—by fighting for a “made in America” innovation and manufacturing agenda. and success of our children and communities by leaving the muscle and bone of America’s communities intact. Simultaneously protect the heart and soul of America—our teachers. the Wisconsin workers have found their way to America’s great moral center.resistance is spreading | 199 “American Dream” Movement Rooted in a Deeper Patriotism That is an important moment and concept. we reclaim what is best in our country. By standing with them. But the notion of negative liberty (“Don’t tread on me!”) is only one principle among many that makes our country great. nurses. and big oil. These are not radical notions. Other equally vital American values and ideals (like justice. a . and first responders.

and fair play. moral center. We will prevail because—in truth—we are not in a right-wing period of American history. equal opportunity.resistance is spreading | 200 land where it is safe for everyday people to dream. we reclaim what is best in our country. mark the beginning of the national movement to renew the American Dream and return us to the moral center— where everybody counts. we can take comfort in knowing that a great nation will ultimately pull its answers—not from its ideological extremes—but from its deep. Feb. April 15. . 2009. 26. And during times like these. By standing with them. By standing up for dignity. the Wisconsin workers have found their way to America’s great moral center. and everybody matters. Let Saturday. the way back home. We are simply in a volatile period. nor are we in a left-wing period. They have shown us all. at last. marked the beginning of the national movement to remember the Tea Party and pull America to the ideological right. 2011.

#aslONGasIttakEs .

@MikeElk Madison Teachers just voted to go on general strike tomorrow #notmywi .

Yet there is a contingent of activists who have taken issue with the way Democrats and union leaders have channeled the remarkable momentum of the uprising into the narrow and limited sphere of electoral politics.mounting an historic effort to recall six Wisconsin Republican state senators from office is a radical act. there remain larger questions of power. From the attempts to negotiate a wind-down of the Capitol occupation to the discussions of what comes next. and the meaning of the movement that has grown out of the Wisconsin struggle. control. They object to politicians and union leaders’ efforts to harness and sanitize the energy of a spontaneous movement toward their own longstanding objectives. . they felt that union leaders blinked by failing to call a general strike or use civil disobedience to continue or even escalate the struggle. And in the face of Governor Scott Walker’s extreme actions. radical grassroots activists saw in the uprising the potential to bring about fundamental change to larger political and economic systems. Rather than simply trying to shift the balance of power from one party to another. only four previous recalls have ever been attempted. In an uprising marked by diversity and solidarity. these competing visions created an undercurrent of tension throughout. In all of Wisconsin history.

ly/h57ikr #WIunion #WeAreWI 6:39pm Feb 26 @bluecheddar1 blue cheddar @purrplecatmama Now home. all! #wiunion #wearewi 5:19pm Feb 26 @bluecheddar1 blue cheddar Guy’s sign has shoes hanging from it. We’ve multiplied. Completely unfazed. when police kick folks out #wiunion 8:10pm Feb 26 . Amazing turn-out. #wiunion #wearewi 4:05pm Feb 26 @millbot Emily Mills Inspired by huge turnout today in Madison & solidarity rallies all over country. God love you. We’re still here. Biggest rally turnout in support of workers to date. 6:15pm Feb 26 @cabell Cabell Gathman I’ve heard estimates up to 150K & I’d believe it. people just getting covered in a heavy snow.@millbot Emily Mills Coldest.000! http://bit. And you can close the Capitol tomorrow. RT @AFLCIO: RT @wisaflcio: More than 100. Thanks for keeping it up. #wiunion 7:07pm Feb 26 @micahuetricht Micah Uetricht Town hall mtg going on in capitol rotunda. but our voices won’t stop. Damn cold there. snowiest day of the last two weeks. says: Obama-Here’s yer comfortable shoes Where are you? 6:10pm Feb 26 @legalEagle Legal Eagle Day 13. Trying to get a sense of what will happen tomorrow at 4pm. Wisconsin.

debated strategies and ideas.the revolution will not be phonebanked | 205 Elizabeth Wrigley-Field March 9. .org The round-the-clock occupation of the Wisconsin state Capitol ended March 3 amid stark strategic debates on how to take the struggle forward. 2011 Adapted from an article first published at SocialistWorker. As a proponent of the later approach. On one side is the strategy backed by the largest unions and organizations: exclusive focus on elections to recall Republican state senators. For 16 days. the Capitol occupation had been the most visible symbol of the remarkable series of protests for workers’ rights in Wisconsin and a focal point for solidarity from around the world. I want to share how these debates played out at the crucial moments that determined when and how the Capitol occupation would continue. it was also the space where activists met one another. On the other are those of us who see the central strategic issue as creating new networks focused on escalating direct. The fault lines of that debate continue to separate two poles of the movement in Wisconsin today. That occupation played a crucial role in maintaining the momentum of the protests after Madison teachers ended their sickout and returned to work during the second week of protests. mass pressure on the state government and its corporate backers. and organized. At a more practical level.

Feb.the revolution will not be phonebanked | 206 With the occupation now over. and the activists who saw themselves as running the Capitol occupation directed everyone to leave as ordered by the police at 4 p. deadline approached.m. But rather than follow Hulsey out of the Capitol. which is to follow me out of that door at 4 o’ clock. and the building would remain ours. In the course of this effort. Democratic state Rep. in part due to Governor Scott Walker’s illegal restrictions on access to the building. In this context. we met and joined with other small groups .m. on Thursday. no one would be arrested. this divergence took the form of struggle for democracy within the movement as much as for the Capitol itself. activists are regrouping and developing new strategies. March 3. On Feb. 27.. But the last five days of the occupation— in particular. Brett Hulsey sauntered past a long line of people waiting to speak and occupied the microphone for 12 minutes. According to Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs. Democrats. Union staffers and other activists widely presented the situation as though all decisions were made: The building would inevitably be shut down and all those left in it arrested. “And now I want you to do the most important thing in this campaign. while a pre-selected group was to stay behind to be arrested with a carefully constructed media message.” Hulsey’s lengthy speech was facilitated by self-appointed MCs who had taken control of the building’s main microphones as the deadline neared. a small group of activists had organized a different strategy: Pack the building with people refusing to leave at the deadline in the hopes that if the numbers were large enough. As the 4 p. The division appeared most sharply on the first day that the police ordered the Capitol cleared—Sunday. one told me he was “just doing what he was told” though he couldn’t say who had told him to do what. labor leaders and the police had negotiated this exit plan—though this was news to many union members and activists involved in the occupation. the debates over when and how to stay or leave—revealed differences that will inform the strategies to come. most labor union leaders and staffers. those of us who fought to continue the occupation felt that we were fighting just as much for democracy within the movement as we were to continue the occupation. telling the crowd. and the only decision left was whether to join the planned protests—on its terms—or to leave quietly. 27—and the last day of the 16-day continuous occupation.

deadline hit. Then the activists moved to the other side again. this group organized to bring crowds of people inside the Capitol to the building’s entrances to protest the doors being closed to the outside. On the last day of the occupation. which later began calling itself A People’s Movement. The contingents chanting. the core of activists inside the building had dwindled to fewer than 50 people. Over several days. activists tested the limits of the police and developed their own confidence and initiative. March 1. after police set up “checkpoints” in the building. “Let them in!” helped to focus anger at the Capitol being closed.the revolution will not be phonebanked | 207 with the same goal. “It was big because they said.’ and then we . This was in violation of an explicit promise made to protesters by Chief Tubbs that the building would reopen as usual the following morning. Correctly guessing that the police would prevent people from entering the building as the afternoon wore on. Activists knew they could not hold on indefinitely in these circumstances. ‘You can’t cross this line. including many union members.m. beginning the morning after the Feb. hundreds of activists. This provoked debate inside the building about whether resisting police directives threatened the occupation—a debate that ended after half an hour. so discussions inside the building turned to how to resist the police clampdown. Capitol Police decided to avoid arrests by leaving the building open: a huge victory for protesters. rather than acceptance of the restrictions coming from the police. establishing that even though they were flagrantly violating the rules. instead of leaving. as thousands of others—in violation of the state Constitution—were kept from joining them by restrictions put on entering the Capitol. On Tuesday. the same constellations of forces emerged. a small group of protesters moved to sit just outside the allowed area. when the police decided to respond by moving the rope barrier so that those sitting were once again inside it. By this time. March 3. decided to stay inside the Capitol. the police did not intend to arrest them. One network organized in the Capitol. After having claimed that arrest was imminent. As Student Labor Action Coalition member Scot McCullough explained. 27 victory. As the 4 p. By Thursday. had met over several days and headed into Sunday with a plan to try to keep the building open. Walker had kept the building under illegal lockdown for four days.

before Rep. and the lack of an effective plan to resist. . Walker’s illegal restrictions on entry.the revolution will not be phonebanked | 208 did. To get protesters inside the building despite police efforts to limit access. the group inside advocating to stay was too small to effectively influence what happened. Late that night. 27. As most people filed out. Feb. the small group remaining in the Capitol marched out singing. The mood was jubilant—for about 15 minutes. greeted by hundreds of supporters.. outside the courtroom. The direct action that had brought hundreds into the Capitol only hours before the occupation ended.. This time. Hundreds of union members streamed into the statehouse in the minutes before police managed to shut the doors again. As the Capitol became more restricted. No one can fault activists—some of whom had been in the Capitol continuously for four days or longer—for choosing to leave on March 3. and the smaller actions inside the Capitol last week showed that activists could effectively resist police orders. faced with a court order ordering them to leave. making it hard for activists to formulate longer-term strategies. the key moment was not the decision to leave the Capitol late on Thursday night. a small group inside rushed an under-guarded Capitol door and held it open at the precise moment that thousands of people had gathered for a “No Concessions” rally on the other side. .” On Thursday. Hulsey returned to lead people out once again. after hours of discussion. But this lesson was absorbed too late to bring sufficient people into the Capitol to hold it in the face of the decision of much of organized labor to scuttle the occupation. the successful occupation on the night of Sunday. holding the space increasingly became a source of exhaustion rather than of creativity and networking. and by this point it was clear that to fully cooperate with the police was incompatible with maintaining the occupation. and they didn’t do anything. activists hatched a more daring plan. In that sense. it was a long series of decisions up to that point that led to the end of the occupation: activists accepting every restriction made by the police. Rather. March 3. The 16-day occupation of the Capitol had ended. what remained was a core of only about 20 activists. We showed that the police don’t have supreme rule here.

Instead of building the mass movement to stop the cuts now. Thus. This reflects a deep distrust of rank-and-file workers and the power of their self-organization. This has been seen from the regular mass demonstrations to the self-organization of Capitol City. In fact. maintaining unions’ legal existence—and their campaign contributions. But that power is what has propelled the movement forward over the last three weeks in Wisconsin. hopeful. union leaders preferred to split the March 5 rally rather than let Michael Moore speak from their stage. At best. it will be almost impossible to reverse those cuts once they’ve passed. A recall effort could put pressure on Republican legislators to back away from their harshest demands. The unions’ strategy is to focus everything on efforts to recall the Republican senators. And in practice. But given that Walker will remain in office and the state Assembly will remain in Republican hands. from the constant—and frankly condescending—admonitions to “be peaceful” to the attempts to carefully manage a media message. the Democrats and union leaders are willing to take the risk of the cuts going through. The idea is that special elections can elect Democrats who will modify Walker’s attacks on collective bargaining. spearheaded by teachers. based on the hope that they will recapture the state Senate in a few months’ time. they will be phone-bankers and signature-gatherers for an electoral campaign focused in eight relatively conservative districts. But it is no substitute for the kind of struggles—the teachers’ sickouts and the Capitol occupation—that have propelled the struggle forward. The cost of the Democrats’ strategy of counterposing recall elections to mass action can already be seen. It was direct action by large numbers of people who occupied the Capitol. for fear that he’d call for a general strike. The most effective strategy for building a new labor movement will involve organizing the direct power of the masses of angry. fright- .the revolution will not be phonebanked | 209 The fault lines exposed in the Capitol debates will reassert themselves in the post-occupation strategies for taking the movement forward. the push for the recall strategy is explicitly being counterposed to action. the recall strategy relegates the hundreds of thousands of people who have protested Walker’s so-called “budget-repair” bill to an almost wholly passive role. when the hundreds of us sleeping in the Capitol managed to run it better than normal.

Elizabeth Wrigley-Field is a graduate student at the University of WisconsinMadison and a member of the Teaching Assistants’ Association.the revolution will not be phonebanked | 210 ened and inspired people whose lives Walker is planning to wreck. . a labor movement that fights—or fritter it away because of the fear that things will get out of hand. That vision can sometimes feel impossible to realize. A disruption serious enough to make Walker and his corporate backers think twice would have to involve mass action that could shut down multiple sectors of the state at once. the Wisconsin Resists coalition. The teachers gave us a glimpse of that power when they shut down schools for four days and led the blockade of the state Legislature that launched the occupation of the Capitol. But occupying the Capitol for over two weeks sounded just as crazy—before we did it. The question being posed to all of us in Wisconsin is whether we are going to make the most of this historic opportunity and try to organize. But all this hasn’t been enough to stop Walker. even to those of us who favor it. from the bottom up. and the International Socialist Organization.

#wiunion #notmywi #wearewi 11:03am Feb 27 @cabell Cabell Gathman Members of marginalized groups (POC. etc. 10:05am Feb 27 @micahuetricht Micah Uetricht Word from several sources in capitol is if there are enough protesters in building.@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht Church service about to start in the rotunda. 2:43pm Feb 27 @ddayen David Dayen Release from protesters: “citizens to remain in Capitol” more in a minute #wiunion 2:54pm Feb 27 .) risk greater consequences for civil disobedience. how is that open? #wiunion 2:27pm Feb 27 @legalEagle Legal Eagle I haven’t felt this rushed and panicky since my first contested hearing. low-income. #wiunion #wearewi 1:40pm Feb 27 @MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan RT @ddayen: My sense is that the Capitol police don’t quite know yet how they will clear this building #wiunion 1:44pm Feb 27 @legalEagle Legal Eagle If the Capitol is “open to the public” until 4. police won’t arrest them all. but they won’t let the public in. LGBTQ. #WeAreWI 1:15pm Feb 27 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin They are restricting access to the Capitol. Line formed at the King Street entrance.

Wang and Nicolas Lampert April 28. and contradictions loom within a movement that can be described as painfully moderate. the GOP. challenges. But the outlook is not entirely optimistic. The Wisconsin uprising has reflected the strengths and weaknesses of the organized labor movement. and most of all. averse to calling a strike. In the meantime. Organized labor has mobilized huge numbers of people and demonstrated the collective power of public and private unions to combat Governor Scott Walker. maybe longer. Proposition Press. The “budget-repair” bill that will end collective bargaining rights for most public employees in Wisconsin is currently tied up in the courts. Labor leadership has instead curtailed a movement that had real potential to defeat Walker and real potential to demand . 2011 Versions of this essay were originally published on Daily Kos. Wisconsin citizens have arisen and protested in massive numbers. allergic to direct action and civil disobedience. and the Justseeds blog. But the movement has also become sadly reflective of the labor’s leaders— cautious. Legal challenges will likely go on for several months. but where it goes from here is unclear. The sleeping giant that is the labor movement plus working class solidarity has awoken. Two months into the Wisconsin uprising a movement still exists. and corporate greed.the revolution will not be phonebanked | 212 Dan S. risks.

the revolution will not be phonebanked | 213 and create a more just and equal society, and transformed it into a movement that has become all about protest marches, recall efforts, and votes for Democrats. This is a shame. For the first week, the Wisconsin uprising was all about taking risks, the eminent power of self-organized action, and the snowballing impacts of tactical escalation. Even the flight of Wisconsin’s 14 Democratic senators to Illinois—to break the quorum needed for the Legislature to vote on the union-busting bill—was an act of aggression, a true counterattack that served as an escalation. Every escalation risks a loss of support, a desertion of the nervous, the unsure, and the moderate. But in each of the earlier escalations—the student walkouts, teachers’ sickouts, the Capitol occupation, resolve stiffened and excitement grew massively. But precisely because these 14 Democratic senators are elected officials, their move opened up a whole front of legalistic minutiae, opaque and inaccessible to the vast majority of the citizenry. At the same time, as a media storyline, the 14 drowned out the other risk-taking constituencies— rank-and-file union members, non-obedient law enforcement workers, unorganized private-sector workers, and high school, college, and graduate students. As movement voices, the Senate Democrats presented solutions in terms of legislative compromise and electoral strategy. While we credit them for their timely move, for all the above reasons, the flight of the 14—i.e., inserting themselves into the movement—in hindsight represents a structural moderation from within the movement. This was confirmed when some of the returning 14 Democratic senators spoke to more than 150,000 people who gathered around the Capitol for a huge rally on Saturday, March 12. They spoke almost exclusively of the movement as an electoral effort, and neglected to credit the chain of escalations that made their own move possible. For us, the lesson of the day was that the grassroots would do well by refraining from over-valorizing the 14. And we would do better by reflecting on the actions of fellow workers and global citizens in Egypt who inspired us during the first week—the ones who peacefully toppled a 30-year autocrat partly thanks to an unwavering general strike. In times like this, when public unions are fighting for their very existence, and a wide range of constituencies face attacks that threaten to undo decades of hard-earned progress, all tactics are needed to win, including strikes and direct action. No action can be ruled out. From the point of view of the raging non-unionized grassroots and

the revolution will not be phonebanked | 214 many rank-and-file union members, a one-day strike should have been called on the day that Walker signed the anti-union bill. The hot potato then would have been thrown back into Walker’s hands, confronting him with the queasiness of having to carry out his stated threats to fire public workers. But it did not happen. The union leadership responded with words, not actions, thereby severing the chain of escalations, and accepting defeat. By this time the movement had for all practical purposes become identified, including from within, as union-led, leaving the non-union grassroots with nowhere to channel their outrage, energy, and willingness to share risk. A precious historic opportunity was lost. What we’ve been reminded of in Wisconsin over the last two months is that once started, following through on the chain of escalations gives us a better chance of winning specific battles and puts our opposition on the defensive—as long as we have the courage, vision, and creativity to increase the pressure when the opportunities present themselves. Strategically speaking, the events in the chain of escalation itself are what generate the spaces for new possibilities, new ways of relating to each other as citizens, the beginnings of the democracy we want, and the ground on which new leaders and new ideas emerge from the grassroots. Electoral politics alone do not accomplish this. Neither do the cautious tactics of labor leaders. Ask yourself, when has labor won a significant victory without calling a strike? And when has a social justice movement won significant demands without the one-two punch of electoral politics combined with civil disobedience and actions that led to mass arrests? Now that the chain has been broken and the conservatives have prevailed for the moment, the question is how to restart a series of meaningfully oppositional actions. In other words, if this movement is to be sustained, it can no longer be exclusively or even primarily about unions, collective bargaining, or the GOP’s greed and lies, as egregious as they are. In order to win, we need to imagine and articulate the society that we want to live in, not simply fight defensively against the latest round of GOP/corporate attacks. The Wisconsin uprising must evolve into a movement that speaks to the priorities of immigrants and the inner-city poor, the unorganized private-sector workers, the struggling farm communities, the unemployed, and the incarcerated—as loudly as it speaks to the concerns of the unionized. We need to ask what it would take to make this movement truly popular. We have the power of numbers but we remain

the revolution will not be phonebanked | 215 separated by walls of division. As we move forward we need to examine why overly cautious labor leaders and unimaginative Democrats took the reins of a movement that held such promise, and how we let them. We urge our fellow citizens and grassroots activists to reserve our power separately from the “leadership” and prepare for the next uprising, the one that will erupt in a day, a week, a month, or years down the road—the one in which we do not let the opportunity slip away. Dan S. Wang is a writer and artist who lives in Madison and works at Columbia College in Chicago, where he is a member of the part-time faculty union (PFAC). Nicolas Lampert is a Milwaukee-based activist-artist who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and belongs to the TAUMP union (American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin). He is a member of the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative (www.Justseeds.org).

@andrewkroll Andy Kroll T-minus fifteen mins until #wiunion protesters scheduled to be moved out... #wearewi
3:15pm Feb 27

@evale72 evale72 The voice you hear is the our advisers instructing the crowd on their legal options and non violent civil disobedience tactics.
3:16pm Feb 27

@legalEagle Legal Eagle Hello awesome tweeps: I’m not PLANNING to get arrested. Just prepared for all contingencies. Thanks for your concern. #wiunion
3:27pm Feb 27

@andrewkroll Andy Kroll RT @MikeElk: When arrests begin, in capitol we will play Dr King’s final speech where he was in Memphis to support AFSCME sanitation workers
3:28pm Feb 27

@ddayen David Dayen People planning on not leaving holding up their hands #wiunion
3:40pm Feb 27

@micahuetricht Micah Uetricht All of a sudden press is everywhere. all it took was a few hundred people ready to get arrested. #wiunion #wearewi
3:49pm Feb 27

@ddayen David Dayen Chant “stand our ground” #wiunion
3:51pm Feb 27

@evale72 evale72 RT @brandzel 3rd police officer in a row whose simply said, “thank you for being here”. Something very unusual is happening..
3:56pm Feb 27

@ddayen David Dayen Countdown to 4:00 #wiunion
3:59pm Feb 27

the revolution will not be phonebanked | 217

Against the Current, May/June, 2011

Kim Moody

“I believe leaders of the business community, with few exceptions, have chosen to wage a one-sided class war in this country...” – Doug Fraser, UAW President, 1978 “...20 years or so down the road we’ll be talking about the ‘before Wisconsin’ and ‘after Wisconsin’ movements.” – Tom Juravich, labor organizer and researcher 2011 “...the organization does not supply the troops for the struggle, but the struggle, in an ever growing degree, supplies recruits for the organization.” – Rosa Luxemburg, The Mass Strike, 1906 As the last decade or more has demonstrated, unions don’t grow incrementally as a result of their patient, even persistent efforts to recruit. Rather, unions grow more or less rapidly in periods of intense conflict and labor upheaval. Such was the clear experience of the 1930s. In a somewhat more uneven fashion, the period from the mid-1960s through the 1970s saw rising numbers of strikes, increased rank-and-file rebellion, and the addition of 4 million members to the ranks of organized labor. While some level of organization is required to spark a rise in labor’s side of the class struggle, Rosa Luxemburg was essentially right that it is “the struggle, in an ever growing degree, (that) supplies recruits.” The

the occupations. according to Bureau of National Affairs reports. Municipal employees in Madison hadn’t had a wage increase for three years. the average negotiated first-year wage increase was 3. across the Midwest. for example. Rather it is that these events. Real wages of Wisconsin public employees. of course. to injury was added insult.3 percent. with all the net loss in the private sector. refreshing as that is. the recent Great Recession dealt another blow to a very weakened labor movement. are the consequence of countless grassroots initiatives—of worker self-activity—that carried these events beyond what those who might have initiated them had ever imagined possible. In 2009 and 2010. may also be what impels people to rebellion. The Great Recession brought still more pressure on those with jobs. even though the research arm of the National Nurses United found that two-thirds of Wisconsin corporations paid no taxes. the national outpouring. the rebellion that began with Wisconsin’s public workers—against one of the most far-reaching attacks on workers’ rights in some time—came as a result of anger building after years of pressure on public employees all across the nation. Collective bargaining outcomes followed suit. which have brought about labor’s retreats and stalemates. So. It’s not just that the demonstrations have been big and bold. I’m suggesting here that these same attacks and erosions of power. and by the first nine months of 2010 to 1. the unions lost 1. or perhaps desirable. Not surprisingly. perhaps hundreds of thousands into action. are not unique to public-sector workers.6 percent. In 2008. Crisis and Pressure These kinds of pressures. State and . which they certainly have been.7 percent.4 million members. the rallying of non-union supporters. after a couple of years of moderate growth. By 2009 it had sunk to 2. But we are to imagine that they are to blame for the state’s newly manufactured deficit. have already ignited a spark that has drawn tens. Nor is it that fairly high-placed union leaders called for actions. the growing numbers. and indeed around the country.the revolution will not be phonebanked | 218 February–March events in Wisconsin. while continuing the shift of the workforce as a whole to lower-paid work. grew by less than 1 percent from 1999 through 2009. Enormous pressures of work intensification have joined slumping income and attacks on benefits of all kinds. Like the beginnings of upsurge in earlier times.

This may well be what has happened in Wisconsin and around the country in early 2011. A few may join the largely middle-class Tea Party movement. particularly when joined by falling incomes. it might be concluded that Doug Fraser’s “one-sided class war” was still the reality. the historically and culturally acceptable living standard for the “average” worker.0 percent in 2009 and 1. Benefits had been eroding for some time.2 percent in 2008 to 2. but here too erosion has been at work as more workers pay more in deductibles.e. after the recession of 2000–01. With strikes at an all-time low. Not surprisingly. The Great Recession provided still another opportunity to increase this rate even more. much higher than even the rate of the 1983–89 recovery. as production grew faster than hiring. of course. The results among different groups of workers varied. and in the mid1960s as the impact of what Mike Davis calls “the management offensive of 1958–63” took its toll. but the domestic profits of the non-financial sector where profits soared 40 percent in that period.. but what seemed to be the object of capital was a gradual redefinition of what “subsistence” would amount to in the Marxist sense. But sooner or later the anger is likely to find the real culprits and explode. The percentage of workers with employer-provided health insurance fell from over 68 percent in 2000 to just under 62 percent in 2008.3 percent in the first nine months of 2010. union workers are more likely to have such coverage.2 percent a year. an increase of 28 percent over the year before. i. a little over 100 in 2009 according to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.7 trillion in the third quarter of 2010. This is what happened in the 1930s after five years of speed-up and wage cuts. or even premiums.the revolution will not be phonebanked | 219 local public-workers did even worse as first-year increases dropped from 3. co-pays. And it was not the financial sector that brought these new profits. Of course. . In this latter year 35 percent of all agreements contained no first-year wage increase. This may be expressed in both negative and positive ways. Disgusted union voters stay home or even vote for Republicans. But prolonged periods of massive pressure on work. From 2002–2007 productivity grew by 2. Ongoing increases in the intensity of work had become a regular feature of the 2000s. corporate profits hit an all-time high at $1. and by 2009 only 20 percent of all workers still had a defined benefit pension. as in 2010. tend to build resentment and anger.

compared to 19.the revolution will not be phonebanked | 220 Create Crisis. as though these were the measure of everything. Thus the annual share of after-tax profit as a proportion of total profits rose from 54–55 percent in the 1960s and 1970s to two-thirds in the 1990s and 2000s.8 percent in the private sector. as one study by the Economic Policy Institute shows. are saying in ads and elsewhere that public-sector workers aren’t sacrificing like everyone else (everyone?). Much of this was simply the huge rise in the rate of surplus value extracted from the working class over this period (see “Crisis and Potential in Labor’s Wars. compared to 7 percent to 9. Newsweek ran a 2010 cover suggesting the solution to poor education was to fire poor teachers.7 percent for those in the private sector. based on leaked test scores. Wisconsin public workers have not seen any real increase in weekly wages for a decade. Blame the Workers The fiscal crisis that the states find themselves in today has to be understood in the context of the massive shift of income that occurred in the last 30 years or so.4 percent in 2006. Last August the Los Angeles Times rated thousands of teachers as bad.7 percent of total public-sector compensation goes to non-wage benefits. including the billionaire Tea Party backers David and Charles Koch and the far-right business group Club for Growth Wisconsin. but some of this shift unquestionably derives from the reduction of taxes on corporate America. and recently no group of public workers has been more systematically targeted than teachers. Yet Walker and his big business allies. At the state level corporate taxes fell from 9. but they pay more for them: 26.7 percent less in hourly terms. Wisconsin public employees make 14. .” Against the Current No.5 and 4.4 to 22.9 percent.7 percent in 2006.9 percent of compensation for public employees. This underlying source of state fiscal problems would be enhanced in Wisconsin by the actions of Governor Scott Walker. Campaign after campaign has claimed that “bad teachers” are to blame for America’s slumping test results. They have better benefits. 145. Demonizing public employees has been a nationwide campaign for some time.2 percent less than comparable private-sector workers in annual wages and 10. The comparable figures for retirement benefits are 8 percent to between 2. Indeed. March/April 2010). Health insurance accounts for 12. as labor income shrank from 73.9 percent in 1979 to 70.7 percent of total (non-federal) receipts in 1970s to 6. As noted above.

goes back even farther. this is about power. but eliminates dues checkoff and requires an annual decertification vote. This is. It was known that Walker has ballooned the deficit for the next fiscal year. Indeed the problem in Wisconsin. County. Walker’s entire case for his draconian anti-union legislation rests on the assertion that public workers are to blame for the state’s deficits. Furthermore. class power. not budgets. nationally between 2000 and 2006 teachers’ salaries have fallen behind inflation by 3 percent. and Municipal Employees . their wages and benefits said to be “unsustainable. a fact that in itself explains much about the origins of the fight in Wisconsin. As any number of commentators have argued. above all the unusually militant responses of the state’s top level union officials.600 a year less than the national average. Wisconsin teachers actually make $2. a cluster of very well-off culprits. Dynamics of the Struggle The call for escalating demonstrations beginning on Tuesday. it also had a culprit—in fact. of course. Public-worker anger not only had more fuel. which he has vowed to cut. The drive to deprive teachers of seniority and collective bargaining has gained momentum. but that the workers’ ability to resist such cuts be removed entirely. Teachers. mainly by handing out $140 million to various business and special-interest groups. Had he not done this. played a big role in the Wisconsin rebellion. despite the fact that states with strong teachers’ unions and collective bargaining are among the highest scoring. Nevertheless. along with other newly elected Republican governors and state lawmakers. 15 from the local American Federation of State. are on a rampage to destroy public-sector unions and collective bargaining. On top of anger about their own economic reality is the fact that Wisconsin’s public-sector workers know they are not the source of the deficits. as in many states and within the federal government. an attack on the unions as institutions. Feb.” So it is necessary not only that these should be cut. Walker. a combination that would certainly destabilize most unions.the revolution will not be phonebanked | 221 President Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” has also demonized teachers. in short. there would be no crisis with which to beat up the state’s public employees. His legislation not only limits collective bargaining to wages. A study done by the research arm of the National Nurses United showed that two-thirds of Wisconsin corporations had paid no taxes for years.

the union officialdom had called into being a movement that exceeded its expectation or intentions. 17 certainly did something out of character. The escalating numbers.the revolution will not be phonebanked | 222 (AFSCME). with the institutional defense foremost in mind. if understandable. 15. The threat to the very institution of unionism was enough to stir the top leaders to action. and then cities around the country. Whatever the narrow. rising to 30.” and pointed to the roles of volunteers in organizing the overnight occupations of the Capitol. Observers called the growing demonstrations and occupations “spontaneous. reaching a peak of perhaps 100. militant tactics were tied to conventional strategies— lobbying to stop the bill. This truly mass movement has had unexpected and unconventional results. Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT). 2001). John Nichols tells us in The Nation (Feb. After two days they would call off the sickout. The 14 Democrats who left the Capitol for Illinois on Feb. the occupation of the Capitol’s rotunda night after night by workers and students. beyond the official union goals. As the crisis deepened. the halls of the statehouse. Local unions took turns volunteering for “sleepover” duty on different nights.000 on Saturday. “not merely to protest but to lobby. Car pools from around the state and then from out-of-state were organized by local unions. was meant specifically to protest the bill that was to be introduced on that Thursday. groups of activists. AFSCME President Gerald McEntee came to Madison on the first day. the growing out-of-state contingents. all spoke of grassroots initiatives. for some.000 on Saturday the 26. they had set something in motion that would go far beyond conventional lobbying or protest and even.” In other words. The fact that they remained out-of-state for as long as they did was also a consequence of the mass movement—they had looked their electoral base in the eye and saw it . including an 8 percent wage cut.000 on Friday the 18 and then 70. Furthermore. The dynamics of class conflict had revealed themselves for all to see. WEAC took a step further and urged its members to call in sick and rally in Madison. objectives and means the top officials had in mind. In short. A lobby and demonstration became a major disruption that drew thousands from their jobs into the streets of Madison. and even individuals. these leaders agreed in advance to grant Walker the cuts he was asking.

Certainly the thousands who participated in one way or . If in the end. the idea came from an on-the-ground central labor council composed of local union delegates caught up in the spirit of rebellion. “Which side are you on?” goes the old song and by almost two to one the public. The resolution passed with the votes of all but one of its 97 affiliates in both the public and private sectors. The fight against the anti-union laws proposed in several states didn’t actually begin in Wisconsin. The CWA. To the 400 or so Minnesotans who stormed their state Legislature the week before belongs that honor. sided with the movement against the governor. This led to a demonstration explicitly opposing the state labor leaders’ agreement to accept Walker’s cuts. A committee was set up to consult with European union about how they organize such strikes. for example. drew 7. both in Wisconsin and nationally. led off by a New Orleansstyle brass band.000 T-Mobile workers. The march was addressed by Jim Cavanaugh.” as labor analyst Harley Shaiken put it.the revolution will not be phonebanked | 223 demanding action.000 people. General strike or not. which played a central role throughout the movement. Perhaps less desired by some union officials was the anti-concessions wing of the movement that developed around the National Nurses United (NNU). the mass movement galvanized public opinion. including the 8 percent wage reduction and the cut which would cost 70. But it was the massive nature of events in Wisconsin that brought union members into the streets across the entire nation on Feb. On March 3 a no-concessions “funeral” march. For one thing. the movement could not stop the Republicans from ramming through their bill. and elsewhere launched their own demonstrations and occupations of resistance. Indiana. intends to recruit veterans of the struggles in Wisconsin. president of the South Central Federation of Labor (SCFL). Then there was the resolution passed by SCFL calling for education and preparation for a general strike if the legislation passed. 26 in support of their struggle. Some union leaders seem genuinely inspired. The speculation on the impact of all of this ranges from “D-Day” to “Dunkirk. And of course workers and their unions in Ohio. Indiana’s Democratic legislators took the cue and did the same. The dynamics of the struggle also pushed past the expectations and intentions of most top union officials in at least three other ways.000 people Medicaid coverage. it did disrupt politics-as-usual to an extent rarely seen in the United States. Ohio and Indiana to help them organize 20.

as Luxemburg put it. The almost congenital proclivity of America’s top labor leaders to turn progressive mood swings into a conventional. This must not. it is possible that this could become the national debate it needs to be—perhaps even to the point of reviving the EFCA as an issue in the 2012 elections.the revolution will not be phonebanked | 224 another have not only been inspired.” There are at least two ways in which the recent events. and workplaces (union or not) of the nation. labor rights are seldom considered media-worthy despite the alarming state into which they have fallen or been pushed. Both these possibilities depend to a dangerous degree on the ability of the labor officialdom to provide leadership. it is mass action that alters the political agenda in U. The first is the obvious possibility that thousands of people who participated and/or were inspired by the Wisconsin upsurge will become the volunteer army that U. . be just another election techno-mobilization a la 2008. but have learned much about the reality of class politics in America. can aid this process. though no doubt well-funded and staffed. The relative invisibility of labor rights in mainstream political discourse was one reason why it was so easy for Obama and the Congressional Democrats to bury the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). resources.S. With public opinion now running two to one in favor of labor rights as a basic cornerstone of democracy. No one outside the unions themselves and a handful of academics saw this as a make or break political issue. As with the labor movement of the 1930s and the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. An “After Wisconsin” Movement? If there is to be the sort of growth organized labor desperately needs. but a grassroots movement in the streets. including the passage of the anti-union legislation in Wisconsin and soon across the Midwest. schools. a great opportunity will have been lost. it will not be just a matter of more and better organizing tactics and strategies. Like the “black box” of work itself. There is an enormous opportunity here. politics. It will have to come through an intensification of the level of struggle that.S. labor has long needed to grow. The second flows from the fact that the Republicans have made labor rights a political issue in a way they have not been for a long time. “supplies the recruits to the organization. Democratic Party election campaign may well prove irresistible. If this is all that happens. and support to such a movement. however. I say “dangerous” because the track record is not good.

out of the fire and glow of the mass strike and the street fighting rise again. This year. and the mass movement subsides. but growth will not be orderly or commanded from some center. perhaps even Congress. sometimes attracting the angry and frustrated with their sharp rhetoric. the right and their Tea Party shock troops dominated political discourse in the style of a semi-mass movement.the revolution will not be phonebanked | 225 Among the many lessons of the Wisconsin events is that politicians develop backbone to the degree their base is in the streets and “out of control. Nevertheless. fresh. on the contrary. A growing labor movement can drown the sound of the right. the Tea Party efforts to support these Republican governors were pathetic and that movement was reduced to its true proportion as a middle-class minority. buoyant trade unions. once again the words of Rosa Luxemburg concerning the fears of union officials that their organizations will “fall in pieces in a revolutionary whirlwind like rare porcelain” remind us that. and attracted broad support in the process. young. For the past two years. The events in Wisconsin did not reach the point of a mass strike movement.” Should the Democrats take back various statehouses. like Venus from the foam. they will fall back into their pattern of compromise and retreat. the working-class majority spoke in the loudest voice and clearest terms it has for decades. powerful. This year in Wisconsin and across the Midwest. “from the whirlwind and the storm. Post-Wisconsin politics need to be a politics of mobilization and direct action if the debate on workers’ rights is to replace that of austerity and increasing empoverishment.” .

neither are protesters. 4:07pm Feb 27 @MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan Everyone is quite calm... move peacefully to the first floor rotunda.. 4:09pm Feb 27 @andrewkroll Andy Kroll Have #wiunion protesters called @govwalker’s bluff? Cops aren’t moving. Can’t confirm but it appears police won’t make a move.@MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan Announcement: The Capital is now closed.. #Wiunion 5:15pm Feb 27 . 4:21pm Feb 27 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin Chanting is loud as ever. (because if anything ever deserved the fbomb for awesomeness. etc helping coordinate everything 4:52pm Feb 27 @micahuetricht Micah Uetricht My take: protesters will be here all night. Incredible #wiunion 4:33pm Feb 27 @WEaC WEAC RT @edcetera: Whether you are for or against #wiunion take note of how Twitter. it’s this) 4:29pm Feb 27 @micahuetricht Micah Uetricht No way cops are arresting anyone any time soon. protestors are determined not to leave #wiunion #wearewi 4:27pm Feb 27 @legalEagle Legal Eagle We’re still here! We’re still here! Fuck. you should do so now. Too many people. #wiunion 4:01pm Feb 27 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin If you are at the capitol and want to leave. If you choose to say. Yes. uStream Qik.Capitol looks about the same.

As the president came into office in December 2008. these types of events not only threatened economic elites that run our economy. The mass. the factory occupation held the attention of state. March 5. national. . 2011 Mike Elk Since the financial crisis and President Barack Obama’s election in the fall of 2008. However.the revolution will not be phonebanked | 227 Alternet. but posed a challenge to established progressive leaders in Washington. Both events won enormous public support. just miles away from the factory—announced his support for the workers. how to incorporate them. The workers were ultimately successful in winning their legally-owed severance from Bank of America. United Electrical Workers (UE) at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago shook the world when they occupied their factory after its closure was announced. Even President-elect Obama—then in downtown Chicago. there have been two major actions taken by working people that commanded the attention of America’s financial elite—the 2008 occupation of Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago and the current Wisconsin Capitol occupation. spontaneous civil disobedience and direct action allowed workers to take matters into their own hands and upset the normal function of the insider relationships the progressive elite tend to rely upon. As a result of the attention drawn to the struggle. For eight days and nights. and international media as unions around the world issued statements of solidarity.

Protesters occupied the Wisconsin Capitol. Through dozens of interviews I conducted on the ground in Wisconsin with people involved in the protests at all levels.000 people .the revolution will not be phonebanked | 228 the workers were able to find an owner to reopen and run the factory.” said veteran UE Political Action Director Chris Townsend. the size and intensity of the protests was not something their leaders had the capacity to organize. Michigan. created a political stalemate in Wisconsin.” And talk of nonviolent direct action was virtually nonexistent until events forced state public workers to rise up in Wisconsin. we met and thought it would be difficult for us to get 5. inspiring 14 Democratic senators to flee and effectively shut down the Wisconsin state Legislature. And little effort was made to incorporate the success of Republic Windows and Doors. there was no follow-up in terms of factory occupations by unions. While the leadership of these organizations played somewhat of a role in promoting the protests. “Instead. and forced governors in states like Indiana. plants employing thousands continued to close under Obama with little resistance. Despite the success in Chicago. the progressive movement just went back to relying on the same overpaid media consultants. “There were these big expensive conferences where people talked about how to build a progressive movement. playbook. They did not engage in the mass campaign of factory occupations and strikes that led to the New Deal nor did they engage in the campaigns of nonviolent civil disobedience that won civil rights for African Americans in the 1960s. The progressive movement has so far not responded to the economic crisis in the way that the activists during the Great Depression did. but by the activists and workers themselves. “When Governor Walker announced his budget-repair bill the Friday before. It seemed as if Governor Scott Walker was on his way to crushing public-sector unions in Wisconsin—and then something unexpected happened. but never was I or anybody from our union invited to talk about how we could replicate the tension with the banks that led to victory at Republic Windows and Doors. The current Capitol occupation has shaken elites throughout the country. and insider relationships that had resulted in their betrayal during the Clinton administration and the Carter administration before that. it became abundantly clear to me the protests in the early stages were not driven by top-down organizations or even the leadership of the Wisconsin-based labor organizations. Florida and Iowa to back down from assaulting workers’ rights.

000 people. State senators watched the crowds from their windows as they caucused that day and decided to flee the state. At this point on Wednesday when a critical mass of support had been grown by individual activists without much top-down organizing. 30. Feb. While this high school walkout occurred.000 people. On Wednesday. As news of the call of the Madison teachers’ strike spread. they weren’t orchestrated by the direction of some established leader. but . president of IBEW Local 2304 and a prominent member of the 45. Wisconsin. about 100 students at Stoughton High School decided to walk out of classes in a sign of solidarity with their teacher. the Wisconsin Education Association began to call on teachers unions throughout the state to call in sick on Thursday and Friday. Even the conservative bastion of Appleton. members of the Teaching Assistants’ Association decided to occupy the Capitol overnight. Madison teachers.000 at the Capitol. Feb. far exceeding the wildest expectations of local labor leaders. “When nearly 20.000-member Madisonbased Wisconsin South Central Federation of Labor (SCFL). People saw what was happening and just simply showed up in solidarity. which helped escalate the intensity of the protests dramatically. thousands of college students were spontaneously walking out of classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to attend rallies at the Capitol and in front of Walker’s house. crowds had grown to nearly 50. at the Capitol.” says Dave Poklinkoski. These protests were organic. hometown of Joseph McCarthy. saw an unheard-of protest with over 2. the day the vote was expected on the budget-repair bill in the Wisconsin state Senate. mainly students. Many would later claim the senators were inspired to flee after seeing the massive outpouring of support on the lawn of the Capitol. 14.000 people showed up I was amazed. On Monday.the revolution will not be phonebanked | 229 for a rally the following Tuesday. Dozens of protests began to appear in cities and towns throughout Wisconsin that had never in their history seen protest crowds of that size. decided Tuesday evening to go on a strike themselves on Wednesday. These two actions inspired high school students the following day to walk out of schools throughout Madison in the thousands and attend a rally with 20. inspired by their high school students who had left class that day.000 people showed up at the Capitol. By Thursday.” One of the major sparks for these actions occurred at a little high school in a conservative suburb of Madison known as Stoughton. 17.

a forklift driver at a local utility company and president of IBEW Local 2304. you can hear workers and local activists calling for a general strike. using tactics that have little proven effectiveness: press releases. Nor did they note that actual activists in Wisconsin had already been blanketing voters with calls in these districts for two weeks gauging support for recall efforts. . and most recently in Egypt has shown. But how serious are these groups? Would they push to go as far as needed to actually win the fight in Wisconsin? On the ground. Many D. many progressive leaders in Washington who were nearly invisible during the first two years of the Obama administration have been attempting to take the spotlight. “As history in America has shown. positioning themselves as representing the masses gallantly occupying the Wisconsin Capitol.C.-based groups have spoken on behalf of the Wisconsin events as though they had some real role in the events. passive internet-based activism. I did not encounter a single person who said they showed up at the protests because of an email from Obama’s Organizing for America or the Democratic National Committee.” Poklinkoski played a key role in getting the 45. and AlterNet when they announced they were paying for thousands of dollars of robocalls in an effort to jumpstart the recall efforts of eight Republican Wisconsin state senators. it is when the working class begins to strike and shut things down that the capitalists start thinking seriously about backing off.000-member SCFL.the revolution will not be phonebanked | 230 they certainly inspired leaders. and expensive TV ads and robocalls. to vote last week to make preparations for a general strike. An article appeared in The Washington Post shortly after the protests. “the president’s political machine worked in close coordination Thursday with state and national union officials to get thousands of protesters to gather in Madison. The internet-driven advocacy group. The governor and the Republicans clearly intend to follow through on their assault. Talking Points Memo. the local chapter of the AFL-CIO for the Madison and Southern Central Wisconsin area. claiming.” says Dave Poklinkoski.” In the dozens of interviews I conducted in Wisconsin. These articles did not mention that most people find automated robocalls annoying and intrusive. Since the protests. Progressive Change Campaign Committee got attention this week from sources including The Atlantic.

a general strike in support of other workers is illegal. One of the labor movement’s brightest stars. “If the unions do not make a formal call for a general strike. “Labor.C.” Many private-sector unions would not formally endorse the idea of a general strike out of fear of being of sued by their employer.” says Lerner. it probably avoids a Taft-Hartley issue. to creating capacity. the key words of the SCFL resolution were the calls for the federation—not individual unions—to “begin educating affiliates and members on the organization and function of a general strike.” says Lerner. Will we embrace the same passive messaging and online activism tactics that led to progressive defeat in the last two years? Or will progressives adopt the tactics of civil disobedience and direct action used during the 1930s and 1960s that led to massive progressive gains? Under the Taft-Hartley Act. financial assets.” says Don Taylor. and institutional interests to hinder and ultimately strangle a campaign. They are essential to funding.-based organizations hampering the spreading of mass direction action is Stephen Lerner. and other groups that are involved in building a progressive majority and infrastructure are important to the movement but can’t lead or control such a campaign. an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin School for Workers. In order to create conditions in which workers might walk out of work on a type of general strike. “But the reality is that there is just enough political access. but workers without formal endorsement of their unions could engage in wildcat strikes by simply deciding to walk out individually.” The progressive movement is at a turning point. whose strategy must be built around tactics designed to create the level of disruption and uncertainty needed to force fundamental changes in how the economy is organized. and not controlled by institutions with too much to lose. credibility and scale. with only one dissenting vote. advocacy organizations wanted to . Lerner led SEIU’s famous Justice for Janitors and Wall Street/Bank Campaign.C. If most of these online-based D. One person who worries about the role of D. civil rights.the revolution will not be phonebanked | 231 The motion passed the 97-member body nearly unanimously. “That’s why the campaign needs to be independent. there has to be a great deal of discussion in the progressive and labor movement by organizations encouraging them to do that.

it could spur on a dramatic people-powered political act not seen since the 1930s. Does Wisconsin represent the birth of a new.the revolution will not be phonebanked | 232 show true solidarity with the protesters in Wisconsin. they would send out emails to their millions of members educating them about the possibility of a general strike in order to save collective bargaining in Wisconsin. these organizations could legally do this under Taft-Hartley because of their non-union status. powerful progressive movement or is it simply the last violent. desperate gasps of air of a dying movement? . Unlike unions. If the large progressive advocacy organizations were willing to educate workers and activists about how to organize a general strike.

we seem to be at a stalemate right now. teachers and students literally hand in hand right now. #Wiunion 6:18pm Feb 27 .@ddayen David Dayen Basically we all suck compared to these amazing kids and activists holding the Capitol in Madison #wiunion #onedaylonger 5:22pm Feb 27 @micahuetricht Micah Uetricht Firefighters.classic midwest union move #wiunion 5:49pm Feb 27 @legalEagle Legal Eagle If you can help spread the word that we’re still here & we did not go quietly into the night. Like Seattle. News has it wrong. Totally incredible #wiunion 5:32pm Feb 27 @brandzel Ben Brandzel Just got a message on qik from someone singing we shall overcome with us from switzerland. #wiunion 6:02pm Feb 27 @andrewkroll Andy Kroll Well. 6:11pm Feb 27 @micahuetricht Micah Uetricht @AndrewKroll Don’t think this is a stalemate. Cops not moving. protesters just doing their thing. I’d appreciate it. drumming and chanting. Looks more like the protesters are winning. folks. #SwissForSolidarity :) 5:36pm Feb 27 @micahuetricht Micah Uetricht Only the most jaded souls or the most hardcore Friedmanites could not be moved by what I am witnessing right now #wiunion 5:45pm Feb 27 @WEaC WEAC RT @mikeelk: Women sit in a knitting circle to stop arrests .

I think we need to spend more time figuring . or will it be to save BadgerCare. It’s clear that most everyone in Wisconsin is opposed to Governor Scott Walker’s bill. outside the context of the specific bill. it’s a huge mobilization effort and not so much a big organization effort. there’s a lack of unity.” But what is not clear is what is the alternative. “Kill the Bill. What is not clear is what exactly are we for? I mean this in a larger scale. brings up an interesting point in thinking about building movements. He says there’s a significant difference between mobilizing and organizing. also known as Stokely Carmichael. health insurance to low-income families with children under age 19? In this sense. in fact. Mobilizing is when a group of people are against the same things. Is the vision to simply go back to the way things were a year ago? Or is the vision something greater? Kwame Ture.the revolution will not be phonebanked | 234 Monica Adams March 20. 2011 The following is adapted from a talk given by Monica Adams at the 2011 Left Forum. While we’ve been proud of the work we’ve been doing in Madison. or will it be to protect reduced lunch? Will it be to save food share. It’s very clear that we are collectively shouting. What exactly will bring hundreds of thousands of people together again? Will it be to protect free lunch. Organizing is when a group of people are for the same things.

A lot of people who voted for Walker initially did so because they believed the alltoo-common narrative of “lazy workers”—thinking it was just a targeted attack on people of color and immigrants. in actuality. as well as dismantling ableism and other larger forms of oppression. It can no longer be talked about as just a movement of unions. he was talking about all of us. Surprise. it has also been troubling. and fighting in solidarity. It cannot be that we all just agree on this—that’s a coalition.the revolution will not be phonebanked | 235 this out. queer liberation. but they would still pay for Viagra. Instead. But. or is it also the undocumented workers who make up a significant part of the dairy industry? Is it the chronically unemployed. If we’re talking about a movement. “Who is the “we” of Wisconsin?” Is the “we” just the workers or just the middle-class public sector. My experience doing the work in Wisconsin is that it has been incredibly inspiring to be part of a large group of people who are out mobilizing to achieve something. in the bill there is a piece of legislation that says health-care providers will no longer be required to pay for contraceptives for women. It can no longer be talked about as groups of people— firefighters or cops or teachers. It’s important to understand this because it’s going to determine how to build a solid base in order to build a movement. While we are supporting workers’ rights. at the same time. So the question is. If we’re all trying to build a vision or to figure out what it is we’re for. people of color. we have to understand the response to what is happening in Wisconsin as part of a larger movement that strives for racial and gender justice. Instead of thinking of this as just some small piece of legislation or something peripheral to the larger fight around collective bargaining. What’s happening in Wisconsin can no longer be talked about as just what’s affecting public-sector workers. we must view this as a fundamental attack on women’s reproductive health rights. immigrants. we all have to collectively strive for something and be able to identify with each other on some sort of level. when. underemployed. The harsh truth of the matter is that a lot of the workers who are out there mobilizing against Walker are the people who put him in office to begin with. What’s central in movements is that people have an identity around something and it cannot just be a mobilization. we know our work has to go beyond the sectors in which we participate. we have to ask the critical question: “Will the same group of people be with us on our issues?” For example. and those who never get the chance at a meaningful job due to .

and Tea Partiers the opportunity to play divide and conquer antics. if we’re talking about building a movement for the people. we also have to translate that into what kind of strategies we take up to further the movement. we’ve been doing a lot of assuming about us having a common enemy. but will we be there in solidarity with the police? Absolutely not. Like all these other things. I’ve been in too many places where all the people look the same. Folks I knew who had children who wanted to be there were not able to do so. As I mentioned. we have to do the hard work of base building. In that same spirit. in that spirit. and genderism? Also. So this means we have to think about building inclusive strategies. “No. so all of us can’t equally participate in the same strategies. where the hell are all the people? I think what’s unique about this opportunity is now we are forging an alliance of folks who are not traditional allies. but I also had the privilege to be able to be there because I didn’t have children. how deep is the alliance? Is there really solidarity? For instance. you’ve won?” What if he says he’ll leave the rights of collective bargaining alone? Do we all go home? Or do we say. but we have to be able to do the hard work to ensure that it’s something incredibly good and not give Walker. This could be something incredibly good. what happens if we win collective bargaining? What happens if Walker says. or what it means to be a Democrat. I think we see on many different levels that’s not necessarily true. do you honestly think that 150. “Damn it.000 black people can occupy the Capitol for 16 days? We have the ability to mobilize that many. For example. what does the leadership and decision making look like? Frankly. is the playing field leveled for all to participate in this movement? For example. but around what have been the struggles of folks of color in this country. not all of us have the same identities. Also. So. I’m tired. I was there for a few days. or how the mayor’s office runs. therefore necessitating that we are friends. If we are building a movement of people and for the people. we’re going to knock this Capitol down if you don’t give back BadgerCare?” In thinking about identities of folks. but coming from a place of solidarity.the revolution will not be phonebanked | 236 structural racism. classism. I also think it took an incredible amount of privilege to be there. Republicans. which means we need ongoing political education around not just what it means to be a Republican. we have to create entry points so that all people can participate in all of the work that we are doing. How is 100 years .

if teachers want to strike. Southeast Asian. There’s a lot of wisdom in the resistance that people carry every day. Not only are we going to be peacefully protesting—we’re still going to be nonviolent—but we’re going to turn up the fire. we need to start to build alternatives. We should begin to invest in grassroots structures. any government that is able to take away so many rights so quickly. As is written on the BadgerCare card. which requires us to develop our own escalating strategy. We also need to be able to develop strategies that are relevant for people in their lives.” Monica Adams is a community organizer from Milwaukee. we need to be able to defeat it.the revolution will not be phonebanked | 237 of oppression tied to current policies? In addition to political education. I think it’s very attractive and easy to engage in some of this academic and high policy work. But I also think teachers are in a unique position to be able to mobilize an entire youth body by using their teaching skills to educate and politicize the youth. It’s very clear that the right— Walker and others—has a very escalating strategy. So we need to be training folks around direct action organizing. We also need to think about the way that people live their daily lives and how that can be politicized and connected to a larger movement. How does that happen? We cannot support such a structure. which we are beginning to see more of. in folks building alternative societies who have been doing it all along. Marches and protests feel very attractive. working in Wisconsin’s black. We know all social movements need young folks. and there are more schools than just UW-Madison. For example. We’re going to shut down M&I Bank. Not only do we need to match it. by all means strike. . Lastly. as the movement demands it: “Forward. I question any structure. but we need to use people’s skills and put them in more relevant areas. and queer people of color communities to build an alternative society as the means to ending oppression. as the state motto goes. but we’re going to do more things. but what about the everyday ability to knock on doors and get people out who have no idea that this is going on? We need to begin to escalate strategies. so I really want to connect that to a larger struggle. we need to get back to grassroots training. My rights should not be determined by whether or not this person in office is hopefully a good person.

.@MelissaRyan I will never stop loving the sound of the drums.

building today’s fights atop legacies of the past whenever possible. Develop good relationships with local police. that there are no clear answers to the question of “What comes next?” Will we as progressives be able to turn the Wisconsin moment of transformation into a lasting movement? Will we be able to avoid returning to timid and defensive ways of the past. speak to what is needed to create a larger movement of Wisconsin-like breakthroughs: Emphasize progressive identity and history wherever you are.so unexpected. and instead continue to fight with a reawakened sense of boldness and possibility? Many of the contributors to this collection have some pretty great ideas that. and so unlikely. Connect different progressive fights under a common banner to strengthen each and build a larger movement as a result. Embrace a wide spectrum of people and organizations on the left—from anarchists and socialists to Democrats in the center. not dismissing each . so that they’re on our side when it matters. while by no means easy. and strong local alternative media that helped raise the profile of the Wisconsin uprising early on and provided support networks for the protesters once it was underway. Create a strong progressive infrastructure everywhere—it was Madison’s many cooperatively run institutions. leftleaning university departments.

rather than being forced into low-level roles within a top-down organization. Capitalize on moments of transformation. and highlight the work of writers. and videographers—both amateur and professional—who are showing what’s really happening. Keep asking the question of how we’ll do this—to everyone you know—because the answer is contained in that continued questioning. – Erica Sagrans . radicals— out. photographers. and they want to be part of a meaningful experience and community. Don’t count us—progressives. but if Wisconsin proved anything. Think about ways to involve first-time activists. Tell our own stories through social media. it’s that we’re just getting started. Make sure that anyone who wants to take part can plug in to real leadership positions. Recognize that people want to be connected. Force elected officials to take bold action. Many like to speak about a movement taking its dying breaths. the labor movement.on wisconsin! | 240 other but figuring out what each can contribute toward common goals. not divided.

at least one is using iPhone to take video of protests #wiunion #wishyouwerehere 6:44pm Feb 27 @MikeElk Mike Elk POLICE said Protestors can stay the night in Wisconsin Capitol #wiunion 6:53pm Feb 27 @cabell Cabell Gathman RT @kimberlycreates: RT @sickjew I can’t believe the only way I can watch US history is from some dude’s iPhone: http://qik. #wiunion 7:30pm Feb 27 .com/video/38 7:22pm Feb 27 @MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan And on day 14 we kept our house.@andrewkroll Andy Kroll Every time I pass a big groups of police officers.

2011 Andy Kroll It is easy to see the beginnings of things. What was I witnessing? The beginning of a new movement in this country—or the end of an existing one. Of course. A county judge recently blocked “publication” of Walker’s anti-union legislation. touching off another round of arguing about the tactics used to make the . the battle between unions. The case could end up before the state Supreme Court. progressive groups. Wisconsin. the opening of her 1967 essay “Goodbye to All That. the last stand of organized labor? Or could it have been both? None of us on the ground could really say. March 31. and Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker is not over. saying it was possible Senate Republicans violated Wisconsin’s rigorous open-records law when they rammed through a vote on his bill to do away with the collective bargaining rights of state workers. We were too close to the action. But that didn’t stop the state’s Legislative Reference Bureau from publishing Walker’s bill anyway. Not by a long shot. – Joan Didion In the February weeks I spent in snowy Madison. and harder to see the ends.” ricocheted through my mind as I tried to make sense of the massive protests unfolding around me. too absorbed by what was directly in front of us. that line of Didion’s.on wisconsin! | 242 TomDispatch.

educated and not. The events in Madison radicalized many young people who kept the flame of protest burning with their live-ins inside the Wisconsin Capitol. its actual status remains unclear. it’s unlikely the outcome will change. Almost as soon as Madison erupted. So. the union-busting movement continues to spread. Kasich has shown not the slightest willingness to negotiate. if not wipe them out entirely. They brought megaphones and signs saying “Protect Workers Rights” and “Daughters of Teachers Against SB 5. Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich. “Take the Unions Out at the Knees” Madison was the beginning. I was there in Madison and watched hundreds of thousands of protesters brave the numbing cold while jamming the streets to demand that Walker back down. When Walker threatened to use the Wisconsin National Guard to quell a backlash in response to his draconian “budgetrepair” bill.on wisconsin! | 243 bill into law. stare down their own demise.” And in response. Either way. Indianapolis. earlier this month. and other Midwestern cities. If a judge does force a new vote. young and old. Meanwhile. though even that’s not certain. As in Madison. Kasich sought even more power to curb unions than Walker. the meaning of Madison. proposing to curb bargaining rights for all public-sector unions—Walker’s exempts firefighters and cops—and even outlaw strikes by public workers. it set off a month of protests. and also of what similar governors are doing amid similar turmoil in Columbus. like Walker. a former executive at Lehman Brothers. unions may indeed be fatally weakened. As of this writing. in a way none of us have seen since perhaps the 1930s. remains to be seen. known as Senate Bill 5. he promised to sign the bill into law as soon as the legislature approves it. those same efforts have mobilized startling numbers of ordinary citizens. those who got inside before state troopers locked and blocked the doors. thousands of protesters poured into the Ohio Capitol in Columbus—that is. Without the ability to bargain collectively. you could argue that the wave of attacks by conservative governors will gut public-sector unions in those states. What remains to be seen is whether the new spark lit by the Republican Party’s latest crusade against unions can in some way fill the space left by those unions which. On the other hand. I know this for a fact. unveiled a union-crushing bill of his own. Iowa’s . nationwide.

Not to be forgotten is Indiana. The measure. Idaho’s Legislature voted to eliminate most bargaining rights for public school teachers. more than 20 state legislatures are considering bills to limit collective bargaining for unions. which means employees can . Two separate anti-union bills are wending their way through the Tennessee Legislature—one in the House that resembles Idaho’s. its lawmakers don’t pass any anti-union legislation. Not that unions can’t exist in states without collective bargaining rights. for instance. passed its own law in March gutting collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions. were afraid to pay union dues. They returned to Indianapolis on Monday to cheers from supporters. with one former labor activist claiming workers.on wisconsin! | 244 House of Representatives. fearing repercussions from their bosses. In Arizona and Texas. There. and into law had the state’s Democrat-controlled Senate not killed it on the spot. would have made it to the desk of Republican Governor Terry Branstad. And now comes Alaska. Republican Governor Mitch Daniels banned it for state employees in 2005 by executive order. but skyrocketing health-insurance payments and a pay freeze for state workers. as The New York Times reported. And union membership among state workers dwindled by 90 percent. The result. unions still operate. in the end. even though both are heavily conservative “right-to-work” states. Even if. nearly identical to Wisconsin’s. With a flick of his pen. on March 21. a Republican state legislator introduced a measure nearly identical to Wisconsin’s that would strip most public-sector unions of the right to collectively bargain on health-care and retirement benefits. In early March. Management fired more experienced employees who would have had seniority under old union rules. and another in the Senate that aims to outlaw collective bargaining for teachers altogether. By one estimate. not to mention tossing out tenure and seniority. controlled by Republicans. one of the latest states to join the fight. Indiana is already illustrative of what happens when collective bargaining is wiped out. where Democrats in the Legislature’s lower chamber camped out beyond state lines for more than a month (as had Wisconsin Senate Democrats before them) to protest multiple pieces of legislation that would hurt unions and public-education funding. was significant savings for the state. who backed the bill. their protest having killed a bill that would have made Indiana a “right-to-work” state while undermining support for other anti-union measures.

in one sense. but really what we would like to see is to take the unions out at the knees so they don’t have the resources to fight these battles. Ohio. so. Elected officials in each of these embattled states denied that any political motives lay behind their bills. as my colleague Kevin Drum put it recently. and you effectively “defund” that party. the intensifying assault on unions across much of the nation may represent an ending for a labor movement long on the wane and at least 30-years under siege by various Republican administrations. certainly what you’re going to find is President Obama is going to have a … much more difficult time getting elected and winning the state of Wisconsin. Still. Tennessee. organized labor’s influence pales when compared to that of unions in Michigan or Wisconsin. then so. If you look at the last 150 years of history across all nations with a working class of some sort. Santa Barbara. but that’s obviously not true.on wisconsin! | 245 opt out of union membership but still enjoy the wage increases and benefits negotiated by unions. national and state. the maintenance of democracy and the maintenance of a union movement are joined at the hip. As the top Republican in the Wisconsin Senate said. Despite their pleas of ignorance.” If the bills mentioned here make it into law. “We fight these battles on taxes and regulation. and Municipal Employees are a pillar of support for the left wing of the Democratic Party. if union clout fades away. County. to elect progressive candidates—will wither. And with history as a guide. “If we win this battle. too. As a director for the Koch brothers-backed advocacy group Americans for Prosperity recently admitted.” Indeed. Iowa. a professor and labor historian at the University of California.” . in those states. said recently. Public-sector unions like the American Federation of State. Republicans in Wisconsin. too. Knock out the unions. to demand a safer workplace. does the spirit of democracy in this country. the power wielded by public-sector unions—to fight for better wages and benefits. Then there are the political ramifications. and the money is not there under the auspices of the unions. “If democracy has a future.” Nelson Lichtenstein. and every other state where legislation of this type is being considered understand perfectly well the damage their bills will inflict on their political opponents. So. This is exactly what conservatives and the GOP want. must trade unionism. It is visibly now in danger of becoming a force of little significance in much of the country.

As he told me one evening. began innocently enough. in snow or sun. Bird felt something new: an urge to be part of a movement. The first night he spent in the Capitol. A master’s student in nuclear engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Bird’s radicalization. wading through the throngs of people. they may also mark a beginning. admiring the signs taped to the walls of the Capitol rotunda. And then. string-bean-thin 22-year-old with a sheepish smile named Tom Bird. He’d drop in on the demonstrators on his way to and from campus. with his Wisconsin baseball cap. he felt at home in the world of plasma physics. he told me. he was an activist whose impassioned cries rang out in the rotunda as loud as anyone’s. weekend after weekend. For me. not so much. the way he then felt. if you will. the young and old who defied convention and expectation by showing up day after day. in a GOP-controlled legislature. Day after day he gravitated closer to the drum circle and the speaker’s pulpit. the famous civil liberties lawyer. his reaction was typical: angry but resigned to the fact that. one day. He joined his first studentorganized march from the university campus to the Capitol downtown in the days after Walker announced his bill more out of curiosity than indignation. it would pass. I saw it in the outpouring of protesters in Madison. but collective bargaining. so feeling the energy of the moment he simply stepped up and said what he thought. just tagging along with a friend.on wisconsin! | 246 The Radicalization of Tom Bird If the events in Wisconsin and elsewhere do signal an end. taking in the exhortations of the speakers at its center. the beating heart of those Capitol protests. Someone even . when the news leaked out about the explosive contents of Walker’s bill. Kidd charged with treason for inciting workers to unionize in Bird’s hometown of Oshkosh. He’d opposed the Iraq war. lining up new speakers and keeping the drums beating. Any time I ventured into the Capitol I looked for Bird. It was his turn to speak. walkouts. he said. signs in hand. He was. Bird testified in the all-night hearings taking place by reading a statement once given by Clarence Darrow. to voice their disgust with Walker and his agenda. And in doing so. in defense of a man named Thomas I. the inspiration in that crowd came in the form of a tall. Bird was no labor activist. Yet something kept pulling him back to the growing protests. someone handed him the megaphone. He hadn’t necessarily planned this. Before long. picket lines… well. “What was I going to do about it?” was. Far from it.

protest marshals. Some of his fellow activists. and so could be the first true test of whether the crowds that stormed the Capitol can translate their anger into pressure at the polls. in the case of GOP Sen. It may not look like organized labor as we’ve known it. was created to ensure that the protests remained safe. I particularly remember one frigid night. It had its own leadership structure and governing bylaws. or will they slide into irrelevance like so many unions in the private sector? As grim as the bills may be. then maybe the crushing effects of Walker’s and Kasich’s bills and all the others can be channeled into new energy. Randy Hopper. Will public-sector unions find a way to reinvent themselves. That race is the first since the protests. At one point. he told me. the upcoming weeks will put this new energy to a test. including that of Hopper’s estranged wife. opponents have already collected enough signatures. or Ohio. In Wisconsin. when a group of protesters and reporters adjourned to a local bar for beers. to demand a recall vote. If a 22-year-old plasma physics geek can be transformed into an activist in mere weeks. I’ve thought a lot of about Bird since then. Once the police squeezed the protesters out of the Capitol for good. moving restlessly between our table and another with friends. peaceful. while short-lived. Tom Bird bounded in. into a new movement. At some point. university teaching assistants. and forceful. instead of dissolving and disappearing. an outfit now determined to continue the fight for workers’ rights and social justice. thinking about the massive protests I witnessed in Madison. Wisconsinites will go to the polls to choose between a liberal candidate and a corporate-backed Republican for a seat on the state Supreme Court. the group evolved into the Autonomous Solidarity Organization. he rolled up his sleeve to reveal a scrawny bicep. wanted to get tattoos of one of the . And on April 5. Right now. The CCLC. I can’t help but feel hopeful.” Bird and his newfound activist friends even organized the disparate groups inside the Capitol—the medic team. or Iowa will look like if organized labor is whacked at the knees. campaigns are under way to recall eight Republican state senators for their support of Walker’s “repair” bill.on wisconsin! | 247 dubbed him “Speaker of the Rotunda. No one can say for certain what Wisconsin. so full of energy. and more—into the Capitol City Leadership Committee. but it could begin to fill a void left in states where governors and legislatures are gutting the unions.

awakened by the spark that was Madison. after a decade-long struggle. “I want the Polish version: Solidarnosc. “Except on mine.on wisconsin! | 248 most enduring images from the protests. were to keep at it for 10 years or more? Who knows if Wisconsin wasn’t the beginning of the end.” That. a solidarity fist in the shape of Wisconsin. helped bring down the Soviet Union. Who knows what could happen here if Bird and his compatriots. was the labor movement that.” he told us. but the beginning of something new? . of course.

it’s been amazing!! #wiunion 10:22pm Feb 27 . wow. Um. apparently that feed had over 100k people on it.@andrewkroll Andy Kroll Protester standing next to me: “we *did* it. we kept this thing open. eat. flight’s at 6am tom. need to pack. Your support means so much to folks here.” #wiunion #wearewi 7:36pm Feb 27 @MikeElk Mike Elk More tweets from journos about Andrew Sullivan leaving the Atlantic than #wiunion not leaving Wisc state Capitol #SHAME 8:09pm Feb 27 @brandzel Ben Brandzel So. say my goodbyes. 10:14pm Feb 27 @andrewkroll Andy Kroll Tweeps. it pains me to say this but time to go for me. We really are all in this together.

April 5. through meetings with their elected officials. 2011 Jenni Dye Monday. 16. So I showed up at the Capitol to make sure my voice was heard. through showing up and taking part. it was an issue that deserved more time for the public to gather information and participate in the debate. April 4. My dad showed up. And it became something a lot bigger than any of us. and through adding their signatures to recall petitions. through where they chose to sleep. through recall canvassing. On Feb. My friends showed up.on wisconsin! | 250 Isthmus. at the very least. I thought that. which was the reported Republican plan. through letters and emails to the governor’s office. People who I never even knew were interested in politics showed up. when I stood in the stairwell leading to the room in which the Joint Finance Committee was about to vote. When the protests started. Fifty days of Wisconsinites standing up and making their voices heard—through hearing testimony. I didn’t know enough about the bill to know what its impact would be. . through protests. through chants. I yelled with the crowd. Fifty days. marked the 50th day since protests started at the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison over a bill that would gut public employees’ collective bargaining rights. I just knew that I was opposed to the idea of a “budget-repair” bill that substantially changed workers’ rights being rammed through the Legislature in a week. through signs.

and their allies. which I mostly spent protesting with my dad. We may not have gotten through to Walker or the Fitzgeralds or their friends yet. Jesse Jackson spoke about Dr.” Our voices have been largely ignored by Governor Scott Walker. we are still standing up and making our voices heard. Martin Luther King. I wanted our elected officials to sit at a table and talk. They tried to trample our hope by locking us out of the Capitol. letting them know we don’t like their budget-repair bill. we filled the streets surrounding the Capitol and continued our protest. I stood next to a fellow protester whom I had never met 50 days ago. And now. but that night. Scott Fitzgerald and Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald. During that first week. that his dream was not ended with a single bullet. As Jackson spoke. or their way of “opening” Wisconsin for business by closing our open government. my former teachers. Hope that people joining forces really can make a difference. but now consider a friend. two protesters held a sign bearing the Martin Luther King quote: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. but those of you who have also devoted your time and your energy to this movement have gotten through to me in a way that is permanent and life-changing. but we brought our sleeping bags and blankets and showed them that it didn’t matter if we slept inside or out. My motivations changed from merely procedural to substantive—I wanted to stop that proposal in its tracks. and a few close friends. King lived on through us. seven weeks after we started. their infringement of our constitutional rights. brothers Sen. trying to cut us out of the process. and we refused to allow violations of Wisconsin’s open-meetings law to go unchallenged. I felt a sort of hope that had been dormant for years. Jackson told the crowd that it was our responsibility to ensure that Dr. I stood on the State Street steps to the Capitol and listened as Rev. our opposition remained steady. They held public meetings with minimal notice. They tried to make us go away by “passing” the legislation. Jr. For every moment in my past where I have ques- . As that first week unfolded.’s legacy on the anniversary of his assassination. I wanted compromise. possibly. On Day 50. But we showed up in force anyway.on wisconsin! | 251 “The people united will never be defeated. I educated myself about the contents of the bill and found I didn’t at all like what it contained. anything I’ll ever see again. Behind me.” and I knew that this was different than anything I’d seen before and.

There have been days when I literally might have collapsed into a sobbing heap on the Capitol floor were it not for the kindness of friends and perfect strangers. care about perfect strangers. but I’ve found that I can rely on others to carry the load. . There have been days when my voice is not strong. It’s not enough. And I plan to keep giving it my all until we take Wisconsin back. There are days when a hug is an absolute lifeline to maintaining any sanity at all. and care that things are done the right way. care about Wisconsin. care about democracy and open government. I’ll never be able to thank you all individually. the compassion and commitment of those raising their voices at our Capitol have proved 10 times over that there are people who care about each other. Sometimes relief and renewal have come in the form of inspiration from the words of speakers at a rally and sometimes from perfect strangers who are also dedicating their time to the cause. even when the proposal itself is abhorrent.on wisconsin! | 252 tioned whether there are good people out there. but I will forever be grateful for what the individuals involved in this movement have given me. I’ll never be able to thank you all enough.

or those who are attending a hearing! 11:08am Feb 28 @taa_Madison TAA Madison Medical supplies running low in Capitol. soap #wiunion 2:07pm Feb 28 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin Latest: Ppl not being let into Capitol right now. As much as Walker’s actions are abhorrent. Info we have now is that you will not be allowed to stay. and warm sleeping bags @ king! #wiunion even when its cold! 7:52pm Feb 28 @legalEagle Legal Eagle I can’t stop smiling. Protestors mtg w police to determine how many will be let in #wiunion 2:23pm Feb 28 @taa_Madison TAA Madison Dems are starting a public hearing. children’s Tylenol. toothbrushes. #wiunion 10:26pm Feb 28 @legalEagle Legal Eagle There’s a lot of people settling in here at #walkerville. rubber gloves. #wiunion 4:31pm Feb 28 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin If we can’t take the building we’ll take the whole square. heaters. Bring tents. Thanks to @TAA_Madison and everyone else who brought extra blankets! #wiunion 1:42am Mar 1 . the people here sticking it out in the cold are amazing.@yoProWI Young Progressives Access to the capitol is reportedly restricted to those who have official business. ibuprofen. You will be escorted inside & out. They need: handwarmers.

the volunteer marshals. he was a ranking member of the Capitol City Leadership Committee. Bird was a mild-mannered graduate student from Oshkosh. before Governor Scott Walker announced his “budget-repair” bill. the Teaching Assistants’ Association. Within a couple weeks. The Wisconsin Republicans could probably learn a thing or two from us. there are three rounds of debate and then the motion is tabled. What may not be clear from outside of Wisconsin is the level to which the grassroots protesters and the Democratic members of the Wisconsin . 17. “The group meets regularly and we ensure that each meeting has an even number of people. he will be unable to quash the spirit of people like Thomas M. March 1. whose life will never be the same. He didn’t make it over to the Capitol in Madison until Feb.on wisconsin! | 254 Firedoglake. Any business is put to a democratic vote. As Walker cracks down on the activists inside the Capitol rotunda on the day he releases his 2011–2013 budget. the information station coalition. four days into the protests. an umbrella organization made up of the different groups performing tasks in the building—the megaphone people.” This is a protest. Bird participated in meetings coordinated under their own democratic rules. the medical station volunteers. voting Democratic but paying only slight attention to politics. Bird. Wisconsin-style. and the Wisconsin Workers Solidarity Sit-In. If there is a tie. 2011 David Dayen Thomas M.

and was back on the floor Wednesday for debate. writer for Madison’s The Capital Times and The Nation and unofficial mayor of Madison. now routinely criticizes him and today came out against the bill. as the protesters readied themselves to be arrested. which only extends the focus . They spent 63 hours on the Assembly floor stretching out debate on the bill. denying the Republicans a quorum and stalling the budget-repair bill that would strip most collective bargaining rights from public employees. have delinked from the compromises of the Democratic party. and linked in to the opinions of the progressive grassroots. One Assembly Democrat had reconstructive surgery for skin cancer last Tuesday. often disappointing. Charles Koch himself.” said John Nichols. was meeting to discuss their next move to respond to the assault on public workers taken up by Walker. and not a Buffalo-based blogger. actually placed an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal to announce support. They help negotiate access to the building and use their resources to get in people and supplies. Senate candidate Ed Garvey. She was in the Capitol Sunday night. “We have in a sense retaken the Democratic Party in this state.” and the People’s Legislature wanted to make good on that.S. They are readily identifiable in the orange “Assembly Democrats: Fighting for Working Families” shirts they’ve been wearing for two weeks. They hold public hearings through the night to force the Capitol to stay open. “This is civil disobedience at its finest. forcing the local media to report on what it contained. Nichols said proudly. the Senate Republicans. which endorsed Walker on its editorial pages. named after the legendary progressive leader Robert La Follette and organized by the popular reformer and former U. A group called Fighting Bob. Everyone is focused on the short-term goal of stopping the budgetrepair bill. He was speaking to “The People’s Legislature. Walker’s ramping up of out-of-state-funded TV ads shows his nervousness over whether his allies. and that may happen. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.on wisconsin! | 255 Legislature have become one throughout this struggle. Over the course of a day-long meeting. they plotted out a multi-pronged strategy that also has echoes of the kind of medium-term and long-term fights that the grassroots in the Capitol rotunda will wage. with a bandage on her face. But the Democrats in the state Assembly have become activists themselves.” at a Crowne Plaza conference room on the east side of the city. “Our Democrats. Not just the “Fab 14” group of senators who still reside in Illinois. will waver and eventually lack the numbers to pass the bill.” she told me.

on wisconsin! | 256 on that prank call. We can’t let them roll over process.” . It goes like this: • Legal Claims Against the Bill. These aren’t the only legal questions about the bill. There is still a lingering sense that the Assembly vote was illegal. So the possibility exists that this gets stopped. second. and third. have a plan. “Is to maintain the rule of law and the rules of the Senate. and buttressed by a completely responsive Democratic Party which protesters and activists will now crawl across glass for. growing by the day. the statute would constitute an unconstitutional impairment of contract rights under the state and federal constitutions. But even if it doesn’t. to see if their suspicions are correct that Republicans leaned over and voted by electronic device in place of their missing colleagues. the proposed statute would violate the due process clauses of the state and federal constitutions because it would abrogate the terms and conditions of the Global Pension Settlement …” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (who lost to Walker in the gubernatorial race) has already asked Walker to seek a legal opinion from the state attorney general on the topic. “The most important thing over the next two weeks.” Nichols told the People’s Legislature. Democrats are still looking at all footage of the vote. Milwaukee’s city attorney came out today and declared that the budget-repair bill is unconstitutional: Walker’s budget-repair bill would be unconstitutional because it would violate the constitutional “home rule” that protects cities and villages from interference in local pensions by the state.” The point is that lawyers plan to sue the state the moment Walker signs any budget-repair bill that includes the stripping of collective bargaining rights. given these same vested rights or benefits. the courts would find the statue unconstitutional on three grounds: First. AFSCME has filed an unfair labor practice claim against Walker for refusing to negotiate while under a collective bargaining agreement. In a letter to Milwaukee Alderman Joseph Dudzik. “I believe there are enough good judges left in this state to get injunctions and slow this down. “In our judgment. one which may have led to a host of legal trouble for Walker. Langley stated. Wisconsin’s grassroots. that it unconstitutionally interferes with and intrudes upon the city’s home-rule authority over its pension plan. that given certain vested rights or benefits that have accrued to employees currently in the plan. according to a legal opinion issued today by Milwaukee City Attorney Grant Langley.

Prosser has said publicly that he would coordinate his rulings in alliance with Republican ideology.on wisconsin! | 257 • Legal Claims Against Walker.” said Nichols. the federation has no authority to call a strike. If the bill passes. all bets are off. The Capital Times picks up on the fact that the Wisconsin South Central Federation of Labor (SCFL) has endorsed the notion of a general strike. This would shift the balance of power there and provide a major setback for Walker and the Republicans. labor. • State Supreme Court. a proxy Presidential race. and how layoffs in particular would be used in that fight. There’s the admission that Walker is trying to break public-employee unions like Reagan broke PATCO. That’s basically all they can do. There are campaign finance questions regarding Walker’s acceptance of an offer to come to California after he “crushes the bastards. there’s a race for a state Supreme Court seat between an incumbent Republican. David Prosser. state public-employee unions will be operating without a contract. . The phone call from “David Koch” features a number of statements from the governor that could violate ethics. and the Democrat. They feature TV commercials and debates and retail politics. though barred by Taft-Hartley requirements from joining strikes. And the Democrats are both energized and ready. But after March 13. the state’s former Democratic attorney general. On April 5. • General Strike. All of these things have questionable legality. There’s a very large piece of construction paper in the Capitol with thousands of names of people who signed their support for a strike. Organizing has begun and is intense inside the Capitol and throughout the state. according to Peg Lautenschlager. and election laws. He’s part of a 4-3 Republican advantage on the state Supreme Court. who thinks that $10 million will be spent on it between both sides.” There’s the infamous answer “we thought about that” to the question of why Walker isn’t using planted thugs to disrupt the protests. And workers throughout Madison. chances are there will be at least some portion of Wisconsin that will go on a general strike for some amount of time. “This will be a national-level battle. JoAnne Kloppenburg. may do so anyway. and I believe the claims will be filed. At that point. Supreme Court races in Wisconsin are actual elections.

a group from Utah has already begun that process. which is heavily Jewish and fairly Democratic. “There’s our referendum. While at least two of the three are seen as strong Republican seats. “It was established for this moment. there are primaries for three state Assembly races. a Democratic strategist in the state found the Republican 8 vulnerable to recall because of the heightened passions around the issue. This is a new synchronicity between the party apparatus and the grassroots. State House Democrats walked out there in protest of a bill that would have crushed private-employee unions. The same day as that April 5 special election.” Nichols said to the People’s Legislature.” Nichols insisted. there’s already a candidate lined up for the recall. Sen. The . “We fight for every inch of Wisconsin!” • Recalls. which could not begin until January 2012. and it’s starting to spread. it means that the rules of where we compete have to be thrown out. “This will be a critical contest. In 2011 in Wisconsin. There will absolutely be recall elections for many of the “Republican 8” state senators who can be recalled immediately. Alberta Darling is the co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee. Recall elections are basically do-over elections in the state. She represents a North Shore suburban Milwaukee district.” One particular recall battle stands out. You will see many recall elections in the coming year. with primaries and general ballots. They are fighting for workers’ rights on a host of fronts. “The recall is the progressive gift to the citizens of this state. putting the closely divided state Senate up for grabs in Wisconsin. former Assemblyman Sheldon Wasserman.” said Nichols. And they have the Democratic Party behind them. This will also happen on the Democratic side. … We have a duty to recall those legislators who failed us.on wisconsin! | 258 • Legislative Seats. and defend those who stood with us. Perhaps more remarkable than the Wisconsin battle is the one happening in Indiana. They have a very deliberate strategy to build momentum at every step of the way. and progressives may take it on first. “If this (protest) means anything. vacated by three Republicans who joined Walker’s cabinet.” And then there’s the possible recall of Walker. which reported out the budget-repair bill. progressives in Wisconsin plan to contest all three. The organizing for this has already begun. Whether progressives take it up could depend on whether they win these fights prior to it. It’s the kind of seat many Democrats lost in 2010.

. and justice. But they have responded to their grassroots and are standing by them. all must unite on a series of goals dedicated to the rights of the worker to have a good job and a house and a reasonable way of life for themselves.on wisconsin! | 259 Republicans pulled back on that. in an address to the law school in Madison in 1873. “Which shall lead. Ultimately. the unions and the college students. that’s how this new American progressive movement will move forward. the signature-gatherers and the people fighting in the streets. These are the tenets of the movement. Indiana Democrats are not exactly known as fighting progressives. the Chief Justice of Wisconsin’s Supreme Court. The activists and the politicians. the protesters and the reformers. basic fundamental rights. in some cases they may be to the right of Wisconsin Republicans. money or intellect. and vowed to stay put until an education bill that would set up a voucher system was scotched. But Democrats REMAINED out of the district. who shall fill public stations—educated and patriotic free men or the feudal serfs of corporate capital?” The spirit of that has not yet been extinguished in America. wealth or man?” said Edward Ryan. People power. “The question shall arise in your day: Which shall rule.

@defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin Restraining order has been granted. #wiunion 4:32pm Mar 1 @MelissaRyan Melissa Ryan Apparently if I take $200 from you. #wiunion 3:09pm Mar 1 @millbot Emily Mills Only 20 members of the public allowed in to watch budget address. #Walkernomics #WIunion 4:41pm Mar 1 @WEaC WEAC Dedicated supporters are sleeping outside the Capitol again. Follow #wiunion and #walkerville for their coverage. 11:59am Mar 1 @millbot Emily Mills RT @LegalEagle: Why in God’s name are the doors still locked? When a court order means nothing. #wiunion 4:09pm Mar 1 @millbot Emily Mills I don’t think Walker has more than one facial expression.. so start heading to the Capitol! Doors are opening soon. what I’m actually doing is giving you the tools you need to succeed. #wiunion 11:26am Mar 1 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin We have confirmed that there will be a hearing at 2:15PM on public access to the Capitol in room 4A of the Dane County Courthouse. our system has failed.. Assuming Walker scuttled into Capitol via tunnel. Thank you! 9:38pm Mar 1 @millbot Emily Mills RT @LegalEagle: Access to the Capitol is more restricted right now than it was in the days and weeks following 9/11. Pretty lame. 11:18am Mar 2 . when I worked there .

because he was sincere and intelligent and genuinely committed to the well-being of the church. That I would take up such an opportunity for professional development ought to tell you something about just how exciting my life has become these days. 2011 Daniel Schultz I attended an ecumenical conference on rural ministry this past weekend. the professor got around to what I thought was the obvious point. After almost an hour of talking about such tidbits as the formative effect the Challenger disaster had on my generation. But if anyone has not heard by now the idea that different generations see the world differently. My guess is it will turn out to have been printed on high-quality cardboard that could have been put to better use as a cereal box. March 11. which was how economics shape cultural perspective. they should check into the validity of their college diploma.on wisconsin! | 261 A Pastor’s Notebook. The professor cheerfully attempted to help us understand the people in our pews with the help of corny jokes and stories and cultural insights so old they might have had grandchildren. Though traumas stick out in our minds. The opening speaker was a professor of rural sociology with a thick Missouri accent who was met by an impatient room of pastors fiddling with empty coffee cups and wondering when dessert would arrive. held annually in the city of Dubuque. Iowa. the stagnation of real income for most of the past 40 years has done more to shape . I don’t want to harp on the man.

There is a lot left undecided in Wisconsin these days. Tyrants fear tomorrow. how does this end? I don’t know. You might think that recent events in Wisconsin would confirm this bias. When asked why Gen-Xers are so cynical. But the cost to them has been delay and thousands—possibly hundreds of thousands—of ordinary people pouring into the streets in opposition. We will have to wait to see its final disposition. Come what may. It’s also possible that our son’s school may be shut. If it doesn’t have to be done right now. Governor Scott Walker has poked a hornet’s nest of immense proportions. Now I believe that it has more to do with seeing our economic opportunities chipped away. About that legislative outcome. We have no way of telling. it is the terrible uncertainty Cheddarheads live with these days. If I can impress upon my out-of-state friends any single point. It may seem today that the battle is lost. I suppose. has no idea what its budget might look like next year because state aid has not passed the Legislature. and the state senators who voted for it will come up against wellorganized and well-funded recall campaigns later this year. We’ve never thought there was much future in being us.on wisconsin! | 262 people my age than the loss of 10 space shuttles could ever achieve. Our school district. I used to reply that our first memories of watching television often ran to seeing President Richard Nixon resign or helicopters being pushed off the side of aircraft carriers as Saigon fell. they will have enough bodies in the Senate and Assembly to authorize the meanest of budgets. some people have claimed that no matter what the legislative outcome. It’s possible that teachers may be laid off. It is no accident that Walker continually pleads that crisis forces his hand. I discern a light. for myself and my children. Republicans had the votes to shove through legislation canceling collective bargaining. Indeed. there is hope that things could be different. In short order. it opens the possibility that it doesn’t have to be done at . Again and again I am asked. like many others. if you can claim running down teachers as winning something worth having. conservatives have scored a big win in this battle. I say nothing about cuts to social services that may or may not affect our daughter’s treatment. Nor is it accidental that the most controversial measures are the ones that move the quickest. But for now it is done. and seems determined to keep poking it to suit his ideological bent. though: It will no doubt face legal challenges. because where there is a future. The projected shortfall runs into the millions. year by year.

or so the Bible tells us. that when they stand together. after the legislation has passed. 17. Or perhaps things don’t have to be the way they are arranged presently. refusing to bow to conventional expectations of the divine.on wisconsin! | 263 all. But it did happen. He has a track record of being a singularly ill-behaved deity. The protesters have learned that their voices can be heard. evading every opportunity to end the situation today. that they can change outcomes. God did it again.” When the Israelites cried out under the oppression of Pharaoh. On Feb. and began to move them toward freedom. new and unheard-of possibilities. such as endorsing the rule of whoever happens to be on top of the social heap at the moment. I don’t envy him next year. it took another 40 years before Israel had enough of its stuff together to enter into the promised land. the end is nowhere near manifest. God is no respecter of wealth and privilege. God remained patient. it is possible that we may have replaced every senator eligible for recall and be preparing to vote on Walker’s future. it seemed certain that the story had run its course and any opposition to the original bill would come to nothing. I am perhaps fanciful enough to see in this chaos the hand of the trickster God Yahweh. the Lord heard them. The protesters in the streets of Madison and anyone who watches them with any astuteness have learned this lesson well.000 protesters are expected on the Capitol square. creating a way forward where there was none. the people have forced one tomorrow after another. however imbalanced. I will teach my son that in the streets of Madison. Tomorrow. Tomorrow is the greatest threat there is to an unjust today. they can have a future that is meaningfully different than the present. that can withstand this mix of hope and social solidarity. Even now. however stacked against ordinary people. but he does seem inordinately fond of creating new possibilities and disrupting “the seemingly self-evident way things must be. No one ever thought that the most powerful ruler in the world could lose his slave labor force! This was simply not the way things were done. tugging his children into a new future gently but insistently. Since then. tractors and 200. and that with a little faith 1 They promptly slaughtered the previous residents. By March 2012.1 In all that time. I hope this is one piece of the story that will not repeat itself. . It took a very long time: Moses was 80 years old when he appeared before the king of Egypt. and after dickering with him. There is no political structure.

there is always a tomorrow. but through it all. . the economic tides for working-class families rise and the tides fall. when some sociologist shorthands the character of his generation. I hope and I trust that years in the future. he will note their sunny optimism formed by the knowledge that pharaohs come and pharaohs go.on wisconsin! | 264 and a little grace. the people who have been weighed down for so long with legal and economic injustice can once again be free.

#WEaREWI .

Constitutionality unclear.m. #wiunion 12:38pm Mar 3 @millbot Emily Mills Walking around downtown the city feels decidedly changed. #wiunion 7:48pm Mar 2 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin News: WI Senate passed a resolution ordering arrest of Senate Dems if they don’t return by 4 p. The light is making its way through the cracks.@analieseeicher Analiese Eicher Yessssssssss!!!!! MT @sandycullenWSJ: 4 Dem Reps. Hope for that state. too. Stay strong rotunda community! #y’allrock! #wiunion 6:36pm Mar 2 @edcetera Ed Cetera Everyone hang in there. #wiunion #wibudget 6:29pm Mar 2 @analieseeicher Analiese Eicher No order from judge kicking ppl out of the cap tonight. We’re so close to victory. Officially not just protest but a movement. #wiunion 1:09pm Mar 3 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin 3 PM rally outside of the Capitol to demand that the public be allowed to enter their house! 3:02pm Mar 3 . moved desks outside the Capitol to meet with constituents who can’t get inside. Go talk to them! North wing #wiunion 2:47pm Mar 2 @abeckettwrn Andrew Beckett Hearing on Capitol access lawsuit will go to a third day. Testimony expected to resume at 1pm Thursday. #wiunion 2:37pm Mar 2 @WEaC WEAC RT @finnryan Assembly dems have moved their desks OUTSIDE Capitol & are meeting w/ constituents. today.

#wiunion 5:53pm Mar 3 @millbot Emily Mills RT @benmasel: March out proud tonight. Pizza will be there. but expected to rule soon. #wiunion 6:37pm Mar 3 . march in proud in the morning. Hints decision may include restraint on sleeping at capitol 5:19pm Mar 3 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin Judge drafts letter asking Rotunda to be vacated after the closing of business hours tonight.@yoProWI Young Progressives The State is now seeking a court order to remove the people from the capitol. Judge taking a few minutes. #wiunion 3:20pm Mar 3 @abeckettwrn Andrew Beckett Closing arguments done. #wiunion 5:41pm Mar 3 @defendWisconsin Defend Wisconsin Let’s give the exiting demonstrators a heros’ welcome when they leave the building! Meet at the Capitol @ 6pm. 3:12pm Feb 28 @analieseeicher Analiese Eicher Hulsey said getting into bldg was easier for himself today. but not for constituents.

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teachers. this country was built by people like him. 2011 John Nichols an hour before another of the evening demonstrations that brought thousands. Sarah Roberts was sitting in the Ancora coffee shop warming up.The Nation. except perhaps for the decades-old factory ID badge bearing the image of a young man. and their allies to the great square that surrounds the Capitol in Madison. the library sciences grad student looked the picture of urban cool. then more than 100. then tens of thousands.000 public employees. March 3. ‘What made my grandfather such a civic-minded man? Why was he always there to help someone who had lost their job? Take food to someone who couldn’t make ends meet? Serve on the City Council? What made him so incredibly engaged with his community and his state?’ Mom looked at me and she said. and municipal employees and teachers of their collective bargaining rights. I think we all kind of forgot that . With her blunt-cut blond hair and hip retro glasses. “This state was built by people like him. ‘Labor. students. county.’” So it was that the granddaughter of Willard Roberts—a 45-year employee and proud union man at the Monarch Range plant in the factory town of Beaver Dam—pulled out her grandpa’s ID and pinned it to her jacket when she learned that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was proposing to strip state. “A few weeks ago I asked my mom.

all that talk of building coalitions. “ground zero in the fight for labor rights in the United States.epilogue | 270 until the governor woke us up. who rallied more than 50. when Walker announced he would attach proposals to a minor budgetrepair bill to strip away the rights of public employees and teachers to organize in the workplace and to engage in meaningful collective bargaining. in the words of AFSCME President Gerald McEntee. Jesse Jackson. but all at once—is revealed. And when the determination of corporate interests and their political pawns to destroy unions— not by slow cuts. The bonds are not just economic or political. of creating movements linking union members with those who have never joined.” After three decades of attacks on public-sector unions. 11. have made Wisconsin. they are emotional and personal. She’s driving in. Thousands of students show up for an impromptu show by rocker Tom Morello and pump their fists in the air as they shout the lyrics of union songs they are only just learning. “An injury to one is an injury to all. dating back at least to President Ronald Reagan’s breaking of the air traffic controllers in 1981. as is so often the case. This legislation is an affront to my whole family history.” They have also created what the Rev.” she said. way deeper. Roberts told me she couldn’t go to the demo just yet: “I’m meeting my mom here. That goes deeper. suddenly moves from theory to practice. privatize everything. which have filled the central square of this capital in much the way that demonstrators filled Tahrir Square in Cairo just weeks earlier. But that was a great misfire. give it all away to the corporations. We’re the children and grandchildren of union workers and farmers and shopkeepers. She wanted to be here to honor her father and to stand on the side of the workers. The size of the demonstrations. he reminded us where we came from. Tens of thousands of citizens—not just public workers fearing for their livelihood but students fearing for their future and small-business owners fearing for their community—chant in unison as they rally in cities across the state. has focused more attention on an American labor struggle than has been . “Walker thought he could bust the unions. describes as “a Martin Luther King moment” for supporters of economic and social justice. than politics.000 demonstrators on a freezing Friday night.” After we finished talking. Because when he attacked the unions.” The remarkable events that have transpired in Wisconsin since Feb. the mass uprising against Walker’s attack has revealed a popular understanding of the necessity of the labor movement that is far richer than even the most optimistic organizer imagined.

But state Rep. a Madison Democrat who is former co-chair of the powerful legislative Joint Finance Committee. And this at a time when public services and education are under constant assault from corporate privatizers and billionaire political donors who are more than ready to “invest” in election results that will lower their taxes and serve their interests. Greeno then drove his truck to Madison to join what would turn out to be probably the largest demonstration in Wisconsin history and one of the largest pro-labor demonstrations in American history. and dramatic electoral twists and turns before it is done—raises key questions about whether mass movements can forge not only a new and better economy but a new and better politics. finished his chores on a Saturday morning one week after mass demonstrations prompted Democratic state senators to flee the state in order to deny Walker’s legislative allies a quorum to pass the bill. had more to do with politics than balancing budgets.” he shouted above chants of “What’s disgusting? Union-busting!” “The big-money guys. Joel Greeno. It was clear from the beginning that Walker’s initiative.” Walker actually agrees with Greeno. The governor says he must eliminate most collective bargaining rights to deal with shortfalls in revenues. This struggle—all but certain to see legislative disappointments. but in politics. How are farmers going to organize and be heard? If this goes through. they know what it’s all about: If they can take away the collective bargaining rights of unions. none of us stand a chance. His bill. if they can shut them up politically. backed by big-money TV ad campaigns and by such national conservative groups as the Club for Growth.epilogue | 271 seen in decades. a dairy farmer from western Wisconsin. “Wisconsin can balance its budget. says. They’re in this fight with all the money in the world. “The big corporations are organized. Mark Pocan. But that’s not the most important story out of Wisconsin. like similarly motivated if not quite-so-draconian measures proposed by GOP governors in other states. The most vital story is the one that people on both sides of this struggle least expected: After years of efforts by unions to rebrand and reposition themselves as “partners” and “constructive collaborators” with employers. legal challenges. Walker will get his way on some issues—too many issues. We’ve actually dealt with more serious . many Americans still recognize that perhaps the most important role of the labor movement is as a countervailing force not just in the workplace. we’re all finished. uses a fiscal challenge as an excuse to achieve a political end.

On it. This is about finding an excuse to take away collective bargaining rights and to destroy unions as a political force. But even more .epilogue | 272 shortfalls. A year before the governor took office in January—after winning a relatively low-turnout fall election that also saw Republicans take charge of this traditionally blue state’s Assembly and Senate—the U. while restructuring state healthinsurance programs so that tens of thousands of Wisconsinites could be stranded with no access to care. it is much smaller than the one former Governor Jim Doyle and Democratic legislators sorted out two years ago in cooperation with state employee unions. “Big money funneled by one of the richest men in America [David Koch] and one of the richest corporations in the world [Koch Industries] … put controversial Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in office. FEC decision removed barriers to corporate spending in election campaigns. The Republican Governors Association. invested at least $3. was highlighted in the governor’s budget-repair bill—which in addition to attacking unions outlined a plan to restructure state government so Walker could sell off power plants in no-bid deals to firms like Koch Industries. having collected a $1 million check from billionaire right-wingers Charles and David Koch and smaller contributions from other corporate interests. The Koch-Walker connection became a central issue of the Wisconsin uprising when the tape of a prank phone call—in which the governor can be heard talking over strategy with a blogger impersonating David Koch— was released to the public.S. and there is great debate over whether this “budget-repair” bill is needed. Pocan points to a review by the nonpartisan Fiscal Bureau that suggested the state might be able to end the year with a slight surplus if a tax dispute with Minnesota and issues regarding Medicaid payments are resolved.4 million in electing Walker.” The governor disputes Pocan’s argument. noted.000 to his campaign. who heads the Madison-based Center for Media and Democracy.” Walker’s debt to the Koch brothers. Walker talked about coordinating spending campaigns to shore up GOP legislators who back the bill. Let’s consider some context. This isn’t about revenue and spending. which cleared the way for former White House political czar Karl Rove and fellow operatives to spend hundreds of millions on federal and state races. GOP candidates reaped tremendous benefits from that ruling. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. While Wisconsin faces a genuine shortfall. whose PAC donated $43. As Lisa Graves. Walker’s real goal has always been clear.

So what is different about Wisconsin? And. more significant. that was the first crack in the Berlin Wall and the fall of Communism. you know. I said. I said this is our moment. Across the United States. If unions in Northern states are disempowered—as they are already in much of the South. And. when he fired the air traffic controllers. sometimes not. More than a century ago Robert La Follette forged the progressive movement in the state. and affiliates of the National Education Association are more than labor organizations. uh. where “right-to-work” laws are common—a debate already warped by the overwhelming influence of corporate cash will become dramatically narrower and even more deferential to wealthy donors and big business.” At one point. Ronald Reagan . signed by Governor Gaylord Nelson in 1959. but in Wisconsin’s history—little did I know how big it would be nationally—in Wisconsin’s history. but particularly in the swing states of the Great Lakes region and the upper Midwest. They are the best-funded and most aggressive challengers to attempts by corporate interests and their political allies to promote privatization. to underfund schools. to me that moment was more important than just for labor relations or even the federal budget. sometimes with success..” said Walker. this may not have as broad of world implications. Walker recalled a dinner with cabinet members on the eve of his announcement of the anti-union push.epilogue | 273 telling is the governor’s repetition of the phrase “This is our moment. Progressives have been talking about these concerns for a long time. . including the first state law allowing local government workers and teachers to engage in collective bargaining.. public-employee unions like AFSCME.” Walker certainly understands the stakes. not just his presidency. but thirty years ago. this is our time to change the course of history.. had one of the most defining moments of his political career. I said. Wisconsin has often been a political outlier. and to win elections. They have tried to create movements to push back. this may seem a little melodramatic. It was here that the forerunner to AFSCME was founded in 1932 and that pioneering labor laws were enacted. uh.. the American Federation of Teachers. “And. The same goes for organized labor. “I said. It grew so strong that when the former Wisconsin governor ran for president in 1924 as an independent radical backed by the Socialist Party and the labor . what potential is there to build a movement that extends far beyond one state? Trade unionism has deep roots in Wisconsin.

by Milwaukee voters who kept electing Socialist mayors well into the 1950s (even as a right-wing populist. where invariably there is a reading of the words of the man who inspired La Follette.000 people gather each September for an annual “Fighting Bob Fest” in rural Sauk County.” Wisconsin’s history and progressive infrastructure created a sense. ex- . Mahoney responded that his deputies weren’t “palace guards. Madison was a hotbed of 1960s protests and has remained a center of activism and independent media. That infuriated Walker so much that he and legislative allies initiated a clampdown limiting access to the Capitol before a judge ordered its reopening. Pride in the progressive tradition runs so strong that as many as 10. Joe McCarthy. and most recently by former Sen. . but for political power. and Schultz and Goodman returned for live broadcasts as the current dispute developed. And as protesters slept-in at the Capitol while Democratic legislators kept hearings going 24 hours a day in the early stages of the struggle. they decorated the area around the bust of La Follette. The enterprises of the country are aggregating vast corporate combinations of unexampled capital.. Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney played a critical role in easing tensions at the Capitol. was winning statewide and stirring a red scare nationally). making it possible for demonstrators to maintain a sleep-in after the governor and GOP legislators tried to force them out. he beat the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees in Wisconsin. former state Supreme Court Justice Edward Ryan. union activists like AFSCME’s Ed Sadlowski kept a vigil at the La Follette bust.. But it’s not just nostalgia or tradition that distinguishes Wisconsin in general and Madison in particular. Russ Feingold. Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman and radio’s Thom Hartmann have broadcast from Madison in the past. The maverick strain was maintained through the 20th century by liberals and radicals who briefly governed the state under the banner of the Progressive Party.” When students affiliated with the Teaching Assistants’ Association marched from the University of Wisconsin to the Capitol in one of the initial protests against Walker’s bill. not for economical conquests only. and even commercial radio hosts like John “Sly” Sylvester have given daily coverage to the protests.epilogue | 274 movement. who said in 1873: “There is looming up a new and dark power. Progressive TV and radio hosts like MSNBC’s Ed Schultz. boldly marching. There are strong community stations like WORT-FM. Local elected officials tend to be progressive and pro-union.

that was perhaps best summed up by an instructor at Madison Area Technical College. as will Democrats who seek to make cuts in public-employee pay. the initiative was so successful that firefighter and police union members became key players. Noting the news from Wisconsin. it is vital to be bold and flexible. released Feb. That’s important when public employees and teachers are under assault from conservative think tanks and their media echo chamber. (MTI). But that will not happen easily. and workplace protections. the city’s education union. to take four days off to march and lobby against the bill. parents and private-sector union members stepped into their places on the picket line. and that inspired others.” Bartholomew is right. While Walker is not backing down. “We’re going to go negotiate with our unions in a collective bargaining fashion to achieve goals. But I know it’s going to have to go everywhere. pensions. it does have to go everywhere. And other surveys have found solid support for collective bargaining rights. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced. So did a decision by members of Madison Teachers. found that if they were electing a governor today. The first is that even after years of right-wing messaging. that does not mean the labor movement and progressives can’t learn powerful lessons from this fight. Mary Bartholomew. benefits. who declared. 28. union leaders made the not wholly popular choice to concede on a host of economic issues so the focus would remain squarely on the fight . Recent national polls suggest that Americans favor protecting collective bargaining rights by a 2–1 margin. MTI’s John Matthews immediately went to firefighters and got them to join the protest in solidarity. Democrat Tom Barrett would defeat Walker by a 52–45 margin. When the teachers went back to school. other Republican governors will be smarter than Walker. The second lesson is that when the assault comes.” But even if other governors avoid Walker’s divisive rhetoric and extreme tactics.epilogue | 275 pressed by many in the state. A Public Policy Polling survey of likely Wisconsin voters. It’s not picking fights. When Walker tried to portray the unions and their members as greedy. Members of the Teaching Assistants’ Association were among the first to start sleeping at the Capitol. Inc. When Walker tried to set police and firefighter unions against the broader movement by exempting them from the worst assaults. “I’m so glad it came here first. even in the public sector. Americans—at least in key swing states—don’t have much taste for union-busting.

but they did so with an awareness of the need to be open to new ideas and approaches learned from the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle. These facts must be stressed. as they point out: “In U. . When Walker claimed that the demonstrators were being bused in from out of state.5 billion in the last year. states facing a budget shortfall. repeatedly and aggressively. One of the most popular signs on the streets. and communication between the unions and the Democratic senators was stilted and at times dysfunctional. The decision by state Senate Democrats to leave the Capitol to deny a quorum for the governor’s bill was essential in giving its opponents time to build their numbers and rally communities. villages. indeed.” Instead of concessions. who forced a 60-plus-hour debate led by younger legislators like Mark Pocan. The marathon resistance by state Assembly Democrats. The final lesson is that the influence of corporate money in our politics must be highlighted.epilogue | 276 to keep collective bargaining rights. if the debate is going to shift from cuts in public services and education to demands for fair taxes and the revenues necessary for services and schools. in order to show how fiscal crises are often manufactured or twisted for political gain. many state and local employees showed up in their work uniforms. said. the nurses argued. but the best of the Democrats championed labor’s cause at critical junctures. Racine’s Cory Mason. two-thirds of corporations pay no taxes. particularly “This is what democracy looks like. especially when they see tens of thousands of their constituents through their office windows. and Milwaukee’s Tamara Grigsby. Ultimately. marchers began carrying signs naming the towns. some Democrats still disappointed. and the share of state revenue from corporate taxes has fallen by half since 1981. distributed by National Nurses United.” The third lesson is that Democratic politicians can act in smart and courageous ways. Even when the problems are real. and counties they came from. “Blame Wall Street.” The same is true in other states. The international unions certainly provided tactical and economic support. This outside/inside strategy was critical for protesters and legislators. the Seattle influence was so deep that some of its slogans were adopted. it’s time to focus on the corporate CEOs and speculators. the answers offered by Republican governors like Walker are not. In Wisconsin. strengthened opposition and further expanded the movement.S. The Democrats are not a labor party in any classic sense. revenues from corporate taxes have declined $2.

they planted something in us. And if we get pushed too far. I think it started here. “Something about this has struck a chord of fairness and humanity that runs deep in all of us.” Sarah Roberts told me as she waited for her mom. and I am so excited to see where we take it. young teachers. But that’s a big deal. some values.epilogue | 277 For all the excitement of Wisconsin. “We’ve been pushed around for so long. But I think our grandparents and our parents. and that’s the most important lesson. which were so disappointing to progressives. “You have inspired this fat old white guy!” Gerard said. and state employees at the Capitol. After the policy compromises of 2009 and the electoral setbacks of 2010. for all the hope the protests have generated. we are going to push back.” . But it’s not just the labor leaders who are inspired. told we didn’t have any power for so long. the upsurge in Wisconsin has inspired people so powerfully that national labor leaders like United Steelworkers International President Leo Gerard were ecstatic as they addressed the crowds of students. we are still only at a point where we can talk about changing the terms of the debate.

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and would require public employees to contribute a much higher percentage of their pay into pensions and health care costs. Walker’s bill proposed severely limiting state employees’ right to collectively bargain on wages. workplace conditions. Walker had come into office as part of the 2010 conservative wave that ushered in Republican control of the U. grievance procedures.appendix: timeline | 279 What Happened in Wisconsin: A Timeline During the extraordinary protests that took place this winter in Wisconsin. The bill would force unions to undergo annual elections to maintain their existence. House of Representatives. What follows is an overview of what happened over the first few months of Wisconsin’s struggle for workers’ rights. events developed at a breakneck speed. and would take away unions’ ability to negotiate on sick leave. launched an attack on state workers in the form of his now-infamous “budgetrepair” bill. reducing their paychecks . presented as a timeline of the major developments in what was often a complex and rapidly changing situation. in Wisconsin. February 11. and benefits. Scott Walker. the governorship flipped from blue to red and a Tea Party-supported billionaire ousted progressive champion Senator Russ Feingold. Wisconsin’s newly elected Republican governor.S. allow employers to fire or discipline workers without cause. What set these unprecedented demonstrations in motion was this: On Friday.

that night.m.” and they urged Walker to not cut university funding. more than 10. Walker announced that he was willing to mobilize the state’s National Guard to suppress dissent or prevent a potential workers’ strike. On Tuesday.. and crowding into overflow rooms around the Capitol. signing up to testify by the hundreds. and other groups saw an opportunity: In Wisconsin. But with hundreds of people still waiting to speak. People filled the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee hearing on the bill. as a sleep-in started by those waiting to testify against Walker’s bill. In this way. and the Capitol remained open as people testified—one after another in twominute time slots—until dawn. Organizers from the University of Wisconsin graduate assistants union.. . the new attack on workers and unions energized many more to come out and join in. Adding insult to the blow. The first day of large demonstrations took place on Monday. bringing food. . We were staying. The crowds included 700 students from Madison’s East High School. Hundreds watched and waited for their turn to speak. the Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA). February 14. February 15.” Yet Republican members of the Joint Finance Committee repeatedly tried to end the marathon hearing. and as afternoon became evening. when a thousand University of Wisconsin students marched to the Capitol. and eventually succeeded in cutting off the official session at around 3 a. many saw his move as a blatant assault that used the state’s budget crisis as pretext for weakening public unions in Wisconsin—the first state to allow their existence. Democratic members kept an informal hearing going throughout the night.000 outraged Wisconsinites filled the Capitol to express their opposition to the bill that they saw as a direct attack on their state’s identity and its deeply-rooted values. “If you go home and come back you’re going to have a lower turnout the next day. As Alexander Hanna from the TAA said. the Capitol is required to stay open as long as a hearing is taking place. protesters continued streaming in. While the governor claimed the bill was necessary to address the state’s budget shortfall. So they encouraged people to continue signing up to testify in order to keep the momentum of the packed Capitol going strong. drinks. who walked out of classes to march to the Capitol.appendix: timeline | 280 by eight percent. Though the rally had been planned weeks before Walker announced his bill. They carried Valentine’s Day cards that read “I Heart UW. the Capitol occupation was born. and sleeping bags.

they stood with the thousands of protesters in the Capitol that day. February 16. on Thursday. Republicans were left one senator short of the quorum required to hold a vote. moving from hotel to hotel across state lines in Illinois. and unable to move forward with the bill. February 19. But after hours of testimony. A smaller group of between 3. February 23.000 that day.000 and 5. 68. February 17.000 turned out for a counter-protest. with hundreds continuing to sleep inside the Capitol. On Saturday. where they heard from Tea Party favorites Joe the Plumber. in which Murphy pretended to be billionaire Tea Party and Walker campaign-donor David Koch. more than half of Madison’s teachers called in sick to protest Walker’s bill.000 people took part in rallies outside the Capitol. . Wisconsin’s 14 Democratic senators fled the state. protesters slept inside the Capitol. For the second night. where Wisconsin police had no jurisdiction.appendix: timeline | 281 On Wednesday. including hundreds of people who had been holding a sit-in in front of the Senate chambers to block senators from going inside. Walker’s bill passed out of the Joint Finance Committee. but they remained on the run. Buffalo Beast editor Ian Murphy recorded a call to Walker. during which time Walker admitted that he had considered attempting to lure Democratic senators back to the state under false promises of negotiation and had thought about planting rabble-rousers amongst demonstrators to create a violent image of the protesters. Murphy talked to Walker for 20 minutes. Firefighters and police officers. With no Democrats present. two groups that Walker had specifically exempted from the bill’s reach. Andrew Breitbart. They too joined the Capitol protests. news broke that Walker had been punked. Despite the close proximity of the two opposing groups. By doing so. and their act of defiance— and the fact that they risked their jobs by leaving work and effectively going on strike—energized many others. and Herman Cain. State troopers were sent to Democratic senators’ houses to track them down. the gathering remained peaceful. who swelled to an estimated 25. completely shutting down the city’s schools until February 22. The bill then moved to the state Senate—but before a vote could be held. came to show solidarity with protesters. and were greeted with raucous cheers by the crowds in the rotunda. Their dramatic move energized the crowds of protesters. On Wednesday.

where he was rushed in and out through an underground tunnel to avoid the protesters. they began tightening se