On Wisconsin

When Wisconsin governor Scott Walker launched his broadside against public employee collective bargaining rights, he triggered a protest movement that attracted international attention. Unfortunately, the attempt to remove the governor from office failed two weeks ago, as millions of conservative dollars poured into the state to defeat the recall effort.

“We Are Wisconsin”

But the public outcry spurred by Walker’s assault on working people has not gone away. At the biennial convention of Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) this weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting one of the everyday heroes of the protest movement, a Madison, Wisconsin detective named Brian Austin.

I grabbed from Brian’s Facebook page this photo from the ADA Convention: Brian on the left, joined by two other progressive stalwarts, Congresswoman and ADA President Lynn Woolsey and Communications Workers of America president Larry Cohen:

Brian appeared at our convention to discuss the extraordinarily moving documentary “We Are Wisconsin,” which chronicles the grassroots protests that immediately followed the filing of legislation to strip most Wisconsin public workers of their core collective bargaining rights. He is one of six individuals featured in the film, which follows his participation in a “Cops for Labor” group in support of the protests — despite that police officers were expressly exempted from Gov. Walker’s legislative attack on collective bargaining rights.

The screening of the film put tears in our eyes. It’s the story of everyday people standing up for their dignity and their basic rights. It’s dramatic, uplifting, sad, and outrageous. You can rent it via short-term download ($4.99 for 48 hours) here. Do so; you won’t be disappointed. The documentary soon will be available on DVD as well.

Down but not out

The defeat of the recall election was a setback and disappointment, without question. The results demonstrated the power of big money in politics and the relentless determination of the far right to diminish worker dignity.

But watching “We Are Wisconsin,” I saw the making of new activists before my eyes on the screen. Walker and his friends showed that what they’re about is not belt-tightening during tough economic times, but rather a desire to destroy the labor movement and the rights of everyday working people. For thousands of Badger state citizens like Brian Austin, that struck a chord. If their energy and commitment can be harnessed for the long haul, the anti-labor forces of the far right will have met their match.


For more

You can read Brian Austin’s blog, “Badger Blue, Times Two,” here.

Americans for Democratic Action is a liberal advocacy group with historic ties to the labor movement. I just completed a two-year term as its Chair, and I remain on its board. For more information about ADA, go here.

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