Wisconsin Uprising, edited by Michael Yates, Monthly Review Press, 2012
Reviewed by Ellen La Luzerne
As a lifelong Wisconsin resident and union thug, almost every aspect of my life has been changed by the series of events that began with the election of Scott Walker. Everyone around me has felt the impact of his regime, personally and at work.
We’ve seen a long list of losses: wages, benefits, clean government, environmental protections, collective bargaining rights, and more. But we also gained a collective voice, evidenced by the mass rallies and a million signatures on petitions aimed at recalling Walker.
A collection of essays by union activists, journalists, and academics, Wisconsin Uprising: Labor Fights Back chronicles and makes sense of what happened. The first section details the events that led up to the uprising and lays out what was happening in the legislature, in the streets, and around the state as events unfolded. We read how Walker was elected and how unexpected were both his attack on collective bargaining and the massive response. Frank Emspak of the Workers’ Independent News Service says that not only is the many-sided rebellion like the parable of the blind man and the elephant, “the uprising was so unexpected that the blind man would have been trampled by the elephant had he arrived in Madison on February 14, 2011.”
The book’s middle section gives insightful criticisms and suggestions on what has gone wrong with unions and the lessons we might learn. Of particular note is labor educator Stephanie Luce’s list of lessons for organizers. She notes that the left has often been timid, afraid of alienating “the middle”: We temper our demands to sound reasonable and end up losing everything. We need to be bold and inclusive, she says, refusing to “highlight only the most ‘respectable’ parts of our movement.”…
Read the entire review in Labor Notes