BOOK REVIEW by Seth Sandronsky
Looking at a Year of Revolt in Wisconsin
From The Progressive Populist, April 15, 2012
Pity the US proletariat? Not author, editor and labor educator Michael D. Yates and fellow scribes in Wisconsin Uprising: Labor Fights Back (Monthly Review Press). In 16 essays, they lay out forceful portraits of last year’s political conflict in or that relate to the Badger State.
Connor Donegan fleshes out the recent past of anti-union lawmaking in Wisconsin that GOP Gov. Scott Walker personifies, capturing the struggle of (un)organized labor to resist capital’s bid to force working families to bear the brunt of the Great Recession. This trend is national and global, with high stakes for workers.
Andrew Sernatinger links popular consciousness and the 2008 financial crisis (Wall Street bailout and Main Street sell-out) to the Wisconsin protest dynamics. Sounding a theme throughout the book, he addresses the progressive activity in and out of the Democratic Party that sparked that state’s robust resistance.
Lee Sustar dissects working conditions for the Badger State’s private- and public-sector workers. To this end, he discusses new organizing models there via “a labor-student-community alliance.”
For Dan La Botz, the Wisconsin events herald the dawn of a “New American Workers’ Movement,” as unionized public-sector employment rises and factory jobs fall. Further, he questions the Democratic Party’s emphasis on elections, stressing why activists and organizers must build circles of solidarity as a way to forge an independent political process by and for popular power.
Rand Wilson and Steve Early take up labor’s counter-strategies against state lawmakers’ anti-union measures such as banning payroll deductions of dues or fees from members for union representation. This is a practical and useful piece. Jane Slaughter and Mark Brenner outline some lessons of the Wisconsin conflict. One is the urgency of building popular awareness that the political class and their 1 percent paymasters caused the Great Recession and budget deficits of local and state governments, and not public workers. Elly Leary links historic “internal contradictions” of US labor unions with current political conditions as a springboard to discuss confronting the ongoing attack of the top 1%.
She critiques labor unions’ compromise with white supremacy and patriarchy as departure points for broadening a dwindling rank-and-file as America becomes a “minority-majority” nation….
Read the entire review in The Progressive Populist