Wisconsin Uprising: Labor Fights Back

Wisconsin Uprising: Labor Fights Back

Wisconsin Uprising: Labor Fights Back

Wisconsin Uprising: Labor Fights Back


In early 2011, the nation was stunned to watch Wisconsin’s state capitol in Madison come under sudden and unexpected occupation by union members and their allies. The protests to defend collective bargaining rights were militant and practically unheard of in this era of declining union power. Nearly forty years of neoliberalism and the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression have battered the labor movement, and workers have been largely complacent in the face of stagnant wages, slashed benefits and services, widening unemployment, and growing inequality.

That is, until now. Under pressure from a union-busting governor and his supporters in the legislature, and inspired by the massive uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, workers in Wisconsin shook the nation with their colossal display of solidarity and outrage. Their struggle is still ongoing, but there are lessons to be learned from the Wisconsin revolt. This timely book brings together some of the best labor journalists and scholars in the United States, many of whom were on the ground at the time, to examine the causes and impact of events, and suggest how the labor movement might proceed in this new era of union militancy.


Robert W. McChesney

When Michael Yates approached me about writing a preface to this book, I feared it might be a hastily thrown-together operation, an effort to capitalize as quickly as possible on the events in Wisconsin before they were sucked into the black hole of America’s political memory. As a resident of Madison who spent much of February and March participating in the protests at the state capital, I was concerned that the book would fail to convey accurately the Wisconsin uprising, and there would be a tendency to leap from a weak foundation into political flights of fancy. I thought my foreword might have to disentangle the reality of the Wisconsin uprising from what was to follow.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

Upon reading this book, I discovered the essays are by and large outstanding. the accounts of the events in Madison in the winter and early spring of 2011 are the best I have seen in writing, with context, detail, and analysis I have seen nowhere else. I learned more than I thought possible. Better yet, the connections of the Wisconsin revolt to the existential questions facing the labor movement are handled with a clarity, intelligence, perspective, and urgency that is exactly . . .

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