Under the Maple Canopy

Singing Union Songs Since 2009

On the subject of labor peace…

And this is a key reason why a governor taking on public employee unions, which would be popular in many other states, was really lighting a political powder-keg here, and why so many polls showed that the people of Wisconsin, who had just elected Walker and the Republicans, were now on the side of the unions and the Dems. It’s one thing to defeat the unions on financial issues — this is, in part, a major reason that people would elect Republicans in Wisconsin — but to try to hobble and obliterate them really went against people’s sense of fair play and respect for the state’s institutions.

When I travelled there two weeks ago, something really struck me about the atmosphere of the place. An undercurrent of the state that I’d always felt and never truly understood — class consciousness — had now emerged full-scale into class conflict.

Why, I wondered when I lived there, was there always this class undercurrent in a quiet, pleasant part of Middle America? The truth is that until the 1950s or so, Wisconsin was the site of very intense labor strife, the kind that could result in people dying. The state Democratic Party itself places its roots back to two older parties, the Progressive Party and Milwaukee’s Socialists, who held significant power as the pro-labor forces of the first half of the 20th century. And the state’s very progressive labor laws amounted to something of a ceasefire, with only rare and minor labor unrest that might be found in any other state — but still, the historical memory of the old days remained.

And now, by seeking to roll back those same progressive labor laws as they relate to public employees, Walker and the Republicans have reawakened all of that old ire.

This from Talking Points Memo and Eric Kleefeld. No, it’s not being melodramatic.  More specifics on why I understand this to be true from a post I made back in February.  I don’t know how this will all turn out and I know there will be many who will argue that people will forget as time goes on.  I suppose there are some that will forget, but I have a sense that the divide really does run as deep as Kleefeld suggests.  As for the people dying part?  They did, often women and children included.  The fight for what we have today was long, hard, and cost a lot.  I don’t think this is going away tomorrow or next month.  I don’t think this is going away any time soon.


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