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Learning from Wisconsin

Posted 2 years ago on June 16, 2012, 5:23 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt

Thousands rallying outside the Wisconsin State Capitol
Feb. 26, 2011: 100,000 people rally outside the Wisconsin capitol on the 12th day of the occupation

Article via the Portland Occupier. Written by Mark Vorpahl

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker not only defeated the recall, he did so easily, taking 54 percent of the vote. This is a big defeat for the union leadership who threw as many resources as they could afford behind this effort. How is it possible that this could have happened after all that had gone on before?

The massive uprising last winter in Madison, Wisconsin, that was spurred by Walker’s plans to balance the state deficit by slashing public workers’ benefits and wages, as well as stripping them of their collective bargaining rights, was a flood no one saw coming. Walker expected opposition, but nothing of the nature and magnitude that developed. The unions and community members who initiated the state capital occupation were likewise surprised. The powerful current of solidarity and desire to fight austerity policies that benefit the wealthy few at the expense of working people ran wide and deep, though previously it had not risen to the surface. Madison, Wisconsin, charged workers’ political consciousness in a way that prepared for the Occupy Wall Street Movement, as well as greater social movements on the horizon.

This struggle was measurably affecting public opinion. While the many polls taken during this period were not consistent, there was an overall pattern of growing sympathy for the public workers and their supporters as well as increasing anger towards Walker. During the protests a New York Times/CBS Poll found that 60 percent of Americans opposed restricting collective bargaining while 33 percent were for it, 56 percent of Americans opposed reducing pay for public employees and only 37 percent were for it. In a Wisconsin Public Radio poll released on April 22, 49 percent said they disapproved of Republican efforts compared to 39 percent who approved.

How could such momentum be lost? Perhaps even more telling to Labor’s failure to build from these developments is the fact that in exit polls 36 percent of union members voted against the recall. If the task of the day is to reverse the one-sided class war Wall Street has been waging on the 99 percent, it is necessary to draw the correct lessons from Wisconsin.

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