With 20 years in the labor movement under my belt, I looked at the actions taken last night by Wisconsin's Republican legislature and Governor Scott Walker and had an unusual response. It wasn't despair or anger. Though once the shock wears off from seeing tens of thousands of workers stripped of their rights, I am sure those feelings will overwhelm me. No. Weirdly, among my first reactions was hope and gratitude.
I wanted to thank the governor. So I wrote him a note.
Since I am simply one of many fighting for working Americans, and not a billionaire financier, he is unlikely to take the time to read a personal note from me. So I decided to share it with all of you in the hope that someone could pass it on.
Dear Governor Walker,
Thank you for making a world where once there were only a few thousand people who would stand up to prevent the oppression of middle class workers and now there will be hundreds of thousands. You have breathed new life into the worker's rights movement and given us a national stage for our struggle.
Thank you for showing the whole world just how far you and other conservatives are willing to go to serve your ideology instead of your constituents. This stark example of your rhetoric being contradicted by your actions was a wakeup call that we all needed to keep motivated and focused on our goal of creating a fair economy in our country.
Thank you for taking the labor movement from an increasingly declining and divided entity to a unified and surging force for good with unprecedented public support. We needed the kick in the pants that your gross over-reach created to refocus our efforts and re-fire our members.
Thank you for showing everyone the fallacy of the argument that these kinds of anti-worker initiatives are somehow about rebuilding the economy. If you had actually dealt with fiscal issues, we might have bought into your spin. Now we know that economics is your last concern and political power is your first.
Thank you for being duped by the fake Koch Brother and showing us your real motivations and schemes to trick the Democrats and gain power over middle class workers. That peek into your real mind, while ugly and disturbing, will keep us from being too gullible ourselves and remind us to question the rhetoric we hear until its backed by actions we can see.
Thank you for making us value our democracy and understand how hard we have to fight to protect to it. You showed us how fragile it can be by twisting it so badly to serve your purposes.
Thank you for being a role model for others who want to pursue a dictatorial style of leadership where compromise and collaboration are unheard of. If you had actually sat down and talked man to man (or woman) with the thousands of workers who wanted to step up and help solve the economic crisis facing your state and our country, some might have seen you as a real leader.
Thank you for showing my child and all the children of this country a leader who refuses to honor their commitments or the rule of law. You have ensured the next generation will never support leaders like you and will fight to reverse the damage that you have done.
And finally, thank you for reminding me that even when we are facing what many will call a defeat; we can find the seeds of a larger victory on behalf of working people. We can find new resolve to create real solutions and fight people like you who only want to create scapegoats.
Amy B. Dean
P.S. You've also added some nice momentum for us going into the next election cycle (not to mention the recall efforts). Thanks!
Amy Dean is co-author, with David Reynolds, of A New New Deal: How Regional Activism Will Reshape the American Labor Movement. She worked for nearly two decades in the labor movement and now works to develop new and innovative organizing strategies for social change organizations in progressive, labor, and faith communities. You can follow Amy on Twitter at @amybdean, or she can be reached via the Web site, www.amybdean.com.