The Struggle Continues: The Wisconsin Labor Movement One Year Later

Last week we recognized the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the massive protests across Wisconsin against Scott Walker's wayward collective bargaining agreement. 2011 was the year of labor. During this past year we saw Wisconsinites bring -- what we called during the Civil Rights Movement -- the "street heat" to Madison to protest Governor Scott Walker and his efforts to ram through legislation that cut state employee benefits and stripped unions of their collective bargaining rights.

The rallies in Madison against the governor's attack on collective bargaining began during those brisk days early in March. Hundreds of thousands attended those rallies from throughout the state. Soon, state federations from across the country sent their members to help mobilize people -- knocking on doors and spreading the word -- to let them know of the damage being done to the hard working people of Wisconsin.

Since then, this movement has spread across this country -- to Ohio, Maine, Arizona, Alabama and beyond. But I am proud to say that the movement began in Wisconsin. This is the state that gave the country the first unemployment program, the first workers compensation program, the first public sector bargaining laws -- fostered by the origins of AFSCME, which began in Wisconsin. The University of Wisconsin system and particularly the school of Labor Relations in Madison were early leaders in state labor law as well as contributors to federal labor law as developed under the Roosevelt Administration. Wisconsinites are deeply rooted in the labor movement.

Governor Scott Walker didn't know who he was messing with when he picked a fight with the hard-working union folks of Wisconsin. He must have forgotten that Wisconsin is the Badger State. And badgers are scrappy little creatures. We may look cute, warm and fuzzy, but we have a fighting spirit.

That fighting spirit continued into 2012 with the people of Wisconsin collecting over 1 million signatures to recall Scott Walker. Now he is fighting for his political life.

My friend Scott Walker and so many of my Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill and across this country forgot the most important rule of democracy -- the power always lies with the people. If you continue to ignore the will of the people, soon they will let their voices be heard and remind you who is really in charge.

Right now we hear the people loud and clear. Our nation's working class is demanding to bargain for more of the wealth that they created. This clear attack on workers' rights departs from a long-preserved American tradition of democracy in the workplace.

We are certainly making tremendous progress in this movement but we still have a long way to go. We must continue to harness that energy and continue to push forward. We cannot get stagnant. This recall effort is not over and we want to make sure that we see it through to the end.