Thousands of workers demonstrated at the state capital in Madison, Wisconsin on February 15 and 16 to protest plans by that state's Republican Governor Scott Walker to take away the state workers' union rights. Walker, cleverly attempted to divide the public workers by excluding police and firefighters from his anti-union law, and the media have worked to divide public employees against private sector workers.
Yet, both firemen and private sector workers showed up at the statehouse to join public workers of all sorts in what has been one of the largest workers' demonstrations in the United States in decades. Only California has seen demonstrations as large as these in recent years.
Many demonstrators, taking a clue from the rebellions against authoritarian and anti-worker governments that are sweeping the Middle East, carried signs saying, “Let's negotiate like they do in Egypt.” While the situation in Wisconsin is hardly comparable to the revolution in the Arab world, what we are witnessing is the beginning of a new American workers' movement. Because this movement is so different than what many expected, it may take us by surprise.