Why should we care about Wisconsin?

| 15 Feb 2012 | 08:45

    One of the universal beliefs that different cultures in America share is that this country holds promise for those who work hard. But when people are not allowed to negotiate for the conditions of their work environment, or for their rights, that promise becomes an empty one. We can’t let that happen. This week there was a special recall election in Wisconsin over the rollback of public employee bargaining rights. While Labor and Democrats lost four of the six races to recall GOP state senators who support squashing workers rights to bargain, they can be proud of what they were able to accomplish. Like many rights worth fighting for, there are always those who want to suppress others. Rights are not easily won, and while battles may be lost, the win happens eventually. Today’s America is different than the country our ancestors knew. Today women and minorities vote, abortion and birth control are legal, marriage rights are being extended to same sex couples, sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal, people’s civil rights are protected, and collective bargaining for the workplace exists. Not one of these was an easy victory. But each one has brought us closer to the promise this country offers. Even though workers’ rights suffered another defeat this week, there is consolation that their efforts succeeded in awakening the public to their plight. The election in Wisconsin became ground zero in a national class war. Organized Labor and the Democrats squared off against the Republican dominated state government. And people everywhere heard about it. The fact that these recall elections happened at all was a success. There was an explosion of demonstrations and protests around the country in opposition to Governor Walker’s attack on collective bargaining. The ability of activists to get thousands of recall signatures in record time shows that basic grass roots organizing still works. This is a part of the democratic process each of us should take to heart. Whether your issues are related to workers’ rights, health care, social security, Medicare, immigration, women’s rights, or the environment, etc., there is always hope for change. Activism works. Even when Washington is dysfunctional, being part of a solution beats sitting back and complaining about the problem. Get involved. Think global, but act local is still a sound way to live. Willa Freiband, president Orange County Democratic Women