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It Started in Wisconsin: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Labor Protest

First-hand accounts of the largest pro-labor mass mobilization in modern American history

In the spring of 2011, Wisconsinites took to the streets in what became the largest and liveliest labor demonstrations in modern American history. Protesters in the Middle East sent greetings—and pizzas—to the thousands occupying the Capitol building in Madison, and 150,000 demonstrators converged on the city.

In a year that has seen a revival of protest in America, here is a riveting account of the first great wave of grassroots resistance to the corporate restructuring of the Great Recession.

It Started in Wisconsin includes eyewitness reports by striking teachers, students, and others (such as Wisconsin-born musician Tom Morello), as well as essays explaining Wisconsin’s progressive legacy by acclaimed historians. The book lays bare the national corporate campaign that crafted Wisconsin’s anti-union legislation and similar laws across the country, and it conveys the infectious esprit de corps that pervaded the protests with original pictures and comics.

Reviews

  • “[A] collection of stories from those that participated in one of the most inspiring movements to erupt in the US heartland in decades. Those stories provide the observer from afar with a fairly universal and nuanced look at the daily lives of those involved in organizing, occupying, reporting and otherwise participating in those weeks of popular democracy. Interspersed between the tales of the workers, students, farmers and other protesters are a number of photographs and comics. The inclusion of these graphics truly enhances the overall effect....worthwhile and provocative.”
  • “These essays delve into the historical, political, and ideological underpinnings of the 2011 events. [L]ater chapters are meatier, with events set against the backdrop of early-20th-century Wisconsin progressive politics when Governor Robert 'Fighting Bob' LaFollette began the crusade against the dominance of corporate America (at that time, railroads) over government. The book exposes how that same dominance continues today. [W]ill help readers, regardless of their own stance, to understand much of what's at stake in the country's current labor and political battles.”
  • “Midwest pride of place animates much of the writing, along with awareness of Wisconsin's progressive history, the global context for the Madison protests and a genuine outrage that transcends the particular grievances of public sector union members. If anything, Walker has reawakened a dormant spirit of solidarity. The harvest of the extremism he sowed may be his own undoing.”
  • “Convey[s] some deeper understanding and offer[s] important lessons valuable for struggles to come...will stand as a future reference point for those wishing to get some later handle on what happened in the 'Badger State.' Importantly, several of the key essays provide a deeper backdrop for an understanding of what happened. The massive show of solidarity with those directly affected by the 'budget repair bill' did not come just from police and firefighters exempted from the assault, or from private sector trade union hands. It came from a broader public not directly tied to organized labor. [C]ontains several important perspectives on the state of Wisconsin labor, key for understanding the uprising.”

Blog

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    All of the books on our US Politics Reading List
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Other books Edited by Paul Buhle and Mari Jo Buhle Foreword by Michael Moore Introduction by John Nichols