Wisconsin's Labor Movement Was Forged in Fire

Scholars Harvey J. Kaye and Jon Shelton talk about the strikes and uprisings that paved the way.

Maximillian Alvarez

Some 6,000 teachers from the National Education Association conference being held here, rallied in Chicago's Grant Park 6/30 in support of striking teachers elsewhere. The teachers cheered teachers from Hortonville, Wisconsin, and Timberlane, New Hampshire, who had hiked to Chicago after being fired for striking. Getty

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We continue our series on the struggles of teachers and public sector unions in the state of Wisconsin today. As part of a special collaboration between The Real News Network and In These Times magazine for The Wisconsin Idea,” Max, Cameron Granadino (TRNN), and Hannah Faris (In These Times) traveled to Wisconsin in the summer of 2021. From Madison to Appleton, they spoke to a range of educators, organizers, scholars, and activists who are fighting to rebuild worker power after the devastating passage of Act 10 in 2011 under Republican Governor Scott Walker, and nearly 50 years after cops, townspeople, and a union-busting school board broke the infamous Hortonville teachers’ strike in 1974. In this interview, recorded in the town of Hortonville, Max sits down with scholars Harvey J. Kaye and Jon Shelton to discuss the historical significance of Act 10, the Wisconsin Uprising, and the Hortonville strike that set the stage for them decades earlier, and to examine how these crucial events fit into the larger historical trajectory of the labor movement and progressive politics in Wisconsin. 

Harvey J. Kaye is Professor Emeritus of Democracy & Justice Studies and the Director of the Center for History and Social Change at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay; he is also the author of many books, including Thomas Paine and the Promise of America and Take Hold of Our History: Make America Radical Again. Jon Shelton is Associate Professor and Chair of Democracy and Justice studies at UW Green Bay, and he is the author of Teacher Strike! Public Education and the Making of a New American Political Order.

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Featured Music (all songs sourced from the Free Music Archive: freemu​si​carchive​.org)

  • Jules Taylor, Working People Theme Song”
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Maximillian Alvarez is editor-in-chief at the Real News Network and host of the podcast Working People, available at InThe​se​Times​.com. He is also the author of The Work of Living: Working People Talk About Their Lives and the Year the World Broke.

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