One of the most knowledgeable labor experts in Wisconsin stopped by our office yesterday. His name is Frank Emspak, and he's an emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin's School for Workers and the founder and executive producer of Workers Independent News.
He spoke with my colleague Elizabeth DiNovella and me about where the struggle for workers' rights in Wisconsin stands at this moment.
Emspak said he's worried that the energy of the historic mass protests in Wisconsin this year may soon dissipate. "I think we're in trouble here," he said.
He expressed concern about the lack of direction being given to help shape the "inchoate anger" of the hundreds of thousands of protesters who have been in the streets.
Emspak also urged the organized left need to prepare for the likely eventuality that Gov. Scott Walker's anti-union bill will take effect, he said.
"We'll be back in a pre-legal situation," Emspak said, similar to what unions faced in the early 1930s. We need to revive some of the strategies of that period, he argued. It's difficult, though, because union leaders have lost touch with some of these tactics.
Emspak discussed a whole range of tactics. Workers could "work to rule" -- doing the bare minimum that is required of them.
Public sector workers "could stay at work all night" to demonstrate that they are being overburdened.
Or they could all go on break at the same time.
There are a lot of inventive ways, he said, to fight back, leading up to engaging in job actions or a general strike.
"We need to make the state ungovernable," he said, adding that protesters should dog Walker wherever he goes, just as Vietnam War protesters "made it impossible for Johnson to speak anywhere except on military bases."
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Republicans Don't Want to "Promote the General Welfare"."
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