Wisconsin: History is knocking at the door | Wis.Community

Wisconsin: History is knocking at the door

My love of history was inspired by a quartet of brilliant UW-Madison history professors: Harvey Goldberg, George Mosse, John Smail and William Appleman Williams. And, the debt I owe them is incalculable. But it was also the 1960s that began my journey into history: civil rights, social justice and war were knocking at the door. Despite parental opposition, peer pressure and a brother soon off to Vietnam, I heard the knock.

Similarly, when I moved to Milwaukee and went to work at a nursing home I heard the same sound. Lack of dignity / respect, low wages and inadequate patient care motivated me to lead a union organizing drive. History was made as my coworkers and I successfully organized the first local of 1199W, National Union of Hospital and Nursing Home Employees, AFL-CIO. And, we won a landmark case before the National Labor Relations Board over unfair labor practices by the nursing home. History was knocking.

I moved to Washington and became an admirer and friend of a trio of Wisconsin political giants: U.S. Reps. Bob Kastenmeier and Dave Obey and U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson. All deepened my love and knowledge of Wisconsin and its history. And, most importantly, they taught me how to do the right thing in politics and maintain a moral compass.

My first job in Washington was with a national coalition led by the United Auto Workers. I also worked at a think tank organized by Marc Raskin, a Wisconsinite and one of America's greatest intellectuals. Over the last decade (1999-2010) I had the great honor of helping to organize the annual Kastenmeier Lecture at the UW-Madison Law School. I love Wisconsin.

The entire nation is now watching Wisconsin! History is pounding at the door as Governor Walker faces an unprecedented recall election over: eviscerating collective bargaining for public employees, draconian budget cuts, attacking the rights of women and minorities as well as an erosion of democracy with threats to state employees, talk of agents provocateurs to discredit unions and trickery to pass legislation and win elections. The movement to oppose Walker is broad-based, including regular folks who had never before participated in political dissent.

Wisconsin must rise to the occasion. We must be better than our opponents. No Nixon dirty tricks. No unfounded or unprincipled attacks on fellow Democrats. No personal stupidity or lemming-like behavior. On Wisconsin. History is knocking at the door.

Published

April 11, 2012 - 6:26pm

Author