The Sleeping Giant Awakes

By Richard Thayer

The theory of thermal dynamics states in part that for every action there’s an opposite and equal reaction. That theory is now being put to the test in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and other states where Republican governors and legislators are stripping away the collective bargaining rights of union members. Some call what’s happening now in these battleground states “backlash,” I say it’s more like “whiplash.”

Although the Republicans seem to be winning the battle in union busting, they are losing in the area of public opinion. And in a democracy (which we still have), the majority still rules. Even conservative polls which are skewed to the right, show that the majority of voters in these states favor union members keeping their bargaining rights.

Since February non-union members have been signing up with union organizations to show their support for the cause of the American worker. According to a recent report by Amanda Terkel in The Huffington Post, Working America, an advocacy group affiliated with the AFL-CIO that provides an outlet for non-union members to support labor issues, has signed up nearly 20,000 people in the last four weeks.

Signing up with a pro-labor organization like Working America is a lot easier than joining a union. All you have to do is fill out a simple form like the one here. There are no dues, although new members are asked to contribute $5.

“The increase in Working America numbers provides one of the first real-world examples of what we’ve seen, which is increased interest nationally and in Wisconsin of supporting workers’ rights,” one labor leader is quoted as saying.

Terkel also said that last month, as the result of Governor Walker’s actions, the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-La-Crosse voted 249-37 in favor of a union.

Not only are unions gaining national attention and popularity but so is the recall movement. According to another Huffington report, conservatives in Wisconsin admit they’re being outworked and out-organized by Democrats. Democrats, supported by union and non-union members alike, are now attempting to recall 8 of the state’s senators.

Conservative groups both inside and outside the state have attempted to marshal more support to combat the recalls and initiate recalls of their own, but they say they’re being outworked by more passionate pro-labor activists.

According to Justin Ruben, Executive Director of MoveOn.org, “I think the governor really did wake a sleeping giant. People feel that what happened was not just a horrible attack but the courage of regular people standing up and getting in the way. That was what electrified folks. It was the first time we had seen anything like that.”


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