Scott Walker’s attack on public sector unions in 2011 made national headlines and spurred a spontaneous, working-class uprising in Madison, Wis. Workers occupied the Capitol building there for weeks in an attempt to use mass demonstrations to fight against capitalist encroachment on working-class rights. While these demonstrations ultimately failed and disheartened many progressive forces throughout Wisconsin, an overlooked problem remains.
Milwaukee is the third most segregated city in the United States. The 53206 zip code, located on Milwaukee’s North Side, is the zip code with the most imprisoned population in the United States. Sherman Park, a Milwaukee city park in a predominantly African-American community, is routinely occupied by mounted police.
Combine these atrocities with the fact that over half of all African-American neighborhoods in Wisconsin are jails. There is no denying the basic fact that Wisconsin is a prison for oppressed nations. It is clear that those involved in the struggle for workers’ rights in Wisconsin can only even start to win if and when they start fighting for the liberation of oppressed nationalities in the state.
Walker’s attack on public sector unions directly undercut the social and economic protections of people of color and women in the state, because many of the workers and leaders in public sector unions across Wisconsin are women and people of color. When we defend public sector unions we defend women and oppressed nationalities.
The role of institutionalized racism in Wisconsin cannot be glossed over or brushed aside. Only by directly fighting racist repression in Wisconsin will there be working-class victories in union halls, in workplaces and in the streets.
— Samuel Olson