Tom Morello, of Rage Against the Machine and many other musical projects, was in Wisconsin last week to play a show in support of union workers and the people who were protesting in solidarity with them. He has a great write-up in Rolling Stone about the trip and I definitely recommend giving it a read.
The Capitol building in Madison has been occupied by students and workers for more than ten days now. But at 11 PM the doors are locked, and if you’re in, you’re in, and if you’re out, you’re out. We were out. And so one of the protesters on the inside claimed that I was his intern in order to slip me through security. Once inside, I was amazed at what I saw: the building was packed with a cross section of the people of Madison, all demanding justice. There were students, teachers, firefighters, policemen, veterans, nurses, old hippies and young rebels in every corner and corridor of the building. There was a festive spirit in the air and a determined feeling that they were indeed making history. On my way out, I was actually “bro-ing down” with some cops…AT A PROTEST. Quite new for me. The police were union men themselves, and wholly supportive of the protesters, and I thought, “This is a strange and new, exciting day indeed when the police are delivering bratwurst to the students occupying the State Capitol and high-fiving The Nightwatchman.”
The battle to preserve workers’ rights in Wisconsin is a watershed moment in US history. Wisconsin is Class War Ground Zero for the new millennium and a crucible for people’s rights in the United States. As the gulf between the haves and have-nots grows exponentially in the US it is here that the first domino is going to fall…one way or the other. If things go poorly, workers across the nation will be stripped of some of their most fundamental rights – to organize and to collectively bargain, to make a better life for themselves and their children. Were it not for hard-fought union struggles of the past, we wouldn’t enjoy some of the most basic human rights that we enjoy today. The next time you “have a good weekend,” you can thank the union for fighting for those two days off. If your eight-year-old son doesn’t work in a coal mine or your ten-year-old daughter doesn’t slave away in a textile mill, you can thank the union. Unions are and have historically been a crucial check against untrammeled corporate greed.
The future of worker’s rights in this country will not be decided in the courts or in Congress, on talk radio or on Fox News. The future of worker’s rights in this country will be decided on the streets of a small Midwestern city, on the streets of Madison, Wisconsin. And who knows? Maybe in your city too. Yeah, this land is our land, and to those occupying the Capitol building tonight, or marching in the streets across the Midwest tomorrow, and to the people still deciding which side they’re on at this historic crossroads, I’d like to pass along some advice from the immortal Woody Guthrie: “Take it easy…but take it!”
More videos from Morello’s time in Wisconsin are below the fold.