When Wisconsin became the first state in the nation in 1959 to let public employees bargain with their employers, the legislation catalysed changes to labour laws across the country. In March 2011, when newly elected governor Scott Walker repealed most of that labour law and subsequent ones - and then became the first governor in the nation to survive a recall election fifteen months later - it sent a different message. Both times, Wisconsin took the lead, first empowering public unions and then weakening them. This book recounts the battle between the Republican governor and the unions.
The struggle drew the attention of the country and the notice of the world, launching Walker as a national star for the Republican Party and simultaneously energising and damaging the American labour movement. Madison was the site of one unprecedented spectacle after another: 1:00 a.m. parliamentary manoeuvres, a camel slipping on icy Madison streets as union firefighters rushed to assist, massive nonviolent street protests, and a weeks-long occupation that blocked the marble halls of the Capitol and made its rotunda ring.
Jason Stein and Patrick Marley, award-winning journalists for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, covered the fight firsthand. They centre their account on the frantic efforts of state officials meeting openly and in the Capitols elegant backrooms as protesters demonstrated outside. Conducting new in-depth interviews with elected officials, labour leaders, police officers, protestors, and other key figures, and drawing on new documents and their own years of experience as statehouse reporters, Stein and Marley have written a gripping account of the wildest sixteen months in Wisconsin politics since the era of Joe McCarthy. They offer new insights on the origins of Walker's wide-ranging budget-repair bill, which included the provision to end public-sector collective bargaining; the Senate Democrats' decision to leave the state to try to block the bill; Democrats' talks with both union leaders and Republicans while in Illinois; and the reasons why compromise has become, as one Republican dissenter put it, a ""dirty word"" in politics today.
Jason Stein and Patrick Marley both cover the Capitol for Wisconsin's largest newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Stein previously covered politics and business for the Wisconsin State Journal and has received national recognition for his reporting. He is a past president of the Wisconsin Capitol Correspondents Association. Marley previously covered local government for the Kenosha News.