The University of Wisconsin-Madison, the city of Madison and the state of Wisconsin have a long tradition within the labor movement, prompting questions about the past, present and future of work across the state.
At a university level, the Teaching Assistants’ Association is credited as the first graduate student worker union in the country — ever. In Wisconsin, worker advocacy shaped other national and state laws relating to both compensation and unemployment.
Moreover, we’ve seen how the dismantling of Wisconsin’s labor relations system through the 2011 passage of Act 10 profoundly affected hundreds of thousands of workers across the state.
Contemporary issues ranging from the recognition of a nurses union to graduate student workers’ rights at UW-Madison are deeply rooted in Gov. Scott Walker’s administration’s decision. Despite much of our staff being elementary-aged when Act 10 was implemented, our native Wisconsin staffers remember the impact of the controversial law on their teachers and schools, and this impact lingers today — over 10 years later.
Throughout our time on campus, as reporters, students and community members, we’ve seen how workers’ advocacy for safe, healthy working conditions and better compensation shaped our community. From petitions to unionize and unionizations of coffee shops and bakeries to fights for increases in minimum wages, working Wisconsinites are at the forefront of critical political, economic and social conversations across the state.
Furthermore, the effects of the COVID pandemic on our labor force and the way Wisconsinites work have been staggering. If anything, the global health crisis, aside from exposing deeply ingrained inequities, ineptitudes and injustices within our economic and labor system, has forever changed our community’s relationship with and perception of work.
In February 2023, President Joe Biden even made the Madison area his first stop following his State of the Union address, sharing his “blue-collar blueprint” for the economy and labor force at a local labor union training center.
At The Daily Cardinal, we recognize the value of labor and work across this campus, city and state. With this special issue, we hope to center the voices of working Wisconsinites while exposing their struggles and highlighting needed areas of support. We invite our readers to explore the intrinsic role of labor in the Wisconsin economy and contemplate our community’s responsibility in our state’s labor force.
The Daily Cardinal Management Team
Sophia Vento, Editor-In-Chief
Jessica Sonkin, Managing Editor
Photo courtesy of the University of Wisconsin-Madison archives
This action project was created by the Daily Cardinal editorial staff.