The recent string of attacks on middle class workers has made it easier than ever to point the finger at the politicians spearheading anti-worker legislation across the country— legislators like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
But the fights currently playing out in these states may only represent the tip of the iceberg in a long-standing national movement that, until now, has gone largely unnoticed.
In a recent blog post for Scholar as Citizen, William Cronon, a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, places the recent wave of anti-worker legislation within its greater historical and national context. Cronon explains that far-right groups like the American Legislative Council (ALEC) have long been creating policies that target the middle class and seek to abolish checks on corporate power. Over the past four decades, the group has created so-called “model bills” for legislators all over the country— including the controversial anti-immigrant law passed in Arizona last year.
And Gov. Walker and his far-right cronies don’t want this information getting out. Only days after Cronon published his blog and opinion piece in The New York Times, he received a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for access to his personal emails, contacts, and research. Let the witch hunt begin.
As Cronon reminds us, these attacks on the middle class and its advocates are a dramatic shift from Wisconsin’s tradition of bipartisan problem-solving and thoughtful civic engagement. Wisconsin has forever been at the forefront of labor rights—introducing standards like workers’ compensation and public employee bargaining decades before they became the norm. It’s legislation like this that our elected officials should fight to protect, not destroy, in order to create a history we can all be proud of.