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‘We acted with valor on behalf of our families, friends and neighbors’

So much of our struggle reminds me of the struggle for Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings that I find many of the quotes from the movies inspiring at this critical time. On the Capitol Square, one middle-schooler’s sign had the Eye of Sauron and read, “One bill to rule them all.” An adult carried a sign with Gandolf raising his staff against SB 11 (the “budget repair” bill) that said, “You shall not pass!”

When fearful in the face of what is at risk, I am reminded of this exchange:

Éowyn: ... I fear neither death nor pain.

Aragorn: What do you fear my lady?

Éowyn: A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them. And all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire.

We are at the epicenter of the largest workers’ rights battle in many generations. We are fighting the imminent loss of workers’ dignity and rights—hard fought for, and won, four generations ago. We cannot let fear tie our hands and feet, or we will soon be caged by moneyed tyrants just as our forebears once were. To honor the struggle and, in many cases, the blood of those generations before us, we are duty-bound to seize the day and muster the courage to stand and shout, to write, to sing and to march united until we are victorious. This is the time that really matters. Fourteen patriotic Democratic state senators are holding out in hiding, out of state, to give us time to win over one more courageous Republican state senator who will vote to defeat this bill. We cannot and will not fail these patriots! We must give it our all so that someday we can hold our heads high, knowing that in this dark hour, when all hope seemed lost, we acted with valor on behalf of our families, friends and neighbors. And when the time comes for us to pass on, we can say, “I go to my [forebears], in whose mighty company I shall not now feel ashamed.”

Even if we lose in Wisconsin now, we are putting up a fight that should inspire and embolden more Wisconsinites to join the struggle and those in other states to fight as well. As I say to my fellow protesters while slapping them high-fives as we pass, “Together we will win!” The most inspiring moment of my weeks of demonstrating at the Capitol came on the first day, when more than 800 students who had walked out of classes and marched a mile from East High School arrived at the Capitol Square. They were full of energy and loudly chanting as we handed them signs and buttons AFT-Wisconsin members had made. When the beginning of the line was disappearing around the Capitol, and we were running out of signs and buttons, more students were still cresting the hill. Tears filled my eyes as I realized I was witnessing the birth of the next generation of activists. Thank you Scott Walker!

Jeff Richter, President/Professional Employees in Research, Statistics and Analysis (PERSA); Photo by Brent Nicastro.   Jeffrey Richter is president of the Professional Employees in Research, Statistics & Analysis and an AFT-Wisconsin vice president at large. He has worked for Wisconsin’s Public Service Commission for 27 years. Richter’s first job with the commission was as a telephone rate analyst. With the deregulation of telecommunications, Richter’s job evolved into a telecommunications analyst position. It’s his job to ensure access to telecom services for low-income, elderly and disabled Wisconsinites, and promote the availability and adoption of broadband services throughout Wisconsin. Richter received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (Photo by Brent Nicastro)