A Cop for Labor in Wisconsin Keeps Fighting
I got news for you: The Wisconsin Uprising isn’t over. Scott Walker hasn’t vanquished the labor movement, and progressivism here is not dead.
As evidence, I give you Brian Austin. He’s a detective with the Madison Police Department, and he founded “Cops for Labor” early on during the uprising. The solidarity of the police, whom Walker had excluded from the collective bargaining law, was inspirational to many protesters at the capitol, and Austin was key in marshaling that solidarity.
I had lunch with Austin last week, nine days after Walker won the recall election, and the detective was not dejected. Not in the least.
“I’ve got a lot of energy,” he said. “I’m just getting warmed up. Once you figure out what’s going on, you can’t close your eyes to it.”
Austin, who spent one night in the capitol as an occupier, says he was prepared to get arrested. “If they wanted to arrest me in my Cops for Labor T-shirt and haul me out in handcuffs, I was ready for that,” he said.
He also said that he and other members of Cops for Labor were not about to go along with an order to arrest teachers who walked off the job or to bust up other nonviolent protests.
“We’re constitutional officers,” he said. “That’s a big deal to me. I can’t carry out unconstitutional orders.”
He’s continuing to meet with a core group of 10-20 police officers who are active in Cops for Labor, and he says he “wants to build a progressive movement in policing.”
In the meantime, he’s keeping his eyes on Walker. He’s concerned about a possible crackdown against protesters by the capitol police. And he’s worried that Walker is intent on destroying the Wisconsin Retirement System.
“Pensions are the only thing left to keep us in the middle class,” he said. If Walker succeeds in privatizing the retirement system, “it’s going to crush the middle class.”
He says the Wisconsin Uprising had a profound effect on him. “It changed my life,” he said, “and there’s no going back.”
To my mind, that’s one of the enduring victories of the Wisconsin Uprising. It changed the life of Brian Austin, and it changed the lives of many other good people who are keeping up the fight.
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Build Local Progressive Councils."
Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter
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