Guest Column from the UW-Madison Afro-American Studies Dept.
Statement on the Budget Repair Bill
As a multidisciplinary unit, the Department of Afro-American Studies has a track record of serving a diverse student community at the
University of Wisconsin-Madison. We pride ourselves on the way that we have been able to identify and nurture student talent among both
undergraduates and graduate students. We have been doing this successfully for forty years.
Many of the students who enroll in our masters program and serve us as teaching assistants are from diverse working class
backgrounds and are struggling to make ends meet and stay in school right now. Like the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in general, the
Department of Afro-American Studies relies on the high quality performance of our teaching assistants. It is with dismay and
disappointment, therefore, that we greet Governor Scott Walker’s plan to deny collective bargaining rights to Wisconsin’s public
employees. This will certainly have a detrimental effect on these students’ welfare and a negative impact on their ability to maintain the
superior service that they currently render to the hundreds of undergraduates who take our courses.
Collective bargaining is and has been a longstanding right in Wisconsin. When Martin Luther King, Jr. went to Memphis in 1968 to
aid sanitation workers, he was taking with him a tradition that was born here in the state of Wisconsin when organized public employees
preserved the civil service system for future generations. The right of workers to have input into their conditions of work has been a
major factor that historically advanced the cause of racial justice in the United States.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010) data reveal that the right to collective bargaining is particularly important for black workers,
especially males who are the most unionized of any racial group. The average black male worker, represented by a union, makes $221
more per week than those in nonunion shops. This figure represents the largest difference between union/nonunion salaries, with the
exception of white women, of any racial group.
We the undersigned believe that Wisconsin’s budget crisis can best be addressed by cooperative action across all communities in
the state. We urge the governor and the state legislature to revisit the decision to end collective bargaining, which will not correct the
Brenda Gayle Plummer, Professor and Chair
Professor Christina Greene
Robin Schmidt, Student Services Coordinator
Professor Sandra Adell
Dolores Liamba, Student Services Coordinator
Professor Freida Tesfagiorgis
Professor Christy Clark-Pujara
Leah Mirakhor, Lecturer
Professor Michael Thornton
Professor Henry Drewal
Professor Craig Werner