How Scott Walker ignited a labor renaissance

March 7, 2011: 11:11 AM ET

The Wisconsin governor may have never expected such support of collective bargaining when he proposed removing it for public employees. Jim Schmitz, director of organizing for AFSCME, discusses what this means for the future of labor.

By David Whitford, editor-at-large

Collective protesting in Wisconsin

Collective protesting in Wisconsin

Until recently, a lot of people in America probably thought that labor unions were basically extinct. Then last month, Wisconsin's Republican Governor Scott Walker introduced legislation in his state that would drastically curtail the power of public employee unions by eliminating their ability to collectively bargain. Teachers, firemen, and other public employees -- along with their supporters -- took to the streets and the Democratic opposition in the state senate decamped to Illinois to prevent a quorum. Suddenly, unexpectedly, people are not only talking about unions again, but most of them are saying nice things.

Jim Schmitz is director of organizing for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union, the big public-sector union at the heart of the crisis in Wisconsin. Although the Democrats are now heading back to Madison for the vote, the labor debate is far from over. Fortune caught up with Schmitz last week for his thoughts on the future of the labor movement and how it's been buoyed by Walker's proposal. More

  • Are public unions our convenient economic scapegoats?

    The recent labor protests (and counter-protests) in Wisconsin are part of a long tradition of politicians letting public unions take the heat for government fiscal woes.

    By Elizabeth G. Olson, contributor

    The tumultuous scenes in Wisconsin's capital -- with public workers fiercely defending their collective bargaining rights and opponents calling for their curtailment -- might seem to come out of nowhere.

    But the recent events in Madison are part of a long, and rocky, MORE

    Feb 28, 2011 8:35 AM ET
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