Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dispatches from Poets on the Ground: Brenda Cardenas in Wisconsin

After a Rally at the Carlos Cortez Mural, Milwas, WI
Bread of the Earth: One Worker’s Perspective on the Wisconsin Struggle for Justice
The granddaughter of Mexican immigrants and German working class people who at one time belonged to Wisconsin’s Socialist Worker’s Party, I was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the 60’s and 70’s. I’ll never forget my grandpa Cardenas’ stories about the abuse he and his brother suffered as non-union tannery workers, how his brother died of an illness related to those labor conditions, and how only when my grandfather finally, in his 40’s, got a job as an assembly line worker in a union shop, did he feel like he was treated as a human being at work. His gratitude was such that years after he had retired, he would march on the picket lines with his union brothers when they were on strike. My father started his working life in a factory; my mother, in her 70’s, still works an office job because she cannot afford to retire. Aunts and uncles on both sides of the family labored as electricians, clerical staff, telephone operators, bookkeepers, truck drivers, grocery clerks, foundry workers, and barkeeps. They always worked, sometimes two jobs, in both the public and private sectors, both with union support and without, but no matter, they never believed that the right to collective bargaining was anything but a human right. Even the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (item 2A) defines “freedom of association and the right to collectively bargain” as an essential right of all workers. Scott Walker is in contempt of the United Nations.

Read the rest of Brenda Cardenas' account of the Wisconsin Workers' Demonstrations at

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