August 14, 2022

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The fight to organize teachers in small-town Wisconsin

2 min read

In 1974, the population of Hortonville, Wisconsin, was around 1,500, and yet it became the site of one of the most contentious and consequential teachers’ strikes in the state’s history. In the end, over 80 striking educational staff members in the Hortonville district were fired by an intransigent school board, and the strike itself ripped the community in two. With teachers and their supporters on one side and a virulently anti-union school board, local police, and townspeople opposed to the strike on the other side, things got very ugly in Hortonville, and the legacy of the broken ‘74 strike left a deep scar on the town and the district for many years. Nearly 50 years after the Hortonville strike and 10 years after the passing of Act 10 under Republican Gov. Scott Walker, which was a hammer blow to public sector unions around the state, teachers in Hortonville are facing increased workloads, lower take-home pay, difficulties retaining educational staff, and greater obstacles to union organizing.

As part of a special collaboration with In These Times magazine for The Wisconsin Idea, TRNN Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez traveled to Wisconsin with Cameron Granadino (TRNN) and Hannah Faris (In These Times) to speak with teachers and organizers around the state about how Act 10 impacted their lives and work, and how they are rebuilding out of the rubble. In this interview, recorded at their home in Hortonville, Alvarez speaks with Amanda and Jeff Frenkel, two K-12 educators and organizers with the American Federation of Teachers who are fighting to rebuild the union in Hortonville and use the tools available to them to improve working conditions in the district.

Pre-Production: Maximillian Alvarez, Hannah Faris, Alice Herman, Cameron Granadino, Eleni Schirmer (research consultant), John Fleissner (research consultant), John Yaggi (research consultant), Harvey J. Kaye (research consultant), Jon Shelton (research consultant), Adam Mertz (research consultant)
Studio: Cameron Granadino
Post-Production: Cameron Granadino, Stephen Frank, Kayla Rivara

The Wisconsin Idea is an independent reporting project of People’s Action Institute, Citizen Action of Wisconsin and In These Times.

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