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Ten years ago, the landscape for workers’ rights and organized labor in the state of Wisconsin changed dramatically with the passage of Act 10 under Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Act 10 was a hammer blow to the labor movement that essentially stripped collective bargaining rights from public sector workers, made it much more difficult for workers to organize, and forced unions to take massive concessions on healthcare, retirement benefits, and much more. Soon after, in 2015, Walker signed legislation that turned Wisconsin into a “right to work” state, issuing another blow to unions in a state once heralded as a bellwether of the labor movement. But all hope is not lost. In the wake of this coordinated assault on workers and unions, many are using the tools available to them to build up their communities and rebuild working-class power in Wisconsin.

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 the first installment of this series of special reports, Alvarez speaks with Maricela Aguilar Monroy, an undocumented educator and organizer who has spent most of her life in Milwaukee, and who is working to strengthen the community that has provided a home for her so it can continue to provide a home for others.

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

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


Maximillian Alvarez:         This is Maximillian Alvarez, reporting for The Real News Network and In These Times magazine from The Real News studio in Baltimore. Earlier this summer, I got to travel to Wisconsin as part of our special collaboration with In These Times to investigate the changing political terrain in the Badger State.

Along with reporting on rural Wisconsinites’ fight against the factory farming industry, we spoke extensively with teachers and organizers around the state about the trajectory of the labor movement in Wisconsin. Especially after the coordinated assault on workers and unions that turned Wisconsin into a right-to-work state and that stripped public sector workers of their collective bargaining rights with the passage of Act 10 under Republican governor Scott Walker 10 years ago.

In the decade since Act 10 passed, the landscape for workers rights and organized labor has changed dramatically. But all hope is not lost. In this special series of reports, we’ll be speaking with folks on the ground who are using the tools that they have to strengthen their communities and rebuild working class power in Wisconsin. And we’re going to be kicking off this series with a conversation that I got to have with Maricela Aguilar Monroy. An undocumented educator and organizer who has spent of her life in Milwaukee, and who is working to strengthen the community that has provided a home for her so that it could continue to provide a home for others.

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:    Hello everyone, my name’s Maricela Aguilar Monroy. I am a teacher from Milwaukee Public Schools here in Milwaukee. I teach high school. I’m a long time, not a long time member, I was going to say a long time member. I’ve been living in Milwaukee for a very long time. I moved here when I was three. I have grown up here all of my life, and I am part of an undocumented mixed status family.

Maximillian Alvarez:         Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for taking time to do this. Really excited to get to talk to you about your work and about a lot of the other things that we are investigating here in Wisconsin. And what working people like yourself are going through, especially educators, in the wake of game changing legislation like Act 10 that really reshaped the landscape for educators and public sector workers around the state. Then soon after that, Wisconsin became a right-to-work state. So there’s a lot here.

And I think that folks who are watching this have probably heard about these things, but they haven’t really taken time to sit down and talk about what it looks like for workers like yourself, for people living here, and how it shapes your life and your work. So I want to talk to you about that. But honestly, I wanted to get to know a little more about you first and how you came to be a teacher. So you said you moved to Milwaukee when you were three?

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:    Yes, I did. So I was born in Mexico. My parents decided to move to the United States when I was really young. So this is obviously in the wake of NAFTA. And so we lived in rural Mexico. I know there’s folks that I think are like, oh, Mexico is nice, and their cities. That’s not where I grew up or where I was born. It was like in the mountains, in the middle of nowhere, very agrarian old school setup. And so there were obviously not a lot of opportunities there for my sister and I, so much so that we literally only had one classroom school there for all of the kids. There was no middle school. You had to travel about an hour and a half by car to get to the middle school. So there was just no opportunity for us there.

And so my parents decided to come to the United States. A lot of people always talk about, well, why didn’t you do it the legal way? We did. We tried really, really hard. We applied for visas. We tried all of the legal avenues and were denied every step of the way. I think a lot of people miss the fact that there are no legal pathways for poor people to come into this country, and we were poor. And so we, obviously, were not provided that pathway.

Still had no opportunity, so we still had to find a way to make a life. And so they decided to come into the country illegally. So that’s how we entered. It was about ’95. So my sister and I were both young. We lived in California for a hot second and then we moved to Milwaukee. My aunt had told us there were a lot of industrial type jobs still here, which were great for my parents and so that’s why we decided to move here. And we’ve been here ever since.

Maximillian Alvarez:        It’s really, I think, an important story for people to think about, right? Is because like we often, when we hear about NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which became law in 1994, we hear about it from the American side.

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:      Right.

Maximillian Alvarez:         Right? And from places like these, we’re in the Rust Belt, we’re in the Midwest here in Milwaukee. The narrative that we hear, especially in recent presidential elections, Bernie Sanders talked about this a lot, Donald Trump talked about this a lot. We talk about how this free trade agreement really accelerated the de-industrialization of places like where we’re sitting right now. And those jobs going to places like Mexico and the maquiladoras along the border and stuff like that. But we often don’t hear about what it looks like on the other side. Could you talk a little bit about what NAFTA meant for you and your family so much that this was the only viable option to make a life for you guys?

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:      Yeah, so like I said, we were agrarian. But think about the tools and the systems set up in Mexico, which were pretty much… It’s hand labor. So both of my families, paternal and maternal, were growing food by hand. And once you open those trade borders, to compete with the agribusiness of the United States becomes impossible. Stuff that they were able to sell at the markets at a reasonable price and still be able to live lost pretty much all of its value because the markets were being flooded with cheap produce from the United States, because it was just so much easier to make here. And so its value was a bit lower.

I remember a lot in my Econ class where they talked about free trade and what that does. And they’re like, well, there’s some winners and losers, but in the end, the pie gets bigger. And there was never any discussion about who got access to this much bigger pie. And it was not us, and it was not the people of Milwaukee who lost those industrialized jobs. It was the rich, they just got richer. And the rest of us just had to fight each other for crumbs and figure a way to live. And so, I couldn’t make the connections when I took my Econ classes but now I make those connections. It’s like, okay, we have a bigger pie, but we did not get absolutely any access to it. It went to other people.

Maximillian Alvarez:      Yeah. That’s the fine print, right?

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:      Yeah.

Maximillian Alvarez:      The pie gets bigger, our access to it does not –

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:      And they never talk about the pie. Like, who got the pie?

Maximillian Alvarez:      Yeah, I think that’s really perfectly put. And on your way to Milwaukee then, you said you stopped off in California, that’s where I’m from. Then y’all came here. You made a life because you said it was your tia who said that there were industrial jobs still here?

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:      Yeah. So we lived with my tia first, when we stopped by in California. I think it was right around the Pete Wilson era, and so it was really difficult to live there. Right now, you think of California and like dang, I should have stayed. It was really hard during that time. My dad was being stopped constantly and being unable to get his car out of the pound lot. And so it was just too expensive for us at the time. My tia made the suggestion, she had some relatives, I think it was her in-laws that were living here already. And they were like, there’s a lot of factory jobs, lots of stuff available. And so we packed up our stuff and moved over here. Yeah, pretty big change.

Maximillian Alvarez:         Pretty big change, especially in the winter.

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:     Yeah, we moved in November too. It was horrific.

Maximillian Alvarez:         I want to go back.

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:     Yeah. We immediately got off the plane, we were like, oh God.

Maximillian Alvarez:        Yeah.

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:      Yeah.

Maximillian Alvarez:         That’s how I felt when I first came to Chicago after living in Southern California my whole life. I was like, fuck this, I want to go back.

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:      Yeah, Milwaukee’s awesome though. I think it’s built a really close knit Latino neighborhood. I think a lot of people appreciate it. My neighbor’s cousin recently moved over because he was in another town here in Wisconsin and then he came to visit and he saw all of the stores that we have, and the artwork, and the music, and he out of nowhere just decided to move here.

Maximillian Alvarez:        That’s great. I mean, hell, I’m sold. Like I was telling you before we started recording, I was like, this a lot of really beautiful parts here.

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:      Yeah, I think the Latino people of Milwaukee have really built this awesome community and this awesome home for us and our culture.

Maximillian Alvarez:         Hell, yeah. Well, what was the path from there to you eventually becoming a teacher?

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:       Yeah. So I went to school actually like two blocks from here. It’s really funny. I’ve lived on 22nd Street my whole life.

Maximillian Alvarez:         Oh really? Nice.

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:       I have lived four blocks down that way, and then moved over here, and the school is like a block over. So I went to school there, it was a bilingual program. And at the time I thought that that was normal in the United States, I thought everyone had bilingual programs and that you got to be bicultural and everything was fun and…

Maximillian Alvarez:       And?

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:       Yeah, and it’s not. But that was my experience at Longfellow, a street over from where we are now, and I loved it. After that I went to Walker Middle School, which doesn’t exist anymore, also MPS, and then I graduated from Hamilton High School. And throughout all of that, I think I just had an exceptional experience. So much so that I got to get a full ride to Marquette university and I started to get involved in politics.

I’m undocumented, and so that was my pathway into organizing, activism, and politics. Obviously, especially when I was graduating, I was like, oh gosh, how do I figure this out? Or what am I supposed to do here? And magically things worked out for me, because it’s all luck. When it comes to that it really is a lot of luck, and it shouldn’t be like that. Higher education should be something that you do your work and you should be able to afford it and do all of those things. It’s not like that, I was lucky and I made it.

But I still wanted to work towards helping other undocumented students get that opportunity that I was being given. And that was my start working with Voces de la Frontera here in Milwaukee. So we did a lot of organizing around in-state tuition for undocumented students here in Wisconsin, and then also for the DREAM Acts around 2010. So that’s where my activism and organizing started.

And so I did that for a really long time. Obviously organizers get a little burnt out and you feel like it’s not going much anywhere sometimes. I think if I’m in the classroom and if I have a crew of students that have to listen to me, I feel like I’m making a little bit more of a change. And so that was a little bit of the reasoning that I went into teaching. But I love working with young people, it’s like working with the future.

Maximillian Alvarez:       Yeah, quite literally.

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:       Right.

Maximillian Alvarez:           And not only you as an educator, really are kind of shaping the future of this country. But for it to be at the school that you went to in this neighborhood, where you’re also helping students who come from similar backgrounds, you’re helping provide that bilingual multicultural education. It’s really incredible.

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:      Yeah, and so I mentioned like, I thought everyone had bilingual, bicultural education, and it wasn’t until I got a little bit older where I was like, oh gosh, people don’t have this around the country and we have something really special here in Milwaukee. We have, I would say, one of the premier bilingual programs in the country. And so to be able to be a part of that and to help grow that and to solidify that within our city and our culture, I think that’s really important.

Maximillian Alvarez:      Well, because obviously as we were talking about before this, don’t get us wrong, Milwaukee, like the rest of America, has a lot of problems, right?

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:      Absolutely.

Maximillian Alvarez:                 Especially deep set racial and ethnic divisions. It’s one of, if not the most segregated cities in the country. But within that, like you said, there’s still really important efforts going on to build community, to educate people, to build political power for working people, which is a big part of what we’re talking about here today, right?

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:      Yes.

Maximillian Alvarez:            Because you said that your own path to activism through Voces was around 2010?

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:      Yes.

Maximillian Alvarez:         So the next year was the Wisconsin Uprising. So where were you in all of that?

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:      Yeah, so I had just graduated high school, so it was my first couple of years in college. I had some really great teachers at my high school that I still kept in contact with because they were just very supportive in my transition to university.

And so I remember starting seeing on the news these things and seeing teachers whom I really appreciated being really involved in like, this can’t happen. And I really wasn’t well versed in the bill or the actual legislative impact it would have, but I could see the teachers whom I admired and who were really helpful in my own development bring this up as a really serious issue.

So just off of that, I was like, okay, I’m in, what do we need to do? And especially Voces, not only being an immigrant rights organization, but also being a labor rights organization, was very involved in supporting that effort. And so it was coming from both angles in terms of reasons why we needed to be active in that struggle.

I remember one teacher in particular. Now, we see each other at [inaudible] building representative meetings, which is very cool. But he would give me updates like, oh, I think tomorrow, there’s going to be a lot of teachers who are going to Madison and we need people to help with the buses. And so I would be waiting at 5:00 AM to get the text of whether or not we need bus chaperones or bus captains. That was mostly what we did as student organizers for buses. We were the bus captains, just making sure everyone was on the bus when we got there and when we left. Teaching people chants, keeping track of the younger high schoolers, making sure they weren’t going anywhere. And so that was my activism in terms of Act 10.

After that we helped a little bit with the recall, which was traumatic. But it was a very, I think important time in our political development, being able to see our teachers stand up in that way. Knowing that it wasn’t just for them, that it was for the future Maricelas and the future Cigales, and the future all of us, who needed the best educational services possible.

Maximillian Alvarez:        Well, let’s talk about that a little more. Because I’ll be honest, like I mentioned to you that my dad, Jesus, came over from Tijuana with his family when he was young, but he grew up conservative. He raised us conservative, my mom and my dad raised us conservative. And I was also raised in Orange County, California, which is the heart of the Reagan Revolution.

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:      Yeah, I was like, whoa.

Maximillian Alvarez:             So I grew up consumed by all of this anti-union culture. And I remember at one point when teachers at my high school were I think in bargaining. There was a dispute that I knew nothing about, and suddenly all of that anti-union stuff just kicked in for me. All I heard was like, well, these teachers their responsibility is to their students, so if they’re not going to work they’re hurting the students. It’s mostly women in this profession, so there’s also a lot of gender politics playing out in that way. The care that you put into this, your natural calling to care for students, that should be compensation enough. There are always these weird ways that educators get told not to… They get classified as non-workers in a lot of ways.

And I think that when everything in Wisconsin was happening 10 years ago, even me watching it from afar, it was a really important political education for myself to see what you were talking about. To be like, okay, why are all these teachers, and why are all these public sector workers, and all these people supporting them, why are they out there? Why is the biggest mass protest in Wisconsin’s history happening on my TV screen right now? What am I not getting about this? So I wanted to ask you just like, if you could talk a little more about that experience of learning what Act 10 meant through the people that you knew who were involved with it?

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:       I think the simplest way that I’ve ever heard this explained to me is that teachers’ working conditions are students’ – No, teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions. So the better the working conditions for a teacher, the better learning conditions for all of their students. And that’s just simple. And even now that I’m a teacher, I can tell you like, I wish I had more time. I work really hard, I love all my students, I care for them deeply. Patience is not a given trait for everyone. It’s a really active trait that you work on constantly, that there’s a fairly heavy burden on you personally.

Good lesson planning takes a lot, a lot of time. I wish I had one, two more hours of lesson planning so that I can provide the best lessons for my students. And so, those are the things that teachers need to educate our students to the best of their abilities. I can be quite honest, I’m not teaching students to the best of my abilities. If I had more time, I would.

Maximillian Alvarez:         Well, let’s talk about that because this intertwines with Act 10. Because Act 10 for those who don’t know, it did an incredible amount of damage, not just to public sector teachers, but public sector workers. Then as we said, Wisconsin became a right-to-work state. Collective bargaining for public sector workers was more or less taken away. The pension system was totally redone. Workers took big hits here in the past 10 years. And that obviously impacted the ways that people are able to do their jobs. Not just the ways that workers are able to organize in unions to defend themselves, to demand what they need, which a lot of unions are still having trouble doing. Union density in Wisconsin went down significantly over the past 10 years. More just trying to give some background context for people watching.

But I wanted to bring that to eye level and ask you a little more about that both in terms of how Act 10 has shaped your working life as a teacher, but also just the life of a teacher in America in general. Being as overworked, not having the time that you need. For people who are watching who don’t know what that’s like, could you flesh that out a little bit more?

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:       Yeah, I think my understanding… So Act 10, we couldn’t bargain on anything other than wages after that. And so that’s time, that’s all of extracurriculars, that’s extra pay. It’s just a lot of stuff that we don’t get to bargain on anymore. And so what that looks like is we just keep losing little bits over and over and over. And I’m going to go through what it’s actually like on the daily.

So you’re supposed to teach three classes a day if you’re a high school teacher. Sometimes it could be the same class, sometimes it’s two different subjects. That means you have to prepare an entire presentation for your students, practice it, have activities for them, set up any sort of breakouts in a way that your classroom management isn’t going to fall apart. Do all of that, implement all of that, and then grade everything. And you get about an hour sometimes to do that, for perhaps one or two classes. So, I mean –

Maximillian Alvarez:            We’re talking every day of the week.

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:       Right. And so I take work home every day. I cry about it, but I take it at home because I know it’s the best that I can do for my students. I teach English, so it’s a lot of essays, it’s a lot of writing, students need that constant feedback. So all of that time, it was taken from us. And this is from talking to colleagues, I still have a pretty good scenario in my life. Elementary school teachers who have to teach all subject areas for kids all over the place in terms of their levels, in terms of special education, in terms of the scaffolding and help that they need. When elementary teachers talk to me, I’m just like –

Maximillian Alvarez:      Like, how are you still standing?

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:     Right. And my neighbor, she used to be an elementary school teacher and she just couldn’t do it anymore. Because the asks that are made of teachers are insane, and we’re just supposed to do it out of the kindness of our heart. And that’s just not fair. Like, pay me.

Maximillian Alvarez:        Yeah.

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:     Pay me for the kindness of my heart.

Maximillian Alvarez:         Yeah. It really is like, you see this in a number of professions. I think it happens the worst to teachers, but I think also of hospital workers. It’s like the care work that’s involved, where it’s classified as this sort of noble profession. Where, as you said, you are shaping the future of the country, the future generations, and you take pride in that. That doesn’t mean that you should be paid any less for it. In fact, that means that we should be investing more in it. But it puts all the responsibility on you to tell yourself, well, even if I’m not getting paid enough, even if my benefits have gone to shit, even if I’m getting more and more work piled onto me that I’m taking home and I’m having less and less time to lesson plan, the mission is enough to keep me going.

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:       Yeah. It’s pretty insane. And then whenever you stand up and say no, then it gets flipped on you. It’s like, why are you not being the best teacher you can be? There’s so many discussions about achievement gaps. I think that’s like a hip word right now in education. Let’s close the achievement gap. You know how we could close the achievement gap? Giving teachers more time. That would be one of the biggest improvements to closing the achievement gap. Because when we’re talking about achievement gaps, we’re talking about having a class where you have students at so many different levels, especially in the bilingual program. We have a lot of newcomers who still are not fluent in English. We have a lot of bilingual students who require different levels of attention.

And so, giving teachers more time to differentiate and build the supports that those students need in every lesson. Because, it’s not like it’s one thing and then it works for the whole year. In every lesson you have to build those in for them, that’s how you close the achievement gap. It’s not like rocket science. And then also providing a lot of more mental health services and support to parents. It’s just all of these things that if you ask any teacher, it seems they’ll give you their top three. And it’s always the same top three, but we never get any of that.

Maximillian Alvarez:       Right. Well, what are the powers that be, whether you’re talking to people in the district or you’re trying to appeal to legislators, what is people’s resistance to that? If teachers are pointing at people and saying, we’ll give you better education if you give us the ability to do our jobs. How do people say no to that? I know that they do, but what is the resistance that you tend to face?

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:     All right. I’m not sure I think, and this, maybe we could edit this out because this is like freeballing it –

Maximillian Alvarez:           Oh, we can skip that.

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:       But I think in capitalism, people are obsessed with work. Like you have to, have to work, and you have to show me that you’re working, and you have to be tired all the time. I don’t know why. It’s like, why can’t people do things to the best of their ability at leisure?

Maximillian Alvarez:         Well, I think that it’s something that I think about a lot, and I’m sure a lot of us do. Whatever we do as a profession… It’s just like, I can’t remember the last time I did anything where I felt I had all the time I needed on this, I did it to the standard I wanted to. I think I was a kid the last time that that happened. It just feels like part of being an adult in such a work obsessed, puritanical, capitalist, kind of, et cetera, et cetera, excited society, is just learning to live with the fact that, yeah, you will never be able to do your best because the conditions that you’re working under prevent you from doing that.

And then when people complain that the work is substandard or that the teachers are burning out or what have you, it’s just like, give us more time and support to do our jobs the right way. This is something that I feel everyone in every industry has experienced in some way, shape, or fashion.

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:       Right. I think if they were to agree to it, it would perhaps start showing the tensions there that people can have more time and they can do their job well in a relaxed way. I don’t have to go to school stressed every day, I don’t have to. It actually makes me less efficient throughout the day. But –

Maximillian Alvarez:            To be more stressed?

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:     Yeah.

Maximillian Alvarez:          Yeah.

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:      The more stressed you are, the less patience you have with the students. The more chill you are, the more patience you have, the kinder you can be, and the better you can support students. But again, it’s a systemic failure. I think working people aren’t meant to be stressed and mentally abused under capitalism.

Maximillian Alvarez:        I mean, all evidence supports that –

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:     Right, right. And they have to, in order to show that it’s working or efficient. And once you start, they can’t say no.

Maximillian Alvarez:            No, no, well, they can’t. And I wanted to kind of, because I don’t want to keep you too long, I know that you actually have to go work soon. I wanted to ask, understanding all the barriers that have been put in place, all of the uphill battles that working people in general have to face, but also educators in Wisconsin like yourself have to face after Act 10 which became law 10 years ago. I wanted to round out by focusing on how folks like you are rebuilding. Where you see signs of hope amongst your coworkers, amongst your students, in your community. There’s a lot of failure that we need to think about and discuss in the wake of Act 10, but there’s also a lot of fight left in working people here. And I wanted to focus on that to round things out.

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:    Yeah, I think right-to-work legislation sometimes really does diminish certain public sector unions. And I think our teacher’s union was not the case, and so I’m super happy about that. We actually still have a really high membership rate, and we’ve developed programs and structures that allow our members to not just… It’s not like a service union where you just call and get your things figured out and that’s it. No, you also put in work in your own building. And it’s an expectation we have of our membership per ability and per your own personal life. But I think it is generally an expectation in our union that you also have to put work in.

And we have a lot of really great organizers in our ranks. We’ve brought in a lot of great organizers, similar paths like mine who were community organizers before transition into education and now have some really great community organizing skills on multiple fronts. Not just immigration, it could have been in other sectors. And so we have a really strong union with a really strong emphasis on organizing your building and your own community. And so I think that has made us really strong.

We’ve had a lot of wins recently. So we’ve had our pair of professionals and CHAs finally are up to 15. We’ve had a lot of funding for art teachers. We know that art is a need for young people. It’s not a fun thing that they get to have, it’s something that they need in their education. And so we have a lot of art teachers who have recently been hired because of that funding win. And we’ve had steps and ladders be implemented again in our pay scale. So we’ve had a lot of wins and our union is really strong. And I wake up and that’s like, my big fuck you to Scott Walker. Just like, you thought bitch.

Maximillian Alvarez:        Oh, you thought?

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:     Yeah, right. And it’s like, here we are, one of the strongest… He still talks mad shit about the MTA. But I think it’s great to wake up every day and be part of the union Scott Walker couldn’t kill.

Maximillian Alvarez:            Scott Walker could not kill. Yeah, no, I mean, hell yeah. And for folks outside of Milwaukee, in the state, are there parts about the way that the union is set up or parts of the building by building strategy that you think have provided a more durable way to protect yourselves against the implementations of Act 10? Like the fact that unions have to recertify themselves every goddamn year just to stay in existence, and that they have to do so with a majority of membership, not just a majority of the voters. Are there parts about the NTA that folks in other unions can learn from or build from?

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:       Yeah, I think we have a great communication structure and a great representation structure, where the building representatives in each building are very much expected and tasked with communicating with their building and their membership, and I think that’s done really well. And so that really strong communication structure allows for information, but then also for organizing.

And I’m not a building representative this year, but I was last year, and everyone gets into the rhythm of it. It’s like recertification,, and I got about 90% of my building to recertify in one day. So everyone’s got the motions down. And again, I think that structure that was, I don’t know when it was set, but that communication and organizing structure that was set is rather efficient for us now.

I think our union also does a good job at bringing those representatives together, either for required training or for relationship building, and that just makes us stronger. But yeah, I think that was pretty cool. We got recertified within a few days.

Maximillian Alvarez:       Again, big fuck you to Scott Walker.

Maricela Aguilar Monroy:      Big fuck you, Scott Walker.

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Ten years ago, I was working 12-hour days as a warehouse temp in Southern California while my family, like millions of others, struggled to stay afloat in the wake of the Great Recession. Eventually, we lost everything, including the house I grew up in. It was in the years that followed, when hope seemed irrevocably lost and help from above seemed impossibly absent, that I realized the life-saving importance of everyday workers coming together, sharing our stories, showing our scars, and reminding one another that we are not alone. Since then, from starting the podcast Working People—where I interview workers about their lives, jobs, dreams, and struggles—to working as Associate Editor at the Chronicle Review and now as Editor-in-Chief at The Real News Network, I have dedicated my life to lifting up the voices and honoring the humanity of our fellow workers.
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