Labor Makes Its Own Battle-of-Wisconsin Documentary

On Tuesday night, Theatre 2 of D.C.’s West End Cinema was given over to a limited release documentary about big labor. We Are Wisconsin, an extraordinarily well-made bit of agitprop, takes us into the month of protests that began when Gov. Scott Walker introduced the budget repair bill. The filmmakers focus on four of the earthiest activists imaginable – two women, two men, and both of the latter have beards – and track them moment-to-moment through the entire protest. Their cameras have minimal access at first, but they grow confident as the activists grow confident. By the end of the crisis, the documentarians and activists somehow get access to the rooms where Republicans rammed through their bill.


But it’s the sort of movie whose ending depends on external events. Right now, it closes with happy scenes of activists gathering Scott Walker recall petitions, and a reminder that the election is June 5. Over the credits, we get scenes of scruffy activists – the “original occupiers” – leaving their posts at the Capitol in Madison. One of the references is incredibly dated. The other is ominous. No public poll this month has suggested that Scott Walker will lose.

Thus: Visual aids. On the way into the screening, viewers could grab hand-outs proving that the latest polls put Democrat Tom Barrett only 2 points behind Walker. The hand-outs suggested that other polls, with their huge Walker advantages among independents, were bogus. Inside the screeing, AFSCME’s Rich Abelson explained that the election was very winnable.

“I supported [Barrett’s opponent] Kathleen Falk,” he said. “We knew Walker would get a bump coming out of the primary, and we knew it would take some time for voters to coalesce behind Barrett. And that’s going to happen.”