Governor Jeremiah Rusk Reincarnated

On May 4, 1886, Wisconsin Gov. Jeremiah Rusk acceded to the business community of Milwaukee and ordered the State Militia dispatched to quell what they claimed were “riots.”

The “rioters” were workers who had walked out of their jobs in most of Milwaukee’s factories as part of a nationwide campaign for workers seeking the establishment of the eight-hour day.  The marches and rallies were peaceful.

Trouble began when the Bay View Rolling Mills – then the city’s largest manufacturer – continued to operate.  Masses of workers had marched on successive days beginning on May 1 to urge the mill to close and to have the mill workers join the campaign.  The company refused.

When some 1,500 workers approached the mill on May 5, the State Militia was poised atop the hill before the plant, rifles poised with orders to “take an aim, pick out your man, and kill him.” As the marchers – unarmed and peaceful in purpose – approached, they were ordered from 200 yards away to halt.  In the era before loudspeakers, it’s doubtful they heard the order.  The order to fire was given:  at least seven persons were killed by bullets from the Militia.

Governor Rusk went on to fame and a U.S. cabinet post to boot.  The eight-hour-day movement was temporarily squelched, though a strong progressive political movement was born in Wisconsin, stemming from the need for working people to better their lives.


Now, 125 years later, comes Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin as a latter-day Jeremiah Rusk.

Like Rusk, he, too, is doing the bidding of the business community.

On February 11 this year, Walker announced he had alerted the National Guard to be ready to intervene should public workers demonstrate or walk off their jobs in protest to his dictatorial actions to unilaterally take away their benefits, working conditions and other union-protected rights.  Walker claims he can do it, and with a Republican-controlled State Legislature ready to do his bidding, it seems highly likely he could get away with it.

After gutting the worker’s earnings through mandated increases in employee contributions to health insurance and pension premiums accompanied by a freeze in pay increases, his plan is to take away virtually all areas of bargaining from the unions, except wages.  Further, he would require annual representation elections to keep the union certified and he would remove both agency shop fee payments and dues checkoff, virtually killing the unions’ ability to represent its members from management transgressions.

No doubt Walker will be cheered by the State’s business community – as well as many misguided editorial writers – as he seeks not only to take money out of the pockets and  purses of public employees, but also to bust the unions.  He’s made no mystery of his belief that public employees, working under civil service rules, do not need union protections.  Apparently, his idea is that politicians will protect the rights of public employees.  If that was the case, why is it that public workers join unions in such overwhelming numbers?

And, don’t think for a minute that the state’s private employee union members will be exempt from this onslaught of anti-unionism.

Walker has announced this state is “Open for Business,” and in his mind that means it will become a low-wage, minimum benefit state; taxes on the rich and businesses will be so low that our educational system will flounder even moreso.   Our state’s prized environment will become a cesspool of development (with substandard construction, as a result of relaxed building codes and standards, along with the loss of Davis-Bacon rules protecting construction workers).


The parallels between Governor Jeremiah Rusk and Governor Scott Walker are just too frighteningly similar to ignore.  Are the working people of Wisconsin ready to return to the standards of 125 years ago?

Workers and unions are organizing quickly to assure that doesn’t happen.  The hope is that widespread public support follows, even in face of the threat that the National Guard may be staring workers down in a potential shootout. – Ken Germanson, Feb. 12, 2011.

Read Thomas Sobottke’s comments here


8 thoughts on “Governor Jeremiah Rusk Reincarnated

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Governor Jeremiah Rusk Reincarnated « Advoken's Blog --

  2. Unfortunately during today’s sensationalistic, conservatively controlled media the vast majority of the population will not be educated on events such as you have written about above. I commend your effort in shedding light on the situation going on before our very eyes and defy someone to deter the parallel in the two stories. If guns were drawn on the public, this would be spun as a “looks like they got what they were looking for”, and a sad tragedy in what has become of our once powerful, educated, and free thinking public. By the time people wake up and discover that the people they are representing in this argument do not have their best intentions in mind we will all be actively “competing” in the “Global Economy” making shoes and plastic toys in a battery-bank-like atmosphere (think The Matrix) where our only purpose in life is to wake up and produce money for the cause we’ve thought was in our best interest. Little did we know.

    Thanks for the article.

  3. Ken,

    Today is not 1886 and the salary, benefits, and working conditions that the average pulic employee enjoys are light years ahead of then and the private sector as well. And there is the problem – the collusion between unions and politicians is indefensible while your editiorial is fear mongering.

    I’m disappointed to see what a graduate in economics who should understand the financial problems faced by Wisconsin has done with his publicly financed education. Too many years of drinking the union kool-aide I suspect…

  4. “It is the aim of good government to stimulate production, of bad government to encourage consumption.” – Jean Baptiste Say

    If Retail makes NOTHING….and Government makes only MORE DEBT….the only thing that can have a positive effect on communities is Small Business and companies that make stuff.

    The picture of George Washington can float around a town six to eight times before leaving the community but if that dollar is spent inside of a big box store it will leave the same day that it entered.

    Big Box stores like Wal*Mart can take in 200,000 George Washington’s a day and that be a lot of “Liberty” “Pride” “Freedom” leaving town each day.

    And when one figures into the equation America has a six to one trade deficit with China which means five out of every six George Washington’s that go there will never come back unless the US Government sells bonds(debt) this is what those on Jenkins Hill and Wall Street don’t understand when it comes to local banks not having any George Washington’s to loan out in their communities.

    Why is it that people ain’t writing articles about those fifteen cargo ships that pollute as much as 760 million automobiles, T Boone Pickens owning a Texas Water District, Nestle draining the Great Lakes, the disconnect between Coca-Cola and the people of India, Wal*Mart putting less than 5% foreign in their stores in China and Warren Buffett buying a Choo Choo train a few years after Wal*Mart makes a deal on a port in Mexico.

    In 1960 U.S. goods manufacturing produced a $5 billion trade surplus – – 2006 merchandise trade had a $836 billion deficit. Today, for some reason, the world thinks the American consumer needs to support what they make….well, it doesn’t work like that even a fifth grader can figure that out.

    So-call cheaper items only breed cheaper wages and this will go on until the rich of the world carry out the manufacturing of ignorance through out the 182 or so counties that will have a chance to make something.

    I’m just an O’fart with very little book learning but from what I’ve seen over the past sixty five years in this great union of fifty states has shown me that common sense left in the year 63′ and “my sh!! don’t stink” sense as been here every since.

    Sad, those few fat farmers with penmanship of poets holding feather quill goose pens and writing the American dream has today become nothing more than a page within a history book that a bunch of asinine dipsticks are to lazy and ignorant to teach.

    Over the past 100 years the Federal Debt has gone from $2.6 billion in 1910 to over $14 trillion today….In that time there has only been one 10 year period that the debt has gone down 1920-1930.

    All done by a bunch of elephants and jack@sses acting like turnips. People today still think Clinton balance the budget but anyone knows if they think with an open mind that if the budgets of the Clinton years had been balance the debt would had not gone up.

    America is over $57 trillion in debt and it didn’t get there by people using common sense. If the American people don’t wake-up to that fact within another twenty years they will witness Lady Liberty kneeling to her knees in the Hudson and someone in Tiananmen Square holding that tablet from under her left arm celebrating what is written upon it.

  5. Ryan,

    Today is not 1886 and the average public worker has a salary, working conditions, and benefits that are light years ahead of then and the private sector as well. Unions have degraded into political money machines that are a drain on the economy.

    I’m disappointed to see that a person with a publicly subsidized degree in economics cannot understand the nature of our economic problems. I suspect it’s from too many years of drinking the union kool-aide.


  6. I came upon this blog by accident. Mr Germanson’s editorial is one of the most perverted and twisted commentaries I have read in some time. Are you a Communist Mr Germanson ? Your profile says you were a
    ” Community Worker “, I read that as ” Community organizer, Fellow traveler or Communist agitator “. It is a travesty that your filth pollutes the minds of those that read it. Except of course those that suffer from the same cerebral deficiency as you and feed upon this perverse mindset. Please obtain a King James Bible and study it earnestly.

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