The Birth of an Activist

By Alexandra Fayen

Thank you all for being here and for all the work you have done. I am so proud to live and work in this city and be a member of MTI.*

Before the introduction of the Governor’s Budget Despair Bill, I had my own private political beliefs and had done lots of volunteer work, but I had never done any political work. I am ashamed to say I also had never attended a union meeting. But that didn’t stop my union from being there for me at some very crucial times.

When I needed help fighting my HMO, MTI provided me with an attorney. When I had to travel out of the country for a death in my extended family that was not covered in our contract, MTI smoothed the way for me and I did not have to take unpaid days. MTI was there for me when I needed them most.

So, in February I joined many of you at the Capitol and spent many nights sleeping there and many days crying and chanting my way through the protests.

In the spring I learned how to phone bank on Joe Parisi’s campaign, and then the end of the school year just took everything out of me. And honestly, the defeat of Joanne Kloppenburg made me lose hope.

Fortunately my depression was converted to action when I attended the Solidarity Sing Along on Memorial Day. It was so inspirational to stand in a circle and sing with others and not feel alone anymore. Since then I have been committed to taking action, and I even wake up most days with the tune of “Solidarity Forever” stuck in my head.

Thanks to the energy and initiative of my fellow social worker, Amy Noble, we camped with other MTI members on the square during the second Walkerville and talked with people from all around the state and the country. We helped them understand the implications of the bill for education, collective bargaining, voter rights, reproductive choice, access to women’s health care, Medicaid funding, immigrant rights…as you know, the list goes on.

I went to the gallery in the Capitol and watched the Democrats fight so hard for us while the Republicans checked their Blackberries and took catnaps and ignored every single amendment offered.

Most recently I have been phone banking here at the Labor Temple, and I canvassed in Green Bay. I will canvass again this weekend. Before all this, I thought canvassing was some annoying thing that OTHER people did. I thought those phone calls around elections were pointless. I was SO wrong.

Those of us who are informed sometimes find it hard to believe that there are others who are in the dark. I have had many conversations with people who did not understand why the recalls are happening, had stopped paying attention, had received misinformation about election dates, or who wanted to volunteer but did not know where to go. These are the calls that make a difference.

For people who are not informed, or worse, misinformed, that phone call or knock on the door, that personal connection, will make the difference between us staying under the control of the republican senators or winning back a Democratic majority in the senate.

A year ago, I didn’t know that I would watch the state assembly in action, sleep on the Capitol floor, or in a tent on a street corner, knock on a door to talk to anyone about their voting habits, or that I might someday know most of the lyrics to “Solidarity Forever”. I certainly didn’t know that I had anything important to say to you all!

For those of you here now, please enjoy yourself tonight. We need to have some fun. But before leaving, I am going to ask that you pledge to yourselves that you are in this fight until we win, and whether it is phone banking, data entry, canvassing, baking treats for volunteers or babysitting for someone’s kids so that they can volunteer…please do something to help us take back our great state.

Thank you.

*Madison Teachers Inc.

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