Cornell University

March 4 2011

Inside the Fray

In Wisconsin and in Ohio tonight, Cho '12 participating in national debate

Debby Cho '12Debby Cho '12 is traveling to Columbus, Ohio, where legislators have voted to restrict collective bargaining rights of 350,000 teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees.

Last weekend, she was in Madison, Wis., the heart of the workers' rights debate that has riveted the nation for weeks. Many other states are now considering where public employees’ rights should begin or end.

"Sleeping in the capitol, being fed by food donations coming from all over the world and working with other student organizers from the University of Wisconsin at Madison was an amazing experience," she said after six days in the midst of the Wisconsin protests.

She and several ILR students returned to campus Sunday "so energized and inspired to see how this crazy bill has awakened the labor movement. But, we realize that this fight is far from over."

Today, Cho and others from Cornell are driving to Ohio, where legislation approved this week is expected to be signed into law within days. Some consider it an anti-union bill; supporters say it is a fiscally responsible response to economic conditions.  

On March 11, Cho and others plan on returning to Madison. The drive to Wisconsin will take 12 hours.

"When we get there, we will join the hundreds of protesters to maintain a solid show of support at the capitol. We want to make sure that fresh faces keep on coming through Madison to keep energy and spirits up," Cho said in an interview.

On Wednesday, Cho participated in a rally and teach-in event, both on campus, in support of protesters in Wisconsin. The events were sponsored by the Cornell Organization for Labor Action and Cornell Students Against Sweatshops.

Many consider the continuing Wisconsin debate to be a critical moment in the history of working people in the United States.

"What we saw in Madison was incredible … the capitol is a sight to see … the walls are covered in posters and signs and there is a constant presence of protesters," Cho said.  

When Cho returns to Madison, she'll be more strategic about logistics, having learned the cold way the first time around.

"I think the most important thing to bring is warmer clothes. Now that our access to the capitol is considerably more restricted, we will have to spend more time protesting outside," she said.

"Last Saturday, when there were 100,000 protesters in Madison and a 30-minute line to get inside the capitol, we learned the hard way that we did not pack enough clothes. A hat, gloves, thick socks and a scarf are essential."