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Wisconsin: Why? And What Can We Do About It?

March 3, 2011

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MACOMB, IL – A multidisciplinary panel will discuss what the near future will hold for workers' rights, economic recovery and American democracy in a panel session, titled "Wisconsin: Why, and What Can We do About It"? from 7–8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 8 in Stipes Hall 121 on the Western Illinois University-Macomb campus.

The event is open free to the public. Time will be available for audience participation.

Panel organizer Peter Cole, associate professor of history at WIU, said "Governor Scott Walker's proposal to end collective bargaining rights for most of Wisconsin's public employees marks a profoundly important moment in U.S. history, with ramifications far beyond one state. This seemingly well-coordinated effort to end the rights of America's public sector workers to be in unions has resulted in several weeks of dramatic protests by literally hundreds of thousands of people in Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois and across the nation."

The panel will address some tough questions, including: Can America continue to afford to have public sector workers receive middle class salaries and benefits? Or, will government workers, following many private sector workers, lose many of the gains won in the past 80 years? How, in particular, might this affect future teachers, police officers and other government employees?

Cole, who earned his Ph.D. (Georgetown University, 1997) in U.S. labor history and has researched the U.S. labor movement and working class for 15 years, has written, among other publications, the book "Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia" (University of Illinois Press, 2007) and the scholarly article "A Tale of Two Towns: Globalization and Rural American Deindustrialization," for Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society (2009). He currently is working on a comparative labor history of the United States and South Africa. Cole has been an active member of University Professionals of Illinois (American Federation of Teachers) since joining the WIU history faculty in 2000.

Panelist James Jacobs is currently a part-time instructor at Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg (IL). He earned his master's degree in education (Reading, 1975) from Western. Born in Galesburg into a family of union members, Jacobs has belonged to the American Federation of Teachers (Galesburg, Local 1491) for nearly 30 years. Previously, he was a member of the National Education Association, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

Panelist Jim La Prad is a associate professor of education and interdisciplinary studies at Western, who earned his Ph.D. (2005) from the University of Virginia. He teaches courses in educational social foundations from the philosophical, historical, legal and socio-cultural perspectives. His research, scholarship and practice include critical pedagogy in teaching and learning environments, experiential education, educational ethics, moral education, multicultural education and transformative educational leadership. Previously, he taught science and math in Virginia public schools, following his eight-year (1988-1996) service abroad as a decorated Infantry Officer in the United States Marine Corps.

WIU Professor and Director of the School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration Terry Mors previously worked for the Gurnee (IL) Police Department in numerous positions ranging from patrol officer to commander. Mors has more than 17 years of law enforcement and private security experience and has been active in the Fraternal Order of Police as well as in management positions. He earned his doctorate in education (2002) from Northern Illinois University.

The panel is sponsored by the University Professionals of Illinois (UPI) and the WIU Department of History.

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