Sunday, December 13, 2009

WCSU Library Collection is ready for checkout!

The Working Class Student Union is excited to announce that we have recieved our first shipment of books and DVDs for our library collection. Students can stop into the WCSU office, #3153 SAC, to review our selection and check out materials.

I found Without A Net to be a particularly wonderful book. The various essays are a great way to internalize the many faces of working class backgrounds and the diversity of voices is a nice change of pace from academic discussions.

• Class Matters, from The New York Times
• Without a Net: The Female Experience of Growing Up Working Class, edited by Michelle Tea
• Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams, by Alfred Lubrano
• New Working Class Studies, edited by John Russo and Sherry Linkon
•Teaching Working Class, edited by Sherry Linkon
• Two or Three Things I Know for Sure, by Dorothy Allison
• Feminism is for Everybody, by Bell Hooks

• Sicko
• Norma Rae
• Erin Brockovich

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Wal-Mart Debate

I avoid shopping at Wal-Mart. I say “avoid” because this is not a militant position – if there is a time crunch and it’s on the way, I’ll go there as a matter of practicality, but there are typically months to years between these times.

I have a couple reasons for this. First, Wal-Mart’s profits are used to widely influence political positions that I cannot support, both at the corporate level and by the Walton family.

Second, their website states that the average wage for regular, full-time employees is $11.73 in Wisconsin, but that is just the problem – this number doesn’t include part-timers or seasonal workers.

Further, I’d wager that $11.73 is also skewed by an inflated salary given to one or two managers whose job it is to keep hours down for part-time workers.

Another reason Wal-Mart is unappealing to me is that if they decide they want to be in a community, you’d better believe that Wal-Mart will be opening a store there whether the community wants it or not.

A blog post by the Center for Working Class Studies further illustrates this problem. I was particularly struck by the comment that, “Walmart may save us money at the check-out, but we pay for it in taxes and lost jobs.”

What if, instead of giving them tax benefits to build their stores, everyone in the community just took out their checkbook and wrote a check directly to Wal-Mart? Maybe then a few cents saved at the register will not seem like such a great deal.

The views in this blog post are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of the entire Working Class Student Union.

Friday, October 16, 2009

October is Working Class Celebration Month

We’re right in the middle of Working Class Celebration Month and really excited about tomorrow’s event, Steel Strings and Breakbeats, at 7:30 p.m. on the 4th floor of the SAC.

You can check out the artists on the tour at and

Join us on Tuesday nights in 1221 Humanities at 6 – 8 p.m. for these events:

“Keys to Financial Success in College”

featuring UW Credit Union

Oct. 20

“Finally Got the News”

documentary viewing and discussion

co-sponsored by Student Labor Action Coalition

Oct. 27

“Class and Access to Health”

a discussion on healthcare and how class has an effect on the access to services

we will be showing a short film and discussion to follow

Nov. 3

WCSU is also really excited to offer our first-ever event for student-parents and their families:

WCSU Fall Festival

Join us for pumpkin painting, scarecrow stuffing, scavenger hunts, and other fall activities – breakfast snacks will be available

Saturday, Oct. 24, 9 a.m. -12 p.m., on Library Mall

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

WCSU is Hiring! Applications due Wednesday @ 5 PM!

Working Class Student Union is Hiring!
Applications due this Wednesday @ 5 PM!

We are hiring for a Communication Secretary and a Finance Secretary.
These positions will begin on July 1, 2009 and will each will be paid $9.19/hour.

Applications available at:

Communication Secretary Job Description
* Coordinates with the Working Class Student Union Assembly Officers about publicity.
* Coordinates history of past work for institutional memory.
* Maintains the WCSUA publicity materials, including the website, news publications and campus outreach.
* Writes and contacts all media outlets when needed during campaigns.
* Shall work with the WCSUA Officers to assemble the agendas, minutes and other items as needed by the WCSUA.
* Will receive agenda item requests and meet with the Chair to distinguish what will go on the agenda.
* As appropriate, serves as the primary contact person for WCSU to the media, for campus events/committees, and as otherwise requested.
* Required to hold weekly office hours at the WCSU office or other agreed upon and posted location.
* Attends weekly officer meeting(s) to ensure communication and collaboration.
* Prepares all necessary press releases for WCSU campaigns.
* Chairs the Communication Taskforce.
* Attends all Committee meetings as necessary, particularly those of the Activism Committee.
* Coordinates all media contacts, campaigns, and releases.

Finance Secretary Job Description:
* Prepares and presents SSFC Budget Requests, End of Year Reports, and Eligibility Applications to SSFC, with input from all staff.
* Educates staff about financial procedures (so that everyone understands how our budget operates, how we pay for expenses, etc.).
* Works with coordinators to stay within budget while efficiently and effectively using funds while expending all funds responsibly.
* Works with the SSFC Financial Specialist to pay all bills in a timely and efficient manner, through use of blanket orders and specific requisitions.
* Oversees and reviews all WCSU operational policies, documents, and outreach efforts to ensure compliance with SSFC, UW-Madison, Wisconsin, and Federal laws.
* Prepares all eligibility and budget applications, documents, and spreadsheets as required from the funding source.
* Works to solicit in-kind donations from community organizations and unions.
* Is a trained and authorized signer for financial matters.
* Required to hold weekly office hours at the WCSU office or other agreed upon and posted location.
* Attends weekly officer meeting(s) to ensure communication and collaboration.
* Represents WCSU at all required funding meetings and hearings.
* Works with WCSU officers, advisors, committee chairs, and members to prepare the budget and distribute funds appropriately.
* Maintains in house accounting system.
* Gathers statistics necessary for fiscal accountability: calls for referrals, advocacy meetings, attendance numbers of all WCSU events, number of volunteers, etc.
* Manages the payroll system and the bank account at the UW Credit Union.
* Collects, processes, and submits coordinators’ timesheets on a biweekly basis.
* Orders and purchases office supplies as necessary.

To turn in your application, you can:
1) E-mail to
2) Drop off in our mailbox, which is located on the 3rd floor of the Student Activity Center. Get off the elevator, turn left. Note the large wall of mailboxes--our mailbox is the one furthest to the left and on the very bottom and is labeled "Working Class Student Union"
3) Slide the application under our office door. Our office is 3153 of the Student Activity Center. Get off the elevator on the 3rd floor, turn left, walk all the way down the long hallway and our office is the very last office on the left-hand side.

We look forward to receiving your application!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Through a Different Lens

The Sunday morning edition (2/22/2009) of the Wisconsin State Journal features part one of a series it calls "Rebuilding Wisconsin."

It says:
"Some of the state's infrastructure has been virtually ignored since the New Deal or before because we haven't been able, or willing, to spend on repairs. And the billions included for Wisconsin in the stimulus bill won't come close to fixing all the problems with roads, sewers, and other facilities."
Ok, no argument there.

The picture the State Journal so prominently used to illustrate its point about the state's infrastructure, however, needs to be examined through a different lens.

It's not that the WSJ's staff used this picture in a malicious fashion. They didn't. But, when examined through a 'working class' lens, this picture takes on a different meaning. The caption says, "Aging infrastructure in Wisconsin means more frequent breakdowns, such as this valve failure on a water main on Midvale Boulevard in Madison last week. Madison Water Utility worker Bob Kempfer had the cold, wet task of making the repair."

Out of all the pictures that could have been used for this article, WSJ chose this one. Symbolic connections can be drawn between the photograph and the caption ("aging," "breakdowns," "failure," "worker"). Though we know that many will accuse us of being "too sensitive" in our discussion of this photo, we challenge you to see it from our perspective. For many working class students, the first reaction we have to the photograph comes from our personal connection to it--we picture our fathers or uncles in place of Bob Kempfer and suddenly its not a nameless worker on the frontpage of the paper, but rather a very personal attack on our class, our culture, and our family.

--Working Class Student Union Communication Team

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Woe is Me in NYC

As I casually gazed over the NYTimes homepage today, this article caught my eye. It is entitled, "You Try to Live on $500K in This Town." It outlines how difficult it will be for Wall Street banking executives to maintain their upscale lifestyles if their firms accepted federal bailout money--because it would mean their maximum salary would equal a mere $500,000. It details how much private school fees cost per year, an annual mortgage payment in the area, the fees for a nanny, taxes, living expenses, personal trainer expenses, the sum for formal gowns for charity functions. Oh, and "frozen hot chocolate" costs $8.50.

I'm sure you get the feel for the article by now.

Perhaps this quote sums up my reaction:

"Few are playing sad cellos over the fate of such folk, especially since the collapse of the institutions they run has yielded untold financial pain."

The article says, "the cold hard math can be cruel."

Yes it can, so let's look at the bigger picture. This is not to say the Times has not written articles, columns and blogs on the dramatic economic downtown. For that bigger picture, however, I give you some other numbers--numbers, that in my opinion, warrant the Times' attention more so than nanny fees and pennies for personal trainers.

Via the Bureau of Labor Statistics: Approximately 598,000 jobs were lost in January alone. Approximately 3.6 million jobs were lost since the beginning of the recession in December 2007. BLS estimates the current unemployment rate at 7.6%.

Think about what that means. How that affects those workers without jobs, those workers' families. Not about an $8 frozen hot chocolate.

--Cassie, WCSU's Research & Communication Assistant

Sunday, February 8, 2009

On 'Working Class' and the 2008 Election

Throughout the election, and as the economy veered into deep recession, citizens undoubtedly noticed each candidate's rhetoric turned to what's best for the "working class" and "working families." While these words certainly overlapped with "middle class" in much of the rhetoric, it's worth thinking about how the candidates pitched to the working class and also how the media covered their rhetoric about it.

For example, a Washington Post article from July 1, 2008, gave the transcript to an Obama ad, in which Howard Kurtz noted:

"The key image here is the last one: Barack Obama throwing his arm around
one of several older female workers in hairnets and aprons. The picture conveys
the message that the senator from Illinois cares about working-class folks and,
in particular, women over 50 -- a demographic he had little success with in the
primaries.The commercial, like an earlier biographical ad, is designed to
neutralize perceptions of Obama as an Ivy League elitist by playing up his
background as a Chicago community organizer. Obama did, however, work as a New
York financial consultant before that, and by his own admission he had little
success helping Chicago neighborhoods cope with plant closings."

Or, consider how the media talks about "working class folks." Here is Chris Matthews as he characterizes the working class:
"What's the Republican route to the regular Joe or Jane—the person who didn't go
to college for four years, may have ended up going to community college, maybe a
craftsperson, who's not elitist by any definition. What's the Republican
trick for getting the non-country club vote?"

Or, take this Reuters article from June 12, 2008. Here, working class is juxtaposed with trade policy. Is there a fundamental misunderstanding and/or stereotyping at work here? Does it matter?

--Working Class Student Union's Communication Team

Capital Times (Rightfully) Questions Paul Ryan

On January 30, 2008, the Capital Times wrote a scathingly justified editorial questioning and damning Paul Ryan's vote against the economic stimulus package when part of his constituency is from...Janesville.

The Capital Times wrote:
The congressman's hometown has been devastated by the closing of the General Motors plant that was the mainstay of the local economy for almost 90 years. Parts suppliers in Janesville and surrounding communities are laying off workers and shutting their doors. Main Street businesses are cutting back. On the other side of Ryan's 1st District, communities are still reeling from the closings of major employers such as the Delphis Corp. plant in Oak Creek.
What kind of representation is this? Or rather, where is Rock County's "representative?"

For the entire editorial, click here.

-Working Class Student Union's Communication Team

Asking the right questions, but perpetuating the same problem.

In late January, published an article entitled, "Are you middle class?"

They start their piece by saying:
The president-elect has all but said that 2009 will be the year of the middle class. But now that Barack Obama is about to governm rather than campaign, defining "middle class" could prove difficult--especially since there's no precise or official definition.
This is the question that WCSU commonly asks, only we explore the complexity of class a little further--by not painting that broad-sweeping brush of "middle class."

Just read Class Matters by NYTimes Corespondents. They illustrate that class is complex, economic, social, a matter of access to power. And certainly not a matter of 3 broad economic categories, of which many in America have become convinced.

We'll have to see if President Obama's "Middle Class Task Force" really works for the "middle class," or maybe, it's off the mark.

--Working Class Student Union's Communication Team

Moving Toward a Solution?

In early January, Newsday reported Sen. Charles Schumer’s proposal of a $4,000 tax credit for college tuition and fees. See the full article here.
"There's almost nothing else that could come out of the stimulus package that is as important for middle-class Long Island families who tremble at the thought of those high tuition bills," Schumer said yesterday.
The article goes on to explain the tax credit:
The proposed tax credit would allow families to deduct from their tax bills up to $4,000 per child, to a lifetime maximum of $16,000 per student. Families could claim up to three students annually, a maximum credit of $12,000 a year. The credit could be used toward tuition, books, room and board for undergraduate or graduate studies.
This compares starkly to President Obama’s plan, in which he wanted to tie a tax credit to 100 hours of public service.

In that sense, it seems Schumer’s plan beats President Obama’s. Many working class students, who will pay their way through college with jobs and loans, cannot afford—in time or money—to dedicate 100 hours of unpaid service. In fact, it could be a set back, despite the tax credit that would be attached.

Is Schumer’s plan moving toward a solution?

--Working Class Student Union's Communication Team

Friday, February 6, 2009

What the media is missing…

On Friday (February 6, 2008), the Labor Department released its monthly report of job losses. The New York Times ran an article entitled "Economy Shed 598,000 Jobs in January." Not surprisingly, the Times interviewed and cited chief economists to "shed light" on this economic situation.

“This is a horror show we’re watching,” said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, an economic research organization in Washington. “By every measure available — loss of employment and hours, rise of unemployment, shrinkage of the employment to population rate — this recession is steeper than any recession of the last 40 years, including the harsh recession of the early 1980s.”
The Times' "Economix" Blog followed suit with "Jobs Report: Economists React," in which they interviewed seven economists.

As demonstrated by both examples, the media relies almost entirely on the perspective of so-called "experts," who are highly educated and accomplished in the academic. Based on this one-sided representation, it may be crucial to ask ourselves who we are not asking about this "horror show." Perhaps, we should ask those who are most greatly affected: the workers without jobs; the families without income; the student, for whom the recession means they will not attend a four-year university next fall. We need to ensure that our media is not relying solely on the opinions of those who observe our lives and then tell others about them, but rather include our voices as individuals actually living through these trying times.

--Working Class Student Union's Communication Team

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Welcome Back! Check out our spring updates!

First off, welcome back to another semester! I want to say thank you for reading our blog and learning more about our organization! Given our current economic situation, I am sure we are all facing additional stress within our families and academics, so please know that the Working Class Student Union is here for you and anything that you need! Please e-mail me at with any questions or to set up an advocacy meeting. Also check out our website for more information on our programs and services.

Second, I want to let you know all the new ways for you to get information about WCSU and stay connected to our work.
  1. Read our blog, which is what you are doing! Be sure to refer your friends to our blog and include us on your own blogroll!
  2. Check out our website ( are working on a revamp of our site, so it is getting better everyday! Be sure to let us know if you have any suggestions!
  3. You can add UW-WCSU as a friend on facebook. We will be using this profile to post events, updates, and interesting links. You can also view our office hours and our bookshelf.
  4. Follow us on Twitter! Check out our status updates and stay in the loop about what we are doing and what we're thinking.
Third, here are a handful of announcements regarding what WCSU is up to for the spring semester.
  • Our kick-off meeting is this Wednesday at 7 PM! The meeting will be held in our office, which is located in room 3153 of the Student Activity Center. I hope to see you all there!
  • We will be hosting our first cultural even this March. It is called "Class Matters: A Working Class Celebration," and will include music, dancing, art exhibits, spoken word, and food. Please come to our kick-off meeting or e-mail me if you are interested in getting involved!
  • I am pleased to announce that Jerid Dickman has just been elected to the position of Finance Secretary for the Working Class Student Union. Jerid has worked tirelessly as our Finance Volunteer since last June, helping us receive eligibility with SSFC, secure a budget of over $63,000 for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, and obtain an office in the new Student Activity Center. You can now e-mail Jerid at
Thanks for reading! Please continue to check our blog as we have many great posts on their way!

In solidarity,
Chynna Haas
WCSU President