These tough economic times are hitting Wisconsin labor unions hard. "I don't run into anybody that says they've experienced anything like this," says Jim Cavanaugh of the South Central Federation of Labor. "We're seeing every union in the private sector is experiencing some negative impact from the way the economy is sinking. Some of the building trades are experiencing up to 25-percent unemployment."
Manufacturing has cut back significantly and laid-off workers, both temporarily and permanently. Cavanaugh says it's worse than the recession of the early '80s, and has workers fearfully recalling what they've been taught about the Great Depression. "They're trying to draw unemployment. The unemployment fund in Wisconsin is in trouble, so we'll see if the stimulus package takes care of that problem. Most of them are . . . looking for other work to the extent that it's available, and it's not very available."