Coalitional Work in the Wisconsin Uprising


As I sifted through Sara T. Robert's photos from the Wisconsin Uprising, one thing struck me: the force of identity and coalitional work that was being performed by different groups together in opposition to the "Budget Repair" bill. It was not just one large and strong identity-formed group that protested, but rather many that formed an alliance of opposition. As political scientist Marie Hojnacki points out, when opponents are strong, organizations see greater benefits in joining a coalition with other groups. (1) Indeed, these protestors found themselves faced with a formidable opponent in Governor Scott Walker.

In fact, Hojnacki has hypothesized that the probability of an organization to join a cause is a function of context (if an issue provides an opportunity for broad agreement), allies (experience groups have with potential allies and their reputations), autonomy (retaining an identity in a group environment), and characteristics (the type of interests organizations represent). (2) It is due to an opportunity for agreement on policy (against union-busting), previous alliances, ability to maintain autonomy, and intersection of interests that enabled labor groups, higher education interest groups, and queer-identified groups to unite together in protest against the Budget Repair bill. These groups were selected as exemplars of coalition work in the 2011 Wisconsin Uprising because they represent the journey of Roberts as she came into contact with each of them and experienced their involvement first hand.

1. Hojnacki, Marie. "Interest Groups' Decisions to Join Alliances or Work Alone." American Journal of Political Science. 41. no. 1 (1997): 84.
2. Hojnacki, Marie: 66.


Amber Sandall



I decided to name my section "Umoja," which is Swahili for Unity, because I feel that this is what is best represented by this exhibit. You will see a discussion of this term appear on the first page titled Unity.

Sociologists Mizrahi and Rosenthal found that after surveying successful coalition leaders, most felt that coalition success depended on several factors, including: commitment to the goal/cause/issue, commitment to coalition unity/work, and mutual respect and tolerance, among other things. (1)

By their daily presence at the capitol, these labor, education, and queer-identified groups pushed forward together with commitment to seeing the death of the Budget Repair bill, to being present together to do so, and respecting each other in order to reach their goal, even in the face of different interests or smaller goals.

1. Mizrahi, Terry, and Beth B Rosenthal. "Complexities of Coalition Building: Leaders' Successes, Strategies, Struggles, and Solutions." Social Work. 46. no. 1 (2001). (accessed December 9, 2012).