People We Love: Mahlon Mitchell
Mahlon Mitchell has two brothers who are firefighters, and he wanted to be one since childhood. At 33, he became a union leader—both the first African American and the youngest president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin.
Only a month later, Mitchell’s union was in the national spotlight. Protesters occupied the Capitol building in Madison in response to a budget bill that cut public employees’ rights to collective bargaining. Firefighters were exempt, but chose to protest in solidarity, and Mitchell emerged as a spokesperson for workers’ rights.
“The ability to sit down at the table with your employer and talk about hours, wages, and working conditions is not a fiscal matter,” says Mitchell.
Mitchell believes that collective bargaining allows unions to make the same sort of contribution he values in his job as a firefighter. “It’s community,” he says, “and helping people every day.”
Robert Mellinger wrote this article for Beyond Prisons, the Summer 2011 issue of YES! Magazine. Robert is an editorial intern at YES!
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