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.”
Firefighters weren't directly included in the anti-union bill that sparked the protests in Madison. Lieutenant Mahlon Mitchell on why they're taking to the streets, anyway.
How Americans across professions, religions, and states are uniting in opposition to Wisconsin's anti-union bill—and cultivating a movement that reaches far beyond the state border.