Terry Fritter always says he is “just a working guy.” But he is a lot more than that. Fritter is the sharpest spokesman for working-class values I know. He is always informed, always outspoken and always ready to speak truth to power. The longtime union activist, for many years with the United Food and Commercial Workers union at the former Oscar Mayer meatpacking plant on Madison's east side, and more recently with the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees union on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, has told me more than once that I was wrong. Whenever he does, I think again.
Fritter pushes hard for his point of view. But he does this with so much information, and with such a clear determination to advance the interests of the people who work hard jobs but who rarely get the respect they deserve, that he can’t be ignored.
UW administrators have taken Fritter seriously, especially as the technician with the UW School of Medicine and Public Health has advocated for strengthening the role of the University Staff Congress. The Congress is the largest representative shared governance body for university staff at UW-Madison.
Fritter has thrown himself into this experiment with workplace democracy that, as he says, provides an avenue to give every UW employee, including “people with calluses on their hands,” a voice in the shared governance of the university. Recently, he was honored for this activism at the University Staff Recognition Awards ceremony.
Along with a group of remarkable UW employees — Julie Cnare-Ring, Janet Fox, Daniel Kerkman, Courtland Maney, Ernesto Miranda, Mary Murray and Jeff Nielsen — Fritter was afforded an opportunity to say a few words to administrators and staffers. Typically, he used it to advocate for giving workers more of a voice — and more recognition of the fact that people with calluses on their hands know a lot more about getting the job done than the pampered sons of privilege.
John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org and @NicholsUprising.
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