Late last night the South Central Federation of Labor, representing 45,000 workers in Madison and South Central Wisconsin, voted to endorse preparations for a general strike:

It’s important to note that this is just a threat and not actually going out on a general strike. Under the Taft-Hartley Act a general strike in support of other workers is illegal; therefore the key word is the phrase “begin educating affiliates and members on the organization and function of a general strike”. In addition, only individual unions, not the central labor federation has the ability to call a strike.

Many private sector unions would not go out on a general strike out of fear of being of sued by their employers. However, local labor observers say many public sector unions and some of the construction unions would go out on a strike.

It is not really possible to overstate what a dramatic development a general strike would be. There have been only a handful of general strikes in US history (including the Seattle General Strike of 1919), and none since the Taft-Hartley Act outlawed them in 1947. So the mere talk of a general strike is dramatic in itself.

With workers risking their jobs and union leaders facing fines and imprisonment, it would take an incredible amount of courage and coordination to mount such a strike. But if shutting down the government and huge chunks of the private sector is the only way to pressure Gov. Walker to withdraw his union busting legislation, then that's what Wisconsin workers need to do.